5 Reasons To Visit Mount Pilatus (Lucerne Day Trip)

A trip to Switzerland is incomplete without visiting the Alps. It’s the country’s ultimate destination with spectacular “heaven on earth” scenery you can’t just miss! Most importantly, it isn’t only about breathtaking sights but also fun activities and once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

Lucerne is not too far from Switzerland’s top attractions in the Alps, like the Jungfrau Region, which is only a 1-hour drive or a 1.5-hour train ride away. However, you do not have to travel that far just to witness the stunning beauty of the Alps. Lucerne is only a few minutes away from the foot of Mount Pilatus, considered one of the most beautiful mountains in Switzerland.

Because of Mount Pilatus’ beauty and its proximity to Lucerne, Mount Pilatus is considered by many as a fantastic day trip from Lucerne. But is Mount Pilatus your type of destination? Are there any alternatives? Should you visit Mount Pilatus? Today, I’ll share my opinion about Mount Pilatus to help you decide.

Before anything, let me introduce Mount Pilatus to you.

Mount Pilatus is a 2,128-meter-tall mountain (6,983 ft) in Central Switzerland, known for outdoor fun activities and hikes with stunning views of Lake Lucerne and the Alps. Specifically, its main peaks are found on the borders of the cantons of Obwalden and Nidwalden, but parts of the mountain also fall within the canton of Lucerne.

Centuries ago, some considered Mount Pilatus a mystic mountain because of the legends that involve the mountain.

Some people claimed that it was on Mount Pilatus that Pontious Pilate was buried. Others believed that a healing dragon lived in Mount Pilatus—hence the name of Mount Pilatus’ aerial cableway.

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Dragon Ride in Mount Pilatus, Lucerne, Switzerland
Dragon Ride in Mount Pilatus
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You’ll discover more about Mount Pilatus as we go along with the reasons why you might like to visit Mount Pilatus. We’ll also tackle some answers to the most frequently asked questions about visiting Mount Pilatus. Let’s go!

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Should You Visit Mount Pilatus?

As much as I want you to witness the beauty of the mountains, deciding if you should visit Mount Pilatus really depends on your preferences. Other factors like weather, season, time spent in Switzerland, and who you’ll be traveling with are also worth considering.

For me, as a mountain lover, every trip to a mountain (like Mount Pilatus) is a worthwhile experience. The fresh air, the fun/thrilling adventures, and the stunning scenery are all worth it. It’s a place to feel alive!

At the same time, any mountain environment also offers a sense of solitude and serenity, allowing for reflection and contemplation. Mount Pilatus can also help you in your self-improvement journey if you plan to have one.

Specifically, looking at the beautiful experiences you can have in Mount Pilatus, if you ask me, “is Mount Pilatus worth visiting?” My answer is…

Yes, visiting Mount Pilatus from Lucerne is a great idea.

First, it’s because Mount Pilatus is very accessible from Lucerne. Second, it offers more than just stunning alpine scenery, like adrenaline-pumping activities and family-friendly attractions. Lastly, Mount Pilatus has outdoor experiences that fit anyone, whether kids or adults.

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Mount Pilatus as seen from Lucerne, Switzerland
Mount Pilatus as seen from Lucerne
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We’ll discuss the details later on.

However, while considering the good experiences we can have in visiting Mount Pilatus, we should also weigh other factors mentioned earlier (see below).

Consider: Length Of Your Switzerland Trip

Sometimes, it would be better to skip Mount Pilatus, considering the length of your Switzerland trip. Also, the similar experiences that Mount Pilatus and other top destinations in Switzerland have.

As much as we can, we should avoid having redundant experiences during the entire length of your stay in Switzerland, especially since Switzerland is an expensive country to visit. 

For me, visiting Mount Pilatus is perfect if you only plan a weekend or 3-day Switzerland trip, which includes Lucerne. For this, I am assuming that you plan to visit other places in Switzerland some other time.

In case you plan to see the Jungfrau Region or Zermatt on your Switzerland trip, I would not suggest visiting Mount Pilatus. I think almost all the experiences you can have in Mount Pilatus are also available in these two top attractions.

Discover: Jungfrau Region Itinerary: 4 Days in Interlaken on a Budget

However, if you plan to stay in Switzerland for two weeks or longer, it would be nice to have Mount Pilatus on your itinerary. That’s the case if you want to see every best thing this country can offer. 

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Consider: Who You’ll Be Traveling With

Many consider Mount Pilatus a beautiful day trip from Lucerne, but we must remember that it is a mountain, and it may only be suitable for some. Like, do you have any health conditions that may be exacerbated by the altitude?

Anyhow, I think that Mount Pilatus is a fantastic destination for family travelers. If you are traveling with your kids, your little ones will absolutely love the outdoor fun that awaits them in Mount Pilatus. 

This place in Mount Pilatus is called “Pilu Land,” a park themed like dragon land. It has a castle, mini woods, and a playground. While the kids play, parents can stay on the benches or cook sausages on the nearby grills.

Pilu Land and other outdoor activities are only some of the reasons why I think you should visit Mount Pilatus. I’ll tell you more as we go along.

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Consider: Season

Although Mount Pilatus has indoor facilities enjoyable all year (opening hours may be limited during winter), visiting Mount Pilatus is definitely more enjoyable during non-winter months. More facilities are open during the non-winter months, like the Pilatus Railway—it’s a bucket list attraction!

If you are visiting Switzerland during the winter, it would be best to skip Mount Pilatus and go to some of the best ski resorts in Switzerland instead. Some of them are Zermatt, St. Moritz, and Davos. These resorts offer a wide range of ski runs, other winter activities, beautiful scenery, and world-class amenities.

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Consider: Weather

I’ve been to mountaintops several times before. And based on experience, I can say that the scenery you can see from them can either make you say, “I’m surely gonna be back here” or “I want a refund for this!” after the trip.

It’s “heaven on earth” when no clouds cover the view, and it’s like facing a giant gray or white wall otherwise.

This is why it’s better if you can be flexible on your Switzerland trip. As much as possible, set your travels to the mountains (for example, Mount Pilatus) during dry and sunny days. It’s when you can see the majestic scenery of the Swiss Alps, totally worth the effort, time, and money!

You can utilize different weather apps for this, as most can accurately predict the weather already. 

Let’s say you’re now in Lucerne and are not sure if it’s worth going to Mount Pilatus with the current weather. In that case, you may check the live view of the webcams on the official website of Mount Pilatus (linked at the end of this post).

Using the scenery shown in the live panorama, you can tell for yourself if it’s worth going to Mount Pilatus.

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5 Reasons To Visit Mount Pilatus From Lucerne

As explained a while ago, Mount Pilatus is not a destination for everyone and not a place to visit all year. But, in general, landscape photographers, outdoor enthusiasts, traveling families, and adventure seekers will most likely find Mount Pilatus worth visiting.

Typical tourists who haven’t been to the mountains before will be filled with awe, especially when they visit the mountain without the clouds blocking the view! With the stunning scenery of the Alps and Lake Lucerne, they can see right before they reach the summit, that will be for sure.

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Panoramic views from Mount Pilatus, Lucerne, Switzerland
Panoramic views from Mount Pilatus
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Let me share with you the perks and beautiful things that a visit to Mount Pilatus entails. I’ll also mention their alternatives in Switzerland. May these help you decide to see Mount Pilatus from Lucerne (or even not from Lucerne).

Here’s the summary:

  1. Proximity To Lucerne
  2. To Experience World’s Greatest
  3. For Beautiful Scenery
  4. To Have Adventure
  5. A Family-Friendly Destination

Do you need more ideas where to go in Lucerne? I can help you with that! You can try reading: 10 Must-See Landmarks In Lucerne (Free Things To Do), 10 Unique Things To Do In Lucerne and Lucerne Is A Beautiful City: 10 Beautiful Things To See. (Links open in a new tab)

Let’s go!

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1. Proximity To Lucerne

Mount Pilatus is definitely the most practical choice for travelers wanting to see a stunning view of the Alps from Lucerne. It only takes a short bus ride or train ride (boat ride optional) to get to the start of the main journey to Mount Pilatus. 

There are two places at the foot of Mount Pilatus you can choose to begin your journey up to the mountain. They are Alpnachstad and Kriens. 

Alpnachstad is only a 17-minute train ride from Lucerne central station. Alternatively, you can also reach Alpnachstad on a boat ride, but it takes much longer. Like, around 1 hour and 20 minutes.

Once you arrive at Alpnachstad, simply transfer to the cogwheel that runs straight to the summit of Mount Pilatus. The cogwheel ride takes 30 minutes going up and 40 minutes way down. 

On the other hand, Kriens (Kriens, Zentrum Pilatus) can be reached from Lucerne through a 15-minute bus ride (Bus #1). Once you arrive at Kriens, you have to walk (5 minutes) to Kriens’ gondola lift station, where the 2-part, 30-minute cable car ride to Mount Pilatus’ summit starts.

From mid-May to mid-October, you can select either of these places as start and end points for your trip to Mount Pilatus. The cogwheel train from Alpnachstad to Mount Pilatus isn’t accessible for the rest of the year.

You can check the official website of Mount Pilatus at the end of this post for the latest timetables and announcements.

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2. To Experience World’s Greatest

For people who have a travel bucket list of visiting different “world’s greatest” places, Pilatus Railway is the reason why you’d like to go to Mount Pilatus. Pilatus Railway is an engineering marvel, the steepest rack railway in the world!

I just want to share that Pilatus Railway is one of the places in Switzerland that made me salute the Swiss for creating impressive infrastructures. I was even more impressed when I learned that the Swiss finished the Pilatus Railway as early as 1889.

Imagine how they built it without today’s modern tools!

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Pilatus Railway in Lucerne, Switzerland
Pilatus Railway
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Going back…

Pilatus Railway has an average gradient of 35% and a maximum of 48%. The gradient of a railway refers to the steepness of the track. It is typically expressed as a percentage, with a higher percentage indicating a steeper gradient.

That said, I think riding the Pilatus Railway would be a unique and potentially adventurous experience! The squeaking metal sound you’ll hear along the ride, and the breathtaking views will definitely make you thrilled. 

If you can stay near the front part/driver’s area of the cogwheel wagon, do it. You’ll see the best view when entering the tunnels, going through dizzying slopes, passing by the sharp cliff sides, and so on.

Overall, Pilatus Railway is a 30-40 minute spectacular ride and an absolute “must!” But remember that there are other remarkable and stunning train rides in Switzerland. Below are the three best train rides aside from Pilatus Railway:

  1. Bernina Express
  2. Glacier Express
  3. Jungfraujoch Railway
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3. For Beautiful Scenery

For me, the most compelling reason to go to Mount Pilatus is the beautiful scenery one can see from the top. It’s where you can see a dramatic shift of Switzerland’s landscape from flat to alpine. Sometimes, a sea of clouds occur, and it’s an otherworldly sight to make you feel like you’re somewhere in heaven.

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Sea of clouds seen from the summit of Mount Pilatus, Lucerne, Switzerland
Sea of clouds seen from the summit of Mount Pilatus
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What’s nicer? You will be rewarded with spectacular views even before you reach the summit—without any hiking involved! Thanks to the mountain’s scenic infrastructure, most notably the Dragon Ride.

The Dragon Ride is an aerial cableway that brings visitors to Pilatus Kulm (summit station) from Fräkmüntegg (the last station of the panorama gondolas from Kriens) in a 3.5-minute breathtaking ride.

It’s a big gondola with jaw-dropping views. Make sure to stand by the windows facing Pilatus Kulm for the best experience.

Anyhow, anyway, alright! Below are the views you can expect to see from Mount Pilatus. 

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Beautiful views of Lucerne and Lake Lucerne from Mount Pilatus, Switzerland
Beautiful views of Lucerne and Lake Lucerne from Mount Pilatus
Hiking Trail in Mount Pilatus, Lucerne, Switzerland
Hiking Trail in Mount Pilatus
Lovely views from the flower trail in Mount Pilatus, Lucerne, Switzerland
Lovely views from the flower trail in Mount Pilatus
Beautiful views of from the Dragon Trail in Mount Pilatus in Lucerne, Switzerland
Beautiful views of from the Dragon Trail in Mount Pilatus
The view from Pilatus Railway in Lucerne, Switzerland
The view from Pilatus Railway
View from the Dragon Trail in Mount Pilatus, Lucerne, Switzerland
View from the Dragon Trail in Mount Pilatus
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You can also see some of these views from the vantage points of the mountain mentioned below.

  1. Oberhaupt — approximately it’s a 10-minute hike from Pilatus Kulm. A 360-degree view of the lake, mountains, and city awaits you here. Facing east, you can photograph Restaurant Bellevue in front of Esel with Lake Lucerne and the Swiss Alps in the backdrop.
  2. Esel — it’s also approximately a 10-minute hike, but the path has more stairs. There is a 50-meter elevation gain to Esel from Pilatus Kulm (10-meter higher than Oberhaupt). It’s best to visit if you want an unobstructed view of Lake Lucerne and the Swiss Alps.
  3. Tomlishorn — it’s the highest peak of Mount Pilatus. It takes 40 minutes to reach by hiking the Flower Trail. It has the best view, in my opinion, because you can see the full form of the “rugged” knife-edge peak of Mount Pilatus from here. 

Before you visit Mount Pilatus for these views, you might want to consider its better alternatives, the top attractions in Switzerland (like Interlaken and the Jungfrau Region). They have absolutely stunning and unique scenery!

Take a look at the top attractions in the Jungfrau Region.

  1. Lauterbrunnen (heaven on earth valley) – Lauterbrunnen Map: 7 Best Viewpoints & Photo Spots
  2. Harderkulm (best view of Interlaken) – Visiting Harder Kulm: Here’s What You Can Expect To See
  3. Lake Brienz (the brightest turquoise lake in the Jungfrau Region) – 7 Things To Do In Lake Brienz (And Visiting Information)
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4. To Have Adventure

Aside from the sightseeing and hiking activities mentioned previously, more outdoor fun awaits you in Mount Pilatus. A sense of adventure surrounds the summit! There are activities for both young and adults.

For everyone, especially with kids—you should definitely check out Pilatus Rope Park. It is the largest rope park in Switzerland, located at the Fräkmüntegg. It offers a fun and exciting adventure for all visitors.

There are 10 different parcours in Pilatus Rope Park with varying difficulty levels. You can challenge yourself at your own pace. However, the best part must be the rope course, where you balance and walk on suspended hanging planks with safety ropes. Thrilling!

Want more fun? Try the Dragon Glider, also located in Frakmuntegg. It features a comfortable paraglider seat that allows visitors to soar through the air at a leisurely pace of up to 12 km per hour.

The glider has a length of 500 meters, and the exit point is at the Drachenalp. This is a great way to enjoy the beautiful scenery of Mount Pilatus from a unique perspective.

If you are traveling with your family, don’t miss the Treetop Path.

It is also located at Fräkmüntegg. And it features a narrow wooden footbridge that leads visitors from tree to tree, providing a more laid-back, fun adventure to visitors of Mount Pilatus. It has 13 nests along the path where you can stop and hang out, enjoying the peaceful surroundings and taking in the fresh mountain air. 

Suppose you only have a short time to spend in Mount Pilatus. In that case, you may want to skip every adventure I have previously mentioned but not the summer tobogganing, which is also located in Fräkmüntegg. It is the longest summer toboggan run in Switzerland, spanning 1350 meters.

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Top view of the Summer Toboggan Run in Mount Pilatus, Lucerne, Switzerland
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You can try many more activities in Mount Pilatus, like trail running and tandem paragliding! Learn more about them from the official website of Mount Pilatus at the end of this post. 

You might also want to compare the activities I mentioned on this list of adventures in Switzerland. I suggest checking the adventures from Grindelwald (Grindelwald One Day Budget Itinerary) and Interlaken—the adventure capital of Switzerland.

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5. A Family Friendly Destination

As the activities and attractions mentioned previously tell, Mount Pilatus is a great destination for families with children. 

One of the family-friendly attractions in Mount Pilatus is the park called Pilu Land. It is the home of Pilu, a friendly dragon and a fictional character with its mascot in the park. 

Pilu land offers inviting picnic areas and a free adventure playground. It also has a barbeque station where families can cook their own meals and enjoy them in the beautiful surroundings. Overall, it’s a nice place for kids to run around and burn off some energy and for families to have quality time together.

Another family-friendly attraction is Dragon’s Moor, a great place to learn about the history of Mount Pilatus and its flora and fauna. If you have time, you may explore its loop trail, which can be completed within 1.5 hours. 

Both Dragon’s Moor and Pilu Land are located in Krienseregg middle station. It’s the first station of the Panorama Gondolas from Kriens’ valley station.

Another reason why Mount Pilatus is a family-friendly destination is that you can see ibexes and other alpine animals on Mount Pilatus. I think kids will find it amazing to see these alpine animals. 

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Alpine animals in the hiking trail in Mount Pilatus, Lucerne, Switzerland
Alpine animals in the hiking trail in Mount Pilatus
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So, where can you find the ibexes in Mount Pilatus? You can spot a few ibex roaming around along the Flower Trail, connecting Tomlishorn and Pilatus Kulm. 

If you really want to learn more about these ibexes, you may join the Ibex Safari tour offered by the tourism office of Mount Pilatus. The tour is led by local experts who will provide insights about the ibex in their natural habitat.

The tour package includes a beverage before the safari, a 4-course evening meal at the Restaurant Pilatus-Kulm, accommodation at the Pilatus Kulm Hotels, morning coffee or tea, and a hearty breakfast buffet. It is available in German, French, and English and is only available from mid-June to October. 

In the sources section of this post, I linked a youtube video to give you a preview of the ibexes in Mount Pilatus.

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How To Go To Mount Pilatus From Lucerne

Have I convinced you to visit Mount Pilatus?

If so, you need not worry about how you can reach Mount Pilatus. I can briefly explain to you the two most common ways to visit Mount Pilatus: The Golden and the Silver Round Trips. 

In a nutshell, the Golden Round Trip is a popular excursion that starts in the city of Lucerne and takes visitors to the top of Mount Pilatus.

The trip typically involves a boat ride on Lake Lucerne, a ride on the world’s steepest cogwheel railway in Alpnach, Dragon Ride in Fräkmüntegg, and Panorama Gondolas in Kriens. Of course, there is spending time sightseeing and exploring the summit of Mount Pilatus.

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Golden Round Trip from Lucerne, Switzerland
Golden Round Trip from Lucerne
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Below is the sequence of the Golden Round Trip. Remember that you can also do it in reverse:

  1. Start at Lucerne Railway station.
  2. Ride bus #1 to Kriens, Zentrum Pilatus (Obernau, Dorf direction). Travel time is 15 minutes.
  3. Walk to the Panorama Gondola valley station in Kriens to Mount Pilatus. You should be able to find directions from the signages posted in the area. The walking time is 5 to 10 minutes.
  4. Ride a Panorama Gondola to Fräkmüntegg. Travel time is 30 minutes. 
  5. At Fräkmüntegg, transfer to the Dragon Ride aerial cableway. Travel time is approximately 5 minutes.
  6. Finally, arrival at Mount Pilatus summit! Explore and visit the viewpoints.
  7. Go down from the mountain through the Pilatus Railway cogwheel train. Travel time is 40 minutes.
  8. Arrival at Alpnachstad. Walk to the dock and ride the boat to Lucerne. Travel time is 1 to 1.5 hours.

The Silver Round Trip is almost the same as the Golden Round Trip. What’s their only difference? The means of travel between Lucerne and Alpnachstad. You’ll use the trains instead of the boat for the Silver Round Trip.

Here are the links to buy tickets for Golden Round Trip (self-guided tour) and Silver Round Trip (self-guided tour). Note that the Golden & Silver Round Trip is only available from mid-May to mid-October when Pilatus Railway is operational.

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Best Time To Visit Mount Pilatus

Definitely, It is during the summertime or from mid-May to mid-October best to visit Mount Pilatus. It’s when you can try the Golden/Silver Round Trip and ride in the Pilatus Railway—the complete experience of Mount Pilatus. 

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Alpnachstad and Pilatus Railway in Mount Pilatus, Lucerne, Switzerland
Alpnachstad and Pilatus Railway
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If you are doing the Golden Round Trip (or even the Silver Round Trip), it’s best to start it early in the morning, following the Lucerne-Kriens-Pilatus-Alpnachstad-Lake Lucerne sequence.

Using this sequence, you can reach Mount Pilatus earlier than other tourists who will start their Golden Round Trip with a boat ride in Lake Lucerne. When you arrive early in Mount Pilatus, you can enjoy its tourist spots without the crowd. 

You can enjoy the peacefulness of the mountain, which is so nice! And, of course, no photo bombers when you take photos. LOL. 

The last time I checked the timetables, the first ride on the Panorama Gondola to Mount Pilatus was 8:30 am. That means you can reach the summit a little past 9:00 am, assuming you don’t make a stop at Fräkmüntegg or Krienseregg. 

Compare that with the case where you start the Golden Round Trip with a boat ride. Its first trip takes place after 9:30 am; the boat ride is 1+ hour long. After that is the 30-minute journey on Pilatus Railway. It’ll be almost lunchtime when you reach Pilatus Kulm!

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How Much Time To Spend In Mount Pilatus

Now that you know how and when to visit Mount Pilatus, let me help you plan your itinerary. Let me begin by telling you how much time you need in Mount Pilatus to enjoy it.

In my opinion…

You will need an entire day to fully experience Mount Pilatus in an enjoyable, laid-back approach. Some visitors who were quick in visiting Mount Pilatus’ places of interest were able to spend only 5 hours in the mountain, though. But I won’t recommend that.

Do you need more convincing? Let’s calculate the time you’ll need based on the time you’ll spend on your way to/from Mount Pilatus and on each attraction in the mountain.

For this, I’m assuming you are traveling to Mount Pilatus to have only its unique and best experiences. And I also think that the weather is fantastic when you visit Mount Pilatus. Meaning, you’ll really take time sightseeing, and you can explore the mountain all day.

Here are the estimates:

  1. Panorama Gondola — 25 minutes
  2. Summer Toboggan Run — 1 hour (optional)
  3. Dragon Ride — 5 minutes
  4. Visit the viewpoints: Oberhaupt, Esel, Tomlishorn — 1 hour (relaxed mode! Take many photos as you want)
  5. Hike the best parts: Flower Trail, Dragon Trail — 2 hours (including some time to spot/find ibexes)
  6. Lunch at the restaurant — 1 hour 
  7. Pilatus Railway — 40 minutes
  8. Lake Lucerne boat ride — 1.5 hours

From the estimates, we can say that it takes nearly 8 hours for a round trip from Lucerne to Mt Pilatus and back. If you start the round trip (Golden) at 8:30 am, you’ll be back to Lucerne before 5:00 pm—just perfect for a bit of rest and then watching the sunset/golden hour in the city.

Before you go to Mount Pilatus, make sure you don’t miss the following tourist attractions in the old city. Check them out: Church of St. Leodegar, Jesuit Church, Musegg Wall, Lion Monument, and Chapel Bridge.

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Sources: Mount Pilatus

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