Known as “America’s Mountain”, Pikes Peak features an impressive summit of 14,115 feet and plenty of activities to keep you entertained. Unlike many of Colorado’s 14ers, Pikes Peak is easy to access, and visitors can choose to reach the summit by car, train, bike, or foot.
In addition to the many methods to reach the summit, the mountain is home to a few other things to do and events, making it a great addition to any Colorado itinerary. What follows is our list of the best things to see and do on any visit to the Pikes Peak region, in no particular order;
Pikes Peak Summit Complex
Opened in June 2021, the newly constructed Pikes Peak Summit Visitor Center makes a worthy stop to all visits to the summit. With interpretive exhibits suited to all ages, a gift shop, and indoor and outdoor dining, visitors can enjoy the view from atop Pikes Peak in comfort. At the on-site restaurant, choose from a diverse menu that includes breakfast items, soups, sandwiches, and the famous Pikes Peak donuts.
In addition to being a beautiful addition to the summit, the visitor center was constructed with sustainability in mind. The building was designed to achieve LEED Silver certification, and it will likely be the first building in Colorado to achieve the Living Building Challenge.
Pikes Peak Highway
Constructed in 1915, the Pikes Peak Highway is a scenic toll road that brings visitors to within an easy walking distance of the summit of America’s Mountain. At 19 miles in length one-way, visitors should plan to spend about 2 hours on the round-trip journey, including plenty of time to stop for snacks, photos, and traffic.
The road is open year-round, and entry fees are charged per person, rather than per car.
At the top, enjoy 360° of Colorado and some say you can see clear east to Kansas. Stop by the newly constructed Summit Complex for a bite to eat, then head back down the mountain. On the descent, be sure to downshift to avoid overheating brakes, go slow, and don’t be afraid to pull over at any number of breathtaking overlooks to take a break or enjoy the view.
Pikes Peak Cog Railway
Departing year-round from nearby Manitou Springs, the Broadmoor Manitou & Pikes Peak Cog Railway travels 8.9 miles to the top of Pikes Peak. The trip takes 1 hour and 40 minutes each way, so visitors have plenty of time to relax and enjoy the views. Standard admission offers a fun experience, but visitors looking for the best views should splurge for the Engineer’s View, which provides a great seat next to the train’s engineer.
Reservations can be made online, by telephone, or at the depot, but the best prices are only available online. There’s no free parking nearby, but visitors can either use metered parking or pay to park in the on-site lot. While in Manitou Springs, consider exploring the rest of the small, eclectic town, including the famous Manitou Incline.
America’s Mountain is home to a number of events throughout the year, including the well-known Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. Founded in 1916, this 12.42-mile invitational race occurs each June and features world-class drivers competing to drive to the top of Pikes Peak. Visitors interested in this event should be sure to also stop by Fan Fest, a 10-block street party in Colorado Springs that occurs the Friday before the race.
Other popular events include the Broadmoor Cycle to the Summit and the Pikes Peak Marathon. Both of these require displays of impressive physical events as participants bike or run to the top of the mountain.
The Broadmoor Cycle to the Summit is a large bike race with groups including e-bikes, traditional bikes, tandems, and hand cycles. The course follows the Pikes Peak Highway, and it gains 4,786 feet across 12 miles.
Occurring each September, the Pikes Peak Marathon is a grueling race that brings participants from Manitou Springs to the top of Pikes Peak and back again. If the full marathon is too much, many choose instead to try their luck at the Pikes Peak Ascent, which ends at 13.3 miles at the summit of the mountain.
On December 31st at the stroke of midnight, you can also catch fireworks shot from the top of Pikes Peak. Since 1922 a group of mountaineers, part of The Pikes Peak AdAmAn Club, has braved the icy path of Barr Trail to keep this tradition alive.
Whether participating or spectating, the events at Pikes Peak can make a visit to this impressive site even more memorable and enjoyable.
North Slope Recreation Area
Home to three large reservoirs providing part of Colorado Springs’ drinking water, the North Slope Recreation Area is a perfect destination for outdoor activities of all kinds. Though swimming is not allowed in any of the three reservoirs, fishing and motorless boating are permitted.
Mountain bikers can enjoy about 12 miles of trails that include logging roads, singletrack, and a few sections of gravel. Options for hikers also abound, including the Catamount Trail, which is a 9-mile out-and-back with water views and ample opportunities for extensions.
Visitors must pay a small fee to access the park. Pets are permitted, but they must stay leashed and cannot enter the water.
Barr National Recreation Trail
Gaining 7,300 feet of elevation in less than 13 miles, the Barr Trail is probably the most difficult option for reaching the 14,115-foot summit of Pikes Peak. Starting in Manitou Springs, this intense trail rapidly gains elevation from the start.
Along the way, stop for a break at Barr Camp, a campground located at the halfway point. The final three miles of the trail are the most technical, and the decreased oxygen at elevation can make breathing difficult.
At the top, celebrate this impressive achievement at the Summit Complex with a donut or other snack. Before beginning their hike, visitors should always have a plan to leave the mountain safely. The toll road can close in bad weather, and rides back on the Cog Railway are not always available.
Start early to beat Colorado’s afternoon thunderstorms, and plan to spend around 8 hours to reach the summit.
Wildlife sightings are possible if you keep your eyes peeled. If you’re driving, this is better left for the passenger side and backseat drivers. One of the most notorious high-elevation wildlife you’ll see is bighorn sheep. The region is actually host to one of Colorado’s largest herds of bighorn sheep.
This native wildlife usually moves to the Pikes Peak region above 10,000 feet in the summer. And you’ll see them up to 14,000 feet, so hope to spot one at the summit. In the winter they move to lower elevations than 10,000 feet, although some will tough it out above this during the coldest times of year too.
Other Pikes Peak wildlife includes deer and elk, as well as the ever-so-mischievous marmots.
Those are among the top things to do on and near Pikes Peak. If you’re looking for a place to stay, consider the best hotels in Manitou Springs or Colorado Springs, as well as the great camping near Pikes Peak. Have a great visit to this beautiful area!