One of the nice excursions out of town when you're visiting Lucerne is a nature hike along the face of a cliff, and it's easy. Starting with boat ride to Bürgenstock then a funicular ride up the hill for some hiking through the forest.
If you're on your way to Mount Pilatus for an excursion you can make this easy stop along the way. You'll find the boat ride gives scenic vistas of mountains all around Lake Lucerne and it just takes thirty-five minutes to get there.
The boats also have food-service, some with an elaborate lunch at the restaurant. Hop off at the Bürgenstock dock. You can use one ticket that will take you all the way to Pilatus and get off partway here at Bürgenstock and then get back on the boat and continue to Pilatus later.
You'll need to purchase a ticket for the funicular lift which you can do at the office on the dock. The sign on the dock says Kehrsiten-Bürgenstock.
You ride this funky, old-fashion funicular to the top, and notice the open air balcony. It's the original railcar, the oldest funicular in Switzerland, first opened in 1888, reaching maximum a gradient angle of 58°. It's pulled up the steep hill by cables with automatic electric propulsion.
Upon reaching the top you can take a lovely nature hike following the signs to the cliff walk. This is a level path with sweeping views across the lake and straight down the rock face of the mountain looking down about 1000 meters.
In summary, you go up the hill by funicular then you walk along the cliffside trail, from the Bürgenstock resort over to the elevator, along the face of a vertical thousand-meter high cliff with beautiful views out across Lake Lucerne. This cliff path was built between 1900 and 1905 and its legendary. Its name is the Felsenweg and it's actually part of a slightly longer trail system.
You could keep going and walk all the way around the Bürgenstock mountain and that would take you about two hours, or do the easy short hike. Up ahead you'll find the elevator will lift you to the top of the mountain.
The trail is quite level with the change in elevation of just about 100 meters along its course and at some point you could take a little shortcut up a staircase or do the loop switchback trail. It's even accessible for baby carriages and wheelchairs, so you don't need any fancy climbing gear to enjoy this experience, and yet you get that robust feeling of an adventure, and being out in nature on the edge, at the top of this steep cliff.
Although this trail is well known, especially among the Swiss it really does not draw a lot of tourists because it slightly out of the way. So it's a great opportunity for the visitor to Lucerne who's spending a few days there and wants to do something a little bit different, enjoying this perfect nature hike.
After walking several hundred meters you arrive at a delightful short-cut for going to the top -- the highest, public, external elevator in Europe and fastest in the world, just takes fifty seconds to go up 152 meters, and provides a double thrill of quickly speeding skyward surrounded by the spectacular view. But it's not free, you pay a small amount for the ride. It's called the Hammetschwand lift and was first built in 1905. Now the elevator is open during the season, from early May until the end of October and the hours are 9:30in the morning until 5:30 in the afternoon. At the top you’re at an elevation of 1132 meters.
At the top you can relax and enjoy the views, sit at the outdoor cafe and have a drink, or you can have a meal in the Taverne 1879. They're doing some farming up here the old-fashioned way with a large hand scythe, keep the weeds down.
A series of short hiking trails continues through the forest, very easy to walk on. They are either paved or they have a smooth gravel surface and the gradient is really not steep at all. It's very pleasant walking in the shade of the tall trees of the forest.
It's big enough to give you a feeling of adventure but small enough that you will not get lost, a little disoriented perhaps, but there are signposts to help you find your way. Elevation is just over a thousand feet high and there's a plateau that features a 9-hole golf course. Bürgenstock has always been popular holiday center, with luxury hotels that were first built from 1872.
In recent years an amazing transformation of the hotel facilities has taken place with construction of three new ultra luxury properties. There is the five-star Bürgenstock Hotel Superior. And there is the Waldhotel for healthy living, which has 160 guestrooms and features spa, and professional team with medical care, and healthy living facilities.
And then there is the reconstruction of the four-star Palace Hotel which was first built in 1906, and all of its historical value has been retained during the renovation, bringing it right up to date.
When finished with your visit, if you're not spending the night in one of those super-luxury properties, you take the same funicular back down the hill to the boat dock and resume your journey.
When this funicular first opened in 1888 it was water powered, filling its water tank to make the car heavy, so gravity would pull it down while it pulled up the other lighter car by cable. And at the bottom, the water was emptied out and pumped back up the hill to the other car.
When done with Bürgenstock you could take a boat back to Lucerne or better yet, continue on to Pilatus. It's another fun boat ride over to Alpnachstad, then up to Pilatus by rack rail, and down by cable car back to Lucerne.