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The Many Ways to Scale Pikes Peak

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So you’ve heard about Pikes Peak, and you want to get to the top before the droves of wildflower hikers start filling the trails? Great idea! We’d like to help you on that quest. There are a number of exciting ways to reach the summit of Pikes Peak, and they don’t all involve being in terrific hiking shape or hauling camping gear. We’ve got the Broadmoor Manitou Pikes Peak Cog Railway, as well as van, bus or jeep tours that travel Pikes Peak Highway.

To begin, we’ll take a ride on the Broadmoor Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway, the highest cog railway in the world. The old reliable railway has been climbing Pikes Peak since 1891, offering visitors incredible views of the mountain from the rails ever since. Along the way, it was closed, but only temporarily, for a $100 million renovation and resumed service in Spring of 2021 with nine miles of newly constructed track and refurbished Swiss cog rail cars. As you rise, expect to catch a glimpse of the beautiful reservoirs nestled among the peaks of the Front Range.

Many of the Bristlecone pines that you’ll along the route are some of the oldest living things on Earth, estimated to be more than 2,000 years old. The track takes you through Pike National Forest, along Ruxton Creek, by Diamond Rock, within the steep crags of Englemann Canyon, past stacked boulder formations, by a striking waterfall, and through Deer Park. Eventually, as you climb above the timberline, your views grow to include more sky and more mountain. Wildlife like elk, deer, bighorn sheep, and yellow-bellied marmots become easier to spot.

But how did this legendary Pikes Peak train came to take visitors like you to the top of “America’s Mountain”? Well, one of the tourists who visited the Pikes Peak region in the late 1880s was Zalmon Simmons, inventor and founder of the Simmons Beautyrest Mattress Company. Mr. Simmons rode to the summit of Pikes Peak on a mule. The arduous, two-day trip on the mule was the only way to reach the top in those days, so while Mr. Simmons was awed by the scenery, he determined that the views should be experienced in a more civilized and comfortable manner. Thus, was born the railway. In 1889, The Broadmoor Manitou and Pike's Peak Railway Company was founded and track construction began. This was no easy feat as six workers died in blasting and construction accidents and they only made 25 cents an hour, at best. Two years later, on the afternoon of June 30th, 1891, the first passenger Pikes Peak train, carrying a church choir from Denver, made it to the summit for the first time. Spencer Penrose, the owner of The Broadmoor Hotel, acquired the Railway in 1925.

Before moving on to another form of transportation, let’s pause to admire the view!

On the clearest days, you can see five states– Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Kansas– and even the curvature of the earth fading into the distance. It’s an unforgettable vista; no surprise really, that some call it the “gateway to heaven” and others, “America’s Mountain.”

On to the bus! Or a van? Or maybe a jeep! Adventure Out West offers tours for individuals and groups. Guests can choose from Jeep, Hummer or van tours, each holding up to six passengers. The touring outfit advertises two morning departures at 7:55 and 8:25 am as well as custom tours. Price per person includes the tour, all fees for the highway, free parking in Manitou Springs, wool lap blankets and refreshments. Visit their website for booking!

Rocky Mountain Ride is ideal for large families with smaller vans accommodating up to eight passengers and larger vans seating up to 12. These shuttles provide transportation for roundtrip sightseers and one-way trips down the mountain for hikers. Tours include gate fees. Reservations can be made two weeks prior to departure by visiting the website.

Yet another way to climb to the summit, Buggy Tours, LLC invites riders to enjoy the scenery in their comfy jeeps. In addition to snacks and drinks, your knowledgable jeep driver will share interesting history, fun facts, and nature notes as you go. Drivers make plenty of stops along the way to let you get out, stretch, take pictures, and look at scenic views of Pikes Peak, Crystal Reservoir, and more. Visit their website for more. Pikes Peak entrance fee included in their rate.

Another jeep outfit, Mountain Jeep Tours, offers personalized tours beginning and ending in Manitou Springs. Enjoy several stops at points of interest for pictures and to soak in the views. Once at the summit, take in the unforgettable views, world-famous donuts and peruse the souvenir shop before heading back down the mountain. Visit their website for all the details!

And finally, there’s On-Road Tours with the Polaris Slingshot, a vehicle made available from Great Outdoors Adventures in Woodland Park. Visit their website to learn how you can rent one and take your tour off-road!

All of these options, including your own vehicle, if you so choose, follow the Pikes Peak Highway. The 19-mile paved toll road to the summit of Pikes Peak was built in 1915. The winding road– with so many turns you’ll lose track– is the perfect scenic drive, offering views of lakes, mountains, wildlife, and the surrounding area ultimately leading to the storied summit of Pikes Peak. A spectacle in itself, it’s not surprising that the highway hosts the annual Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, which sees professional drivers race to the summit during the second oldest motorsports race in America. Of course, every other day of the year, speed limits apply.

It would be our pleasure to help you plan your visit to the mountain, whichever mode of transportation feels right. Stay the night with us at Cheyenne Mountain Resort, and stay tuned to future blogs for details about taking the trek on foot. Happy climbing!