Lucerne and Pilatus

We started the day by talking a walk in the historic old town section of Lucerne around the river Reuss. We then took the boat to Alpnachstad where we boarded the world’s steepest cog railway up to the top of Pilatus. We enjoyed a mix of beautiful scenery and being completely enveloped by clouds. Afterwards, we headed back down via aerial tram and gondola. We returned to Lucerne by bus to end the day.


The sky was overcast when we arrived at the river Reuss at the edge of Lucerne’s old town. Although we didn’t get pretty blue skies, it was still quite beautiful. We walked a loop and crossed the river on both of the old historic wooden bridges.

Both bridges have paintings up in their gables, though there is some unfortunate history related to the Chapel Bridge and a fire.

We also briefly walked through part of the old town. There weren’t very many people around at the time but we did see a few vans and trucks making deliveries.

Boat to Alpnachstad

After walking over to the Bahnhofquai (station quay), we noticed this rather modern looking catamaran boat.

We, however, were going to ride on the older Gotthard.

We were early though so waited for awhile before boarding began.

Soon, we boarded and were underway. We could see Pilatus in the distance. Its peaks were completely visible from the lake. Good news as we were worried about the weather being a problem!

We saw Rigi Kulm from a distance. We considered going there but decided on Pilatus instead as the preferred option for today.

We could see the entire waterfront area of Lucerne behind us as the boat went along its route, making a few stops here and there.

Soon, we noticed clouds forming above Pilatus and starting to obscure the top of the mountain. Not good.

The route to Alpnachstad took a rather long time as the boat had out of the way stops to make. One destination was Bürgenstock, seen here. There is an elevator that goes to a platform extending out from the cliff all the way on the left side of the mountain. It is just barely visible at this distance.

It was starting to look like the entire top of Pilatus was covered in clouds and would have no visibility.

Upon arriving at Alpnachstad, we saw the cog train at the station.

Cog Train to Pilatus

After disembarking from the Gotthard, we entered the queue to board the cog train. Boarding started immediately after we got to the line! Each car has multiple sections, each with opposite facing bench seats. We got seats in the last section of a carriage by the right side windows facing forward.

We thought that the cog train would be multiple carriages connected together like a normal train. However, it turns out that each one traveled independently.

We saw that the Gotthard was still at the pier as we started to head up the mountain.

It is really difficult to show how steep the tracks were. These photos were all taken from the right side window, which luckily opens for both ventilation and photography.

There is actually a mid-mountain station stop! The engineer who is the only crew member on the train comes out and asks each section if anyone wants to get out as they need to open the door from the outside.

We also waited for the downhill trains to pass as the rest of the line above and below is single track. There were three in all, one of which was a shiny new modern carriage while the others were older like the one we were on.

We were soon on our way again.

As we were in the last section of the carriage, we could see behind us. The second and third trains were never too far behind. As the trains need to travel both up and down, it can be driven from either end.


Upon arriving at Pilatus, we were treated to a cloudy scene. Visibility was extremely poor.

The clouds periodically parted, allowing us to see further, even at times showing the land and lakes down below.

We headed over to the Dragon Trail. This trail starts as a tunnel through the mountain with occasional “windows” cut out through the stone. Afterwards, there were a series of steps on the mountainside. Most of the steps were metal but a few small sections had steps cut from stone.

Visibility was poor on the entire route until we reached the final outdoor section before a brief stairway tunnel cut into the mountain. Here, we could see everything down below and to the horizon.

We reached the highest point along the Dragon Trail after we climbed up the stairway tunnel. It opens up to this fantastic view!

There is then a level section of trail that starts to head back to the main building atop Pilatus. We sat on a stone bench for awhile, the only one on the trail! A few times, Eurasian Blackbirds landed on the railing in front of us. We’ve seen these birds everywhere we traveled in Switzerland. The ones that reside in tourist areas have no fear of humans and will land nearby anyone they think may have food. The ones here were, as one would expect, experts in flying in windy mountain conditions and we often saw them hovering in place.

There was one point on this flat section of trail where we could see the other side of the mountain.

We noticed that there was another aerial tram that was setup for moving cargo. There was a construction site below a radar mounted atop one of Pilatus’ peaks.

Despite the improved weather conditions, it was still pretty variable.

Still, it seemed to be trending towards being clear. We got a nice view of one of the passenger aerial trams arriving.

We also caught one of the modern cog trains arriving.

Aerial Tram Down to Fräkmüntegg

Soon, it was time to leave. We queued up for the next departure on the aerial tram down to Fräkmüntegg. While waiting, we looked to the side and saw parts of the Dragon Trail.

It was clear around the tram as we headed down but we did pass through a layer of clouds as we descended further.


Upon reaching Fräkmüntegg, we took a brief look around outside. Looking up, we saw the aerial tram headed back up into the clouds. We could not see the top of Pilatus.

Gondola Down to Kriens

After our brief stop at Fräkmüntegg, we boarded a gondola for the long ride down to Kriens, a town next to Lucerne. The weather was great and all the clouds were well above us.

Bus to Lucerne

After arriving at Kriens, we walked quickly to a nearby bus stop to catch the #1 bus back to Lucerne. We got to the bus stop just as the bus was arriving!


We ended our day back at Lucerne’s old town where the weather was significantly better than when we left!

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