Hiking The Mark Twain Trail – Weggis to Rigi Kulm

The Mark Twain trail is an 11 km long theme trail with an ascent of 1361 m that takes you from the lake shore in Weggis all the way up to the peak of Mount Rigi (Rigi Kulm). This path follows the trail taken by Mark Twain, humorously recounted in his book “A Tramp Abroad.” Mark Twain took three days to make his ascent, but we managed to do this hike in about 5 hours. Note: The trail description on the Rigi website says this is a “Medium” level hike, and from a technical point of view it is – it is a red-white mountain trail with no particularly dangerous areas and no need for special equipment (good hiking shoes and poles will do). But, with 1361 m of ascent, this trail took some physical stamina to complete. Happily, the views along the way were fantastic and this was a very worthwhile hike.

Detail Summary
Where:Weggis to Rigi Kulm
Canton Lucerne and Canton Schwyz, Switzerland
Train:Zürich HB -> Weggis, Dorfplatz – 1 hr 16 mins
Rigi Kulm – > Zurich HB – 1 hr 54 min
What:The Mark Twain Path – Weggis to Rigi Kulm

Yellow and Red and White trail markers
Weggis -> Rigi Kaltbad / Felsentor / First -> Rigi Kaltbad -> First -> Rigi Staffel -> Rigi Kulm
Skill:Difficult – About 5 hr 50 min

Length 11 km, Ascent 1361 m, Descent 28 m
Cost 2022:
Adult full-price ticket for Rigi Kulm to Goldau: 45 CHF.
Many discounts available to individual travelers including a 100% discount with SBB Day pass.

Additional Info

Getting There

This is a point-to-point hike, so best done with public transportation. The hike starts at the Weggis, Dorfplatz bus stop right on the shore of lake Lucerne. Because this hike makes the complete ascent from lake shore to the peak of Rigi, I wanted to touch the lake before we started the hike. This was a very regrettable decision as I slipped going down to the water and entirely soaked my left foot. Sigh.

Anyway, we found our trail sign (Rigi Kaltbad), and were on our way.

The Trail – Weggis to Felsentor

The trail starts by heading through town and then past the Weggis Gondalbahn station. If not everyone in your group is up for the hike, they can take the Gondolbahn from here and meet you in Kaltbad. For hikers, like us, the trail continues out of town and into the forest. You will be following the signs to Rigi Kaltbad. Note: At one intersection (Ober Säntiberg) the signs will point to Rigi Kaltbad in two directions, one saying 1 h 40 min and one saying 1 h 35 m. At this point be sure to take the path pointing in the shorter direction (1 hr 35 min) that also goes in the direction of Romiti and First.

The trail winds in and out of the forest, sometimes on the road and sometimes on dirt paths. Along the way, there are some fabulous views of the lake. The small church in the path in the picture below is the the Holy Cross Chapel (Kapelle Heiligkreuz). This the Mark Twain theme path, so along the way are several information signs about Mark Twain that include quotes. Here the quote was “It is easier for a cannibal to enter the Kingdom of heaven through the eye of a rich man’s needle than it is for any other foreigner to read the terrible german script.” Very relatable. If you’ve tried learning german, you know exactly what he means.

After passing the church, the path continued through the forest with more lovely views.

When we reached Felsentor, a Zen retreat with vegan cafe, we paused to enjoy the view but didn’t stop. It did look like a relaxing place for a drink of tea, though. Just past the retreat, is the Felsentor rock formation, which was very cool.

After passing through the Felsentor rock formation we continued on our way to Rigi Kaltbad.

The Trail – Felsentor to Rigi Kaltbad

The next part of the trail took us past the Romiti-Felsentor train stop. The trail then continues steeply up, often not too far from the tracks to Rigi Kaltbad.

When we reached Rigi Kaltbad, it was just past noon, and we were really ready for a lunch break. We decided to eat at Restaurant Alpina. We have eaten there before and they have good food at fair (for Switzerland) prices and a very lovely balcony.

After lunch, it was time to continue the hike to Rigi Kulm. The written directions said to follow the sign to Rigi Staffel but the map showed the trail going to First and then to Rigi Staffel. We decided to follow the map and so took the trail First.

The Trail – Rigi Kaltbad to First

The section of trail between Rigi Kaltbad and first is part of the Rigi Panorama Trail that we hiked in the winter. It is fairly flat, (which was a nice change after all the ascent to get to Rigi Kaltbad), and it has extremely beautiful panoramic views.

We we reached First, we passed by the First Hotel and began following the signs towards Rigi Staffel.

The Trail – First to Rigi Staffel with Detour to Rotstock

Even after taking a break for lunch, we were starting to get little tired. This was, as Mark Twain wrote, quite a long slog to get to the top.

But with the peak in view (first picture above), we were very motivated to keep going.

Detour to Rotstock

At the small hut in the first picture, we had the choice of continuing on the lower, flatter path towards Rigi Staffel or to take a small detour up to the Rotstock peak. My husband was not up for the detour, so he stayed on the lower path. I wanted to see the views from the peak, so I took the detour.

I think the detour was worth it. I absolutely loved the views from the Rotstock. Stunning!

The Trail – Rigi Staffel to Rigi Kulm

After the detour, I met up with the trail and my husband near the train tracks just before the Rigi Staffel train station. From here,it was the final climb up to the peak. We had done this part of the trail in the opposite direction in the winter, so it was fun to see it from this perspective in the summer.

When we reached the peak, I went up the radio tower to get the picture above. Also, next to the radio tower was the final sign for the Mark Twain trail, which had this quote, “It was a cloudy morning so we did not see the sun but we saw the wonderful effect of the morning daylight on the distant mountains and the numerous lakes. We were abundantly repaid for all our effort.”

It was afternoon for us, and the sun was shining. But, I couldn’t agree more. We were definitely abundantly repaid for all our effort.

Getting Back

Like Mark Twain, we took the easy way back down, that is, we took the train. We had some time before the next train, so we bought a cold drink at the self-service restaurant and relaxed on the balcony.

After one last look at the view, we boarded our train and headed home. This was a physically challenging hike, one a few years ago I couldn’t imagine being able to do. Not only was I able to do this hike, I actually enjoyed it! If you are up for it, I definitely recommend this hike.

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