The most spectacular part of Colorado Springs is our mountain, Pikes Peak. The beauty and majesty of the jagged, purple rock face never cease to inspire. Visitors and locals alike flock to this towering, extraordinary rock every summer to take in the breathtaking views from the top.
What many people don’t realize is that there are several options for max enjoyment of America’s Mountain. Here are some of the many activities available to satisfy your craving for adventure and fun while you are visiting this stunning peak:
TRAVEL OPTIONS: There’s more than one way to the top of America’s Mountain to see the views that inspired the poem, “America The Beautiful”.
- COG Railway – Probably the best-known journey to the top of the mountain. Save your brakes and your gas and enjoy an undistracted trip up to the peak. UPDATE: Unfortunately, the cog railway is closed until 2021: Pikes Peak Cog railway
- Drive the highway – Take your time and enjoy the entire mountain when you do the driving. The highway is paved but steep and winding. Make sure you have a full tank of gas and that your brakes are in good order. There will be a checkpoint on your return trip down the mountain to ensure the safety and condition of your brakes.
- Bike – It is surprising the number of people who bike up the mountain! Are you in great shape and used to the altitude? Then go for it! Like the idea of biking on Pikes Peak but are not a fan of torture…. you might like the next option:
- Ride and Bike – Challenge Unlimited and Pikes Peak Mountain Bike Tours can host you on a bike tour of Pikes Peak. You have the option of taking the COG or riding in one of their vans to the top of the mountain and then biking all the way down. It is thrilling! I highly recommend it. For more information, contact the companies directly (links above).
- Hiking – Barr Trail is the famous trail that starts in Manitou Springs and ends at the Peak. This trail is not for the faint-of-heart. Please be sure you are physically able and properly prepared for such a hike. Also, plan ahead. You will need to start at the crack of dawn (literally) to reach the top before the afternoon storms. Once at the top, make sure you have plans for a ride to the bottom, or you have given yourself time to hike back down before nightfall. This “Complete Guide to Hiking Pikes Peak” could come in handy. If you are not up for Pikes Peak, but you like a challenge, enjoy climbing the famous Manitou Incline. (Tip instead of paying $10 for parking at the top, maybe park at the local park and use the free shuttle bus)
- Shuttle to the top – There is a new shuttle service starting soon:
CASUAL HIKING: There are numerous trails on the mountain that will dazzle your senses. Make sure to take your camera/phone and plenty of water. Also, hiking in the mountains requires attentiveness and preparedness. Weather changes rapidly, especially on Pikes Peak. The best time to do your hiking is in the morning. By 1 or 2 pm, the storm clouds start moving in and you can go from a hot, sunny day to a severe thunderstorm or snowstorm in a matter of minutes. Here is an article on one popular hike from Green Mountain Falls to North Catamount, Catamount Trail Article, and a Guide To Hiking Pikes Peak.
KAYAKING/FISHING: Who knew you could kayak at an elevation of over 9,000 feet?! The mountain holds three reservoirs for your fishing/kayaking pleasure. North and South Catamount reservoirs are best suited for kayaking. Calm waters and only the sound of fish jumping and the rustle of pine trees create a serene and relaxing ride. Take along a picnic and stop along the shoreline or one of the numerous coves for lunch. Life vests are required and swimming is forbidden, but fishing from your kayak or canoe is certainly an option!
EAT THE DONUTS: Prefer to enjoy the beauty of the Peak from the comfort of your car? Mosey on up the mountain at your pace, stop to absorb the views, shop at one of the gift shops, but don’t forget to eat the donuts! At the very top of Pikes Peak is the Summit Shop that serves its famous warm donuts and hot chocolate for those who make it to the top. A welcome treat in the chilly air at 14,110 feet! Check out what the Rambling Spoon had to say about Pikes Peak Donuts.
PICNIC: The first time I drove up the Peak I had no idea there were picnic areas. Pack a lunch, a ball or frisbee, and enjoy the afternoon listening to the crickets and smelling the pine!
CREEKSIDE DINING: After a full day of hiking, driving, kayaking, fishing – or whatever you choose to do on the mountain, make sure to stop at The Wines Of Colorado restaurant and dine by the creek. It’s located at the base of the mountain. The restaurant boasts great food and an even better atmosphere next to the creek. On your way out, grab a few bottles of Colorado Wine to take home (I recommend the Apple Wine from Holy Cross!).
NORTH POLE: Just prior to the toll gate at Pikes Peak is a splendid amusement park just for the little ones! Santa spends his off-season entertaining children at his summer workshop. There are plenty of rides for kids and adults to enjoy while taking in the lovely views of the mountains. Click here for rates and a list of rides.
ADDITIONAL HIKES ALONG PIKES PEAK
If you are looking for more adventure options with less tourist traffic, then visiting the south slope of Pikes Peak or hiking the Crags might be for you. These trails are not accessible from the Pikes Peak highway but are worth the visit and require a day in itself to enjoy each trail. I wrote a post about the fairly new South Slope recreation area and it will show you how to get there. More detailed information on the hike from the Crags through Devil’s Playground and to the summit can be found here.
Make the most of your day on Pikes Peak. There is so much to do! If you are new to the area, I hope this helps gives you a great option for fun. With ample opportunities to enjoy, sometimes it is hard to know where to start.
Have you visited Pikes Peak? What did you do while on American’s Mountain? We’d love to hear about it below!