Mt. Pilatus

Mountain in Lucerne

View Of Lake Lucerne From Mt Pilatus
CC BY-SA 3.0 / Clare66

Pilatus, often referred to as Mount Pilatus, stands as a commanding mountain massif that graces the skyline above Lucerne in Central Switzerland. This picturesque range comprises a collection of peaks, with the loftiest summit being Tomlishorn, soaring to a height of 2,128.5 meters (6,983 feet). The expanse of Pilatus encompasses a stretch from Lopper, directly opposite Stansstad to the east, extending westward to the likes of Mittaggüpfi (1,917 meters) and Risetestock (1,759 meters) along the border of the cantons of Lucerne (LU) and Obwalden (OW).

The peaks within this mountain realm present awe-inspiring features. Alongside Tomlishorn, other significant summits include Widderfeld (2,076 meters) to the far west on the LU-OW border, Matthorn (2,040 meters) to the south, Klimsenhorn (1,906 meters) to the north (in the canton of Unterwalden, UW), as well as Rosegg (1,974 meters) and Windegg (1,673 meters) to the east, positioned on the boundary of UW and Obwalden (OW). Ascending these peaks warrants the use of proper Alpine hiking gear to ensure safety and enjoyment.

Jurisdiction over this majestic massif is shared among the cantons of Obwalden (OW), Nidwalden (NW), and Lucerne (LU), with the primary peaks straddling the demarcation between Obwalden and Nidwalden.

Visiting Mt. Pilatus

To reach the summit, one can opt for the Pilatus Railway—a marvel recognized as the world’s steepest cogwheel railway—embarking from Alpnachstad. This operation typically runs from May to November, contingent on snow conditions. Alternatively, visitors can journey via the aerial panorama gondolas and cableways from Kriens, accessible throughout the year. Tomlishorn, the highest peak, lies approximately 1.3 kilometers (0.81 miles) southeast of the topmost cable car and cog railway station. Two other notable peaks near the stations are Esel (Donkey, 2,118 meters), situated just east of the railway station, and Oberhaupt (Head-Leader, 2,105 meters), positioned on the western side.

During the summer months, the “Golden Round Trip” offers an enchanting route for tourists. It entails taking a boat ride across Lake Lucerne from Lucerne to Alpnachstad, ascending via the cogwheel railway, descending using the aerial cableways and panorama gondolas, and then returning to Lucerne via bus.

As for the origins of the mountain’s name, local legends intertwine with history. One belief suggests that Pilatus was named after Pontius Pilate, who is said to have been buried there. Another tale likens the mountain’s shape to the reclined figure of Pilate, while an alternative explanation ties the name to “pileatus,” signifying “cloud-topped.”

The summit of Pilatus has welcomed a distinguished array of visitors, including Conrad Gessner, Theodore Roosevelt, Arthur Schopenhauer (in 1804), Queen Victoria, and Julia Ward Howe (in 1867). The cog railway, a feat of engineering, was inaugurated in 1889.

Furthermore, atop this mountain domain, fortified radar installations and weather stations grace the Oberhaupt summit, serving operational purposes year-round but remaining concealed from public view.

The Mt. Pilatus appears in our Complete Guide to Visiting Lucerne!

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Visiting Mt. Pilatus

Duration: 20 minutes
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