The day my friends and I hiked to the summit of Colorado’s famous Pikes Peak clouds were few and sunshine was plenty. The four of us laughed and talked the entire nearly 26-miles out and back.
No other Colorado fourteener has more ways to its summit than famous Pikes Peak in the southern Front Range. The Barr Trail, the Pikes Peak Highway and the comfortable Manitou and Pikes Peak Railway are ways to reach its 14,110-foot top and enjoy a hot cappuccino and expansive views.
In 1893, after reaching the summit of Pikes Peak, Katherine Lee Bates wrote the opening lines to “America the Beautiful.” Once you’ve hiked Pikes Peak, you’ll see it really is an inspirational place. But don’t expect to see, “….from sea to shining sea.”
Start the hike by 5 a.m. at the very latest on the Barr Trail traversing brutally steep grades flanked with numerous switchbacks for the first three miles. The route then crosses No Name Creek at 8,720 feet. A sign here indicates “Pikes Peak Summit 9.5, Barr Camp 3.5.” Reaching the camp, hikers can take a rest break, use the clean toilet facilities and visit the folks hosting the historic landmark.
Don’t dawdle, though. In the next few miles you’ll reach an A-Frame hut area. A couple of years earlier during that same hike my girlfriend pleaded, “Just leave me here. Puhleeze. Just leave me here.” The A-Frame hut area is a picturesque place and she was really dogging it and didn’t feel she could (or even wanted to) continue. Following the trail, your final challenge is the “16 Golden Stairs,” offering a few more switchbacks along a manageable incline.
Expect to see tourists at the summit who’ve gotten there via the Pikes Peak highway or the popular cog railroad. Smile inwardedly as you congratulate yourself for having reached it on foot. Head back down the way you came or opt to take the railway down. Reservations are required on the cog railway. Go to www.pikespeakcam.com for a view of Pikes Peak or visit www.cograilway.com for train information.
More hikes can be found in my book, “Just for Visitors – Where the locals hike” (Big Earth Publishing, $8.95). Consider subscribing to this page for weekly hiking suggestions (see tab, above). Contact me at [email protected]
To the trailhead: Hikers should plan on spending the night in Colorado Springs or Manitou Springs the night before to begin the trek at the base by 5 a.m. at the latest. From I-25, go west on Highway 24 four miles to the Manitou Ave. exit. Drive to Manitou Springs, looking for the cog railway sign, then turn left onto Ruxton Ave., driving almost a mile to the Cog Railway. Access the Barr Trail parking lot from a nearby short, steep road called Hydro Street.
Distance: 25.8 miles roundtrip
Elevation gain: 7,400 feet
Information: Pikes Peak, America’s Mountain 719-385-Peak.
Check out more trails in your area: icedjamb.com’s Trail Guide