Today we are going to tell you about a region of Switzerland that we are particularly fond of: Central Switzerland and the lake Lucerne. As its name suggests 😉 this region is located in the heart of Switzerland and counts among the most beautiful lakes of our country. Moreover the mountains are not too high which makes it a perfect hiking destination for spring and autumn.
We visited this area several times for hiking when we were still working in Zürich. I remember well at that time we were trying to find the best viewpoints over the lake Lucerne (since Lucerne is the largest city by the lake). In this crazy quest, we climbed to the top of the Pilatus mountain, the Rigi mountain and also the Vitznauerstock.
Since then, we have returned several times to hike in the region to enjoy the picturesque postcard landscapes (with the lakes and the Alps as a backdrop) and we never get tired of it!
In this post we present you all our favorite hikes and excursions around the lake Lucerne with all the practical information so that you can discover this incredible region of Switzerland by yourself.
That day, the weather was grey and cloudy in Zurich (as it quite often is during wonter season). Not wanting to stay home, we decided go a bit higher to see if we could get above the clouds! After a first train ride to Lucerne in the early morning, we then took the first boat to Vitznau on the shore of the Lake Lucerne!
Beginning of the hike in the village of Vitznau
10:00 am sharp we were ready to hike and well motivated to see some blue sky!
The hike begins by crossing the village of Vitznau to the Wissifluh gondola lift station. It is also possible to take this cable car to save yourself a part of the climb, but as you might know, we prefer to hike!
In other words, as we started hiking, we were still in a thick fog!
Benoit was in a great mood and was full of hope. I admit, that I was not yet frankly convinced of the idea of walking in the fog and was, only moderately optimistic about the fact that we might see the sun that day.
The sun always shines above the clouds
400m of climb later however, I had to change my mind!
We were starting to see the blue sky and as we hiked up, we started to come out of the mist! It was really magical to suddenly find ourself above this sea of clouds!
The climb continued without much difficulty through meadows to the foot of the Vitznauerstock! One last effort on a steep climb through the forest, and we were already at the top!
On the top of Vitznauerstock
An breathtaking panorama!
The spot was simply perfect for our little picnic: no one around and a sea of clouds as far as we could see!
Normally, from this point you have a breathtaking view of the lake Lucerne!
However because of the clouds we could only imagine it, but honestly we couldn’t really complain right?
After a well-deserved break we headed back to the Hinterbergen restaurant! A last stop to enjoy a few more moments of sunshine and see the clouds below dissipate little by little!
After going down with the cable car, we took the boat back to Lucerne just during sunset! On the boat we tasted a good craft beer… By the way, if you’ve been following us long enough, you know that we are fans of the Beer hike concept, that we discovered when we came back from our round the world trip (more about beer hiking in Switzerland at the end of the article). So much so that in 2019 we even created and written the guide book beer hiking in France 🙂
Lucerne beer: cuvée du lac
But anyway, this hike was also part of the selection in the guide beer hiking in Switzerland and the beer is really cool.
In fact, it is a beer that is brewed exclusively for the boat company that operates on the lake Lucerne, so to taste this beer you “have to” to take the boat! 😀
A great day that we highly recommend if you are in the area of Lucerne!
- Start : Vitznau
- Finish : Vitznau
- Distance : 7-8kms
- Route : Vitznau (435m) – Wissifluh (930m) – Vitznauerstock (1451m) – Fälmisegg (1176m) – Hinterbergen (1100m) – Vitznau (435m)
- Elevation gain : 1020m
- Elevation loss : 1020m (351m if you take the cable car)
- Duration : about 5 hours
- Difficulty : Average
The hike is not difficult in itself, but the final climb to the Vitznauerstock is quite steep. In our opinion, this is a hike accessible to all people with average to good physical condition. However, we would not recommend it for young children.
To start this hike you have to go to Vitznau first. To get to Vitznau you have 2 options from Lucerne:
- A train and bus combination: twice an hour a train leaves Lucerne in the direction of Küssnacht am Rigi. From there, you will have to change for a bus.
- The option we have chosen and that we recommend: the boat! Once an hour a boat leaves the port of Lucerne and will take you to Vitznau in 1 hour. The trip is really beautiful
The hike also ends in Vitznau, the options for the return trip are the same! You can easily find all train timetables on the sbb website.
The cable cars
To shorten the ascent a little bit you can take the gondola from Vitznau to Wissifluh. This cable car will make you gain 448m 🙂
But be careful, the gondola is not always in use, sometimes you have to announce yourself by phone at the restaurant before going up. The number is +41 (0)41 397 13 27.
The trip costs 8 CHF.
Option for going down. This gondola works all the time. In case nobody is there, the cable car can be activated thanks to an automatic machine in which the passengers put the 7 CHF required for the descent! A self-service cable car! 🙂
Hiking from Rigi Scheidegg to Rigi Kulm
Amazed by our hike to the Vitznauerstock but also eager to finally see the panorama of the lake Lucerne without the clouds we took advantage of the following weekend and a perfect weather to go for a walk in the surroundings!
This time we decided to start the day at Arth Goldau train station. From there, we took the train and then the cable car to Rigi Scheidegg station.
This hike is much easier than the previous one but also offers a breathtaking panorama throughout the hike!
As soon as we arrived in Rigi Scheidegg we were immediately blown away the view!
The sun is out, we have our picnic: we’re ready to hike!
Hiking from Rigi Scheidegg to Rigi Kulm: different itineraries
The walk begins with a slightly downhill path until a first crossing. Here we have 3 options:
- The flattest path that passes behind the hill of Dosse. It is the most direct option, but by far the least spectacular
- The path that runs along the hill of Dosse but from the front. A flat path that offers a beautiful panorama
- Climbing on the top of Dosse to have the best view of the lake Lucerne
We let you guess which option we have chosen! 🙂 The plunging view of course! Moreover, we do not regret this choice in any way. I mean… have a look:
We then descend towards the village of Fist. From there it would in theory be possible to take the train up to the top of Rigi Kulm. But not being tired yet, we chose to hike further.
Panorama over the lake Lucerne from the Rotstock
On the way, we made another small detour to the Rotstock, a hill that overlooks the lake lucerne just before arriving at Rigi Kulm station.
We took advantage of the view to have our meal up there before finally getting back on track for the Rigi summit. From the Rotstock it takes a good half an hour to reach the train’s terminal station. There we found of course a big crowd who just came to admire the view with the train.
Honestly the view from the top of Rigi Kulm is beautiful, but if you have the courage you can believe us: the little detour to Rotstock or Dosse is worth more than the effort!
- Start : Rigi Scheidegg
- Finish : Rigi Kulm
- Distance : 8.5kms
- Itinerary :Rigi Scheidegg (1551m) – Hinder Dosse (1542m) – Dosse (1685m) – First (1453m) – Rigi Kaltbad (1433m) – Rotstock Rigi (1659) – Rigi Kulm (1798m)
- Elevation changes : It’s hard to say because with the little detours we’ve made to see viewpoints. But we approximately climbed about 700m and descended 600m.
- Duration : About 4-5 hours (including all detours)
- Difficulty : Easy
The hike is really easy! Moreover, if you feel tired, you do not have to climb the Dosse or the Rotstock. (Even if it is highly recommended);).
The easiest way to get to Rigi Scheidegg is by train to Arth Goldau. From there a small train will take you to Kräbel, then a cable car will take you from Kräbel to Rigi Scheidegg.
For the return trip we recommend you to take the train from Rigi Kulm to Vitznau and to return by boat (see the Vitznauerstock hike above for more information).
In 2020 we came back to the Rigi region to do a nice loop hike starting from Seebodenalp. A 16km loop which passes through Rigi Staffel, Rigi Kulm, Rigi Klösterli and the panorama trail. We have published a separate article detailing this route.
The Mount Pilatus (cable car + hotel)
Last but not least ! Basically we didn’t think we’d ever get on the Pilatus, or at least not by cable car! But recently we won a competition with Swiss International Airlines and had the pleasure of taking 4 girls from Singapore to discover Switzerland. The opportunity was too good!
Actually, we wanted to go up there for a long time, but the idea was to hike up! 🙂 But it was not really possible since our guests from Singapore never had really hiked in their life!
So it was at the end of the day that we took the cable car in Krienz, and a little half an hour later we were 1550m higher!
I might as well tell you that it’s just impressive to get so high so fast! Especially since, as for the Vitznauerstock, we got really lucky with the weather again!
taking the cable car to the top of Mt Pilatus
Leaving Lucerne, the weather was very cloudy. We were already thinking that we would not be able to see the sunset at the top.
As we got out of the first gondola we were still in the middle of a thick fog, frankly we had lost all hope at this point!
But when we arrived about a hundred meters from the summit, the cable car suddenly came out of the clouds and we were facing this crazy panorama!
A sea of clouds as far as the eye can see with a few peaks coming out here and there! Wouahhhhhh!
Our friend from Singapore kept saying “OMG, it’s amazing”! 🙂
But I can tell you that even if Benoit and I were “the locals”, we were blown away as well!
The best, if you can, is to go up on one side (with the cable car for example) and come back down by train. Be careful, this option is valid only during the months of May to October. In winter, only the Gondola works.
To buy your tickets you can do it on the spot, or if you prefer to book online beforehand you can do it on GetyourGuide
A nice alternative for the summer is a combined ticket that takes the cable car up, the train down and a cruise on the lake Lucerne. See this offer here.
Sunset on the Mount Pilatus
We dropped our things in the room at lightning speed and rushed towards the viewpoint overlooking the hotel to admire the sunset: a simply magical moment!
After a good meal we couldn’t resist to go back to the viewpoint to make some tests of night pics (we did not know what we were doing at that time 😉 ). We are still completely beginners, but frankly we couldn’t have dreamt of a better training ground!
Sunrise on top of Pilatus
The next morning we set the alarm clock at 5:30! It was out of the question that we would be in such a place and not try to see the sunrise! It was cold, very cold even but what a view!
Besides, we were surprised, because out of all the hotel guests, we were almost the only ones who set the alarm clock so early! Of course, setting the alarm so early is quite painful, but seriously, it’s not every day that you get a chance to see something that unique!
Sleeping on top of Mount Pilatus
There are 2 hotels at the top of Pilatus. In fact they are side by side, but there is a small difference in quality (and therefore in price).
So we’re not going to lie to you, this trip is not cheap! The cable car cost already CHF 72 per person. (Yes, yes, it’s super expensive!)
For children as well as people who have a half-fare or general subscription the price decreases to CHF 36.
For the hotel, prices start at 140 CHF per night per person. The price includes a 3-4 course dinner in the evening and breakfast.
We suggest you to have a look at the Pilatus website because there are regularly interesting offers that combine gondola, hotel and restaurant for a good price (we have already seen offers at 165chfs per person but it is rare).
Otherwise you will find the best prices for the hotel Pilatus Kulm directly on the website hotelscombined which compares offers on all major hotel booking platforms.
Hike on top of Mount Pilatus
Since this article was written, we have come back to the area and this time we did not take the cable car to reach the top of the Pilatus… NO! We hiked!
And seriously, if you feel fit and you have the time, we can only recommend this option!
We started our hike at the Alpnachstadt train station and followed the marked hiking trail up to the top. This is definitively not an easy hike since there is more than 1600m of elevation gain, but believe us, it’s magical!
- Starting point: Alpnachstad
- Distance: about 9km
- Elevation gain: about 1640m
- Duration: Allow 4 hours or 4h30 to make it to the top.
- It is them possible to come down using either the train or the cable car (the train brings you back to Alpnachstad
Hiking around Lake Lucerne – final thoughts
Here you go, you have all the information you need to enjoy the view of the lake Lucerne! If you have good hiking itineraries in the area, don’t hesitate to share in the comments! As you can imagine, we are completely gaga of this little piece of paradise and we will probably come back to it once the hiking season is open!
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