Rigi: Queen of the Mountains
Summer is definitely changing to autumn here in Zürich. There is a crispness to the air in the morning, yet still a bright blue sky and people hanging out by the lake, trying to take in every last ray of sun. With this beautiful fall weather on its way, it seems like a perfect time to go for a hike in the mountains.
I had heard about Rigi, “the Queen of the Mountains,” known for its breathtaking panoramic views over the Alps. So Olivier and I set off, hiking boots on and picnic packed, of course. Only what was supposed to be a beautiful day with moderately cool weather, turned out to be a real scorcher! As we made our way past farms with grazing cows, fields of wild flowers, up and around winding dirt paths, jumping over mini streams and rocks, I slowly peeled off layer by layer of clothing. We made it to the summit in record time, whizzing past those yellow signs with arrows to follow. But that was probably because I was sprinting towards every patch of shade we saw! We passed plenty of fellow hikers on the way up, of all ages, some with hiking poles but all with bottles of water.
We took a train from Zürich to Küssnacht am Rigi (about an hour long and CHF 40 roundtrip), then a short ride on a local bus to Weggis. A cable car then took us up to a point where we could start the hike. You’ll see the summit far, far off in the distance, and it’s fun to think that within just a few hours, you’ll be standing at that very spot. Even more, once you return back to the bottom at that same spot, be sure to turn around and say, “wow, we did all that?!” It can be a bit strenuous at times, pretty steep paths and rugged terrain, but also plenty of easier, flat trails to follow and catch your breath. It’s a great day’s activity either from Zürich or from Lucerne, and you can go at any pace that works for you. We reached the end of the hike after climbing a total of 800m in altitude (about half a mile) in under 2 hours, where you are rewarded with restaurants and children’s playgrounds, plenty of benches to sit and relax, have your picnic and take in the views.
But that’s not quite the summit yet…
Keep going up towards the antenna, where the real views are. The top of Rigi reaches 1798m (about 5900 feet) and divides the lakes of Lucerne and Zug. You’ll look out at the mountains that seem to be floating mid-air and you’ll gaze in awe at the vivid blue water below. There are numerous panels that indicate the names of the assorted mountains and lakes you’ll be looking out at. You’ll see people paragliding, or coming in off the train… There are so many ways to take advantage of Rigi, and all year round too. We may have to make another visit this winter, with all those extra layers and snow-shoes too!
And for sure another picnic! Wondering what was in our backpack? A fresh Paillasse Rustico baguette, my favorite from Steiner (they have a stand at Jelmoli and at the airport), cherry tomatoes, radishes with salted butter (using my technique of freezing it the night before we left), a few types of charcuterie, nectarines that ripened perfectly on our way up the mountain, strawberries and homemade chocolate chip cookies. That left room for a refreshing ice cream on our way back down before hitting the trails again. The Restaurant Bahnhöfli is worth a visit, if not just to walk inside and see the crazy ceiling covered in what seems like 100 cow bells of varying sizes. It’s quite a sight! And then off you go, the downhill hike always more fun than uphill!