Pikes Peak is the historic landmark mountain of the Colorado Rockies. The 14,115-foot peak lifts its massive shoulders high above Colorado Springs and dominates the Front Range. The mountain, called Tava by the Ute Indians, was named for explorer Lt. Zebulon Pike, who described it on an 1806 expedition and failed to climb it. Pikes Peak is the most visited high mountain in the United States, with over 600,000 visitors annually who climb to the summit on two feet, in autos, and up a cog railway. “America the Beautiful,” the unofficial anthem of the United States, was written in 1893 by Katharine Lee Bates after a summit visit.
- Pikes Peak is usually climbed by two different hiking routes. Most mountaineers follow the eight-mile Devils Playground Trail, which runs up the northwest flank of Pikes Peak. This good trail allows for a one-day ascent of the peak.
- The historic 13-mile-long Barr Trail ascends the almost 8,000-foot eastern slope, the greatest elevation rise from base to summit of any Colorado mountain. Hikers often spend the night at Barr Camp, a historic bunkhouse, before climbing to the summit the next day. This 26-mile round-trip hike makes Pikes one of Colorado’s easiest but longest 14er climbs.
- The Pikes Peak Marathon, held each August over two days, is a grueling endurance test that climbs 26 miles up and down Barr Trail from Manitou Springs. It’s a brutal race, with lots of wipe-outs, cuts, scrapes, and bruises.
- Rock climbers find vertical adventures on granite cliffs above timberline on Pikes Peak. These cliffs include The Pericle, Corinthian Column, and Bigger Bagger. Bouldering is at The Ragged Edge near Glen Cove. Ice climbers delight in the early season ice in couloirs on the peak’s North Face, including the Y-Couloir and the Railroad Tracks.
Recommended season: Year-round.
—Stewart M. Green