Visiting Switzerland’s Mount Pilatus
Ah, Switzerland, one of the world’s most famously beautiful countries. The name alone brings to mind images of snow-capped mountains and one of the best rides Disneyland has to offer. Although it isn’t even on the radar of the highest peaks in Switzerland at a mere 6,982 feet, Mount Pilatus is one of the most visited mountains in Switzerland thanks to its accessibility and convenient location near Zurich and Lucerne.
An Easy Day Trip
If you’re staying in Zurich, the first thing to do is make your way to Lucerne. It’s a quick 45 minute train ride from the Zurich HB station. If you’re staying in Lucerne, even better, you’re all set!
From Lucerne, it’s a 15 minute drive to the Mount Pilatus railway station, but there’s a much more scenic way to get there if you have the time. Mount Pilatus itself offers a round trip that includes a boat ride along Lake Lucerne on the way to the Pilatus railway station in Alpnachstad.
The Mount Pilatus Cogwheel Railway
I know the lake cruise may have scared off some of the more adventurous types reading this, but this should help get that adventurous spirit back in action! The Mount Pilatus Cogwheel Railway is the world’s steepest rack railway and, with a maximum gradient of 48%, a lot of fun to ascend.
This may sound a bit silly, but I’m especially a sucker for the sound of the cowbells that ring constantly throughout the Swiss alps. I have to admit I got unreasonably excited when our rail car passed by a group that were sitting alongside the tracks, bells and all. It made me feel as if I were in some sort of stereotypical Swiss cartoon, sitting among the cows and nestled deep in the mountains.
The View From The Top
Once your rail car reaches the top of the station, it’s a very short walk up some stairs to the summit. Your minimal effort will be rewarded with breathtaking views of Lake Lucerne and the 73 peaks surrounding you.
While you’re there, no matter what time of year, be sure to enjoy a hot chocolate and apple strudel at one of the cafes on top. There are a bunch of great places for a picnic and a short exploratory hike.
When you’ve had your fill of the spectacular Swiss views (is that possible?), it’s time to head back to where you came from. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can hike back to your destination of choice to extend your time on Mount Pilatus.
If your legs are still tired from other mountaineering activities, you can either take the same railway back or take the cable cars back down to Kriens, which is just outside Lucerne. The cable car is a two-stage system, with the first being a spectacularly huge gondola lined all around with windows for fantastic panoramic views of the mountain.
Once you transfer to the smaller cable car, crack open a window if the weather permits and enjoy the echoes of cowbells singing out throughout the lush countryside.
A Personal Note About This Trip
This may have been a bit tame compared to a lot of the other adventures you’ll read here, but it was one of my first big trips abroad that I undertook myself and a formative part of what made me who I am today.
As you can tell from my other posts, I’ve expanded my horizons a lot since then, as well as my photographic abilities, but the core idea is still the same: get out there and go on an adventure. This trip made me realize that travel isn’t so intimidating after all, and was the springboard that launched my life long love of travel.