Things to Do in Colorado - Pikes Peak
Pikes Peak, located in Pike National Forest in the Rocky Mountains, reaches an altitude of 14,110 feet. The entrance to the Pikes Peak Highway is only about 10-20 minutes from Colorado Springs, making it a great option for a day trip. Pikes Peak is open year-round, from 7:30 AM to 6:00 PM from late May to September, 7:30 AM to 5:00 PM throughout September, and 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM October through May. Although the mountain says it is open year round, be sure to check the Pikes Peak website for accurate hours, as well to be sure the mountain is not closed due to inclement weather.
Journey to the Summit House
On your way to the Summit House, there are "houses" to stop at around the 6 mile mark and the 12 mile mark. The "houses" are actually small gift shops, as well as places where you can use the restrooms, find a picnic table, or find a great place to take pictures.
6 Mile Marker Stop - Crystal Reservoir
At the first stop, around the 6 mile mark, there is a small gift shop located about a hundred feet from the banks of Crystal Reservoir. This first gift shop isn't anything too special, if I am going to be completely honest, but if this is your first time going up Pikes Peak, it is cool to grab a couple small souvenirs to document your trip.
The best thing about stopping at this first stop is Crystal Reservoir. You can walk the banks of the Reservoir, or even fish there. On a clear day, the scenery is absolutely breathtaking (see photo). It is also a good idea to stop and enjoy the scenery in order to give yourself some time to adjust to the altitude. Especially if you are not from Colorado, the altitude may be tough to handle.
12 Mile Marker Stop - Glen Cove Gift Shop
At around the 12 mile mark, there is another stop. This stop provides restrooms as well as another small gift shop. This gift shop, although small, holds a lot of history. The shop was originally the Glen Cove Inn, established in the late-19th century, and has since been reconstructed to be a gift shop.
You won't find a crystal clear reservoir at this stop, but the scenery is beautiful, nevertheless. You are surrounded by evergreen trees and the rising mountain. At this stop you will also find picnic tables where you can enjoy lunch, as well as the mountain.
This is not actually a stop, but there is a small pull-off area in order to get a better look at this very interesting area of the mountain. It is called Devil's Playground (see photo). It is called Devil's Playground because of the way lightning bounces off of the rocks during thunderstorms. The area is fenced off so you cannot actually go near the rocks, for obvious reasons, but the area is still very visible from behind the fence.
The scenery makes quite a change as you get near the 12,000 foot mark. You are going so high in altitude, you actually get above the timberline. The air is so thin, it is impossible, or very near impossible for trees to grow. It will look a little funny, actually, as you approach the timberline. You are used to seeing a countless number of trees as you make your way to the Summit, and with no warning, the trees stop.
At the very top of Pikes Peak, sits the Summit House, at an altitude of 14,100 feet. There are a number of things to do and see at the Summit. First of all, you are at the Summit of a 14,100 foot peak in the Rocky Mountains. Look around. 360 degrees of breathtaking views. From the Summit, you can clearly see a number of landmarks. You can see Crystal Reservoir, which you passed around mile 6. Most impressive may be the views of the Continental Divide. I could not believe how far you could see the first time I traveled up Pikes Peak. When we took pictures of the views and saw a vast stretch of peaks, I was surprised to find out that what we were seeing was actually the Continental Divide.
Also at the Summit is a small building. That small building is actually an old weather station. Now, it houses a webcam. This camera provides a real-time feed of the Pikes Peak Summit. If you are going to travel to the Summit, check out the feed in order to see the weather conditions.
Next to the observation deck is the Cog Railway tracks. The Cog Railway is one of the numerous ways you can make your way to the top of Pikes Peak. You can access the tracks from the back of the Summit House.
Finally, there is the Summit House. The Summit House is far larger than any of the other gift shops. Also unique about the Summit House is the cafe that is situated inside it. You cannot leave the Summit until you have ordered some donuts. No really, I am serious. These aren't just any donuts. These donuts can only be made at the Summit of Pikes Peak. Because of the altitude, baking is difficult due to the fact that dough is harder to rise. The Summit House uses special ingredients that will only work on the Summit. The donuts are a bit heavy and not as round and fluffy as normal donuts, but they are delicious. My wife and I each tried one, but did not leave without buying a half-dozen. Also great is their coffee mug deal. You pay a little extra for a cup of coffee, and it comes with a Pikes Peak mug describing the donuts. Well worth the extra money for this awesome souvenir.
As you make your way up the mountain, there is a variety of wildlife that you may be able to see. Most common are small animals such as fox, coyote, rabbits, squirrels, etc. As you move your way up the mountain, there is the chance of seeing deer, elk, and beavers. As you near the summit, the amount of mammals you may see diminishes. More common at the higher altitudes are birds, such as hawks, falcons, and eagles.
Although rare, you always run the risk of encountering larger animals when you are in the Rocky Mountains. Beware of bears and mountain lions.
Most rare of all is an animal that Pikes Peak warns visitors against. They even have a number of signs. Big Foot. Yup, Big Foot. The first time I drove up Pikes Peak I could not stop laughing at the fact that there was a sign for Big Foot Xing.
How to Get to Pikes Peak
Getting to Pikes Peak is pretty simple. You have to take the Pikes Peak Highway. In order to reach the Pikes Peak Highway from Colorado Springs, you will want to head West on Highway 24 until you reach Fountain Avenue. Upon exiting, follow Fountain Avenue and signs for Pikes Peak.
If you are coming from Denver, take I-25 South until you reach Highway 24 West. Once on Highway 24 West, you will exit at Fountain Avenue, just as you would if you were coming from Colorado Springs.
No matter where you are traveling from, be sure to research the best route, or use a GPS, in order to find the fastest and most accurate route for your specific needs.
If you would rather take the Cog Railway up the mountain, you can do so by catching the Cog in Manitou Springs, off Highway 24, at the bottom of the mountain. It is 3 hours round trip, including roughly 30 minutes spent at the top.
If you are feeling adventurous, you can always make the near 13 mile hike on Barr Trail that begins near the Cog Railway Depot in Manitou Springs.
What's best about Pikes Peak?
How Much Does Pikes Peaks Cost?
During the peak season (no pun intended) which is May through November the fee for an adult will be around $12, $5 for a child ages 6-15, or $40 per vehicle if you have 5 passengers or less. During the off-season, which is December through April, the prices are reduced to around $10 for adults, $4 for a child, or $35 per vehicle. Be sure to visit the Pikes Peak website for the most accurate pricing information. Also, there is a coupon available on the website for $2 off admission.
What to Bring to Pikes Peak
No matter what time of year you go to Pikes Peak, do yourself a favor and bring a jacket. Even though it may be 90 or 100 degrees (F) in Colorado Springs, it could still be 50 or 60 degrees (F) at the Summit. Besides temperature, the conditions could greatly vary. It may be sunny at the bottom, the 6 mile mark, and the 12 mile mark, but snowing at the Summit.
Additionally, you may find yourself wanting to bring sunglasses. Besides the sun reflecting of any remaining snow, the sun is exceptionally strong at these higher altitudes. No matter where I am in Colorado, I always find that I need my sunglasses.
Bring water. Besides the fact that water is good for you, drinking water at these higher altitudes will help fight off altitude sickness. When at higher altitudes, look out for headaches, nausea, dizziness, and/or dizziness. These may be signs of altitude sickness.
Enjoy Pikes Peak
If, like me, you are from a state that does not have mountains, be sure to really take the time to enjoy Pikes Peak and the Rocky Mountains. While I do love Rhode Island, I always wish I was able to take trips up a mountain whenever I wanted. Especially if you are only visiting, do not take your trip to Pikes Peak for granted.
DISCLAIMER: While I hope my blog helped you, you should not take my word as final authority, especially those involving prices, weather, etc. I take no responsibility for anything that may go wrong on your trip (although hopefully all will go well).