The Vierwaldstätterweg is a hiking trail that runs all around Lake Lucerne - from Brunnen to Rütli - passing through the "city of lights". The path offers wonderful panoramic views and is mostly easy to walk. Furthermore, if you would like to complete the tour around the lake, you can plan your hike by combining it with the better-known 'Weg der Schweiz', the path that runs along the southern part of the Vierwaldstätterweg, starting at Rütli and reaching Brunnen via Flüelen. We have walked part of both trails on day trips and in this article, we tell you about our route from Brunnen to Vitznau!
We love... the Vierwaldstätterweg!
Arriving by public transport
The starting point of this walk – Brunnen – is easily reached by public transport. The small town is in fact located along the Gotthard railway line, which connects Zurich with Lugano. Therefore, there are some direct daily trains from Lucerne and Zurich and some travel solutions that require a change of train at the Arth-Goldau station. Alternatively, the city can also be reached by water – certainly a more scenic but a little more expensive solution – from Lucerne or, from the south, from Flüelen.
Train or boat tickets can be purchased through the SBB website or through the SBB App and, as always, we suggest to check in advance the updated timetables and the different travel options.
Arriving by car
Brunnen is also easily accessible by car via the excellent road network that connects the main Swiss cities. From Lucerne and Zurich, the town can be reached in just 45 minutes via the A4 motorway. If your starting point is not Lucerne or Zurich, you can check the best route for you at this link. In Brunnen, a large pay car park is available on Föhneneichstrasse, right in the centre of town and within walking distance of the starting point. However, our advice is to choose public transport: the proposed route is in fact a linear route and therefore at the end of your walk – in Vitznau – you will still have to take public transport – bus 502 or boat – to return to Brunnen and pick up your car. Take this into account and don’t forget to plan your return journey.
Hike overview & map
The walking route we propose is a linear route that starts in the small town of Brunnen and, following the shoreline of the lake and through meadows, forests and small towns, reaches Vitznau, where it ends. During the route, you will admire the beautiful view of the Vierwaldstättersee lake, buy farm products in a couple of self-service shops and visit the small towns of Brunnen, Gersau and Vitznau, which are elegant and lively during the summer and on weekends. The total route of about 15.6 km can be covered in about five hours at a relaxed pace. It is a route of medium difficulty, mostly due to its length and a couple of gently sloping sections. Along the route, you will find several food options near the main towns and a mountain restaurant. Toilets are available in Brunnen, Gersau and Vitznau.
From Brunnen to Gersau
We reach the Brunnen train station on a sunny summer’s day. Our hike starts at the town’s lakeside promenade, which can easily be reached from the train station in just a 10-minute walk. At the lakeside, a cheerful interlude welcomes us: along the boat pier, a military band plays folk music for locals and tourists! We fill up with a bit of energy and start our walk! From Brunnen, the first 3.5 km actually run quite boring. Indeed, the hiking trail runs along the coastal road. Not what we expected, to be honest, but the route will pay off a little further on, when the path begins to climb along the mountainside and finally leaves the asphalt. After a slight ascent along a meadow, the first 4 km develop entirely in the shade of a dense forest. Here, the path is well maintained and never exposed. After heavy rain, it is possible that some sections may be more slippery, and although there are no excessively exposed sections, our advice is to wear good trekking shoes* and use trekking sticks*. A few more steps and we reach the town of Gersau, one of the most beautiful villages in Switzerland! Here we stroll along the elegant lakeside promenade and take a short break on a bench.
From Gersau to Vitznau
In Gersau, the hiking trail proceeds along the lake and 400 meters later turns right, climbing up towards the mountains again for 300 meters. We continue to the left and are soon out of the town centre. Not before having a look at the nice self-service cupboard selling flowers and plants. Really lovely! A few more meters and we are again in the shade of a dense forest for about 1.2 km. At the end, the forest thins out and the view of the lake offers itself to us in all its splendour. So scenic! We also find a small self-service farm shop selling homemade biscuits, ice cream and fresh drinks. Really providential, given the hot day! This section of the trail is more lively than the previous one: humans, cats and cows! From here, the trail runs through forests and meadows and offers magnificent views of the lake and surrounding fields. Just one kilometer further on we also find a mountain restaurant – Restaurant Kuorez – offering freshly grilled food and home-made products to take home (also on sale in a small self-service cabinet along the road). From Restaurant Kuorez, the approximately three-kilometre descent to Vitznau begins. After a 1.3-kilometer walk from the restaurant, the route again joins the coast road to the town centre. In Vitznau, make a stop at one of the many cafés along the lake for a coffee or ice cream, before returning to your vehicles and heading home.
If the proposed route is too long for you, you can easily split it into two sections, which can also be done at a leisurely pace over a weekend: a first section of the hike of about 8 km goes from Brunnen to Gersau, while the second part – from Gersau to Vitznau – is about 7 km. In Gersau you will find several small hotels and guesthouses for the night.
During the hike, we did not encounter any public water fountains. So make sure you have enough liquids with you, especially on hot days!