Once, when I was still in elementary school, I went hiking on the Rigi with my class. Back then, I managed to restrain my enthusiasm for hikes – queen of the mountains, oh, puhleeze. But I really looked forward to the part where you got cervelat sausage from the grill or the pure joy of spending a day with your class mates anywhere but in the classroom. I see things a little differently today…
Over the years, I’ve taken a great liking to hiking. And after Walter a couple of years ago had wandered with colleagues from Vitznau to the Rigi-Scheidegg, practically ever since he had been putting a bug in my ear about doing the Rigi one more time.
High time, then, to lace up the hiking boots and head for the mountain!
As we scout our hiking route, it dawns on me really for the first time how many possibilities the Rigi Massif has to offer: no less than 120 kilometers of hiking and climbing routes suitable for taking a simple walk to climbing a mountain.
And the availability of rides up the mountain is just as varied. Like there are lots of ways to get to Rome, so also to the top of the Rigi. Cable cars, for example, leave from Weggis, Vitznau or Küssnacht. Probably the best-known way up, though, is the cog railway that runs from Vitznau to Rigi Kulm.
Because we are staying at the Hotel Vitznauerhof, it’s very convenient for us to hop on the cog railway and let it take us straight up the highest peak – the Rigi Kulm (1,798 MASL)
Enthroned on top of Rigi Kulm is the transmitter antenna that you see from everywhere below at a great distance. The 360-degree view from here can be truly sensational! As long as a bunch of clouds and fog don’t get in the way. But that, too, has its charm…
The Rigi classic hike
After we – together with uncounted Asian tourists – had our fill of the view, we chose the “Rigi Classic” hike that will let us walk down as far as Rigi Kaltbad (1,433 MASL)
After we had gone just a little way down the slope, the clouds broke up to reveal a wonderful panorama. According to Switzerland Tourism, we should have been able to see 13 lakes… but we mostly marveled at Lake Lucerne.
Good to know: In Rigi Kaltbad you will find the famous Mineral Bath. Mario Botta’s architectural work of art is fascinating. It’s a good place to relax those tired hiking muscles and get some bounce back in them. But after just one hour’s hike, for us it would have been just a little bit much…
The Rigi Classic hike is really easy, since it mostly goes downhill. You just need to watch out that you don’t stumble trying to take in all that marvelous scenery: the Swiss Central Plateau, also Lake Lucerne and Zugersee Lake!
I think the only muscles that we overworked were the ones we used for taking pictures…
BTW, be sure to scout out the “slightly” hidden Chapel of the Rocks in Rigi Kaltbad!
Details on the Rigi Classic hike
Route: Rigi Kulm – Staffel – Staffelhöhe – Känzeli – Rigi Kaltbad
Vertical distance: 312 m downhill
Profile: Easy hike
Length: 4 km
Time required: ca. 1 hour (not counting photo stops!)
More information on the Rigi Classic can be found here on the Rigi website.
Clearly, we are not tired after this short hike. And Walter (for once) hasn’t hit the wall yet.
Anyway, he wouldn’t have had time for a bite. Because, just as we were ready to walk out of Rigi Kalbad, we hear the huff-puff of the steam locomotive coming up from Vitznau, taking its time jolting along one cog at a time.
The Vitznau – Rigi Kulm cog railway
When the railway opened in the year 1871 it was the first one in Europe! Today, it still has 17 genuine historical cog railway pieces of equipment. Among them are two coal-fired steam engines. I was interested to read the other day that Switzerland has the most cog railways per square kilometer of any country in the world.
Right on, we’re also a nation of cog railways!
After the little boy in Walter had oohed and aahed to his heart’s content over the steam engine – they even let him play at engineer for a moment – we can resume our hike from Rigi Kaltbad. But now all that remains is to decide… which way?
The Way of Natural Treasures
Once more we pulled out the hiker’s map to study all the options. In the end, we decided on the Way of Natural Treasures. It leads from Rigi Kaltbad first along the former Scheidegg railway’s right-of-way to Rigi First.
From there it continues via Felsenweg(! i.e. rock trail, see picture below) to Unterstetten, from where a short uphill climb takes you to the Seeweg, before trekking over the Glettialp and then downhill all the way in direction Hinterbergen.
Here, too, the views are fabulous! And the many flowers make simply super photo subjects :-)
Hinterbergen is located at 1,100 MASL on the southside of the Rigi. This is where it gets adventurous!
That’s because from here the little cable car will take us back to Vitznau. The cab accommodates only four passengers. In good weather and for groups, the mountain station has an operator to run it. At all other times, there is a ticket machine for self-service…
Details on the Natural Treasures Trail
Route: Rigi Kaltbad – First – Felsenweg – Unterstetten – Seeweg – Glettialp – Hinterbergen
Vertical distance: 100 m uphill / 450 m downhill
Profile: Simple mountain hike
Time required: ca. 2.5 hours
Prices: Cable car Vitznau Hinterbergen (Adults): one-way: CHF 8.- /round trip CHF 16.-. Cash only!
For more information, check out the Rigi website.
It was gorgeous! Rigi, we will definitely be back! Maybe in winter? For the colder times of the year, there are also sure to be some really beautiful winter wandering routes.
About the giant Swiss flag on the Rigi Massif
Each summer, the biggest Swiss flag in central Switzerland flies over Vitznau! It was hoisted in the year 2000 on the initiative of the Vitznau Tourism Office on the occasion of the Swiss National Day celebrating the country’s origin on August 1, 1291. The 25 x 25 meter flag weighs in at ca. 750 kg and hangs from a large outcropping near Steigelfadbalm-Dossen.