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  • Brian Childress

Pikes Peak, Colorado

Updated: Jul 25

Pikes Peak is the highest summit of the southern Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, in North America. The ultra-prominent 14,115-foot fourteener is located in Pike National Forest, 12 miles west of downtown Colorado Springs, Colorado. The mountain is named in honor of American explorer Zebulon Pike (though he was unable to reach the summit). The summit is higher than any point in the United States east of its longitude.


There are several visitor centers on Pikes Peak, some with a gift shop and restaurant. These centers are located at the 6-mile and 12-mile markers of the toll road, plus one at the summit itself. Along with other food, the Summit House sells special high altitude doughnuts, frying up to 700 per hour.


There are several ways to ascend the mountain. The Manitou and Pike's Peak Railway, the world's highest cog railroad, operated from Manitou Springs to the summit, conditions permitting but closed in 2018. While the cog railroad is closed for refurbishing between 2017 and 2021, and a temporary shuttle system has taken part of its place, a number of outfitters have stepped in to provide transportation up the mountain.


Road vehicles can be driven to the summit via the Pikes Peak Highway, a 19 mile road that starts a few miles up Ute Pass at Cascade. The road has a series of switchbacks, treacherous at high speed, called "The W's" for their shape on the northwest side of the mountain. The road is maintained by the city of Colorado Springs as a toll road. A project to pave the remainder of the road was completed on October 1, 2011. The Highway is famous worldwide for the annual Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, a motor race held since 1916.


The most popular hiking route to the top is called Barr Trail, which approaches the summit from the east. The trailhead is just past the cog railway depot in Manitou Springs. Visitors can walk, hike, or bike the trail. Although the Barr Trail is rated only Class 1, it is a long and arduous hike with nearly 8,000 feet of elevation gain, and a 13 mile trip one-way. The Pikes Peak Marathon, a trail race held since 1956, is a round trip between the trailhead and the Pikes Peak. Taking on this hike should be considered carefully and carrying water and oxygen is a must.


Wildlife to expect include those animals and birds that frequent the sub-alpine zone such as chipmunks, snowshoe hares, pine squirrels, several varieties of woodpeckers, warblers, grosbeaks and crossbills. Occasionally, you might also see some mule deer or rocky mountain bighorn sheep or even a black bear.


Our experience: we decided to drive to the top because we were not acclimated sufficiently to the altitude. Even with driving, we carried oxygen containers to be safe. We drove to the top in October and found the roadways clear and the scenery spectacular. However, please ensure you have good brakes, sufficient fuel, and drive slowly as there are many switchbacks. Always check the weather conditions before attempting to visit Pikes Peak. For weather conditions, please call (719) 385-7325.


At the top we found the wind incredibly strong and parking was limited. The visitor center had plenty of souvenirs, snacks to include their specialty donuts. The bathrooms at the top were clean and the customer service was good. If you are visiting Colorado Springs, this location is a must-see.


Park location and contact:


Phone: 1(800) - 525 - 2250

Web page here Contributor: Wikipedia





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