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Last Updated on October 27, 2020

When you visit Switzerland you are genuinely spoilt for choice with beautiful towns and villages, scenic train journeys, mountains to climb and amazing views to admire!

One of my favourite excursions from Lucerne in Switzerland is the golden round trip to Mount Pilatus. This is one of the best day trips from Lucerne and involves trains, boats, gondolas and more – a truly wonderful way to see and appreciate the Swiss countryside!

If this is a trip you are considering taking you will find everything you need to know about it in this post. This includes the various options you can choose to take this trip independently or with a tour.

Why visit Mt Pilatus?

Mount Pilatus on the shores of Lake Lucerne is steeped in legends and folklore with stories of dragons and hidden caves. Legend has that there is a dragon’s lair and once giants roamed the mountain side. Or maybe they still do? Keep a look out for these mystical creatures on your visit!

The summit of Mount Pilatus at 2132 metres high gives a stunning panoramic view of Lucerne and its beautiful lake but also of the of the Bernese Alps, Jungfrau and Titlis and on to the French Alps. On a clear day a total of 73 Alpine Peaks can be viewed from Mt Pilatus!

I have made the trip twice – once on a lovely clear day and the second when a cloud stubbornly refused to move from the top. Trying to get a day when the weather is clear can be quite difficult and even though the forecast was clear for the second trip that cloud was not moving. I would recommend going on a clear day if you can – the views are spectacular and it is worth it. 

The cog railway climbs Mt Pilatus


Lucerne to Mount Pilatus on the golden round trip option involves a day traveling on lots of different transportation. If this interests you then this is the Mount Pilatus trip for you!

From Lucerne you take a boat, a cog railway, a cable car, a gondola, a bus then return to Lucerne by train.

It is however not cheap (it is Switzerland after all) but more of that below!

Summary of the itinerary included on the Golden Round Trip to Mount Pilatus

If you take the ‘GOLDEN ROUND TRIP TO MOUNT PILATUS’ option this involves 5 different forms of transportation

  1. A boat across Lake Lucerne to Alpnachstad.
  2. Mt Pilatus cogwheel train from Alpnachstad to the summit of Pilatus
  3. Aerial cableway – a trip on the Mt Pilatus cable car
  4. Panoramic gondola to Kriens
  5. Bus to Lucerne

The boat from Lucerne to Alpnachstad takes about an hour. Enjoy sailing across the lake and admire the million dollar houses on its shores!

After arriving in Alpnachstad transfer to the cog railway which will takes 40 minutes to climb the 7000 feet to the summit of Mount Pilatus. The views are spectacular so have your camera handy. The steepness of the climb will take your breath away at times (if you don’t like heights do not look down!)

After  spending some time at the top you then descend for 3 1/2 minutes via an aerial cableway (the so-called Dragon ride though to be perfectly honest I didn’t see one) and then finally a 30 minute descent in a panorama gondola (more great views) to Kriens before catching a bus back to Lucerne – a great day out! (If you want you can do this trip the other way around and start in Kriens)

What are the other ticket options? Well you could take the Silver Round Trip which is basically all the above but instead of a boat to Alpnachstad you catch a train from Lucerne!

Learn More – My complete guide to the best Mt Pilatus tours

A step by step guide to the Golden Round Trip to Mount Pilatus

Below you will find pictures and details of each step of your journey on the Golden Round Trip to Mount Pilatus so you know what to expect when you take the trip.

1. Take the boat from Lucerne to Alpnachstad

Once you arrive in Lucerne train station walk out of the station and across the road to the piers to catch the boat. You are heading for Alpnachstad to catch the cog railway so you need Pier 2.

The boats that cross Lake Lucerne

The boat trip is wonderful in itself – what can be better than sailing across a beautiful lake with the sun shining and the beauty of Switzerland all around. The boat ride lasts about an hour.

A house on the edge of Lake Lucerne with Mt Pilatus in the background
Stanstad on Lake Lucerne

2. Take the cog railway

The cog railway is the steepest in the world with in parts a gradient of 48%!! It was opened in 1889 (amazingly engineer Eduard Locher came up with the idea of constructing two horizontally revolving cogwheels to enable the railway to climb the mountain).

Pilatus Bahn in Switzerland

There is one stop on the way up at Amsigen as this is the train passing point. Look out for the farmer’s house with the enormous cow bells!

If you are considering a holiday in Switzerland then these 20 photographs will certainly inspire you to get it booked asap!

The views of Lake Lucerne are spectacular. I was lucky also to get a great shot of the a car passing us on its way down the mountain. I think this gives an excellent idea of just how steep it is!

3. Arrive at the top of Mount Pilatus

Once at the top there are lots of viewing areas, walks to take a couple of restaurants, toilets and a gift shop. There are also 2 hotels at the top of Mount Pilatus.

If you wish you could book a stay and enjoy a night or two. Although I haven’t stayed on Mount Pilatus I can imagine how wonderful it would be.

The Hotel Pilatus Klum or the Hotel Bellevue offer guests fabulous views!

View from the top of Pilatus in Switzerland

There are a number of walks that you can take at the top of the mountain which range from easy to medium and take between 10 mins and 35 mins.

Tickets for the Golden Round Trip to Mount Pilatus

4. Take the aerial cableway to Mount Pilatus

The cableway takes you from the top of Mt Pilatus to the gondola station at Frakmuntegg. There are lots of activities available there such as the Pilatus rope park and a toboggan run.

5. Take the gondola

The panoramic gondolas take you from Frakmuntegg to Kriens (where you catch the bus) The gondolas take about 30 minutes to descend.

The cable cars down from Mt Pilatus

6. Take the bus back to Lucerne

Once in Kriens it is about a 5 minute walk to the bus stop. There are signs and if you use the map you will soon find the bus stop for Bus No.1

Sign for the bus back to Mt Pilatus the final leg of the Golden Round Trip to Mount Pilatus

Learn more – A complete guide to Lucerne including itinerary options

7. Arrive back in Lucerne

Don’t forget to have a look around Lucerne! It is one of my favourite cites to visit when I am in Switzerland and I generally get there once a year for a stroll around!

Highlights for me are the Kappelbrucke (Chapel Bridge) constructed in 1333 and the Lion Monument a rock relief carved out of the rock face in 1820/1 by Lukas Ahorn.

There are many beautiful places to visit in Switzerland – amazing cities, mountains and beautiful lakes – read all about these in a guide to the best places to visit in Switzerland.

What you need to know if you are planning to take the Golden Round Trip to Mount Pilatus

  • As described we took the Golden Round Trip to Pilatus which included the boat, cog railway, cableway, gondola and bus.
  • There is also the Silver Round Trip option which involves a 20 minute train/bus ride from Luzern to Alpnachstad along the lake (so no boat trip) before you catch the cog railway. If you have the time I would the golden round trip as the boat trip is truly beautiful!

Other things to do in the Lucerne area

From Lucerne: Titlis Full-Day Tour – Eternal Snow & Glacier

Discover a fascinating glacier world and a beautiful landscape of eternal ice and snow on Titlis Mountain. Enjoy breathtaking views of the Swiss Alps and visit an ice cave.


Lucerne: 2-Hour Gourmet Lunch Cruise on Lake Lucerne

Enjoy a First Class lunchtime cruise on Lake Lucerne. Admire the Alpine landscapes as the staff serves you a delicious 3-course meal made from fresh regionally-sourced products.


Classic Rigi Round Trip from Lucerne

Enjoy a unique combination of boat, rack railway and cable car travel in Rigi. This varied tour in the heart of central Switzerland is suitable for both a half or full-day tour.


Views from Mount Pilatus you can see on the Golden Round Trip to Mount Pilatus

Check out – “5o unique things to do in Switzerland”

More to read about Switzerland

This post may contain compensated links. Please read our disclosure for additional information. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

41 thoughts on “A Complete Guide to the Golden Round Trip to Mount Pilatus Lucerne Switzerland

  1. Alex says:

    Woah – those views! And I quite like that sticky little cloud. That train journey would freak me out but I know a certain spouse who would absolutely love it!

  2. Ari says:

    LOVING every picture and every tip! I live in Italy so I will follow this route next summer! Thank you for sharing all the great ideas. Love your blog!!!

  3. Van @ Snow in Tromso says:

    Wow what an amazing trip! I’d love to visit Switzerland properly one day. Have only crossed the country by train so far. I would love the view from those mountains too! They’re so much higher than what we have in Tromso 😀

    • Tracy Collins says:

      Yes I know what you mean but everywhere in Switzerland is touristy – seems to be a very popular inclusion on coach tours of Europe. I have been up Rigi too but the views from Pilatus for me are so breathtakingly beautiful it makes it a worthwhile visit.

  4. Anda says:

    Hi Tracy, thank you for joining #TheWeeklyPostcard this week-end. I love your post about Mount Pilatus. I’ve been in Lucerne last year but didn’t get to spend more than a couple of days there. I would have liked to climb up Mt. Pilatus and enjoy the beautiful views of the entire region from up there, but there was no time. Your photos are so beautiful!

    • Tracy Collins says:

      It is expensive and as I had done it before we did think about it – but my husband really wanted to do it. It was a pity that cloud wouldn’t shift as the views are some of the best i have seen when its a totally clear day. The boat trip was lovely too and i am glad we decided to do the golden round trip in the end.

  5. Notmyyearoff says:

    Wow I didn’t really know there was a golden route but it looks so amazing. I’ve admired Switzerland for a long time and have wanted to see it all. I might have to dig a bit more this year 🙂

  6. Ava @ My Meena Life says:

    5 different forms of transportation is very impressive – it would certainly be a new record for me! And that view from Mt Pilatus is stellar!! We were only in Lucerne for an afternoon but I dreamed of seeing the top (and not having to hike it). #MondayEscapes

  7. Ruth says:

    I did this journey long time ago. Sadly, I do not remember a lot of it even though it was beautiful. The weather didn’t cooperate that day (and it was summer). Therefore, there were no views for us from the top. Hope to go back one day when the weather is nicer ;0) #MondayEscapes

    • Tracy Collins says:

      Thank-you Claire Recommend this trip if you are in Lucerne as its such fun and the views (on a really clear day when no cloud decides to stick to the top!!) are beautiful.

  8. Jo Addison says:

    Ahh Switzerland! I’ve never been but we love anywhere we can get outside and explore the mountains. I’d love the take the Golden Round Trip option up the mountain – my kids would love every one of the 5 modes of transport we would need to go on. #mondayescapes

    • Tracy Collins says:

      Switzerland is a lovely place to visit – loads of great walks and places to explore. Check out as Jurga (whose blog it is) has done some great hikes with her three boys in Switzerland.

      Its so much fun taking the Golden Round Trip – its a great adventure!

  9. Elaine J Masters says:

    How fun to see this part of Switzerland in the warmer months. I was there in late winter and could only appreciate Pilatus from afar. Did make it up to Jungfraujoc from Interlaken – another extraordinary experience and the highest you can get in Europe by train.

    • Tracy Collins says:

      I have yet to go to the Top of Europe but i would love to. (My step-sister has and kindly wrote a post for my blog all about it) I visit quite a lot as my Mum and her husband live near Zurich. I love it in winter as I love snow but always visit at least once in the summer.

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  12. California Globetrotter says:

    Since it’s been a while, I can update my comment – we went to Lucerne last year and couldn’t decide between Mt. Pilatus and Mt Rigi Kulm, but we opted for Rigi-Kulm as we had found it to be the most affordable. Would love to do the whole route for Mt. Pilatus! #FeetDoTravel

  13. Kate and Kris says:

    Aren’t the mountains in Switzerland just stunning! I love these cable car things too. The views are breathtaking! Lots of useful information here. Thanks for sharing!

  14. Lisa says:

    Oh i just looove Switzerland! Been there so many times but never visited Mt Pilatus. After reading your post it’s definitely on my list for my next visit though!

  15. Shona says:

    That’s a day trip I would adore. The different modes of transport only add to the fun. Breathtaking views from the top and approaching the mountain. Stunning!

  16. Angie FeetDoTravel says:

    I agree, the views are atunning, but with my fear of heights, looking around as I ride on the gondola may end in tears haha. I would definitely visit though, I adore panoramic views such as this and I won’t let my fear stop me! Pinned for the future #feetdotravel

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