As a former Lucerne student, Mount Rigi was like home to me: I watched the delicate Alpine flowers sprout in spring, avoided the heat of the lowlands in summer, escaped the fog in autumn and tobogganed bravely down the mountain in winter. Now it was finally time to go on a hike to explore the “queen of the mountains”!
So, on the last day of September, I am sitting on a train from Bern to Lucerne in the early morning. And, as happiness is good to share, there are five of us on the train enjoying the impressive sunrise on the horizon, although we’re still a little sleepy. A beautifully warm, almost summery autumn day with a cloudless sky awaits us. It didn’t take much for me to convince our band of hikers to take on Mount Rigi: the Bernese are always up for trying something new, and the argument that Mount Rigi is a long way and too expensive could be refuted straight away thanks to the 1-day travelpass Plus because, to everyone’s delight, the boat journey on Lake Lucerne and the Mount Rigi railways are included in the 1-day travelpass and GA travelcard route networks.
Off to our hiking paradise on the MS Winkelried.
Having arrived in Lucerne, we hurry to the landing stage and board the MS Winkelried headed for Vitznau. The sun appears above the mountains just in time to reveal the city of Lucerne in its best light. After a one-hour trip filled with many oohs and aahs, we reach Vitznau at the foot of Mount Rigi. All our fellow passengers seem eager to grab a good seat on the small red Rigi train, but we’re not. We stroll past the train and start our hike. We’ll be walking 10 kilometres and climbing 1,414 metres from Vitznau to Rigi Kulm at an altitude of 1,798 metres via Gruebisbalm, Romiti-Felsentor, Rigi Kaltbad and Rigi First.
Our reward: fondue al fresco with a magnificent panoramic view of the Alps.
The idyllic hiking route leads us steadily upwards through varied scenery – we cross the Mount Rigi railway’s tracks a few times and make the most of the view of Lake Lucerne and the mountain landscape by taking occasional breaks. The hordes of tourists in the little village of Rigi Kaltbad bring us up short – seeing so much hustle and bustle at once takes us by surprise. We leave the lively village atmosphere behind us with relief and, unfortunately, the beautifully designed Rigi Kaltbad spa with it – and seek routes to the top which are as lonely as possible. However, after three sweaty hours in total, our rumbling stomachs stop us from going any further. We find the perfect spot for a rest near the Rotstock peak and raid our rucksacks. They are filled with plenty of cheese, bread, white wine and a spirit burner. We enjoy our wonderful cheese fondue al fresco accompanied by looks of envy (from Swiss people) and amazement (from tourists).
At the summit.
It’s definitely not as easy to hike on a stomach full of melted cheese and white wine, so we’re pleased that the red and white TV tower of Rigi Kulm is in sight – the walk to the summit feels much longer than the last three hours did. We are distracted and entertained by the many tourists taking their selfies near the edge of the chasm. Our lonely hike is over by the time we reach Rigi Staffel, with visitors from all over the world streaming up to the popular mountain destination in Central Switzerland from all sides.
So we fight our way up the last few metres to the antenna with the other visitors, where a marvellous 360-degree panoramic view awaits us. We leave the obligatory guessing game about the names of the 13 lakes and countless mountain peaks visible from this spot behind and head for the Rigi Kulm restaurant. Over a final coffee, beer and slice of cake, we reflect on our hike once again and my companions and I all agree that the tired legs, bloated cheesy stomach and slight sunburn were worth it. Mount Rigi is a great excursion destination for Bernese lowlanders too. So we happily board the Rigi train and let the cog railway take us on a pleasant trip back down the 1,414 metres to Vitznau.
Details of the hike up Mount Rigi from Vitznau:
- Start: Vitznau landing stage
- Finish: Rigi Kulm (1,797 m), taking the cog railway back to Vitznau
- Tip for getting there: by boat from Lucerne to Vitznau with the 1-day travelpass Plus or reduced RailAway offer
- Via: Gruebisbalm (904 m) – Romiti (1,195 m) – Rigi Kaltbad (1,436 m) – Rigi First (1,480 m)
- Time: approx. 4.5 hours
- Altitude difference: 1,414 m climb and only 57 m descent
- Kilometres: 10 km
- Surface: 10% asphalt, otherwise mostly gravel
- Drops of sweat:
partly down to the pleasantly warm September weather, but the 1,414-metre climb also produces one or two drops
- Drops of sweat caused by fear:
you can walk on lonely paths until Rigi Kaltbad but, from Kaltbad, you need to watch out to avoid getting struck down by selfie sticks
- Wildlife: donkeys, goats, sheep, cows, butterflies
- Plants: loads of autumn crocuses, the odd gentian and lots of flowers I don’t know which were beautiful nonetheless
- Highlight: it has to be the view of the magnificent mountain landscape
- Places to stop for a bite to eat: the way up is lined with plenty of inviting Alpine inns so you’ll be in no danger of going hungry or thirsty