Mt. Rigi is known as Queen of the Swiss Alps and is the perfect day trip from Lake Lucern to get into the alps. The highest point on Mount Rigi is 1’798 meters above sea level. The difference in altitude from mountain to lake is 1’400 meters. One of my life dreams has always been to hike in the Swiss Alps. I love the mountains and they are home to me, deep in my blood being a PNW raised native. This was one of my favorite experiences in backpacking Europe that was at the top of my list. Mt. Rigi is one of several easy access alps from the beautiful lakeside town Lucerne.
How to get there
You can drive around the lake in 30 minutes if you rented a car, or take a very expensive private taxi but other than that the best budget option that is the most beautiful experience is taking the ferry boat across the lake in about 1 hour depending because of the different port stops on the way. This is the longer but scenic route for budget. The dock you leave the boat at is, Viznau or Weggis. This is where the cogway train is to get to Mt. Rigi.
1. Take the Lucern ferry boat to Viznau
The main ferry dock is right across from the main train station, called Luzern Bahnhofquai. The tickets can be purchased on the boat as you board since they come every 15 minutes or so. The boat ride is a beautiful 1 hour experience with the best views of the city and the Swiss Alps including Mt. Pilatus behind you in the boat, and Mt. Rigi and the other peaks in front of you. You will get off at the Viznau or Weggis stop where you are able to catch the cogway up to Mt. Rigi. The first stop is Weggis which has a cogway train you can take up the mountain. The second stop is Viznau where the majority of people get off and use this stop to take the train to the mountain. The Vitznau – Mount Rigi Cog Train is the only one that takes you to the summit. If you go through Weggis, take the gondola to meet the Vitznau – Mount Rigi Cog Train just before its final ascent to the summit. It makes more sense to get off at Vitznau as you can see. The best option to do is to take the Weggis gondola back down the mountain for the incredible views on the ride. Most people take the cogway train to Weggis gondola and then catch the last gondola ride back down for the ferry since the ferry stops at both Weggis and Viznau.
- Boat trips on Lake Lucerne cost CHF19 for Lucerne to Vitznau
- Boat trips for Weggis to Lucerne cost CHF14.
- Check here for full information on prices and here for boat departure timetables.
- In my tips section at the bottom I share how to save money and buy tickets for all your transportation for this trip
2. Ride the Viznau Cogway train to the base of Mt. Rigi
The cogway Train station is easy to find because it is located right across from the boat dock where the ferry drops you off. This is where the mass of people will all be going as well so you will know the way. This is where you can purchase your cogway trian ride ticket at their office or show your pre-purchased pass here.
Rigi Bahnen Day Cards
The day ticket allows you unlimited use of the cogwheel railway. All passes options and tickets information here.
- free ride on the cog railway Vitznau – Rigi Kulm
- free ride on the cog railway Arth-Goldau – Rigi Kulm
- free ride on the cable car Weggis-Rigi Kaltbad
- free ride on the cable car Kräbel-Rigi Scheidegg
36.00 CHF/ person
The trains come very frequently all along the mountain but especially for the last trains out in the evening check the time tables for every station here and plan your hikes and trip accordingly. Timetables!
3. Ride the cog-way train to Rigi Kulm (mountain summit) & get off at any stop for different hiking trails and distances
Rigi Kulm is the last stop of the cog-way train from Rigi Bahnen in Vaznau. This is the summit of the mountain from where you can hike to the very top. The trip from the station to the top takes around only 30 minutes. There are many stops on the mountain that lead to different areas and trailheads to hike the mountain.
4. Ride the Cog-way to the Rigi Kaltbald stop & walk to the Weggis Gondola (across the way)
Whatever station you are at on the mountain for the cog-way you can connect to the Rigi Kaltbald stop on the cog-way train to take the beautiful Gondola ride back down the mountain. This mountain stop is shown on the map below.
5. Take the Weggis Gondola back to Weggis harbor to catch the last ferry home
From Rigi Kaltbald, you can catch the cable car that takes you down into Weggis village on the lake. This is where the ferry boat stops to pick up passengers on the way back into Lucern. This is a breathtaking experience riding down the mountain with glass gondola window views of the mountains and the lake. The cost of the weggis gondola back is included in your tickets you buy from Viznau which are now sold as package tickets as shown in the tips section below.
Mt. Rigi Day Hikes
There are 21 trail hikes on Mt. Rigi of varying degrees of difficulty and length of mies and time for different people. The mountain has gorgeous views and ability for all to enjoy the mountain with the cogway train even for those who aren’t hikers or outdoorsman. However, it also has great trips and trails for those who are avid hikers. I have selected some of the best below. The full list of trails, hikes and maps are here.
Rigi Classic- is a great trail that is about an hour easy hike from Rigi Kulm to Rigi Kaltbald. This is a trail that is a great short day hike on the mountain. The trail is maintained very well and is mostly downhill with decreasing altitude of around 300 metres. This is a great trail for a short trip visit or people who want the shortest route to see the mountain & not go for a long hike. Trail map and hike information here.
Rigi Panorama Trail- This is a great 2 hour hike, 7km following the the former Rigi-Scheidegg railway line to Unterstetten. This trail is still pretty flat hiking with amazing views. This is a great moderate in between hike of the Rigi Classic or the hard Mark Twain trail. Trail map and information here.
Rigi Floral Trail– This is a beautiful 2 hour hike filled with wildflowers on the way. This trail is in the area around Rigi Kaltbad. This is another great easy to moderate hiking option. Trail map and information here.
Mark Twain Trail– This is a difficult trail that is 5 hours and 11 km. This hike is a 1,350-metre ascent. You see the whole mountain in this trail and experience the views of each direction. Trail map and information here.
Rigi Ridge Trail– This is another 5 hour more difficult hike found on Rigi for the avid hiker. This hike is almost 13 km of steep climbing on the way to get to Unterstetten. From Unterstetten the trail flattens out and follows the former Rigi-Scheidegg railway line to Rigi Kaltbad. Trail map and information here.
Cows of the Alps
One of the most memorable parts of hiking in the Swiss Alp mountains is that there are free roaming cows all over the hillsides that move, eat and you hear the continual rythmic clanging of cowbells. The bells ringing in the wind and air on the mountain is a soundtrack to your day hiking. This is such a fun memory I have of getting to interact with the friendly and cute cows on the trail. As you hike you encounter different mountain homesteads of locals that live a rugged mountain life and tend to heards of cows. These mountain wooden cabins and their rancher sons 6 years old tending to the cows is a cultural experience in and of itself. This was one of my favorite parts of the backcountry trails.
- Boat trips on Lake Lucerne cost CHF19 for Lucerne to Vitznau and CHF14 for Weggis to Lucerne.
- Swiss Travel Passes and Eurail/InterRail passes are entitled to a 50% discount.
- Check here for full details on pricing and here for boat departure timetables.
- You can buy your ticket on the boat, and there is no need to buy head of time.
- You can also buy your cogway train tickets in the office and not in advance as well
- A Rigi Hiking Ticket, which includes a ride on the train from Vitznau to Rigi Kulm and the cable car from Rigi Kaltbald to Weggis, costs CHF62,50 full price. Swiss Travel Passes and Eurail/InterRail passes are entitled to a 50% discount. Buy ahead of time to avoid missing the cogwheel train.
- There are deals for hiking Mt. Rigi on GROUPON that also do tour passes including what is offered above as well and I would definitely recommend using their services to save money!
- There is snow at the top even in the dead of summer as when I visited! Be prepared ith several layers of clothes and real hiking gear especially a good top layer coat! The altitude makes it much colder than the weather in Lucern and you will feel the wind chill and snow at the top.
- Some of the hiking trails are paved and have access for all levels of hikers.