Steeped in legends of fire-breathing dragons, Mount Pilatus looms nearly 7,000 feet above Lucerne, beckoning visitors to come and take in its panoramic views. On a clear day, visitors can enjoy a picture-perfect vista that includes glistening Lake Lucerne and just about every nearby mountain from Säntis to the Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau. It’s easy to see why this is a popular spot for visitors to check out.
But, how in the world do you get up there?
When I first started investigating all the things we had to do in Lucerne, Pilatus came up each time. At first, I considered a tour, but we had already spent a literal mountain of money in Switzerland, so I wanted to find a cheaper way to visit.
I figured we could just go on our own, right? It can’t be that hard.
But when I started investigating how I would scale that mountain (without hiking — that’s the cheapest option!), the do-it-yourself instructions were vague at best, and they didn’t include off-season instructions. If you’re in the same boat, have no fear, I will lay out multiple options so you can easily get to Mount Pilatus on your own.
Getting to Mount Pilatus on Your Own
There are a few different ways to get to Mount Pilatus on your own, and if they seem too daunting, you can always take a tour! I promise, it’s really not that hard, and going on your own can save you a little bit of money and give you more freedom to explore.
If you’re not concerned about time and want to enjoy the scenery from a variety of transportation options, choose this! But, one important note, this is only available from late May – October.
If you’re visiting outside of that time frame, check out the last option.
The Golden Roundtrip (no idea why it’s named this) starts with a 1-hr. boat ride from Lucerne to Alpnachstad; once in Alpnachstad, you’ll hop on the historic cogwheel (it’s the steepest in the world, with a gradient up to 48-degrees — it honestly looks like it defies gravity!) for a 30-minute ride to the top of Mount Pilatus. Once on Mount Pilatus, you can explore various trails, have lunch or a drink at the onsite restaurant, or you could stay the night at Pilatus Klum!
Golden Roundtrip Return to Lucerne
Once you’re done exploring and want to go back, you won’t go back the way you came; you’ll go down the other side of the mountain, starting with a cable car ride. The cable car makes a quick stop and you switch to a smaller gondola cable car at Fräkmüntegg (we will talk about this stop later) and then Krienseregg before finally coming to an end at the cable car station. The entire ride is about 30-minutes.
After the cable car, take a short 10-minute walk into the center of the town Kriens, where you hop on a bus back to Lucerne. The walk is short and well-marked, so don’t be concerned about getting lost — look for bus #1 to Luzern Banhof (Lucerne city-center); the bus stop is called Kriens Zentrum Pilatus.
How to Book The Golden Roundtrip Ticket
To book this, your best bet is to visit an SBB ticket office inside the Lucerne train station. When you book everything through them, you do get a small discount. The cost per person is approximately 110 CHF (it’s a little more for 1st class tickets) for the Golden Roundtrip to Mount Pilatus.
Ok, if you like taking the cogwheel up to Mount Pilatus but don’t have the time or interest in taking the hour-long boat ride, then this option is for you! Just like the Golden Roundtrip, this option is only available from late May – October.
If you’re outside that time frame, skip to the next option!
Instead of taking a boat from Lucerne to Alpnachstad, you will take a quick train ride — on average, it takes 18-minutes, and there are approximately 40 trains per day. Once you get to the Alpnachstad train station, hop on the cogwheel (it’s right nearby). Then just like the Golden Roundtrip, it’s a 30-minute cogwheel ride to the top of the mountain, and you go back down using the cable car to Kriens and finally take bus #1 back to Lucerne.
Booking The Silver Roundtrip Ticket
The price for the Silver Roundtrip is approximately 90 CHF for a 2nd class train ticket and 95 CHF for a first-class ticket. You can book all of the tickets for the train, cogwheel, and cable car at the SBB ticket office inside the Lucerne train station.
Off-Season Roundtrip to Mount Pilatus
If you’re traveling outside of late May – October, then you will need to take this option — it’s probably the most straightforward, quickest, and the cheapest of the options. We had to take this option. I didn’t realize that the cogwheel doesn’t operate outside of May – October until I got to the SBB office.
You won’t have to worry about taking a boat or train to Alpnachstad; instead, you will hop on bus #1 just outside the Lucerne train station and take it to Kriens to take the cable car to Mount Pilatus. You will come back the very same way — easy!
From the Lucerne train station, it is a quick bus ride (depending on traffic), about 15 minutes to Kriens. Your bus stop is Kriens Zentrum Pilatus. From the bus stop, follow the little red signs right behind the bus stop. The walk is only about 10 minutes and snakes through the neighborhood. Once you get to the Mount Pilatus cable car station, you will take the 30-minute cable car ride up to the top.
Once you’re done exploring, you will come back down the same way you came up and take bus #1 back to Lucerne Banhof (train station).
Booking Off-Season Tickets to Mount Pilatus
For this option, you only need to buy tickets for the cable car ride (unless you’re not staying in Lucerne — public transportation is included with your hotel or apartment stay). You can buy cable car tickets from the SBB ticket office inside the Lucerne train station or onsite at the Mount Pilatus cable car station. This option is approximately 60 CHF per person.
Mount Pilatus Tours
Ok, now that you know how to get to Mount Pilatus on your own, if you’re thinking, you know what I just want to sit back, relax, and have someone else get me there; you can do that too! Here are a few tour options to check out.
If you’re traveling during the summer, this tour option isn’t too much more than booking the Golden Roundtrip yourself. They will adjust the tour if you’re coming in the off-season.
Instead of traveling with a group, this option is just your party and the guide. It does say Golden Roundtrip in the title, which you will do during the summer/fall season. They will adjust the tour for the off-season. The price includes pick up and drop off to the hotel and the guide, but doesn’t include your train ticket or the cable car.
Guided Mount Pilatus hike
If you’re interested in hiking but want to make sure you don’t get lost, consider a guided hike. These are available through Mount Pilatus a few times a year. The hike is 7-hrs. and starts just after 7:30 AM. Once you get to the top, you can stay the night at Pilatus Kulm or take the cable car back to Kriens.
If you like the idea of hiking, but don’t want to do the whole thing, check out this guided hike. The rest of the excursion is completed via bus, cogwheel, and cruise.
What To Do On Mount Pilatus
Aside from taking in the picture-perfect views from atop Mount Pilatus, there are other activities that you might want to check out! These two stops are only available if you’re taking the cable car; the cogwheel doesn’t have any stops.
Check out Fräkmüntegg
Coming from Kriens, this is the second cable car stop or the first stop coming down from Mount Pilatus. I suggest that you stop here on your way down instead of going up.
This is an excellent stop for fun for the whole family; you will find hiking trails, the longest rope park in Central Switzerland, tree tents, an outdoor toboggan run, and a restaurant! This spot offers some pretty beautiful views of the city as well.
We did stop here and checked out the toboggan run, Frakigaudi. For 9 CHF, you get to whizz down a 1,350 m track with steep curves and tunnels. Is it a little overpriced? Yes. But was it fun? Yes.
The onsite restaurant isn’t vegan-friendly, but you could grab a drink and enjoy the views!
Take the Kids to Krienseregg
This is the perfect stop if you have kids. Here you will find the PILU-land playground, a scavenger hunt, and a short Dragonmoor hiking trail that shares interesting facts about the history of Mount Pilatus and the vegetation and wildlife on the mountain.
Spend the Night on Mount Pilatus
If you’ve never had the opportunity to sleep on a mountain, here is your chance! High in the clouds, enjoy the best sunrise and sunset at Pilatus Kulm. I wouldn’t stay up here for your entire time in Lucerne; I think one night would be perfect. Then head back into town for the rest of your trip.
Schlossweg 1, Kriens, 6010 Lucerne
Mount Pilatus FAQ’s
What’s The Cheapest Way to Get to Mount Pilatus?
The cheapest way to get to Mount Pilatus is to take the off-season route. You will take the bus from Lucerne to Kriens and then hop on the cable car up the mountain. You will return to Lucerne the very same way, just in reserve.
If you’re staying in Lucerne, you only need to purchase a cable car ticket which is approximately 60 CHF. Bus tickets are included with all Lucerne hotel stays, just make sure to keep your keycard on you incase someone pops on the bus to check tickets.
Can You Get to Mount Pilatus from Zurich?
Yes, you can get to Mount Pilatus from Zurich fairly easily. There are over 30 trains that go between Zurich and Lucerne each day and the journey is just under one hour. Once you get to Lucerne, you can choose which option (Golden Roundtrip, Silver Roundtrip, off-season) that you want to take.
You can also book a tour from Zurich to Mount Pilatus if you don’t want to deal with getting there yourself.
Is Mount Pilatus Worth Visiting For Just a Day?
Yes! Mount Pilatus is definitely worth visiting even if it’s just for the day. To be honest, most people only go for the day. If you want to stay longer, you can! At the top of Mount Pilatus, is Pilatus Kulm — a beautiful mountain top hotel. If you have time this would be a very unique place to enjoy the sunrise and sunset!
Is Mount Pilatus an Easy Hike?
Mount Pilatus is not an easy hike! If you’re not an avid or experienced hiker, I wouldn’t advise adding it to your itinerary! The 8 km (5 mile) hike is over 1,000 meters uphill and it takes most people about 4.5 hours one-way.
One note, if you decide to hike, follow the yellow (Pilatus Kulm) signs from the Pilatusbahn station. When you get to Amsigen there will be two trail options; via Mattalp or via the Matthorn. If you choose Matthorn, it will take approximately 30 minutes longer (so close to 5 hours). Also, don’t forget to pack water and food — you will need it!
More Swiss Vegan Travel Guides
If your trip doesn’t end on Mount Pilatus, then be sure to check out our other guides to a few other fantastic cities in Switzerland!
The Complete Vegan Travel Guide to Zurich
10 Spots for Vegan Food You Can’t Miss in Zurich
A Comprehensive Vegan Travel Guide to Lucerne
The Best Vegan Travel Guide to Bern
Where to Stay in Bern + Vegan-Friendly Hotels
The Complete Vegan Travel Guide to Geneva