Steepest Cog Railway and Aerial Cable Car
Mount Pilatus is the mountain which stands as a backdrop above Lucerne, Switzerland. A crown of crags capped by snow in winter. The mountain is both a symbol of the beautiful Swiss city on the lake as well as a mountain playground. Mt. Pilatus takes its name from a curious legend, that the body Pontius Pilate, who washed his hands of Jesus’ crucifixion, was tossed into a frigid glacial lake somewhere on the mountain. Mt Pilatus is a single mountain peak, standing alone with magnificent views of central Switzerland, from the shores of the Lake Lucerne Riviera, to 73 peaks of the Alps mountain range, from the Jungfrau to Mont Blanc.
There are two ways to reach the top of Mt Pilatus. An aerial panoramic gondola rises up the northern face of the mountain from Kriens, a suburb of Lucerne, a ten minute city bus ride on Bus Line 1, from the main train station. It requires two separate cable rides to reach the top, a small 4 person gondola from Kriens to Fräkmüntegg, and a larger 40 person cable tram car rising to the Pilatus summit. The other route is from Alpnachstad on the southern side of the mountain on the shore of Lake Lucerne on the Pliatus Bahn railway, the world’s steepest cogwheel railway. This funicular rack railway climbs the steep slopes from the green forests along the lake shores, up the rock strewn crag cliffs, to Mount Pilatus summit station.
One of the most popular ways to visit Mt Pilatus is called the “Golden Round Trip”, taking the cog train up one side and aerial cable gondola down the other or vice versa. The Alpanachstad station is located along the main rail line between Lucerne and Interlaken, a 20 minute ride from Lucerne main station, or an hour by Lake Lucerne Ferry Boat. Taking the aerial cable up the mountain and rail down is a perhaps a little less crowded than the other way. Going the downward on the steep grade of the cog funicular toward the lake, offers a bit more sense of thrill.
The Pilatus Railway was built in 1889, first operating with steam, then changed to electrical operation in 1937. The railway’s symbol is a red dragon, from legends of dragons reported as living in the mountain caverns during the middle-ages. You’ll find the symbol everywhere around the mountain as the hotels and services are all owned and operated by the railway company. There are two hotels at the summit Mt. Pilatus now joined by a brand new observation concourse. The original historic Hotel Pilatus-Kulm was built in 1890, after the completion of the cog rail train and hosted Queen Victoria. The Hotel Bellevue with its circular shape of sleek glass is an example of moderne Alpine chic, first opened in 1960. The rooms of the Pilatus-Kulm and the restaurant of the Bellevue have recently undergone a new update a restoration. Special packages are available for the hotels, including cable and rail up and down, dinner and breakfast.
Activities on the top of Mt. Pilatus include the stunning views, in both directions. A walkway around the peak through a tunnel called the Dragon Walk cut in the rock, leads to a climbing path to nearby peaks. In summer, halfway up the mountain at Frakmuntegg cable stop is the Seilpark Pilatus, a rope adventure park offer zip-line runs and the summer tobbogan run on a steel track, the Fräkigaudi. In winter, there is no skiing on Mt Pilatus, but snow shoe hiking can be enjoyed from the Kreinseregg cable car station.
The cable tram, able to skirt above the deep snows
of winter operates year round, while the Pilatus cog railway operates
from May to November.
The round trip to the top of Mount Pilatus is 65 CHF for adults, good
on either the cable or the railway. Mt Pilatus will be included in the Swiss Travel Pass starting in 2017.
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More on Switzerland By Rail:
Blanc - St Bernard
Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn
Lauvaux Wine Train
Lake Thun & Brienz
Scenic Switzerland By Train
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