Bürgenstock circular cliff trail

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Bürgenstock circular cliff trail

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Bürgenstock, also known as Bürgenberg, is located in Central Switzerland and has a unique position above the Lake of Lucerne and the surrounding mountains. Despite its low altitude, only 1100 metres, the wonderful view from the summit made it over the years a popular destination for European aristocracy, celebrities and actors such as Audrey Hepburn, Sean Connery and Sophia Loren. Today, the mountain, its hotels and the 152.8 m. panoramic lift, one of the most audacious tourist facilities of the Belle Époque, are a must for tourists and visitors to the city of Lucerne.

Bürgenstock

We love... Bürgenstock!

Bürgenstock, also known as Bürgenberg, is located in Central Switzerland, not far from the city of Lucerne. For this reason, it is a popular destination for tourists and visitors coming to this region for the first time. The beauty of the scenery and the surrounding mountains, the ease of access and the lower costs compared to other destinations in the same area make this small mountain perfect for both Sunday tourists or those who want to hike without too much effort and without too many complications. The mountain, which probably takes its name from its particular shape, similar to a stump (stock, in German) rising from the waters of the lake, hosts many luxury hotels, in an original mixture of historical and modern buildings. Here, in fact, the culture of hospitality has an old story, starting from the years between the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century, when the first accommodation facilities were built. At that time, between 1897 and 1902, the hotelier Franz Josef Bucher-Durrer built a walkway in the rock on the northern side of the mountain, which is still walkable today. To make it even more attractive, the walk was connected to the summit viewpoint by an external lift, the Hammetschwandlift, which its 152.8 metres, was (and still is) one of the most courageous tourist facilities of the Belle Époque. Over the years the lift has been renovated and modernised several times and is still in service today.

How to get there

Arriving by public transport

Bürgenstock Zentrum: bus stop

arriving-train

The Bürgenstock area is easily accessible by public transport. From Lucerne, there are mainly two possibilities. The cheapest way is to take a train in Lucerne, travel to Stansstad and from there take bus 321 to Bürgenstock Zentrum. This round trip costs around CHF 15 per person. The more expensive alternative is to take a boat from Lucerne’s Banhofquai (located close to the train station), get off at Kehrsiten-Bürgenstock and from there take the funicular up the mountainside to the resort. This round trip costs over CHF 80 per person, which is not a small price to pay. So the choice is yours! Both routes can be purchased through the SBB website or through the SBB app. As always, we suggest you use the same website or app to check timetables and different travel options in advance.

Arriving by car

Bürgenstock: parking area

arriving-car

The Bürgenstock area is easily accessible by car from Stansstad, driving up the mountainside on a very scenic twist road. On arrival at the resort, several fee parking areas are available. We chose the first parking area we came across on the way, which was cheaper than others we found. There are just a few parking spaces, but we arrived here on a Sunday, around half past ten in the morning, and we had no problem finding a slot. We paid about 15 CHF for four hours of parking. Parking fees can also be paid with TWINT.

Hike overview & map

The itinerary we propose is an easy circular route of about 10 kilometres that can be covered in about three hours. The trail starts from the hotels area, where you can arrive easily by car or public transport. In the same area there are also some essential facilities, such as public toilets, a bar and an ATM machine. The walk follows the northern side of the mountain along a path partly cut into the rock. The ascent is gentle and is about 300 metres, achievable over the first 5 kilometres of the walk. Halfway along the cliff path, you will see from below the Hammetschwand panorama lift and its elegant metal steel silhouette. Continuing along this path and then along the short, slightly steeper section to the summit, you will reach a viewpoint and a mountain restaurant. From here begins the descent, which first leads to the Villa Honegg hotel and then back to the resort area for the return journey.
The Resort area, the area near Villa Honegg and the southern side of the mountain in general can be reached all over the year. But the rock path and the panorama lift are generally closed in winter for safety reasons. Here you can check in advance whether they are open or not.

Buergenstock cliff trail elevation profile

Arrival, the Resort area and the Bürgenstock Chapel

We arrive to Bürgenstock by car, with a few worries about parking. As you probably know by now, we always choose public transport for our journeys and are not at all used to worrying about things like parking areas, parking fees, road routes. But the truth is that in this case worrying is really not necessary. When we arrive at our destination, just before the Resort, there is a large parking area on the left with lots of free parking spaces. We paid about 15 CHF for four hours, which is still less than we would have paid to get here by public transport. Getting out of the car, the air is fresh but the sun is warm, so we take off some of the many layers of clothes we wore this morning and are finally ready to start our walk.
To get to the large square of the Resort, where our hike starts, we decide to take the official route that follows the northern side of the mountain. From the parking area, you have to go on the right through a tunnel carved into the rock and follow the path that, for about 800 metres, first descends slightly and then rises again, passing in front of the residential buildings overlooking Lake Lucerne. If you want to make it easier, you can simply continue from the car park along the paved road which, in about 500 metres, leads to the Resort. However, we were curious to follow the official route, to enjoy the view and to walk over the Tibetan bridge made of wood and steel that leads to the large square at the end. The square of the Resort is the heart of the Bürgenstock region. This is also the point where the funicular railway from the lake to the mountain arrives. Here you will also find the main facilities, such as toilets, bars and an ATM. A little further on is the large viewing terrace, the highlight of the entire hike, with a wide view over the Vierwaldstättersee lake down to Lucerne, the Mount Rigi and the coastal towns. Here is also exhibited the sculpture “The Sentinel of Light” by Julian Voss-Andreae, a German artist living in the USA, whose works are made by placing thin parallel metal plates at equal distances from each other and seem to completely disappear if you stand in front of them. On the way back, you may come across another work by the same artist, “Sitting Man”, which is equally interesting but probably less scenic due to its more modest location. Once the usual photos have been taken, we start our walk to the Felsenweg, the path carved into the rock that leads around the northern side of the mountain. To get there, you have just to follow the easy asphalt road to the Bürgenstock Chapel. This small Church, built in 1897, is a true copy of the St. Jost Chapel of Ennetbürgen. The route is well marked, however, and right next to the chapel a panel informs you about the opening status of the path and the Hammetschwand panoramic lift.

The Felsenweg and the Hammetschwand lift

The cliff path, Felsenweg in German, was built on the northern side of the mountain between 1897 and 1902 by hotelier Franz Josef Bucher-Durrer. The path has been renovated and improved several times over the years and it is still the best way to explore the Bürgenstock and enjoy the view of the Vierwaldstättersee lake and surrounding mountains from above. The start of the route is reached after a walk of around 900 metres from the car park area and runs for around 2.7 kilometres to the area around Känzeli. The path is almost completely shady, wooded and offers many viewpoints and a few benches for relaxation. The ground is composed of gravel and stable terrain, making it easy to walk without any special precautions and no trekking sticks are required. For the more curious, small informative panels have been installed along the route which, by using QR-Codes, explain the history, geological characteristics and natural beauty of the mountain and the forest. The advice is to walk the path slowly to really enjoy the wonderful panoramic views of the lake. If you need a break or if you have some food with you for a snack, about 700 metres from the start of the trail you will find a picnic area with tables, seats and a free public barbecue. Wood for fire is usually already available on site. Continuing along the path, after a couple of bends and about one kilometre, you will reach the Hammetschwand panoramic lift. It is one of the most audacious works of the Belle Époque, built in 1905 with the aim of being an additional attraction for visitors to the mountain and its accommodation. During its many years of operation, the lift has been extensively refurbished and consolidated several times, enhancing its safety and improving travel comfort, so much so that it is now one of the most visited attractions in the area. At the time of our visit, the ticket price for a return trip was CHF 18 per adult (CHF 9 for children aged 6 to 16). However, you can find up-to-date information on operations and fares on this page. We, for this time, chose to walk along the path to the viewpoint at the top.

From the Hammetschwand lift to the summit viewpoint

From the Hammetschwand lift, the route continues for about 800 metres to Känzeli. This section is characterised by several tunnels carved into the rock, some of which have replaced old exposed paths on the side. The tunnels, which are not too long, are mostly well illuminated and in some of them small observation points have been created, with benches for relaxing or taking a break. At Känzeli, a crossroads allows you to choose between the ascent to the summit with the mountain restaurant and the viewpoint or, alternatively, whether to start the descent to Villa Honegg Hotel and return to the resort. We choose to make our way to the top to enjoy the view and have something to eat. This 900-metre-long section of the route is slightly uphill and, in the very first section, runs along narrow steps. Steel cords have been installed for hikers to hold on to, but the path is still easily passable. In some narrow sections, it is advisable to stop and let hikers coming from the opposite direction pass. After the first 600 metres you come out of the forest and the panoramic view opens up over the southern side of the mountain and its green valleys. If you have brought your lunch with you, from this point you can stop for a picnic on the sunny meadows that flank the path. Alternatively, a little further on you will find the Hammetschwand restaurant, which is right next to the Hammetschwandlift arrival point. It offers typical Swiss dishes, but is also ideal just for a coffee or a beer. We chose to have lunch here with a Bratwürst with onion sauce and fried chips. The price, given the location, is reasonable, but the restaurant doesn’t accept cards, so you can only pay in cash or via the TWINT App. Take this into account! The restaurant also has toilets. We stop here for about half an hour, enjoying our lunch relaxing on a comfortable table in the sun. Then we continue on to the viewpoint at the top, a few metres further on, which offers a 360° view of Lake Lucerne both to the north side and the South side. The observation platform is really small and crowded, so we only stay here a short time, just long enough to take a few photos. Then we start our descent towards the return.

The descent to Villa Honegg and the way back to the resort

From the Hammetschwand restaurant, a path of around one and a half kilometres leads down the mountain to the Felsenweg trail near the resort area. However, this path is mainly through the forest and in the shade. We therefore opt for an alternative route, taking the path we took to get here and, at the Känzeli crossroads, following the path downhill towards the Villa Honegg hotel. After a short section through the woods, the view opens up to Ennetbürgen, the little town of Buochs and part of Lake Lucerne. If required, there are also numerous benches here for a rest. Hotel Villa Honegg can be reached in just under one kilometre from Känzeli. During the summer you can have a meal or drink on the beautiful panorama terrace with views of the lake, or alternatively you can stay overnight and enjoy its wonderful spa and heated outdoor pool.

After a short descent, the route becomes essentially flat and continues on paved roads. 400 metres from Villa Honegg there is a large car park (alternative to the car parks near the Resort) with toilets.
From here the last two kilometres of the route begin, probably the least interesting part except for the first part which follows a tree-lined road over green pastures. Surrounded by accommodation facilities, schools and restaurants, the road leads first to the Bürgenstock Chapel and then back to the Resort, where we admire the view of the lake for another minute before returning to our car.

Tips

1

We arrived at the Bürgenstock on a Sunday morning and had no difficulty finding parking. In the afternoon, however, when we returned, the situation was quite different. In case of difficulty, therefore, we suggest that you opt for the large parking area, also for a fee, near Villa Honegg. In this case, however, you will have to follow the suggested route in the reverse direction.

2

The Hammetschwand restaurant offers typical Swiss dishes at an affordable price but does not accept credit or debit cards, so you can only pay in cash or via the TWINT app. If necessary, there is an ATM machine in the resort area, at the start of the hike.

3

On our excursion, we chose not to use the Hammetschwandlift and to continue along the route on foot. If you decide to do this, please let us know by leaving a comment below, sending us photos and videos to post on our social channels or, if you like it, writing an article about it to be published on our blog!

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