Pikes Peak (14,110 ft)
14er Peak Rank #30/53
Pikes Peak is arguably the most famous of the Colorado 14ers – featured on 14ers Maps 2 of 16 – and the second most prominent peak in Colorado, rising dramatically 8,100 feet above nearby Colorado Springs. Not only can you drive to the summit of Pikes Peak (as with Mount Evans), but you can also take a train to the top (and, oh yes, you can hike up to the top too). In fact, every year there is a car and motorcycle race to the summit, over 12 miles and gaining more than 4700 feet in elevation, called the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb.
View of Pikes Peak, Colorado
Though earlier named Tava by the native Americans of the region (the Utes), then later El Capitan by Spanish explorers, Pikes Peak was renamed for Zebulon Pike, an American explorer who first saw the peak in 1806 – well before American settlers inhabited this part of the country. In November of that year, Pike and his expedition team tried to summit the mountain, but never succeeded due to inhospitable winter conditions and lack of supplies. He was captured by the Spanish authorities a few months later, finally released later that year and was eventually killed in the War of 1812 at age 34.
Though many native Americans likely climbed the mountain before European exploration and settlement, the first recorded European-American ascent of Pikes Peak was by botanist Edwin James in 1820. A gold rush in Colorado began in 1858 and many prospectors adopted the slogan Pikes Peak Or Bust when traveling west. The song America the Beautiful – written in 1893 – was inspired by the view from the summit of Pikes Peak.
The Pikes Peak Cog Railway was built in the late 1880s and the first trail to reach the summit did so in 1891, and the railway still operates year-round today.
For those wishing to hike up Pikes Peak, there are a variety of options from simply driving or taking the train all or part of the way up the road/railway to much longer routes from the east or west side of the mountain. From the east, many hikers choose to take the Barr Trail from the Barr Trailhead in Manitou Springs. This 12 mile route one-way from the trailhead to summit gains 7,400 ft in elevation, with a fee campground about halfway up. From the west side of the peak, the Crags Trailhead is the starting point for the Devil’s Playground Trail which joins the Pikes Peak Toll Road at 12,950′ after gaining 2,950 ft elevation over 4.2 miles from the trailhead. From there, a trail parallels the road 2.7 miles to the summit.
As always, high alpine environments can be dangerous, and even Pikes Peak is no exception. Be prepared, know your limitations, watch the weather, drink plenty of water, and as always don’t forget your 14ers Maps. Pikes Peak routes from the east side and west side are featured on Outdoor Trail Maps Colorado 14ers Series Map 2 of 16.
Directions to trailheads:
To access the Pikes Peak Toll Road, take US Hwy 24 from the I-25 (exit 141) or from Colorado Springs, watching out for the Pikes Peak Toll Road exit about 4 miles after passing by Manitou Springs. For the Barr Trail, take US Hwy 24 as above, but exit into Maintou Springs (US 24 Business – Manitou Avenue), make a left onto Ruxton Avenue in town and watch for trailhead directions and parking.
For access from the west side of Pikes Peak, take US Hwy 24 as above, but follow it 7 miles past Woodland Park to Divide, where you take CO Hwy 67 south 4.3 miles to County Rd 62, turn left and follow that for 3 miles to The Crags Trailhead.