Just outside of Colorado Springs, the towering Pikes Peak stands as an American icon. Katharine Lee Bates wrote the song “America the Beautiful” after surveying the great western lands from atop this very mountain, and today, visitors can enjoy the same view that inspired Bates, looking down across the rolling plains and jagged peaks of the Rocky Mountains.
Half a million people visit the summit of Pikes Peak each year, making it the most visited mountain peak in North America. Most visitors come on a day trip from nearby Colorado Springs or Denver and combine their visit to the famous fourteener with a stops at the artsy town of Manitou Springs and the stunning sandstone formations of the Garden of the Gods.
Things to Know Before You Go
Pikes Peak is a must-see for adventure travelers and first-time visitors.
Dress in warm layers—there’s a 30-degree temperature difference between the base and peak of the mountain.
Tickets for the Pikes Peak Cog Railway can sell out during high season, so it’s best to book ahead of time.
Drink lots of water to help prevent or minimize the effects of altitude sickness.
How to Get There
While 1850s gold miners once trekked to this area via covered wagon and made the climb by mule, modern visitors can enjoy the views while driving the scenic Pikes Peak Highway, which offers incredible views along the way to the 14,115-foot (4,302-meter) summit. Another popular way to reach the summit is aboard the historic Pikes Peak Cog Railway, the highest cog railway in the world. Active travelers might opt to make the climb on foot along the 13-mile (21-kilometer) Barr Trail.
When to Get There
Pikes Peak is open throughout the year, but the road can close in poor weather. To avoid crowds at this popular Colorado destination, plan to visit during the shoulder seasons (March through May and October through mid-December).
Avoiding Altitude Sickness
With a summit of over 14,000 feet, Pikes Peak can trigger symptoms of altitude sickness in some visitors. To minimize or even prevent these symptoms altogether, try to spend your first day in the area touring attractions below 7,000 feet and avoid strenuous exercise. Drink more water than usual, and reduce your intake of alcohol and salty foods.