Coming in at 14,115 Pikes Peak may not be the tallest mountain in the United States. However, it is by far the most visited mountain in the US. In fact, it is the second most visited mountain in the world right behind Mount Fuji in Japan. We recently had the opportunity to spend a week in Divide Colorado. Where we had a view of the Peak right out our front window. Being able to see the mountain so well we knew we had to visit the mountain to see it up close and personal.
Pike Peak has many names throughout its lifetime. The native Americans that rise inhabited the area first referred to the mountain as Tava the Ute word for sun. In the 1800s the Arapaho people arrived in Colorado and referred to the mountain as Heey-otoyoo meaning Long Mountain. Then when the Spanish explorers arrived in the area they named began to refer to the mountain as El Capitan. Which means The Leader.
It was not until 1806 that the mountain was given a name close to the name it carries today. American Explorer Zebulon Pike named the mountain Highest Peak. Zebulon attempted to climb to the top of the mountain and failed. The Mountain later become commonly known as Pike’s Highest Peak. An American explorer named Stephen Harriman Long renamed the mountain James Peak. This was to honor Edwin James. James climbed to the summit in 1820. Finally, the mountain was renamed to the name we know today Pikes Peak. This name change took place in 1890.
In July 1893 Katharine Lee Bates wrote the song “America the Beautiful” after having admired the view from the tops of Pikes Peak. Today a plaque commemorating the words to the song sits upon the summit of the mountain. From 1939 to 1984 the mountain was home to a ski resort. In 1961 the uppermost portion of Pike’s Peak, above 14,000 feet, became a National Historic Landmark.
It was common for the early settlers of the area to ascend the peak by foot or burro. It was not until 1887 that a road of sorts was built. The road allowed a people to ascend the mountain by wagon instead of a donkey. In 1891 the Cog Railway opened offering another option to reach the summit. Along with those routes the Barr Trail allowed visitors a free way to access the summit. The remainder of the road to the summit was finished being paved in 2011.
Driving Up The Mountain
Today only two ways to the top remain the Barr Trail and the 19-mile toll road. The cog railroad closed this year, but there are hopes to reopen at a later time. We, of course, decided to drive up the mountain and the experience was amazing. The road is maintained by the city of Colorado Springs. We visited the mountain during Early December. Many side roads and yards were slick and had some snow on them. The road to pikes peak was open, well about 13 miles of the road were. The road was closed up higher due to snow.
We were very impressed by just how well maintained the road was. We do not encounter any situations while traveling the road that made us nervous. The best part was all the pull-offs that offered spectacular views of the peak and the surrounding mountain ranges. It is amazing just how many great things you can see while just driving up the road.
The drive is supposed to take about two hours, but we would recommend planning for more time. This is because you are definitely going to want to stop and take pictures. Plus you almost have to visit at least one of the multiple gifts shops located along the road. There are also a few restaurants located in the gift shop areas. You can also pack lunch to have a nice picnic overlooking the beautiful peaks of the Rockies.
The Amazing View
So why do so many people want to visit Pikes Peak? The amazing views of course! Sadly we did not get to travel to the summit of the mountain on the day we visited. Due to the snow, they had closed the last few miles of the highway. So we can not speak to what the view from the true summit is like. Though from the pictures we have seen it does look absolutely stunning.
We did make it to over 12,000 feet of elevation though. Let me just say that view was breathtaking enough on its own. From the place where we had to stop we were able to look up at the summit and look down towards Colorado Springs. It was an experience like nothing we had ever had before. We hope to be able to return one day and visit the summit.
While the view from the top is great. That is not the only view along the way that will put you in awe. From several locations, you can view Crystal Reservoir, a lake that the road to the summit runs beside. Another great view is near the start/end of the road. A small pull off gives a great view of Ute Pass. If you are on Pikes Peak highway then this is the road you originally came in on. We cannot mention every amazing view along this route. If we did this article would be endless and we would still probably leave on out. So to find out about them all you will just have to visit the peak yourself.
Other Notable Things
Before embarking on the drive there are a few things you need to know. First of all, do not worry about the vehicle you are driving. If the road is open you are going to be fine. We visited in in December and the road was in excellent driving conditions. With that being said like any road you can make this road very dangerous. The road has many sharp and blind curves so speeding is definitely a bad idea. You will also want to use a low gear when deciding the mountain. This will help to not ride your breaks the whole way down the mountain.
The drive is not free. This may come as a surprise to some, but the road is a toll road. At the time we visited it was ten dollars per person plus tax. Throughout the year the price changes due to demand. We would have paid pretty much whatever they wanted, well within reason that is. It is definitely worth the charge.
Finally, no matter what time of year you visit take a jacket. The temperature at the summit is normally far colder than the temperature experiences in town. For instance, the temperature when we started was near 30 degrees Fahrenheit. When we made it as far as we could go the temperature was 2 degrees Fahrenheit. We were told it was -14 with the windchill. That was not even at the summit! I cannot imagine how cold it must have been at the very top of the mountain.
Our Final Thoughts
This is an easy one IT IS AWESOME!!! We really had a great time visiting Pikes Peak. We would recommend it to anyone no matter what they are like. It is extremely easy to explore and really does not require you to be in great shape. In fact, you really do not even have to get out of the car to have a great experience. Even if you do not normally get really into nature seeing this amazing thing God created will put you in awe.
You will never be able to understand the magnitude of Pike Peak unless you see it for yourself. So if you have the opportunity to visit Pikes Peak you need to take it! To learn more about Pike’s Peak you can visit the official website here.
Thanks For Reading
Thank you for taking the time to read this article. We really can not recommend it enough and we already miss not being able to see first thing every morning. If you have been to Pike’s Peak please tell us about your experience in the comments below. Be sure to check us out on social media to always keep up with all of our adventures! Thanks again for reading have a great rest of your day and God Bless!