Visiting Lucerne in Switzerland and wondering how to get to Mount Pilatus from Lucerne? Or maybe you already know all the options and just can’t decide how to best plan your day trip to Mount Pilatus? In this guide, you can learn about the best ways to visit Mt Pilatus from Lucerne. We explain all the best transport options, tickets, tours, and also include a map to help you orient. Find out!
Mt Pilatus is the most popular place to visit near Lucerne and so if people make just one excursion from Lucerne, they usually opt for the Lucerne – Pilatus – Lucerne day trip. (If you have time for two, consider Mt Titlis too).
But even though Mt Pilatus is located just near the city, there are so many different ways to get there that planning a visit to Pilatus might feel daunting at first… At least that’s how it felt for us… So if you are also feeling overwhelmed by all the options, I hope that this guide will help you decide how to best visit Mt Pilatus and how to make the most of your day. Find out!
Good to know – SUMMER. In the summer season, there are two ways to reach the peak of Mt Pilatus itself – a cogwheel train from Alpnachstad or a cable car from Kriens. Plus, you have different ways to reach Alpnachstad (by car, train, or boat) and Kriens (by bus or car). This article focuses on all the options on how to visit Mt Pilatus from Lucerne in the high season (+-June to mid-October), with the most popular option being the self-guided ‘golden’ tour (more info below).
Good to know! Some tickets for the summer season are usually only bookable from around January – February, when the prices for the new season are set. So if you click on the link for a ticket and can’t see it yet, it usually means that it’s still a bit too early to book.
Good to know – WINTER. In winter, the cogwheel railway doesn’t operate. There are no trains going up to Mt Pilatus from mid-November to April and also the boat between Lucerne and Alpnachstad only runs between mid-May and mid-October. So if you are visiting Mt Pilatus from Lucerne in the winter season, the best way to get there is by taking a bus from Lucerne to Kriens and then a cable car from Kriens to Pilatus and back the same way you came. You can get the tickets for this self-guided Mt Pilatus tour here (it’s a round-trip ticket from Kriens to Mt Pilatus).
It’s also important to check if the cable cars/trains/boats are running on the day of your trip (see live info here). It doesn’t happen a lot in summer, but cable cars might shut down if there’s too much wind (which happens occasionally, usually in winter).
MAP. To make it easier to understand all the different transportation options, we created this map of the Lucerne – Mt Pilatus area. This should give you a better overview and make it easier to plan your time.
Here’s an overview of what you see on the map:
- Yellow line is the bus between Lucerne and Kriens.
- Green indicates the cable car (gondola + Dragon Ride) between Kriens and Mt Pilatus.
- Red line is the cogwheel train between Mt Pilatus and Alpnachstad.
- Blue line is the boat trip between Alpnachstad and Lucerne.
- Black line shows the regular train between Alpnachstad and Lucerne.
- Golden Round Trip (bus, gondola, cogwheel train, boat).
- Silver Round Trip (bus, gondola, cogwheel train, train).
- Do-It-Yourself (either gondola or cogwheel train).
- By bus (+ gondola).
- By car (different options).
- By train (+cogwheel train).
- Hiking to the top.
- With a tour.
These are the best ways to visit Mt Pilatus from Lucerne:
Golden Round Trip
The Mt Pilatus Golden Round Trip from Lucerne is the most popular option among tourists visiting Mt Pilatus for the first time. It includes a bus ride between Lucerne city center and Kriens, a cable car to Mt Pilatus (Pilatus Kulm), a cogwheel train ride between Mt Pilatus and Alpnachstad, and a scenic boat ride between Alpnachstad and Lucerne.
This trip starts and ends at Lucerne Railway Station – the bus stop is near the station and also the boat terminal is right at the station as well.
You can do the Golden round trip on your own or with a guide:
- SELF-GUIDED TOUR: If you book a ticket for the Golden Round Trip, you don’t have to worry about doing much research or reserving separate tickets for each leg of the journey. The only thing you can decide to add is upgrading your ticket to the upper deck on the boat. You can simply do this on the boat itself – just ask to upgrade to 1st class when you board.
- GUIDED TOUR: Alternatively, you can do the Mt Pilatus Golden Round Trip with this very popular and highly-rated guided tour. There is also a private guided tour available, but I’m not sure if it’s really worth the extra money compared to the group tour.
No matter if you opt for a self-guided or a guided tour, the Golden Round Trip is the best way to see the beautiful surroundings around Lucerne and experience the very best of what Mt Pilatus has to offer in just one day.
LEARN MORE: Mt Pilatus Golden Round Trip
Which direction is best?
Good to know: Depending on where and how you book your tickets, you can choose to do the Golden Round Trip in any direction because you simply make a loop starting and ending in Lucerne. If you are not sure in which direction to go, it doesn’t matter that much for the views. However, it matters for the timing (mainly because of the boat schedule), the crowds, and your experience.
Our experience: We took the first boat from Lucerne in the morning (9.38 AM). By the time we arrived in Alpnachstad, it was almost 11 AM already – the busiest time to get on the train to Mt Pilatus. We wasted so much time waiting for the train that by the time we were at the top of the mountain, it was past noon already… The whole day felt quite rushed this way.
Our recommendation – do the trip anti-clockwise! Do the Golden Round Trip starting with the cable car and ending with the train/boat. That way you can start early in the morning (cable cars from Kriens start to run at 8.30 AM in high season). This allows you to beat the crowds and be at Mt Pilatus at 9.30-10 AM already. You can then explore everything at the top and take a cogwheel train down to Alpnachstad, from where you can take a boat back to Lucerne. It will also be nice to relax on the boat after a busy day. This is also the direction in which the guided tour does this trip in summer.
If you go without a guide, you’ll have to keep an eye on the boat schedule to be sure you don’t miss the last boat from Alpnachstad to Lucerne (usually at around 4.30 PM). But if you start early in the morning, it shouldn’t be a problem at all and you’ll probably be able to take one of the earlier boats back already (there are usually several boats around noon – 1.30 PM).
If for whatever reason you would miss the boat from Alpnachstad, don’t worry – you can also take a regular train back to the city. But that would be a waste of the Golden Ticket. If you are planning not to take a boat, see the cheaper options below.
Silver Round Trip
Mt Pilatus Silver Round Trip from Lucerne is the second of the most popular ways to visit Pilatus from Lucerne.
Silver Round Trip ticket includes a bus ride between Lucerne city center and Kriens, a cable car to Mt Pilatus, a cogwheel train ride between Mt Pilatus and Alpnachstad, and a regular train between Alpnachstad and Lucerne.
This is a very good option for those who want to experience Mt Pilatus from both sides (cable car and cogwheel train), but don’t want to be restricted by the rather limited boat schedule.
The Silver ticket allows you to start the trip as early as the cable cars start running (from 8.30 AM in the summer) and end it as late as the cogwheel train schedule allows (the last train from Mt Pilatus departs at approx. 5.45 PM). So this is also one of the best options for those who want to spend more time on the mountain, do some fun activities, or go hiking.
Good to know: The Silver Round Trip ticket is about 20% cheaper than the Golden Round Trip ticket. It also gives you more flexibility time-wise. The only difference is that you take a train instead of the scenic boat ride between Alpnachstad and Lucerne.
Do-It-Yourself Pilatus Visit
If you want to keep complete flexibility on the way you travel to/from Mount Pilatus, then you can also opt for the cable car ticket (if not available in the low season, check on Viator which is usually a bit more expensive though) or a cogwheel train ticket.
You can choose between the cable car or cogwheel train. However, it doesn’t include transportation to Kriens and/or Alpnachstad.
This is a good option for those who just want to see Mt Pilatus in the cheapest way and/or in the shortest possible time. It’s also perfect for those who are visiting by car as you can just drive to either Kriens or Alpnachstad and easily visit the Pilatus peak from there. The cable car ticket is what you’ll need if you are visiting Mt Pilatus in winter.
You can also just buy these simple return tickets at the ticket desk in Kriens or Alpnachstad. In the high season, the price is exactly the same no matter which way you travel – Kriens-Mt Pilatus-Kriens, Kriens-Mt Pilatus-Alpnachstad, Alpnachstad-Mt Pilatus-Alpnachstad, or Alpnachstad-Mt Pilatus-Kriens. If you have a Swiss Travel Pass, you get a discount. Kids with Junior Travelcard travel free with a paying adult.
Good to know: Also with this simple ticket, you can still make a loop starting in either Alpnachstad or Kriens. However, you’ll have to arrange your own transportation and tickets between Lucerne and Kriens and/or Alpnachstad.
So if you are planning to take both – the cable car and the cogwheel train – we recommend the Golden or the Silver tickets as mentioned above; it will just make your life so much easier and it’s cheaper when you get it as one round trip ticket.
Mt Pilatus from Lucerne by Bus
The fastest and the cheapest way to visit Mt Pilatus from Lucerne is by taking an RBus to Kriens (“Kriens, Zentrum Pilatus” bus stop), followed by a 5-10 minutes walk to the cable car station, and then a cable car from Kriens to the top of Mt Pilatus (Pilatus Kulm).
From Lucerne Railway Station, take a (trolley)bus nr. 1 to Kriens. It’s a bus line in the direction of Obernau Dorf. There are many buses at the station and it looks a bit overwhelming at first. Be sure to look for a TROLLEYBUS, so not a regular bus number 1 as that one goes somewhere totally different.
There are buses between Lucerne and Kriens every couple of minutes, so you don’t have to plan much in advance. The bus ride between Lucerne Railway Station and Kriens takes less than 15 minutes.
If you don’t have a ticket for the bus yet (included in the Silver and the Golden tickets mentioned above), you’ll have to get one at the ticket machine before you board the bus. There are ticket machines at every bus stop and it’s quite easy to use them.
A one-way adult bus ticket from Kriens to Lucerne costs around 4 CHF. If you are interested, you can find the bus schedule and exact ticket prices on the official website of the Lucerne public transportation company website (in German), but it’s really easy to figure it out on the go.
Below, you can see the map of where exactly to walk between the bus stop and the gondola station in Kriens. Because it’s such a popular tourist route, there are also signs indicating the two places along the way.
The cable car ride from Kriens to Mt Pilatus actually involves two different cable cars – a small 4-person gondola to Fräkmüntegg, followed by the Dragon Ride (a big aerial cableway) to Mt Pilatus. The entire journey to the top takes about half an hour. As already mentioned, you can buy a ticket online in advance, or you can just buy it at the ticket desk once you get there.
Mt Pilatus by Car
You can also easily visit Mount Pilatus by car, but you’ll also have to decide what exactly you want to see. There are several options:
- You leave your car in Kriens and take a cable car to Mt Pilatus and back the same way. There’s a big car parking at the gondola station in Kriens and parking here costs just 5 CHF per day. You’ll need a regular gondola ticket if you do this.
- You leave your car in Alpnachstad and take a cogwheel train to Mt Pilatus and back the same way. Also here, there’s a big car parking and it also costs 5 CHF per day. You’ll need a cogwheel train ticket if you do this.
- You leave your car in one of these two stations, or in Lucerne city center and then make a round trip, just as you would do without a car (see the Golden Round Trip and the Silver Round Trip options above). Keep in mind that driving into/out of Lucerne by car will take more time. Furthermore, parking in the city center is much more expensive (about 20-30 CHF per day) than in Kriens of Alpnachstad (5 CHF per day). You can do this with the regular ticket, plus get your own train/bus/boat tickets on the go, but it would make more sense to buy one of the combi-tickets (either Golden or Silver described earlier).
Our suggestion: If you do a round trip, we recommend parking in Kriens and starting with the cable car to the top. Then take a cogwheel train to Alpnachstad and from there, either a train (silver ticket) or a boat (golden ticket) to Lucerne. From Lucerne city center, take RBus no. 1 back to Kriens where you left your car.
Mt Pilatus by Train
If you are traveling to Mt Pilatus by train, the easiest way is to simply go to Lucerne and then follow one of the options described above – either the Golden Round Trip or the Silver Round Trip.
However, you can also take a train from Lucerne to Alpnachstad and visit Mt Pilatus via the cogwheel train from there.
Whether this makes much sense, depends a bit on where you are traveling from, but it’s definitely possible. It’s not the fastest or cheapest way, nor is it the most scenic route, however.
TIP: If you are looking to visit Mt Pilatus from Zurich, instead of taking a train to Lucerne and trying to arrange everything yourself, you can also just join this highly-rated day tour. It includes exactly the same itinerary as a Golden Round Trip, so you get to see just as much, but in the most efficient way that you wouldn’t be easily able to do on your own.
Hiking to Mt Pilatus
While there are hiking trails between Alpnachstad, Mt Pilatus, and Kriens, we really do not recommend hiking all the way to the top of the mountain.
Even the shortest hiking trail to the top of Pilatus Kulm from Alpnachstad would take you at least 4.5-5 hours of pure hiking time, one way.
Best Tours to Mt Pilatus from Lucerne or Zurich
We already mentioned the best guided tours and excursions to Mt Pilatus from Lucerne and from Zurich above, but here is a summary of the best options for those of you who jumped to this section right away.
Here are the best GUIDED tours to Mt Pilatus:
- Mt Pilatus from Lucerne group tour. This is the best and the most popular guided tour. It covers the same itinerary as the self-guided Golden Round Trip, allowing you to enjoy the panoramic views from the cable car, experience the steepest cogwheel railway drive in the world, and enjoy the scenery of Lake Lucerne from a boat. The only difference is that you do this with an experienced local guide and they help you navigate everything, tell you more about what you see, visit the best spots, and follow the timing to be sure that you don’t miss the last boat, etc.
- Mt Pilatus from Lucerne private tour. This tour is practically the same as the one above, except that you are traveling alone with the guide and not as part of a group.
- Mt Pilatus from Zurich group tour. It also follows the same Golden Round Trip itinerary, but also includes transportation from Zurich and a guide.
So, this is our guide to the best ways to visit Mt Pilatus from Lucerne. Hope that it answers all your questions and helps you plan a fun, relaxing, and memorable day trip to Pilatus.
TIP: If you are looking for more stunning mountain destinations to visit in Switzerland, we highly recommend Mt Titlis. It’s also just near Lucerne and you can easily visit it on a day trip. Furthermore, Mt Titlis is a great year-round destination, and probably a better option in winter than Mt Pilatus is. Via the link below, you can find our detailed guide and what there’s to see and do at Titlis. Check it out!
READ ALSO: How to Visit Mt Titlis
Depending on which route, transport, and activities you choose, you’ll need at least 4.5-5 hours to visit Mount Pilatus from Lucerne. If you do the Golden Round Trip and take your time to enjoy the scenery at the top, count 5-6 hours.
The gondola from Kriens to Fräkmüntegg takes about 20 minutes, and an aerial cable car from Fräkmüntegg to Mt Pilatus (aka the Dragon Ride) takes about 3.5 minutes. However, usually, you have to wait for the Dragon Ride for a few minutes. All in all, it takes at least 30 minutes to get to the top of Mt Pilatus from Kriens.
Depending on where the boat stops along the way, the boat ride between Lucerne and Alpnachstad takes between 1 hour and 1 hour 20 minutes.
The journey on the steepest cogwheel train in the world from Alpnachstad to Mt Pilatus takes 30 minutes. The journey down from Mt Pilatus to Alpnachstad takes 40 minutes.
The bus ride between Lucerne Railway Station and Kriens takes about 12-15 minutes. Plus, it takes about 5-10 minutes to walk from the bus to Kriens – Mt Pilatus gondola station.
READ ALSO: What to See & Do in Lucerne
Have a great trip!
More travel inspiration for the Swiss Alps:
- Best Day Trips from Lucerne
- Jungfraujoch, Top of Europe
- Mt Titlis (near Lucerne)
- Jungfraujoch vs. Mt Titlis
- Interlaken Day Trip
- Best Things to Do in Zermatt
- Gornergrat (must-see in Zermatt!)
- Schynige Platte (a hidden gem!)
- Riffelsee Lake (Zermatt)
Some of our favorite hikes in Switzerland:
- Oeschinensee Lake
- Bachalpsee Lake
- Longest Suspension Bridge in the Alps
- Matterhorn Glacier Trail
- Stoos Ridge Trail (near Lucerne)
- Schynige Platte Hikes
- Gornergrat Scenic Trail
- Riffelsee Lake Trail
Winter travel inspiration:
- Jungfrau Region in Winter
- Skiing in Wengen
- Skiing in Engelberg
- Affordable Places to Ski in Switzerland
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Saturday 10th of December 2022
how much does it cost if I take cable car from Kriens and then take cable car again descending from the top Mount pilatus back to parking lot in Kriens
Monday 12th of December 2022
Hi Dita, it depends on the season. In the summer, I think it's about 75 CHF. At this moment, the tickets are around 60 CHF if I'm not mistaken. You can check the price for your travel dates here.
Thursday 20th of October 2022
This post has been very informative, thank you for going into so much detail. I'm researching/planning for a trip in January. I know it'll be cold and snowy, but I'm primarily trying to recreate a picture my grandparents took in the 1960s near Hotel Bellevue. Following your steps, the best way to get there will be by bus and cable car? Is the cable car the same as the gondola? Thanks so much. You've gained a new follower.
Thursday 20th of October 2022
Hi Julie, yes, in winter, you have to take a bus/car to Kriens and then a cable car/gondola to the top of Mt Pilatus. In Krienz, you take a small 4-person gondola. You then disembark in Fräkmüntegg and switch to the big aerial cableway (aka the Dragon Ride) to Pilatus Kulm. This one transports a big group of people at once. It's really very straightforward and you don't have to worry about it. Just get to Krienz and the rest will be very simple. Enjoy your trip and good luck with the picture!
Thursday 15th of September 2022
Hi, this is very informative. Thank you for providing all the tips and info. Just so I have a better understanding, I bought the Swiss travel pass and was wondering how it would work for the golden round trip? Do I have to buy tickets at every stop? Let me know.
Friday 16th of September 2022
Hi Cindy, with the Swiss Pass, you'll get a discount, mainly because the boat is normally included in your pass and you may also get a small discount for the train/gondola to Pilatus. In that case, it's best to just go to the ticket office in Lucerne (or wherever you start your Golden Trip) and ask for the ticket that takes this into account. You can definitely just get a ticket at one place, without having to queue everywhere separately.
Thursday 28th of July 2022
I have a practical question if you could help. I'm planning to go to Pilatus from Lucerne in December. I have 2 boys with me (8&5yo). We don't ski but the boys will be playing the anowtubbing and other kids snowy activities. Do we wear our snowsuit (jumpsuit) from Lucerne itself, in the bus, all the way to Kriens and cable car? Will it be too hot and sweaty?
Saturday 30th of July 2022
Hi Carissa, in winter, you'll see people with ski clothes everywhere in Switzerland, also on buses and trains on the way to/from the mountains. Usually, it's quite cold in Lucerne in December, so you'll need warm winter jackets anyway. Hope this helps.
Friday 15th of July 2022
Hello, Thank you for posting about your experience in Lucern-Pilatus. It was very handy for me as I had to plan the trip in one night. You included all the important information in such an understandble way!
Friday 15th of July 2022
Glad to help, Safa. Have a great trip!