If you’ve ever seen a photo of Lake Lucerne, you must have noticed the mountain that towers in the background. That’s Mount Rigi, the home of Europe’s first cogwheel railway and one of the most-visited mountains close to Lucerne.
People have been traveling to Mt. Rigi since even before the cogwehel railway was constructed thanks to the easy trails to the summit. Whether you want to go hiking, ride cable cars, visit a cheese dairy, or just enjoy the fabulous panoramic views of the region, Mount Rigi is a destination that won’t disappoint.
This detailed guide will tell you everything you need to know before planning your trip to Mt Rigi, from the cost of train tickets to the best restaurants on each of the summits!
Table of Contents
|Region||Central Switzerland, Schwyz and Lucerne cantons|
|Operating Times||Open year-round|
|Prices||78 CHF – Mount Rigi Day Pass (transport, skiing, sledding, etc.)|
|Discounts||Free with Swiss Travel Pass, GA Travelcard, 50% with Half-Fare Card, 20% with Lucerne Visitor’s Card|
|Services||Lodging, Restaurants, Railway, Cable Cars, Skiing, Sledding, Snowboarding, Ski Rental|
Where Is Mt. Rigi Located?
Mt. Rigi overlooks the northern shore of Lake Lucerne. It is north of Weggis and Vitznau but south of Arth and Kussnacht in central Switzerland. The mountain belongs to the Schwyz Alps mountain massif, but Rigi Kulm is one of the lower summits in the range.
Due to Mt. Rigi’s location in central Switzerland, it is easily accessible by public transport from all the bigger cities nearby. Vitznau is the closest town to the mountain as well as the first station of Rigi’s cogwheel railway, which is the main (but not the only) public transportation to the mountain.
How to Get To Mt. Rigi
People have been traveling to Mount Rigi since the late 19th century. This majestic mountain is home to Europe’s first cogwheel railway, and over the decades it has become even easier for travelers from all over the world to reach Mount Rigi. Here’s how you can get there from Lucerne and Zurich.
Traveling to Mount Rigi from Lucerne is simple and you have at least four different options. The most popular route is through Vitznau because it’s the perfect excuse for a boat ride on Lake Lucerne. Boats run between Lucerne and Vitznau, and there are nine connections per day even in the winter season.
The boat ride is about an hour long and the boats dock directly at the bottom station of the Rigi Kulm funicular. From there, it’s about 32 minutes to the top of the mountain, so in total it takes around an hour and a half to travel to Rigi Kulm from Lucerne, via Vitznau.
Traveling via Weggis is the second option. There are 10 boat connections between Lucerne and Weggis even in the winter season, starting at 6:20 AM. The boat ride to Weggis is shorter (about 45 minutes), but the total travel time to Rigi Kulm is still an hour and a half.
That’s because you need to get from the harbor to the bottom station of the Weggis cable car, which is a 15-minute walk or a 2-minute bus ride. From there, the cable car will take you to Rigi Kaltbad, which is a stop on the Mt. Rigi funicular. Once you board the train, there are only three more stops to the top of the mountain, and the ride should take about 12 minutes.
It’s also possible to travel by train via Arth-Goldau. The ride from Lucerne is non-stop and takes only some 25 minutes. The train station in Goldau is right next to the bottom funicular station, and the ride to the top of the mountains shouldn’t take more than 40 minutes.
You can easily visit Mount Rigi on a day trip even from Zurich. Just take a train from the main station to Arth-Goldau – it takes just 45 minutes if you manage to grab a seat on the trains heading to Milan or Locarno because those only stop in Zug before Arth-Goldau. From there, it’s another 40 minutes to the top of Mount Rigi.
This is not the only way of traveling to Mt Rigi from Zurich, but it is by far the fastest one. You can also travel to Weggis or Vitznau on the other side of the mountain, but that will take much longer. It’s more than an hour from Zurich to Weggis, and you’d have to take a train to Rotkreuz and then board a bus (line 528) to Weggis there.
It’s similar if you want to get to Vitnzau. Ride a train from Zurich to Rotkreuz, where you will board the same bus (line 528) to the Vitznau station.
Mt Rigi Tickets & Prices
The standard price of funicular railway tickets to Mt. Rigi is 49 CHF for a one-way journey and 78 CHF for a return trip. This is the price for train tickets from Weggis, Vitznau, and Goldau, which are the most popular starting points for the journey.
In case you’re traveling from Weggis via cable car and funicular, expect to pay 36 CHF for a one-way ticket for the cable car and 24 CHF for the train ride up to the top of the mountain.
If you want to purchase a return ticket, I highly recommend you just get a day pass for the Mount Rigi Railways. It includes free transport on the cogwheel trains from Vitznau and Goldau, and also the cable car from Weggis to Rigi Kaltbad and from Kräbel to Rigi Scheidegg.
Trains in Switzerland are expensive so most people who plan to explore the country by public transport end up getting some sort of travel pass for Switzerland. There are loads of options including the Interrail pass, the Swiss Travel Pass, the Half-fare card, the Tell Pass, the GA Travelcard, and many others.
The good news is that you’ll get a discount for the trip up to Mount Rigi with any of these passes. In fact, the journey will be free with any of these passes except for the half-fare card, which will get you a 50% discount on the tickets.
Children under the age of 15 who are accompanied by adults get to travel on the funicular free of charge, as do dogs.
Additionally, anyone who is staying in towns in the region and is eligible for a visitors card can claim a discount on Mt Rigi Railway tickets. It’s a 20% discount if you have a visitor’s card from Lucerne, Grappen, Vitznau, Weggis, or the Schwyz region.
Travelers who stay at hotels on Mount Rigi get Guest Cards that give them a 50% discount on tickets for the Rigi Railways. Anyone who has a student or apprentice ID and is under the age of 24 can get a 50% discount on the tickets.
Dates of Operation
Mount Rigi funicular operates year-round and closures happen only during maintenance or severe weather. Vitznau has the most connections to Rigi Kulm, with the first departure of the day around 6 AM, and the final descent from the mountain at around 10 PM.
Goldau is the second town with the most connections to Rigi Kulm, starting with trains at approximately 8 AM, and ending with departures from Rigi to Goldau at around 7 PM.
The Weggis cable car to Rigi Kaltbad operates year-round except for two maintenance periods in the spring and autumn. The cable car runs every 30 minutes from 6:30 AM until 11:20 PM, and the cars run continuously when there is a high volume of visitors.
Weather on Mt Rigi
Mount Rigi features an elevation of 1,798 meters above sea level, so it’s going to be a bit colder and wetter than the towns and cities at its feet. The period from May to September is the only time when the temperature stays above zero throughout the month. Even in April, the temperatures will drop below zero at night.
The average temperature in the summer is 5-15 degrees Celsius, so even if you visit the mountain in August, you will need warm clothes.
In December and January, temperatures rarely rise above zero even during the day. It’s very cold on the mountain and there’s lots of snowfall, which are pretty good conditions for skiing and snowboarding.
Best Time For A Trip to Mt Rigi
The best time to visit Mount Rigi is either summer or winter, depending on what you like to do. For me, it would have to be summer because I thrive in warm weather and I much prefer exploring when it’s sunny and the flowers are in full bloom.
Summer is also a great season to visit because the days are longer and sunnier, so you can spend more time outside. It’s much easier to explore the hiking trails if there’s light out until at least 8 PM, and there’s less of a chance of fog obstructing the panoramic views.
However, winter is the better season for all of you who enjoy skiing, snowshoeing, snowboarding, and any other winter activities that Switzerland is known for. Many of the trails atop the mountain remain accessible in the winter, and it’s perfectly possible to explore Mout Rigi’s wonderful landscapes. You will need snowshoes for some of the trails, but you can rent those at several locations at Mount Rigi.
Summer Activities on Mt Rigi
Mount Rigi is very popular for its countless hiking trails in the summer. If you scroll down a little you’ll see a more detailed list of all the most popular hiking trails in the area, but for now, suffice it to say that there are more than a dozen different trails on the mountain. And that does not include any trails from the towns on the shore of the lake, which can take you all the way to Rigi Kulm.
The trails atop Mount Rigi range from easy and suitable for hiking newbies, to very challenging ones that should be attempted only by the most experienced hikers. There are trails for everyone’s skill level, so you can really have fun on this mountain regardless of how much time you spend hiking in your free time.
I’ve already mentioned that it’s possible to hike to the top of this mountain from most of the towns on the shore, but not that many people choose to travel to Rigi this way. Most ride the trains, and the cogwheel train from Vitznau is the most popular option.
For one, it’s the fastest way of reaching the summit so it’s best if you don’t want to waste any time in Switzerland. And two, the ride is very scenic and you’ll get to enjoy some spectacular views along the way, as you climb the mountain from the lakefront town of Vitznau. A stunning panoramic view stretches from the top of the mountain, and not only can you see Lucerne, but even the Alps in the background.
One of my favorite things at Rigi Kulm is the cheese farm. The local dairy is also a tavern and a place where you can spend the night, so there’s really no excuse not to visit. You can meet the local herdsman who manages to produce 12 tonnes of cheese every summer, and you can even get to see the cows who provide high-quality milk.
Anyone who visits the dairy can tour the place for a fee of 2 CHF. You can also get a private tour from Franz-Toni Kennel, the herdsman, but that tour must be booked in advance and it has a fee of 50 CHF.
Also, it goes without saying that a trip to the cheese dairy inevitably includes some cheese tastings. Fondue, raclette, and grilled cheese sandwiches are all on the menu, and everything is made with the best locally made cheeses.
Kanzeli Viewpoint is an observation deck at Rigi Kaltbad and the perfect destination for all travelers who want to admire the scenic views, but aren’t that into hiking. You don’t have to walk up the mountain for hours to find the perfect scenic spot because this observation deck is just a 15-minute walk from the Rigi Kaltbad Hotel.
The view is surreal, and there’s a detailed map at the observation deck that tells you exactly what you’re seeing. One thing I will say is that there’s no point in going to the observation deck on a foggy or cloudy day – sometimes, the clouds are below you and all you can see is a sea of fluffy clouds.
Lake Lucerne Cruise
A cruise on Lake Lucerne is something you must do if you’re ever in the area. It’s a fabulous experience, and it can be done in many different ways. You can just book a ticket on the ferry to transport you from the city of Lucerne to Vitznau on your way to Mount Rigi, or you can book a more elaborate cruise with dinner and drinks.
Lake Lucerne cruises are also part of the Gotthard Panorama Express scenic train route. The trains from Lugano and Bellinzona take passengers to Fluelen, where they board a boat to continue their journey to Lucerne. It’s truly a wonderful experience that offers spectacular views of Mount Rigi and other summits.
Winter Activities on Mt Rigi
If you buy a daily pass for the Rigi Railways, you can go sledding for free. There are five main toboggan runs atop the mountain, and they’re all incredibly fun. One run is easy, one is difficult, and the rest are moderate and suitable for anyone.
The only difficult run is from Rigi Kulm to Staffel to Klösterli, and it’s by far the most popular run down the mountain. It takes about 30 minutes and it’s very thrilling with fast descents and switchbacks. The run from Rigi Burggeist to Gschwänd is the longest of the bunch. It’s 3.8 kilometers which takes about half an hour, and the total descent is 538 meters.
Although many of the hiking trails on Mt. Rigi are closed in the winter because of snowfall, around 35 kilometers remain accessible in the colder months. The Rigi Panorama Trail can be done even in the winter, and you can choose from multiple variations of the trail. Easier versions of this hike only cover a section of one kilometer, and the longest route doable in the winter is roughly nine kilometers.
You can also hike from Rigi Kulm to Rigi Kaltbad, from Rigi to Klosterli, and from Rigi to First. The Kanzeli observation deck is open and accessible even in the winter, for fabulous views of the snow-covered Alps.
Most hiking trails on Mount Rigi that are accessible in the winter can be completed in under an hour, with a few longer routes that take up to two hours.
Mount Rigi has five ski lifts and a few more children’s lifts, so it offers some great skiing opportunities. It’s far from being the best ski resort in the region, but the trails are in good condition and exciting enough that you’ll want to get out and spend a couple of hours rushing down the slopes.
The Scheidegg-Burggeist skiing area is popular for the panoramic views that serve as the backdrop of the trail, while the Rigi Staffel skiing area features some of the more challenging trails on the mountain.
It’s important to note that skiing and snowboarding are available free of charge to anyone in possession of the Mount Rigi Day Pass.
Strap on a pair of snowshoes and you’ll be able to explore parts of Mount Rigi that would remain inaccessible otherwise. You’ll be able to walk through the mountain’s snow-covered forests, across meadows, and see all the places on the mountain that remain undiscovered to skiers and hikers.
A snowshoe tour of Rigi Kulm is one of the easier paths you can explore. It takes about an hour and a half to complete the loop trail, and it doesn’t require any special skills or technical knowledge. You’ll most likely be alone on the trail and you’ll have the stunning views all to yourself.
Other popular snowshoe trails on Mount Rigi are the Gratalp trail, the Feissenboden trail, the Rigi Scheidegg trail, and the loop tour of Rigi Burggeist. Snowshoe rental is available at multiple places, including at Rigi Kulm, Rigi Kaltbad, Rigi Scheidegg, and Vitznau.
Many of Mount Rigi’s popular summer hiking trails turn into epic cross-country skiing trails in the winter. If you enjoy cross-country skiing, you can have heaps of fun on Mt. Rigi. One of the most popular cross-country skiing trails is the panorama path from Rigi Kaltbad to Rigi Scheidegg.
It takes about two and a half hours to complete the trail, which gets quite steep at the end. The trails follow the route of the old Rigi-Scheidegg railway, and the views along the way are out of this world.
Seebodenalp also offers cross-country skiing. The loop trail starts near the Küssnacht-Seebodenalp cable car and offers stunning views of central Switzerland along the entire route. The terrain is mostly flat, making this the perfect easy route for those who are somewhat new to cross-country skiing.
Spa on Rigi Kaltbad
Mineralbad & Spa Rigi Kaltbad is the place to be if your idea of a winter excursion on a mountain includes a sauna and thermal baths. This is a very popular chain of spa centers in Switzerland, with locations in some of the most popular tourist destinations in the country, Rigi Kaltbad included.
The spa center has a warm indoor pool, herbal steam baths, and a heated outdoor pool so you can swim with central Switzerland in the backdrop. The place also offers massages and other cosmetic treatments, so you could easily spend the entire day here getting pampered and relaxing into oblivion.
Best Hiking Trails on Mt Rigi
I promised you a more detailed look into the best hiking trails on Mt Rigi, so here are the top six ones that can be done in up to two hours.
Rigi Panorama Path, Rigi First – Rigi Scheidegg section (2 Hours 10 Mins)
The Rigi Panorama path from Rigi First to Rigi Scheidegg follows the former railway route of the Rigi-Kaltbad-Scheidegg railway. It’s an easy trail with a very small elevation gain, so anyone can attempt this stunning panorama hike and experience the scenic vistas along the way.
Rigi Känzeli Hiking Tour (30 Mins)
Rigi Känzeli Hiking Tour is the perfect trail for non-hikers. It’s a short walk to the Känzeli observation platform from the Rigi Kaltbad station, and it’s just a 15-minute walk in either direction. There’s even a ramp for wheelchair users, so truly anyone can do this short and easy hike.
Rigi Kulm to Rigi Kaltbad (1 Hour 10 Mins)
Although you can ride the funicular from Rigi Kulm to Rigi Kaltbad, it’s much more satisfying to walk down the mountain and explore your surroundings. It’s only about an hour in either direction, and you can follow two distinct paths – descent down the mountain ridges, or follow the funicular railway.
Rigi Staffel to Rigi First (1 Hour 30 Mins)
Rigi Staffel to Rigi First is also known as the Rigi Floral Trail because you can see roughly 200 different species of flowers on the side of the trail if you’re hiking in the spring. This easy hike offers great insight into the flora of Mount Rigi and it’s even suitable for prams and wheelchairs.
Rigi Scheidegg Animal Tracks Trail (20 Mins)
The Animal Tracks trail is a short and easy loop hike at the top of Rigi Scheidegg. It takes just 20 minutes to walk the trail, but you’ll want to stay a little bit longer on the trail to see the animals in their natural habitat. The animals most commonly seen on this trail are squirrels, foxes, badgers, and chamois.
Rigi Kulm to Rigi Klosterli (1 Hour 45 Mins)
Rigi Kulm to Rigi Klosterli is one of the longer hikes you can do, but it’s still a pretty easy trail because you’re only going downhill. The trail features stunning views of the surrounding mountains, and you might even experience what it’s like to be above the clouds. Return is possible via the same route or a cable car.
Where to Eat on Mt Rigi
The majority of restaurants on Mout Rigi are at Rigi Kaltbad, so you should plan to stay in the lower region of the mountain if you want to have options. Rigi Kulm has a few restaurants but the choices aren’t as abundant, and frankly, they aren’t quite as great either.
However, one thing that Kulm has that the Kaltbad doesn’t is the cheese dairy, and I would not shy away from eating most of my meals there. In addition to the dairy, there are Kessiboden and Rigi Bistro close to the top railway station.
Rigi Kaltbad, on the other hand, has a Crêperie that’s a must-visit for anyone who loves chocolate as much as I do. Think crepes stuffed with Nutella, sliced into sushi pieces with whipped cream on the top. They also serve crepes with alcohol, as well as savory crepes that are great for lunch.
All the hotels at Rigi Kaltbad have their own restaurants, and there are a few more locales up the mountain. Gratalp Stübli, Bärenstube, and Heirihütte are some of the best restaurants at Rigi Kaltbad, which serve traditional Swiss cuisine.
Additionally, there are a few restaurants between Rigi Kaltbad and Rigi Kulm. Restaurant Bahnhöfli is at the Rigi Staffel station, and Restaurant Lok 7 is closer to Kaltbad. Both are Swiss restaurants with a menu classic for the region, so lots of cheese and sausage.
Where to Stay on Mt Rigi
You’ve got a few different options if you want to spend your entire trip on Mount Rigi and the choice you need to make is whether you want to stay at Rigi Kaltbad or Rigi Kulm. Rigi Kulm is a taller summit with fewer accommodation options. There’s only one hotel and several lodges for hikers, which don’t offer the nicest facilities.
Rigi Kulm Hotel is the best option if you want to be as high up as possible. It’s a decent hotel with 33 rooms and nightly rates that start at 168 CHF for a single room. The average rate for a double room is 250 CHF with a buffet breakfast included.
Rigi Kaltbad is the better destination for most people because there’s more infrastructure. There are several hotels – Rigi Kaltbad Hotel, Hotel Bergsonne Rigi, Restaurant & Hotel Alpina, and Kräuterhotel Edelweiss – as well as a few private apartments and cabins you can rent.
Hotel Alpina is the most affordable option at Rigi Kaltbad, with double rooms starting at 165 CHF per night. The other hotels are approximately 250 CHF per night, but it’s worth noting that Alpina is a 2-star hotel, whereas the rest are 3-star hotels.
Also, keep in mind that if you stay at any one of the hotels on Mount Rigi, you’re entitled to a Guest Card that provides you with a 50% discount for the Rigi Railways.
What to Pack For A Mt Rigi Trip
No matter when you’re visiting Mount Rigi, you should pack a pair of waterproof hiking boots. They’ll allow you to get around the mountain easily regardless of the weather and terrain conditions. If you’re traveling in the winter make sure that your boots are insulated, and for a summer visit just prioritize waterproofing.
Pack t-shirts, long-sleeve tops, warm sweaters, hoodies, jeans, tracksuits, and pretty much any other clothes that you feel comfortable wearing. If you’re going to spend most of your time hiking and exploring, comfort and ease of movement should be your top priorities.
If you’re traveling to Rigi in the winter and you enjoy skiing and snowboarding, don’t forget to pack your ski suit. A heavily insulated jacket will also be necessary for exploring the mountain in cold weather.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is Mount Rigi called Queen of the Mountains?
Mount Rigi is known as the Queen of Mountains because humanist Albrecht von Bonstetten called it Mons Regina in his chronicles. There is some debate on what the phrase represents, but most people agree that it wasn’t initially supposed to mean Queen of the Mountains, but rather that it was referencing a local phrase for Rigi’s flora and geology.
Why is Mount Rigi famous?
Mount Rigi is famous for its unique location in central Switzerland, but also because it was the home of the first cogwheel railway in Europe. The Vitznau-Rigi railway has been around since the late 19th century, and people have been traveling to the top of Mount Rigi for more than a hundred years.
Is Mount Rigi worth visiting?
Yes, Mount Rigi is absolutely worth interesting even if it’s on a quick day trip from one of the nearby towns. It features some of the most beautiful landscapes in Switzerland and offers a plethora of things to do if you choose to stay on the mountain for more than a day.