Stans: Day trip to Rigi

We had attempted a day trip to Rigi the week before, but missed our bus stop and by then it was too late to get back to the right one so we could board a boat across Lake Lucerne. Fate was with us, though, because at the time we would have been up the mountain that day, the clouds had rolled in and views would have been obscured. Instead, we enjoyed that bus ride for the adventure it was, and picked a much better (both sunnier and warmer) day for what turned out to be a wonderful excursion.

This was a car-free day for us. Though we could have driven to Lucerne and parked there, we walked to the Stans train station instead, where we purchased our tickets for the full day, received lots of extra advice so we’d be sure not to miss any of our stops this time, and boarded the train to Lucerne. In Lucerne, right across the street from the train station, we boarded our boat for the ride across the lake.


A hot air balloon rising over part of Lucerne
Mount Pilatus
The birds entertained us the whole way


From the boat, there are two ways you can get to the top of Rigi: one is to stop at Weggis, where you can walk about 15 minutes up to a gondola, ride the gondola partway up, and then board the train for the rest of the trip. The other, which we had tickets for, was to go a bit farther on the boat to Vitznau, catch the train right there and ride all the way up.

Our boat leaving from Vitznau where we disembarked

We boarded a cogwheel train, which pulls itself along the tracks by engaging its cogged wheel with the cogs along a bar in the center of the rails.


The train moved surprisingly fast and soon we were high above the lake, ogling the scenery. From the lake-side station, you have no idea how high the mountain is. The train kept chugging along, climbing higher and higher, and then slowing so it could climb steeper and steeper. We made several stops in mountain stations where trains, as we know them, shouldn’t be able to go.

You can get off at Staffel, the stop just before the top, where there is a village filled with accommodation and restaurants. A couple of friendly Swiss gentlemen seatmates told us that you could walk between the two stops either up or down. We opted to start at the top and then decide what we wanted to do from there.

The final station is Rigi Kulm, at 1,797 meters (5,897 feet) above sea level. Though not the highest peak we’ve ever been on, the views from here were stunning. We were able to see cities and villages, trains and boats, and Alps mountain peaks that seemed to go on forever.


A busy train station at the peak

At the station, there is a snack bar, washrooms, and tunnel to an elevator that will take you up to the hotel. We walked up the hill to the hotel, where there are both a sit-down and a self-serve restaurant in the same space. A little farther up the hill is the summit, which offers additional views toward Lucerne.

We were entertained by this pair and their longhorns [Edit: Alphornbläsern – thank you Caroline!]
Looking toward Lucerne with the lake shadowed by a mountain peak
Handsome dude I ran into on the mountain

Though a few skiers came up on the train, by far the most popular activity was sledding. We’re not completely sure how it works, but people must buy a day train ticket, and then ride down the mountain until they get near a station, and hop a train for the ride back to the top. Some of the trains have cars just for the sleds.


We took a different route home, taking the blue cogwheel train down to the Arth Goldau station, and from there taking a regular train to Lucerne and home to Stans. On our way down, we marveled at the roads, pathways and mountainsides where people were sledding, and the mobs of sledders waiting for trains at every station to head back up. You may be able to hike in summer, but sledding here looks like tons of fun and a great way to enjoy what was the final day of 2017. Happy New Year!


With our Swiss half-fare Card, the fare for each of us was 58.60 CHF. A winter promotion gave us a 10 CHF coupon for 3 CHF at any of the mountain restaurants. Since we were planning on buying lunch, we added 3 CHF for a total of 61.60 CHF per person.


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