The walk from Weggis up to Rigi Kulm was one of the must-do activities in the early days of tourism in Switzerland. Many notable visitors walked (or were carried up like Queen Victoria) up to spend the night in one the hotels that dotted the summit and watch the sun rise over the Alps. One of the highlights of Mark Twain’s A Tramp Abroad is his facial 3 day ascent of the Rigi and subsequent attempts to see the sunrise (it is well worth reading at least this section of the book).
There is a sign posted Mark Twain path with information boards along the way. I started on this, but appropriately enough I lost the route and ended up taking my own version instead.
Route: Weggis – Felsentor – Rigi Kaltbad – Rotstock – Rigi Kulm.
Length: 10.5km, + 1450m, -90m. Estimated time 4 hours 30 minutes.
Season: Spring to Autumn. Depending on the snow it might also be possible in winter.
Arrival/Departure: Boat from Lucerne to Weggis. Train from Rigi Kulm to Vitznau and boat back to Lucerne (or train down to Art-Goldau for some different views and more connection options).
Supplies: Restaurants and shops in Weggis and Rigi Kaltbad, various restaurants along the route.
Alternate routes/shortcuts: The cable car from Weggis to Rigi Kaltbad, or various stops along the route with the cogwheel train.
Exposure/Hazards: Very little to worry about. The path is never narrow or exposed, much of the climb is in forest, and there are various escape options thanks to the train.
Rigi is one of the most visited mountains in Switzerland, but between Weggis and Rigi Kaltbad I hardly saw anyone. From Kaltbad to the top it certainly got much busier.
Notes along the route
The boat ride to Weggis is as scenic a way to start a hike as you could ask for.
Historically travellers heading to Rigi in the 1800s were accosted by guides and people trying to sell them products or their service. Now this must be one of the richest places in the country with expensive looking villas and high end cars driving around.
From Weggis the path climbs slowly up and up through meadow and forest with the view getting more and more expansive as you get higher.
Rigi Kaltbad is a useful refuel point, but it isn’t very attractive (especially with the concrete block that is the spa hotel).
I apparently missed a sign at Rigi Kaltbad and just headed on the more direct route towards Rigi Kulm via Staffelhöhe rather than via First. I don’t think I missed out on much except more of the same views. The sub-peak at Rotstock took my interest and I made a small diversion up to it, this turned out to be well worth the trouble with the best views over Lake Lucerne that I got.
From Staffel it is a simple gravel road up to the summit (and giant communication tower) at Rigi Kulm.
The view from Rigi Kulm is certainly impressive, but I prefered Rotstock: it was much quieter and had a better view of Lake Lucerene.