Pilatus

A summit push on a quintessential Swiss trail.

Trail Running Moderate

Distance
16 km
Ascent
1.7 km
Descent
1.7 km
Duration
3-4 hrs
Low Point
435 m
High Point
2.1 km
Gradient
17˚
Pilatus Map

Embrace quintessential Switzerland as you run through lush green pastures and amidst pine forests. Ascend into alpine terrain, all the while sounds of cowbells chiming and water coursing down the sides of the mountain fills your ears.

Description

In under an hour and a half by train from Zurich’s Hauptbahnhof (central station), you can be at the foot of this gem of a trail in central Switzerland. Pack your running vest, get your train ticket to Alpnachstad and be ready to hop off at the small village station next to Lake Lucerne to begin the run, parallel to the steepest rack railway in the world – the Pilatusbahn, with its max gradient of 48%!

Follow the yellow signs that guide you up the mountain massif of Pilatus. If you’re not distracted by the views, there are Strava segments up for grabs all the way to the top. You’ll know you’re getting closer as the tourists become more plentiful in number. Pass the Seilbahn, with that distinct square flag waving in the wind. Bag the summit and be rewarded with a panorama of peaks. Your challenge: how many can you name?

For the descent, retrace your steps or take the wilder route around the backside. Immerse yourself in the dramatic scenery as you tiptoe down the narrow single trail, heading North. If you feel like you’re being watched, you probably are. Ibex are often seen on this quieter side of the massif, standing tall and still as they keep an eye on your descending skills.

The trail slips back into the undergrowth and guides you past yet another waterfall before spitting you out onto rolling hills of pastures on the outskirts of the village Obernau from where you can get the train back to Zurich or into Lucerne. The fairytale-esque city is well worth a visit. Stroll along the bridges above the crystal river Reuss and admire the Gothic architecture of the Old Town.

Nearest station: Alpnachstad ZB Travel time from Zurich HB: approx 1:20hr https://www.sbb.ch/en/station-services/at-the-station/railway-stations/further-stations/station.17086.alpnachstad-zb.html

Sources: https://www.pilatus.ch/en/discover/cogwheel-railway/

Difficulty

Moderate

Medium Exposure

2 out of 4

The trail contains some obstacles such as outcroppings and rock which could cause injury.

Remoteness

2 out of 4

Away from help but easily accessed.

Best time to visit

May, June, July, August, September, October, November

Guidebooks in this area