Route 9: Section 6 – cycling Sarnen to Zug, Switzerland

May 2020

Highlights: Sarnen, Lucerne, Zug

Route 9: Section 6 (Sarnen 474m –Zug 415m )

Stats from SwitzerlandMobility.ch (http://www.schweizmobil.ch/en/cycling-in-switzerland/routes/route/etappe-01005.html): 61km long, height difference Sarnen  –Zug  420m (480m in the opposite direction). Their site has the full profile.

 Strava gave me a total of 69Km (which included some little detours)

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This Section also shares its path with 4:04 (Sarnen to Stansstad, though not exactly on the same tracks), and 3:03 (Stansstad to Lucerne)

But first I want to talk about my decision of finally traveling again by train and my EXPERIENCE IN THE TIME OF CORONAVIRUS:

With partial relaxation of Coronavirus measures and substantial decrease in Covid cases in Switzerland, I decided it was now somewhat safe to venture again on trains, though still properly masked (let’s cross fingers).

And indeed, the trains were virtually empty, populated by an average of 1 person every 8 seats, a far cry from the busy weekend coaches pre-Covid.

However, I was shocked to see that I was virtually the only person masked (apart from SBB personnel). I guess the few people who take the weekend trains now are the ones who think they are immune to the virus and don’t need protection (the majority of travelers were <50yo).  I hope that my wearing a mask is at least a reminder to fellow humans that the virus is still among us and is still a very real and serious threat.

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But enough on Coronavirus and back to today’s trip.

I started in the charming little village of Sarnen, on the homonymous lake in Canton Obwalden (see also 9:05). I have been aiming to bike this part for quite some time now but Sarnen sits practically in the heart of Switzerland and reaching it takes a few inconvenient train changes.

Left Sarnen, I moved north under unstable meteorological conditions. The day was cold and cloudy but with no rain.

From Sarnen to Alpnachersee (about 10km), 9:06 parallels Route 4:04, which runs about 300m inland on opposite sides of the main road. But 9:06 is a more beautiful alternative, going through a natural reserve along the Wichelsee first and then along the rumbling canal that connects this lake to the Alpnachersee.

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Here, at the southern tip of the homonymous lake, is Alpnach, where the world’s steepest cogwheel train (gradient of up to 48%) brings tourists to Mount Pilatus (2128 m) since the end of the 19th century (https://www.schweizmobil.ch/en/sehenswuerdigkeit-0247.html ). Today, in Corona times, the place is deserted. I will come back though to experience the train and the magnificent views of the lakes and Alps from atop Mount Pilatus.

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Pilatus Cogwheel Station

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Alpnachersee

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But on this trip I wasn’t even able to see the mountain from below. A thick blanket of clouds enveloped all the peaks around me. It certainly would be worth biking this region again on clear sky.

Reached the northern shores of Alpnachersee I detoured into Stansstad (Canton Nidwalden), which I had skipped on my previous trip of 3:03.

Stansstad sits at the isthmus between Alpnachersee and Vierwaldstättersee (branch of Lake Lucerne). Here, jutting on the lake, is a lonely well-preserved medieval tower (Schnitzturm) from the 13th century, remodeled and repurposed across the centuries.

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Another attraction of this region is the Hammetschwand elevator, the highest outdoor elevator in Europe, just next to the famous luxury Bürgenstock hotel atop the mountain overlooking the lake (https://www.buergenstock.ch/en/explore). These sites are quite off the bike path and would be better visited on a separate trip.

From Stansstad, the road and the surrounding environment become busier and residential. Coasting Lake Lucerne, one has a glimpse of this strangely shaped lake, with multiple arms and tall mountains, often likened to the Norwegian fjords.

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In Lucerne/Luzern (Canton Lucerne) I stopped briefly for a picnic lunch. I found an empty bench on one of the bridges crisscrossing the city and parked my bike so that nobody would pass brushing near me. In fact, this town was full of people walking through shops or sitting at outdoor cafes, and “social distance” was more in theory than in practice.

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Lucerne (https://www.schweizmobil.ch/en/ort-0188.html ) is an amazingly charming and picturesque town that deserves at least a couple of hours to bike through its impressive old squares and decorated old buildings. It is one of my favorite towns in Switzerland though this time I just zoomed through since I had visited it already on multiple occasions (see 3:02). And the bike Route passes right through its historic center so bikers get at least a flavor of this Swiss jewel.

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Lucerne

Then the path moves away from Lake Lucerne, following initially the Reuss River along a nice wooded trail always in view of rumbling waters.

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Emmen

After about 10km one leaves the river and enters a more residential yet peaceful road coasting the Zugersee until Zug.

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Cham on Zugersee

Water, water and more water. This is the beauty of Route 9, also named Lake Route because it follows all the major waterways of Switzerland.

I ended the trip in Zug (canton Zug) after almost 70km of fairly flat, at times natural terrain. Zug (https://www.zug-tourismus.ch/en/culture/sightseeing) sits on the homonymous lake from which , on clear days, one may be able to spot the peaks of Rigi, Pilatus, and Bürgenstock.

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ZUG

The town is famous throughout Switzerland for its extremely low taxes, and thus for welcoming many businesses. But it has also the attraction of its picturesque Old Town. While waiting for my train, I biked around the convoluted narrow alleys savoring the beauty of old Swiss German architecture.

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Zug was founded around 1200 by the Counts of Kyburg and like many other towns in Central Switzerland, it too passed from hand to hand along the centuries. The Lenzburgs, the Kyburgs and finally the Habsburgs, all resided at the charming white and red Zug Castle in the center of Old Zug, a cute but small building for nowadays standards.

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Zug Castle


The main landmark of Old Zug is its Clock Tower, the Zytturm, dating back to the 16th century. It is in fact an
astronomical clock with time, days, months and phases of the moon. In the past, the Tower housed also the prison and the watch guards, while its lower part functions to this day as an entryway into the old village through its arched base.

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Last but not least with this Section of Route 9 I also completed the only missing piece of Route 3 (Stansstad to Lucerne), which I had left unexplored last year due to time constraints and creeping darkness. And I also ticked off 4:04, in part done last year (with 3:03) and in part coinciding with this Section.

Links to Introduction and other Sections:

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