Pikes Peak – America’s Mountain

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Base Camp – Manitou Springs

Over the summer we stayed in Manitou Springs so that we could visit Pikes Peak – America’s Mountain. Manitou Springs is a quirky little town nestled in Colorado Springs. We have visited the town twice, and have enjoyed ourselves immensely both times. As you might expect, the town features unique shops full of gift items, local art, and tons of cool mementos. In addition, they have a robust nightlife scene with plenty of dining and evening activities. Above all, most of the restaurants feature live music and outdoor seating with amazing rooftop views of the surrounding mountains.

 We stayed at Magnuson Hotel – Manitou Springs. The hotel was very clean in the lobby and pool area. There were restrictions on the pool due to COVID, so each family could sign up for a time slot. Things were pretty booked up despite the pandemic, so our appointment was the next morning. After unloading our bags into the hotel room, we traveled up the bustling main street in search of something for dinner. Because of COVID we opted to make this a quick grab-and-go meal and then we headed back to the hotel for the night.

The next morning, we enjoyed a quick breakfast because our hot tub and pool time was quickly approaching. Kiera had a blast showing off her gymnastics moves in the pool. This meant that Andy and I could enjoy time relaxing and watching Kiera’s performance. After our allotted time by the pool, we were relaxed and ready to go! We cleaned up, packed up, and got ready for our ascent. We hopped into the 4-Runner and headed towards Pikes Peak.

Helpful Hints – Preparing For Pikes Peak

  • Wear Sturdy Shoes! I recommend a pair of hiking boots that have good traction and grip. Shoes designed for climbing will serve you well in the rocky terrain. Avoid shoes with a flat sole. I wore a cute pair of slip-on shoes and Glen Cove taught me a lesson.
  • Bring Sunscreen. Because you are 14,115 feet above sea level, you are much closer to the sun. Even if there is a blizzard at the summit you are still that much closer to the sun and more likely to get sunburn
  • Bring a coat. I have been to the Summit twice during the month of July, and both times the temperature was below freezing and it was snowing on the summit.
  • Drink lots of water. No matter where you are, it is important to remember that you are in high desert. Because of this, you will want to stay hydrated. I recommend bringing along extra water for everyone in your vehicle in case there are any travel issues along the way.

The views along the highways in Manitou Springs are stunning. Because the roadway has plenty of twists and turns around natural rock formations, you get to see the landscape and mountain scenes from many different angles. The surroundings are a true wonder of their own, but we also enjoy pointing out the mountainside cabins along the way and daydreaming aloud about what the winter is like living in that cabin on the mountain.

Helpful Hints – Before The Park

  • The air is thinner at the summit. Therefore, it is not recommended for anyone under 6 months of age or anyone with a history of cardiac or respiratory problems to go to the summit.
  • CHECK YOUR GAS TANK!!!! The climb to the peak is a 38-mile trip, but it uses 86 miles of fuel. Make sure you fill your gas tank before reaching the park.
  • Stay hydrated! Double-check your water supply and make sure you have enough.
  • Plan for the trip to last 2-3 hours

Things To Do

Pikes Peak – America’s Mountain has many activities available. You may want to plan ahead though, because some of the activities are seasonal or require booking in advance. There are 20 points of interest along the journey to the summit, so there is sure to be something for every interest. The summit itself is an absolute must, so when you reach the gateway and receive your pamphlet, you will see all 20 points of interest marked A-T in red dots. You can also visit their website here. The website also has digital downloads and can provide you a few other pamphlets with facts and information.

Pikes Peak – Visiting Centers, Rest Stops, and Picnic Areas

There are 3 Visiting Centers along the journey to the summit. The first is Crystal Ridge (point E ). The second is Glen Cove (point K). Last but not least, the summit itself (point T). Each of the visiting centers offer a unique experience, so it is worthwhile to stop at all 3. Crystal Ridge sits along a lake and offers fishing, hiking and kayaking. Its also home to several Big Foot sightings. Glen Cove is at the timberline of the mountain. This stop is mandatory, as this is where the break checks occur on the descent. Glen Cove offers plenty of activities in nature while you wait for your brakes to cool if need be. Finally, there is the summit. This is not only the summit of Pikes Peak, but also where they keep the world famous Pikes Peak elevation donuts.

Rest areas are spaced so that one is at the bottom, one in the middle and the other at the summit. Each Visiting Center has a small café and gift shop. The gift shops all have the same novelty items and are priced the same as well. Each of the locations offer stunning mountain views, each with their own unique perspective of the mountain. In addition, other rest stop points include C and G. While they lack the café and gift shop, these locations do offer rest rooms, great views, and picnic areas.

Pikes Peak – Fishing, Hiking and Skiing

Between mile 6 and mile 8, you can stop and visit Crystal Lake, South Catamount Lake, and North Catamount Lake. We did not visit either of the Catamount lakes, but Crystal lake was a part of our journey. Fishing is available May through October, and requires a CO fishing license.

Pikes Peak Hill Climb begins at point of interest F. This point falls east of Crystal lake and west of South Catamount lake. If you intend to hike your way up the mountain this is your starting point (YES – It is on my bucket list!)

Cass & Kiera chillin’ with ‘Squatch

Bigfoot, Andy & Kiera

If you intend to stop and enjoy skiing on your way to the summit you can park at point of interest J. Pikes Peak skiing area is a little before mile 12 and is 10,600 ft. in elevation. If you are hitting the slopes, remember to stay hydrated. Have fun on the slopes!!

Devils Playground and Shuttle Service

If you’ve made it to Devils Playground, you’re 12,780 ft. in elevation. The views from this height are quite awe-inspiring, so we recommend stopping to see the view. Plus, it is highly likely that you will want to stretch your legs at this point! Try to plan your trip so that you will be reaching Devils Playground in the morning on later in afternoon. If you arrive in the afternoon, as we did, your views down the mountain will likely be obscured by clouds. And if you are particularly unlucky, as we were, there is a high likelihood of afternoon thunderstorms. 

The rocks that tower above the parking lot are a popular climbing attraction for visitors but is also a popular spot for lightening to strike during the afternoon thunderstorms. Park rangers will ask guest to come off of the rocks if danger levels are extremely high, but use your best judgement and follow any other posted rules if you visit the rocks

At Devils Playground you have the option to continue your journey in your own vehicle or to take the shuttle. Quite white-knuckled at this point, I was very happy to park the 4-Runner and finish the journey to the summit on the shuttle. After stretching our legs and seeing the spectacular views from Devils Playground, we jumped on one of the shuttles that depart every 5- 10 minutes. As expected, the shuttle drivers were super friendly and our driver was eager to talk about the mountains. He also had cool stories about points of interest remaining along the way to the summit and throughout the park.

Helpful Hints – Shuttle to Pikes Peak Summit

  • No pets on the shuttle
  • No bicycles on the shuttle
  • ADA Shuttles are available
  • You will be cold at Devils Playground and Summit – Bundle up!!

The Summit- 14,115 ft.

As expected, the Summit is the main attraction and the most popular tourist location at Pikes Peak – America’s Mountain. If you are cold and you didn’t bring enough warmies, go buy yourself a sweatshirt or a blanket in the gift shop. To stop her teeth from chattering, we ended up buying Kiera a blanket at the summit. She was convinced that I had lost my mind when I told her it snows at the summit, even in July. 

As we said before, the views are spectacular from the summit. But remember, you really want to see them in the morning hours before the clouds and storms move in. Going in the afternoon is risky because there is a greater chance of overcast or cloudy skies, which will lead to poor visibility. The summit is also where they make the elevation donuts. We got 6 to test the theory of taste at the top compared to the bottom. Overall since they were not smothered in chocolate Ki and I weren’t very impressed. Andy made up for our lack of interest on the remaining donuts by eating them all as we descended the mountain.

In May 2021 the Pikes Peak Summit Complex will look a lot different than it did when we visited in July. The new summit visit center will be an upgrade from the current Summit House because it will be much larger and have more observation decks. One new feature that we are excited about is the addition of a train that will take you from the base of the mountain all the way to the summit. While driving up the mountain is fun, but I prefer the option of sight seeing . Therefore, taking a train allows for plenty of sight-seeing for everyone, not just the passengers. It is also a far more environmentally friendly idea than individual drivers going up and down the mountain. I am sure all of the wildlife that calls Pikes Peak home will appreciate that!

Helpful Hints – Pikes Peak Summit

  • Visit during the morning hours for best visibility.
  • The air is thinner and that can make it more difficult to breath.
  • No smoking at the Summit.
  • Stay on designated paths.
  • Do not feed the wildlife.
  • Bundle up its cold!
  • Hydrate! (I say this a lot)

We personally cannot wait to repeat the experience and visit the summit again. We talk about our climb up Pikes peak often. Because we all have fond memories of our trips to CO, we regularly compare our experiences there to other trips. Also, Kiera is always excited to tell her friends about her mountain adventures. And we are not sure why, but Andy enjoys taking panoramic photos and telling his friends about the sights and experiences. Me personally, I love all of the above plus the added bonus of creating these awesome moments with my family. If you are planning to stay in Colorado Springs, Pikes Peak – America’s Mountain is totally 100% worth the trip! Trust me, you will not regret it!

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