Mount Rigi, the "Queen of Mountains" as it is lovingly called by locals, is an easily accessible hiking destination even in winter. The many public transportation options and the wide variety of winter sports that can be enjoyed in its valleys and along the slopes of the mountain make it a popular destination not only for tourists, but even for locals. Here is our hike’s report: an easy walk in the snow during an unexpected and beautiful sunny day!
We love... Rigi!
From its 1797-metre peak the Rigi, the “queen of mountains” as it is affectionately called by the locals, has a long and ancient tradition of hospitality. As early as the 18th century, the mountain was already famous in Europe as a holiday destination thanks to its incredible panoramic location, and as early as the 19th century, many resorts and high-class hotels were opened along the lower slopes of its valleys for the aristocracy of the time. But it was only in 1875 that the way was really opened to modern mass tourism, with the construction of the two railway lines Vitznau-Rigi, the first mountain railway in Europe, and Arth-Rigi. Even today the two lines are still used to transport the many visitors who come here from all over the world. In addition to the two cogwheel lines, there are also many cable cars that connect different areas of the mountain with the valleys below and the lake. Getting here is so easy! Even in the winter, you’ll find opportunities here to do whatever you like, whether it’s hiking, skiing, or snow sledding!
Hike overview & map
“The view is beautiful with the lake – Pilatus, the Rigi etc. – I can’t believe my eyes when I look at it! It looks like a painting or an ornament: a dream!”. This is how Queen Victoria described the landscape on Lake Lucerne during her long visit to Lucerne in September 1868. And it is hard to argue with her. The view from the Rigi is probably one of the most beautiful in Switzerland.
The hike we propose starts from Rigi Kaltbad and leads, through panoramic spots and valleys, to Rigi Scheidegg. Known as “Panoramaweg” because of its wide variety of panoramic spots, this hike follows the route of an old railway line and uses the existing infrastructure such as bridges and tunnels. It is an easy itinerary of about 8 km that can be covered in more or less two and a half hours. The path is well indicated along the entire route. The trail is almost entirely on a well-maintained gravel roads that are daily swept, so for walking here you won’t need to wear snowshoes: a good waterproof winter hiking shoes will be sufficient! However, some sections of the trail are shared with cross-country skiers, so be careful and don’t occupy the cross-country ski path. All along this you will also find many picnic areas with public barbecues, benches for relaxing, restaurants and toilets. On the official website you can find all the updated information on the state of operation of the trails and public transportation all over the mountain. In addition, you can also access some webcams, for a best check of the weather conditions on site.
A budget-saving tip: given the need to use different means of transport during the day, we recommend that you check the official Rigi website for the availability of day passes or discounted offers. You can find all the info here.
Arriving to Rigi Kaltbad
From the cable car station, we arrive at the Rigi Kaltbad Hotel forecourt passing through a tunnel and an elevator. When we are out, the air is cooler than expected and the recent snowfall has covered the roads and trails, making them softer and easier to walk on. In a few spots, the snow on the floor is icy and a little slippery, but we don’t worry about it! From here, the view of the sea of fog is gorgeous! We take a few pictures and are finally ready for starting our hike. Everywhere is a bustle of people: couples, singles and families with children walking and running from one side to the other. A little further on, a large queue has been created in front of the Rigi-Sport-Kiosk, a store that sells sport equipment, clothing and souvenirs. If you haven’t winter equipment, you can also rent something here! We cross the railway line and take a path that passes between houses and forests. It’s so covered in snow that everything looks fascinating, even the horse-drawn carriage that brings tourists around! Before we continue our walk, however, we definitely need a coffee! This time we brought it from home in our beloved thermal bottle!
From this point, the sunny trail surrounded by tall trees, continues easily to Rigi-First, from where the trail continues along the shady side of the mountain. The “Felsenweg” rock path also starts at Rigi First. It is a panoramic trail carved into the mountainside overlooking the Bürgenstock. It is around 900 metres long and joins the Panoramaweg at the end. But this path is normally closed in Winter. Maybe you can keep this in mind for your next summer hike! Remaining on the Panoramaweg, we follow the route of the now disused railway from Rigi Kaltbad to Rigi Scheidegg. The trail also uses the existing infrastructure, such as bridges and tunnels, which makes it very interesting. From here, the route is essentially flat. But while the first part of the route is generally exposed to the sun, from this point until you reach your destination the route will be almost entirely in the shade and the temperature will therefore generally be lower than that encountered up to here. So take this into account and remember to wear gloves and cap!
From Rigi First along the Panoramaweg
From Rigi-First, the view opens up over the valleys of Canton Schwyz and, on the last stretch, towards Lake Zug. When the snow falls, the valleys are full of skiers and sleds! If you want to take a break, you will also find here many benches with a panoramic view. After about 500 metres from where the Panoramaweg and Felsenweg meet, we reach what is probably the most obvious reminder of the old railway line: the Unterstetten bridge. This characteristic structure, which connects two ridges of a valley about 100 metres wide, rests on iron towers vaguely reminiscent of the Eiffel Tower. The bridge, which is considered to be a historic landmark that should be preserved, was completely renovated a few years ago and is now used as a hiking trail. We have already been here many times in Summer, but seeing the bridge surrounded by the winter landscape and itself covered with snow makes everything even more fascinating, so much so that we decided to make a stop here to eat our homemade lunch! Just past the bridge, on the right, you will find a barbecue area, equipped with wood, and public toilets. After a kilometre’s walk we come to a short tunnel, another vestige of the old railway line, and then a small bridge. The gallery amazes us with some very peculiar ice sculptures: of course it is just water crossing the rock and freezing because of the cold, but it reminds us of how, sometimes, nature can be an artist.
Rigi Scheidegg and way back
After another 800 metres of walking, the last part of our hike begins. From here, the path leads mainly through forests and along rocky slopes. However, compared to the summer hike, the landscape seems almost unrecognizable! It’s true that snow can completely change the face of a place! The last section, towards Scheidegg, also shows a strong human presence: winter sports facilities, which are very popular here, and many houses. At a certain point, even an operative skilift crosses the path! It is well signposted, but be careful if you don’t want to make an unpleasant excursion on the slope! Shortly before Scheidegg you come to a fork in the road. The path to the right descends to Rigi-Burggeist, but you can continue to the left towards Scheidegg. From the fork, a couple of hairpin bends leads up to the summit, but if you want to cut the route short, shortly after the fork, a narrow staircase on the left cuts across the mountainside to the Berggasthaus Rigi-Scheidegg, which will welcome you at the summit for a coffee and some refreshments. If you have the time, a viewing platform has been built just behind the restaurant to take in the view across Lake Zug. But be sure not to lose sight of your watch! There is a train waiting for you and unfortunately it is not so frequent! Don’t risk missing it! Take the Scheidegg cable car, which will take you to the Rigi Kräbel station of the cogwheel railway back to Arth-Goldau in about 6 minutes.
Arriving by public transport
For this hike you will need to reach Rigi Kaltbad via the cogwheel railway starting in Vitznau or via the cable car starting in Weggis. Both departure stations can be reached by public transportation but, unfortunately, they are not served by trains. Therefore, to get to Weggis or Vitznau you will have to take a train to Küssnacht am Rigi and, from there, take PostBus number 502 or 528.
A more fascinating and panoramic alternative is the Lake Lucerne Navigation Company, which connects the two towns with Lucerne every 60 or 120 minutes, depending on the season. In Vitznau, the cogwheel station is located right next to the arrival quay of the boat. In Weggis, to get to the lower station of the cable car you will have to walk about 800 meters.
Both the 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.
*** PLEASE NOTE ***: At the end of this itinerary, the cable car from Scheidegg will take you to Rigi Kräbel and, from there, the cogwheel line will take you to Arth-Goldau station. So don’t forget to plan your return trip as well!
Arriving by car
Mount Rigi is not accessible by car. For this winter hike, you will therefore have to reach Rigi Kaltbad via the cogwheel railway from Vitznau. You can get to Vitznau via the A4 motorway, taking exit 36 for Küssnacht and then following the signs for Vitznau or via the A2 motorway, taking exit 36 for Altdorf / Flüelen, continuing to Brunnen and then following the signs for Vitznau. There are two covered car parks in Vitznau, one on Seestrasse and one on Altdorfbachweg. At this link you will find information about arriving and parking in Vitznau.
As an alternative to the cogwheel train, you can reach Rigi Kaltbad by cable car from Weggis. You can reach Weggis via the A4 freeway, taking exit 36 for Küssnacht and then following the signs for Weggis or via the A2 freeway, taking exit 36 for Altdorf / Flüelen, continuing to Brunnen and then following the signs for Weggis. There are two large open-air parking lots in Weggis. Parking lot P1 is located next to the cable car station. Parking lot P2 is located a few meters down. At this link you will find information about arriving and parking in Weggis.
*** PLEASE NOTE ***: At the end of this route, the cable car from Scheidegg will take you to Rigi Kräbel and from there, the cogwheel railway will take you to the Arth-Goldau station. So, don’t forget to plan your return trip from Arth-Goldau to Vitznau or Weggis!
During the winter season, a wide variety of winter sports are available on the Rigi. Cogwheel trains, ski lifts and cable cars make it easy to climb to the top and descend further into the valley on sleds or skis. So, you can combine this short hike with a few hours of winter sports. In this case, we recommend that you take advantage of the Rigi Bahnen day tickets, which will allow you to make unlimited trips on all means of transport available on the mountain.
The Panoramaweg is truly a trail for all seasons! We have been here many times and have walked it both in summer, on a beautiful sunny day, and in winter, completely covered in snow. Unfortunately, we have not yet had the chance to walk it in late autumn and see the colours of the foliage in this area. If you get the chance to do this for us, please let us know by leaving a comment below!
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