Ahhh our beloved Switzerland, it hasn’t finished surprising and enchanting us! In the last few months we’ve been travelling a lot around our home in Valais (#covid19yousaid) but last week we made a small exception. We had an appointment in Zurich and we took advantage of an extra day to make a scenic stop at Lake Lucerne and more precisely at Mount Rigi.
Mount Rigi – a short presentation
The Rigi is definitely one of Switzerland’s must-see events! And it’s not us who say so, it’s also statistics; 850’000 visitors a year. The reason? Well simply the absolutely incredible panorama on Lake Lucerne!
Ok… now you’re probably thinking: “but why on earth would you want to go hiking where almost a million people come every year (mostly by train)”. So I’ll admit it, the crowds are not particularly our cup of tea either… But at the Rigi there is a BUT. Indeed, trains and gondolas arrive at several places on the Rigi, but as very often, few people walk more than a few hundred meters.
So no, this is probably not the “wildest” or “off the beaten track “hike you will find on the blog, but believe us, we still recommend it with your eyes closed. If you manage to come there outside vacations or weekends it’s even better 😉
From Seebodenalp to Rigi Staffel
The hike started for us at the end of the morning on the parking lot of Seebodenalp. At the moment of getting out of the car (euhhh of the van in fact, we are not accustomed yet 😉 ) we are in a thick fog and we hear our neighbors of carpark hesitating:
“We are in the fog… we drove 2 hours to get here. What do we do now? Do we wait in the car, turn around or do we try to go for a hike?”
Ahhh, for our part the question did not even arise: Let’s go!!!! The weather forecast was clear, stratus in the morning up to 1200-1300m… The parking lot being at exactly 1000m of altitude that did not worry us too much.
Then I won’t hide from you that it’s mystical enough to leave in the fog like that. But the optimism was there!
After a few hundred meters we already feel that our instincts (ok the weather forecast too) did not deceive us. As we go up in the forest, the light becomes stronger and stronger until suddenly we arrive above the clouds.
All of a sudden we are under a blue sky and dazzled by the sun! Ahhhhhhhhhh happiness!
From the parking lot to Rigi Staffel there is something like 3,5km and 600m of difference in altitude. A rather steep but very regular ascent and especially some nice first points of view on the way.
From Rigi Staffel to Rigi Kulm
In Rigi Staffel we arrive directly at the level of the small station and the restaurant. We are not going to lie, this place is a little a shocking in terms of crowd when coming out of the forest! But hey, the view is there and that’s what we came to get and not necessarily the smell of some sausages & bread everyone seems to be eating up there.
From Rigi Staffel to the highest summit of the Mount Rigi (Rigi Kulm) there is still a good 1 km of walk and 200m of positive difference in altitude. This part of the hike will clearly have been the one where we met the most people, but it is also one of the most beautiful. The ballet of the trains crossing each other, the fog dissipating little by little and the lake revealing itself… pfiouuu magical!
Going down to Rigi Klösterli
From the top of the Rigi Kulm we set off again in the direction of the eastern side of the mountain and more precisely in the direction of Rigi Klösterli. For the non-German speakers among you, you might be interested to know that “Klösterli” is a Swiss German word meaning “kleines Kloster” or small monastery if you prefer.
Nowadays Rigi Klösterli is a tourist destination in its own right with its hotel and restaurants, but at one time there were Capuchin monks here.
The descent to the small train station is really very pleasant. We follow mainly a wide track with, always, beautiful landscapes in front of us.
Getting to Rigi First
From Rigi Klösterli station the path leads up along a track towards Rigi First. It was our last little climb of the walk and for once I was far from complaining. 😉 At the beginning of November the temperatures were starting to be cool and in the second part of the day this part of the hike is in the shade. In short, nothing like a little climb to warm up a little bit!
Arrived at Rigi First we were again in the sun but above all we had reached a crazy viewpoint! At this place, we are like “hanging” above lake Lucerne.
The Panoramic Trail between Rigi First and Rigi Kaltbad
The scenic trail from Rigi Scheidegg to Rigi Kulm is one of the most popular in the region. We had followed it a few years ago (read our article here) and this year we were back on part of this trail.
There’s no need to say, this panoramic walk is simply spectacular. It’s funny because we pass by a lot of small chalets and vacation apartments… You can’t help wondering who are the people who enjoy such a view on a daily basis! Well after, this place is not accessible by road (only by the train or the cable car) so we can imagine that it’s not the most “practical” place to live there full time… but well, with such a view we would be ready to some concessions I think (well financially it must be another story eh… but hey, it’s not forbidden to dream right? ) 😉
In Rigi Kaltbad we take advantage of the small grocery store to go and buy ourselves a “snack” (yes yes, like when we were 10 years old) and put it in the bag with the idea to eat it with the view.
The Känzeli viewpoint (Chänzeli)
From the center of Rigi Kalbad, our walk continues a few hundred meters up the mountainside until we reach the Känzeli viewpoint. This place has nothing secret and it is very popular at sunset time. But then, it’s easy to understand why such a viewpoint over lake Lucerne attracts people (especially since it’s only a 15 minutes walk from the arrival of the gondola and the train).
It must have been 4:15 p.m. when we arrived. The lights were beginning to soften and the fog was slowly coming back on the lake. Totally bewitched by the landscape, we decided to sit on a bench to wait for the sun to hide behind the Pilatus (and eat our snack 😉 ). But no more blah blah blah blah, here are some pictures of this magnificent end of the afternoon:
Getting back to Seebodenalp
At the viewpoint of Känzeli a sign indicates the direction of Seebodenalp but also the walking time… 1h20 announced! As we stayed at the viewpoint to watch the sunset and as night arrives quickly in November we knew we had to hurry a bit. 😉
It is thus with a good pace that we started the descent towards the alpine restaurant of Räb. This section is quite steep in some places and it was clearly better to cover it with still some visibility. We didn’t make many photo breaks on the way down, even if some viewpoints were simply too nice not to stop. 😉
Once we had reached the second restaurant in Ruodisegg we knew we were done with the descent. The last 2 kilometers that still separated us from the parking lot were only a formality: a perfectly flat and wide path. We arrived at the car exactly when it got really dark: a perfect timing and a perfect hiking day! 🙂
Mount Rigi – practical information
To finish this article here is all the practical information you might need to make this hike.
- Distance: about 16km
- Elevation change: 1000m (+ and -)
- Difficulty: The path is easy and there is no exposed passage. Nevertheless, the distance and the difference in altitude make it a good hike, a little bit sporty.
- Duration: Difficult to estimate as the many viewpoints will make you want to take several breaks. 😉 For info it took us 6h30 to complete the loop by really taking our time (picnic, many photo breaks). The pure walking time is about 4h30.
- When to do the hike? Ideally: April/May-October/November. The advantage of the Rigi is that it isn’t very high (compared to the rest of the Alps). The highest point of the hike is at less than 1800m which makes this hike accessible most of the year (depending on snow conditions).
- Access: We drove by van to the parking lot at the top of Seebodenalp (starting point on the map). Paid parking. Be careful, the access road is narrow and on busy days it often means traffic jams and full parking… Come early! If you plan to come on a busy day (summer, weekend, holiday) or if you are using public transport, you can reach the start of the hike by taking the cable car from Küssnacht. Timetables and more infos
- Alternative: A few years ago we proposed another hike in the surroundings (shorter but involving public transport). Our blog post: Rigi Scheidegg to Rigi Kulm
Hiking map for the Mount Rigi panoramic trail:
During this small escapade we were on the road with Dahu (our van). So we did not look for a hotel or airbnb in the area even if, as you can imagine, there is no lack of options in a touristic place like this one 😉 You will find lots of airbnbs as well as hotels around here.
In a van we usually dream to find a small wild spot with a nice view to settle down. After, it is necessary to remain realistic, to have a van does not mean that we can sleep everywhere, far from there! Besides, there is often a proportional relation between the popularity of a place and the number of camping bans. 😉 Not having especially the desire to be dislodged in the middle of the night we opted for the camping option.
We have a really good address to give you around here: Camping Buosingen in Goldau. It’s probably not the campsite that has the most “charm” of the region (in reality it’s very basic) but on the other hand the night costs 18CHF for 2 people and a campervan (to which we added 0.5CHF for electricity), it’s very clean and it’s open all year round. It is, I think, the cheapest campsite that we’ve seen so far in Switzerland! In short, we spent 2 nights there and it was perfect. The camping’s website
Note: Links that point to airbnb and hotelscombined are affiliate links. If you need accommodation in the area we suggest you use our links (these are the sites we systematically use when we book accommodation). You don’t pay anything extra, but we will get a small commission. And if you don’t have an airbnb account you can also use our referral link and receive up to 30€ of welcome credit.