Sooner or later, you will be seduced into visiting Pilatus, the closest famous peak to Zurich. The view is definitely spectacular and on a clear day, you just might be able to see forever. Pilatus-Kulm (the top) is a BIG rock. So once you get to the top, you won’t be wandering around alpine meadows like on Rigi across the valley. Here are some tips based on our experience.
|Car:||~1:10 from ZH||Trail:||not good for kids||Restaurant:||yes|
|Train/Bus:||1:20, 1 change||Stroller:||no||Fire pit:||no|
|Cost:||high||Theme:||no||Playground:||at middle station|
Overall, the views are amazing and we liked the hikes. But I’m not sure it’s worth the high price. There are so many other gondolas around Zurich that have just as great views, that are less expensive and have more hiking options appropriate for families.
There are two ways to get to the top of Pilatus. You can take a series of cable cars from Kriens or a cogwheel train from Alpnachstad. If you are using public transportation, it’s easier to go from Alpnachstad which is right next to the train station. However, the middle stations between Kriens and Pilatus Kulm have attractions for the kids, including a playground, rodelbahn and ropes course.
At the top, there is a big observation deck and a couple cafe/restaurants. Like most places, the food is outrageously priced but there are plenty of places to sit and picnic. At the minimum, I’d recommend bringing your own drinks unless you fancy paying 5CHF a pop.
Hike to Tomlishorn
There are a few hiking options, but the best for little kids is the walk “V” to Tomlishorn, which takes you to a much higher peak, giving you a view down on Pilatus. The trail is marked 40 mins one way; it took us about 50 mins walking pretty slow with our 4yr old. The first half of the trail is ok for strollers. But after the stairs, the trail gets super rocky and your stroller will not make it. So at that point, carry your kids or have them walk the rest of the way. It’s not a difficult or particularly long trail and the views are great. Small kids can do it with a little motivation. Our four year old did it just fine with only a little complaining.
My kids loved the signs describing the flowers, even if the flowers were all dead when we went.
Here come the stairs where you can’t take your stroller anymore.
Here are the stairs.
Almost to the end.
The view from Tomlishorn, I think it’s worth it. There is small fenced observation area with benches.
Hike down to middle station
If you’re feeling adventurous, your next option is to hike down steep switchbacks to the next gondola stop. I wouldn’t recommend it with kids, but just in case…
We selected trail 6a to Fraumüntegg, which was rated “anspruchsvoll”. Here’s where speaking German might have been helpful. I still don’t know the official definition of “anspruchsvoll”, but based on experience I’d say it means “if the scree doesn’t kill you, the boulders will”. OK, I’m being a little dramatic. The trail started fine, with steep but manageable rocky switchbacks down to a little white chapel. The view back up at the rocky ridgeline was amazing!
But then began seemingly everlasting 30 minutes of pure scree, which we slid down like we were walking on ice chips.
I was relieved when that ended until I realized that the trail had now become a narrow rock gully, where each step down was longer than my leg (ok, not every step, but enough of them) so my knees were being pounded like a drum. Two hours later, we were certain we had pulled every muscle in our legs and our hiking days might be finished for the season. We must be wimps because we saw plenty of people climbing up this trail – they must be crazy.
Another (more sensible) option is to take the gondola back down to the Fraumüntegg gondola stop, which seems to attract the most people. Here’s where the meadows start and continue all the way to the bottom. The views are still very nice and there are a couple typical restaurants, with playgrounds, to spend some time in. There’s also a summer tobaggon run, supposedly the longest in Switzerland. We were excited to do it, but the wait was long, the ride bumpy, and ultimately not near as fun as the shorter one we did in Fussen, Germany (by Neuschwanstein castle) which we rode over a dozen times. One of our crew even flipped their tobaggen on one of the curves. I’m not saying it can’t be fun; it was just a disappointment for us. For older children, there’s a Seilpark, aka “ropes course,” which looked like a lot of fun!
At the first stop for the gondola at Krienseregg, there is this enormous playground and restaurant. I haven’t been yet, but my kids were begging to go.