RIGI HOCHFLUE HIKE NEAR BRUNNEN, SWITZERLAND
Rigi Hochflue is an incredibly challenging hike up a very steep incline that leads you to a panoramic viewpoint, marked by a cross looking out over Vierwaldstattersee, which is the huge Lake Lucerne. The hike is not for the faint-hearted with a vertical ladder climb on the way up and a rocky descent on the way down.
Hike Duration: 5 hours
Hike Difficulty: Consistent steep climbs. Vertical ladder up rock-face (not hard but if you fall it won’t be pretty). The descent is with chains bolted in for hand-holds and steep rocks. Very steep decline. I would rate this with up there as very physically challenging and attack with caution
Hike Incline: Starting point at Goldau Arth: 510m – Rigi Hochflue height: 1698m
HOW TO GET TO RIGI HOCHFLUE
Mount Rigi ‘Queen of the Mountains’ is located in central Switzerland and can be reached by train in just under an hour or 40 minutes by car. The train station you need is Goldau-Arth where you will begin the hike (in Goldau town).
TRAILHEAD MAPS AND INSTRUCTIONS FOR RIGI HOCHFLUE
There are several ways to get to the Rigi Hochflue Viewpoint. It is possible to drive up part of the way or even take a cable car up to Rigi and avoid the massive incline. There are even multiple access points to Rigi Hochflue so you can climb up on multiple sides of the viewpoint.
I’m going to tell you how I did it and then make some alternate suggestions.
- Arrive at the town of Goldau (Goldau/Arth station)
- There are considerable signs in the town on the yellow placards and what you are looking for is Gatterlipass or Gatterli, which is the halfway point of the hike. If you can make it to Gatterlipass, which is a restaurant up in the mountains, it is signed from that point on for Rigi Hochflue, although there are also signs in the town for Rigi Hochflue.
- The best way to get you started is to head to the Wolf’s Den Cabin. If you follow your way to this cabin you will ultimately be on the right track and can follow the red and white ‘Wanderweg’ (trail) markers and the yellow signs to Gatterli and then to Rigi Hochflue. I’ve attached the Google Map directions to make sure you reach the cabin and then from this point on it is very well signed and you can also just make sure you more or less head towards Gatterlipass.
I’ve then created this map below that shows the way towards Gatterli Pass and to the Rigi Hochflue although. you will have signs pointing you in the right direction the whole way from the Wolfden’s Mountain Cabin to Gatterli Pass and then to Rigi Hochflue.
Once we made it to the top there are lots of signs pointing you wherever you need to go. You can descend with the following options:
- Return the same way you came back to Goldau (3.5 hours)
- Head down to Gersau (2 hours and 20 minutes)
- Head down to Brunnen (3 hours)
- There are some cable cars etc. in the area but I’m not sure how they are functioning and from exactly where you can get them so I will let you figure that out of you want to save your legs on the way down.
GOLDAU TOWN TO WOLFDEN’S CABIN
After arriving at Goldau station, we had little idea where to walk but quickly found a few of those fantastic yellow signs that are posted all over Switzerland. We were headed for Gatterlipass, where we knew there were signs to Rigi Hochflue. The trail took us on a paved road, in the middle of the rough Swiss sun for almost three kilometers past pastures and houses in the field. It was pretty but also steaming.
We continued our way to the edge of the forest until we reached the ‘Wolfden’s Cabin’ as I mentioned earlier in the instructions.
WOLFDEN’S CABIN TO GATTERLI PASS
Once you hit the cabin the trail immediately heads straight up into the mountain. There are few breaks in the intense incline although you are covered from the sun, which is about the only respite. There are genuinely sections of the trail that are 45-degree incline for 15-minutes straight. We were surprised by the intensity of the trail.
The beautiful moments were deep inside the forest where the trees were so dense we could hardly see out to the mountains in the distance.
Aside from the grand scale of the trees in the forest, the highlights were the free mountain raspberries we picked up as snacks along the way. They were plentiful and found throughout the hike. They proved to be a great rest stop for us at many moments. The other highlight was finding this strange, sleek, black lizard who crawled across our path.
After about an hour and a half, we emerged from the forest and back out into the open sun. We now had no coverage from the shade but beautiful views to the mountains and beyond. You can’t have it all! From this point, we followed the signs that led us through more pastures, cows, and fields full of flowers. The layers of mountains in the distance kept us entertained as we started to pray there was water available at Gatterlipass.
And we finally made it to Gatterlipass after about two or so hours. We were out of water but luckily there was a freshwater tap, albeit with the lowest water pressure in the world. It took about five minutes to fill a bottle but we were stoked to be able to replenish our supplies.
There is a restaurant at Gatterlipass but it wasn’t open on the day we arrived. For reference it was 11:30 am on a Tuesday so maybe it is only open on the weekends. Either way, we had packed some pretzels, honey, and snacks. While a coffee would have been great, we had sufficient stocks to make it through the day.
You can actually drive up to Gatterlipass somehow as we saw parked cars. That made us feel great as we sat dripping in sweat and tired from the crazy incline!
GATTERLIPASS TO RIGI HOCHFLUE HIKE
After drinking several liters of water and downing our pretzels we begrudgingly left the Gatterlipass restaurant and headed up the hill towards Rigi Hochflue. From here you have sufficient signage the whole way. All you do need to know is that at a certain point there are two Rigi Hochflue signs. One leads you to the vertical ladder and the other to the alternate path, which is 30 minutes longer. If you choose the short route with the vertical ladder you will now follow blue and white markers. Otherwise, keep following the classic red and white stripes on the trees and rocks.
On the way up to the ladder, you will come across a tree that will keep your spirits up!
The trail was genuinely steep now and took us quite a while to power up to the base of the wall where we encountered the vertical ladder. It wasn’t quite as dangerous as I thought it might be. It didn’t overhang a huge drop and had a base below it and was almost tucked in between a couple of boulders. If it was out on the edge of a huge drop I would be a little more intimidated.
Climbing up the ladder was one of my favorite parts of the whole hike as it honestly had some of the best views of the whole day.
Once we made it up to the ladder that was pretty much it. We had scaled the rocks and made it to the summit of Rigi Hochflue. The huge cross looked out over the Lucerne Lake and snow-capped mountains created the ultimate backdrop for the view. Mountains covered the horizon in all directions while lakes filled the valleys below. We were stunned at the beauty around us considering it was quite an off-beat hike!
I took a seat and enjoyed the view for a while before sending up the drone for an aerial perspective!
RIGI HOCHFLUE DOWN TO BRUNNEN OR GERSAU
Now that you have reached the summit you have to get down. We could choose either:
- The 2hr route to Gersau and catch a1 10-minute bus to Brunnen
- The 3-hr route down to Brunnen
- Return 4-hrs back to Goldau
We chose to head to Brunnen and actually cut out in between Brunnen and Gersau and caught the bus to Brunnen so we only took about 2-hours to get down.
The route down is very steep cutting its way through the rocks. Solid chains have been installed along the route, which made the journey much safer. We had to keep our eyes focused on the trail instead of being distracted by the epic views over the lake.
The descent was so steep that we all had sore quads when we finally emerged after a couple of hours at the edge of the forest. It was a physically demanding hike that put us through our paces. We emerged about 3km’s out of Brunnen, which meant we would have to catch a $5 bus to the train station in Brunnen because none of us wanted to do another 3km!
Luckily we emerged right next to the beautiful lake and there was no question, we needed to cool off. It was one of the most refreshing swims of my life and what a view!
We caught the bus back to Brunnen Train Station and then from there went back through Goldau and all then on to our transit home. It was a wonderful hike but I do only suggest this one if you want a challenge. It isn’t a comfortable hike but it was great fun!
BEST WAYS TO GET AROUND WITH TRANSPORT IN SWITZERLAND
In Switzerland, the most popular form of transport is the train (and sometimes bus). It always arrives on time, is comfortable, efficient and covers almost all parts of the country. It’s damn good and one of the best public transport systems in the world. But it’s not cheap. A one-way ticket for a 1.5-hour journey can quickly rise to 70 USD. The best option is to buy a 3-day, 8-day or 15-day pass with the Swiss Travel System Pass, which gives you unlimited train rides during that period. It will pay itself off very quickly and makes the train (and bus) travel very convenient without requiring you to buy a ticket each time. I used this myself and used the trains and buses for almost my whole time in Switzerland. To head to the page where you can book your Swiss Travel Pass online you can click HERE and select how many days you would like to purchase the pass for.
The other option (Which I also purchased) was the Swiss Half-Fare Card, which gives you half-price tickets on all transport including buses and trains. This ticket lasts for a month and is much cheaper than the full pass obviously but will pay itself off in a matter of a few days as we quickly found out! To visit the page where you can book your Swiss Half-Fare Card you can click HERE and select the date you want it to start.
The other option is renting a car. After our first few expensive train tickets, we started to think this might be the better option and to our surprise, the train can often be far more expensive than renting a car in Switzerland. For example one day we went from Zurich to hike Mount Pilatus and back to Zurich and our total train tickets for four people was $300 USD. The car rental per day was $90 USD. If you are in a group of two (definitely three) or more, I highly suggest renting a car if you are covering a lot of ground as it will give you scheduling freedom and likely be cheaper as we found.