Pilatus is known as the landmark mountain of Lucerne, Switzerland, despite being shared by the cantons of Obwalden and Nidwalden.
It is also a mountain massif comprised of several peaks, rather than there being a “Pilatus Peak”. The most often visited (and most easily reached) peak, which is also the peak most people mean when they refer to “Mount Pilatus” is “Esel”. This is also where the huge tourist complex with cable car and funicular stations, restaurants, etc. is located.
If you’re looking for a round trip up and down Pilatus Esel, starting and ending at the closest (official and public) parking space and with minimal overlap/backtracking, then you might find this custom route of mine useful.
Now when I say custom route, that doesn’t mean unique. I drew it on a map, but due to the limited number of hiking paths, you’re bound to find the same route elsewhere. Not with my route report below though 😉
- Despite the local legends, you are unlikely to find any dragons with healing powers along this route.
Apart from the routes I shot for Schweizmobil and the two two-day hikes I did, I had one more goal left on my To-Go list for this summer: Pilatus as a round tour, without cable cars.
Since the weather played along nicely, and Esel peak conveniently features a webcam to check if there’s any snow yet (or still, if going in early summer), I got the chance to finish off my list.
The ascent along my chosen route was a fairly consistent, moderately steep incline with mostly broad and easy hiking paths, apart from a short, slightly slippery sand and gravel portion near the peak. Great views abound the whole time.
Even on a Wednesday, you can expect the Pilatus visitors’ center – or tourist bulwark as I like to call it – to be absolutely packed with tour groups from all around the world and the odd sweaty person with a backpack here and there. Expect to stand in line to climb the stairs to the platform on the actual peak.
The view is worth it, though I’d recommend having lunch before or after the peak, if you’d like to eat in peace.
Juxtaposed to the peak experience and to a lesser extent the ascent, my chosen descent route was almost devoid of human life. A welcome relief for this introvert.
The trail here was a bit more “interesting” as well, which is another way to say “tiny goat path, careful where you step”.
Back on tarmac, almost at the parking space and car in sight, I must have relaxed a bit too much while being distracted talking to some people I met along the way, missteped, and once again sprained my ankle, almost like I did two months earlier on the way back from Säntis, except this time I also got a bloody knee from the fall. Saved the camera though!
Yes, lesson learned. I guess my weak ankle is back (it was or seemed fine for years until the Säntis incident) and I need to wear a brace, or rigid boots, or maybe tape it for hikes. With the upcoming winter hiking season, I won’t be tempted to use trail runners for a few months anyway.
The hike itself was fun though and I can highly recommend this route.
Would you like to share your own experiences with this hike? Do you have any questions? Something to add? Feel free to leave a comment below 🙂
Route Report / Gallery
Don’t miss a hike 🙂
|Date of Hike:||2022-10-05|
|Net Hours (Est.)||6.3|
|Net Hours (Act.)||4.6|
|Max. Alt. (m)||2115|