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Day trip to Pilatus Kulm

Explore the many peaks of Mount Pilatus for views across Switzerland’s Alpine landscape, from the bright-green-and-blue of the lake-dotted countryside, to the layers of snow- and cloud-capped mountains stretching to the horizon on this day-long, independent tour from Lucerne.

Start with a boat cruise to Alpnachstad, which offers a restful view of the towns and mountains around the lake. Next, board the tram to Pilatus Kulm, where you’ll find a viewing platform, dining options and walking trails to higher peaks.

At the top, you can choose among various paths to higher summits — the tallest is Tomlishorn at 2,132 m (7,000 ft). From that height, 360-degree views spill out around you, including the whole of Lake Lucerne.

Once you descend, the cable car on the opposite side will take you to the Fräkmüntegg adventure park, where picnic areas, a high-ropes course and a summer toboggan ride provide further entertainment if you wish it.

Afterward, a gondola ride will offer more aerial views to Kriens, where you can catch the bus back to Lucerne.

Board a boat at Lucerne toward Alpnachstad and watch the mountain towns and the Alps ripple past for a relaxing start to your self-guided Mount Pilatus trip. Rather than being a single mountain peak, Pilatus Kulm is a small range, known as a massif, with several pinnacles to explore.

Once you disembark from the boat, you’ll board the tram that climbs to Pilatus Kulm, the cable car station that is the gateway to the rest of the peaks of Pilatus. The tram ride itself has a thrill factor, as it’s the steepest cableway in the world, with a gradient of 48% in places.

You’ll creep ever higher above the lake for 25 minutes, arriving at the first peak 2,070 m (6,796 ft) up. You are welcome to explore as you desire, since this tour is self-guided, but we recommend the path to Tomlishorn.

The 40-minute walk to the Tomlishorn viewpoint is mostly smooth though there’s some uneven terrain near the end. Your effort is rewarded with a 360-degree view from the top, including the whole of glittering Lake Lucerne to the east, and the stretch of the Swiss Alps further south.

If the tallest peak isn’t your preference, take one of the shorter paths to Oberhaupt or Esel. Both also boast impressive vistas and are a little easier to reach. However, they do tend to be more crowded, especially between June and August, when the mountain is lined with lush yellow, pink and white wildflowers.

You’ll find a selection of dining options at Pilatus Kulm, including a sit-down restaurant, a self-serve place and a grill cart for enjoying bratwurst with a panoramic view.  However, the prices are high for the quality — instead, we prefer to bring along a picnic lunch from Lucerne.

Once you’ve drunk in the scenery at the summit, you can take the cable car down the opposite side of the mountain, which departs every fifteen minutes. It will drop you off at Fräkmüntegg, where you can enjoy that packed lunch in any number of picnic spots, or visit the adventure park with its tree-top walk, rope park and toboggan run.

A gondola returns you to Kriens, where you can take the number one bus back to Lucerne.

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Audley Travel Country Specialist Samantha

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Experience it for yourself

You can enjoy this activity as part of the suggested tours below, or we can weave it into a trip shaped entirely around you.