Mountain Pilatus, also known as the “Dragon Mountain,” is a must-see destination for travelers visiting Luzern. Located in central Switzerland, this majestic mountain offers amazing views and a variety of outdoor activities for visitors of all ages. Whether you’re into hiking or just looking for a scenic way to take in the views, Pilatus has something for everyone.
In Luzern, the Pilatus is everywhere and is impossible to miss. Not only for tourists, even living in the city, it is sometimes hard to find a spot where the Pilatus isn’t dominating the view! Just seeing the mountain in the distance is amazing. Especially in the winter months, the snow-covered rugged cliffs of Mount Pilatus make Luzern feel like a true winter wonderland. But it is even more fun to discover the mountain for yourself, be it summer or winter!
One of the most popular ways to reach the summit of Pilatus is by taking the scenic cogwheel railway from Alpnachstad, which winds its way up the mountain while offering amazing views of the surrounding landscape. At the top, visitors can explore the Pilatus-Kulm, which features a restaurant, hotel, and observation deck. For the more adventurous, Pilatus also offers hiking trails and paragliding opportunities.
Taking the cogwheel train up Pilatus
If you want to visit the “Dragon mountain”, there are two main ways to get up to the summit. One of them is taking the cogwheel train ‘Pilatusbahn’ all the way to the top from a village called Alpnachstad, near Luzern. This is in fact the steepest cogwheel train in the entire world! The cogwheel train takes to you the Pilatus visitors center at the top in about 30 minutes.
Alpnachstad has a train station with regular train connections to Luzern. The train stops right in front of the Pilatusbahn, so it is easy to make it out here.
Important to note – the cogwheel train only runs during the warmer months of the year. During the winter (see the website for exact opening dates), the cable car is the only way up to the mountain.
Cable car route to the top of Pilatus
An other method to get to the top of the mountain is with a series of cable cars from Kriens. Kriens is only a short bus ride from the inner city of Luzern, so this starting point is definitely closer than the Pilatusbahn.
From Kriens, you first take a small gondola up the mountain. There is an intermediary stop called Krienseregg before the end station of Fräkmuntegg. At Fräkmuntegg, you change to the cable car called ‘Dragon ride’. These gondolas are significantly larger, each of the gondolas can hold up to 55 guests!
In just a few minutes, the dragon ride lifts you past dramatic-looking cliffs to the top of mount Pilatus.
From Kriens, the entire journey to the top probably also takes about 30 minutes, just as the Alpnachstad cogwheel train travel alternative.
While both methods of transportation have their charm, I definitely prefer going up Pilatus by cable car. This has several reasons that are personal for me. First of all, Kriens (where the cable car valley station is located) is very close to Luzern, with the bus only taking about 8 minutes from the inner city of Luzern.
You often have the little ‘panorama gondolas’ for the first part of the journey to yourself, which is nicer than sitting in a crowded train. While you ascend from Kriens, the houses slowly give way to hills and forest, which is magical! The two stops Krienseregg and Fräkmuntegg also have cool activities on their own!
Krienseregg is focused on young kids with a large playground and a restaurant. At Fräkmuntegg you find another two restaurant and the popular Fräkigaudi mountain coaster. At Fräkmuntegg, there is also a survival course that includes climbing among the tree tops and ziplining. While the panorama views at the summit of Pilatus are hard to beat, do not underestimate the vantage points from other parts of the mountain! Especially the view from Fräkmuntegg over the lower parts of the mountain the Vierwaldstättersee are magical!
At the top
Once you arrive at the top of the mount Pilatus, there is plenty more things to see and explore! The visitors center has an interactive experience called ‘Dragon world’. Here, younger (and older too!) visitors can discover the saga of dragon mountain, and even use virtual reality to fly like a dragon.
The summit also features a restaurant, a hotel and a very large panorama sundeck. From here, you can enjoy the mountain peaks in the distance and you can see the paragliders perform their stunts at over 2000 meters.
Those that don’t mind a few flights of stairs can make the climb to the smaller panorama decks on some of the peaks of Pilatus. These narrow stairs can get crowded, it’s all worth it once you stand at the top and see how Switzerland stretches out for miles and miles below you.
The views over the other mountain tops are truly amazing, and one can easily spend an hour or two on the summit of Mount Pilatus. On your way back, you can pick up some souvenirs at the summit souvenir shop!
Pilatus is also known for some pretty good hiking trails. Personally, I have never made it all the way to the top by foot, so I won’t be giving any advice here. Hiking website do point out that the trails to the top are not for beginners. So, if you want to make the journey, come prepared and don’t overestimate your abilities.
No, personally I am more of a leisure hiker. In my opinion, both Krienseregg and Fräkmuntegg are perfect destinations to hike up to, or down from. These are hikes that are perfectly doable even for less experienced hikers.
Especially down from Krienseregg towards Kriens, the hike treats you to some great panoramas while the forest gives way to green hills below you. Bring your hiking shoes! Just make sure you plan this trip when the weather is nice!
Winter or summer activity?
The paragraph above might have spoiled it already a bit – in my opinion, a trip up Pilatus is best during the summer months. While there is an indoor area at the top of Pilatus, it is rather small and the outside is what you want to discover! During the winter months, Pilatus will be snow-covered making it tricky, if not forbidden, to make your way to the several smaller panorama decks. Also, it can be very cold up there, with howling winds and little to do but to enjoy the view. Meanwhile, most activities on the Krienseregg and Fräkmuntegg stations will be closed during the winter.
Sleighing routes between Fräkmuntegg and Krienseregg will be open if snow conditions are good enough.
So my advice is: go up Pilatus during the summer, unless you desperately want to see snow during your trip!
The least favorite thing of writing articles about Swiss cable cars, is the section about pricing. Any trip up the mountain in Switzerland will not come cheap, and Pilatus is no exception.
At the time of writing (January 2023), the Pilatus has reduced ticket prices between January 2023 and April 2023. A return ticket for adults without a discount costs CHF 59.20. If you have the half-fare card or GA (primarily for residents of Switzerland), the return trip from Kriens to the top costs you CHF 33.30. The same discount applies for those with the Swiss Travel pass – tickets cost CHF 33.30.
It is not known what the prices will be later in 2023, but the summer prices for the previous year were CHF 72 for undiscounted tickets to the top, with Swiss Travel Pass, GA and Half-fare holders paying CHF 36.
Do you want more information about events, activities and opening times of the Pilatus mountain, have a look on their website!