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Drive Up the Pikes Peak Highway

Pikes Peak Highway

The Pikes Peak Highway showcases breathtaking scenery along the 19-mile trip to the summit.  The road is asphalt all the way to the top.  Before you take the drive up the Pikes Peak Highway, be sure to check the road conditions by calling 719-385-7325.  They will tell you the weather/ road conditions.  You should also know how to recognize the symptoms of altitude sickness and drink plenty of water before you go!

Pikes Peak, aptly nicknamed “America’s Mountain,” is one of Colorado’s most famous 14ers.  It reaches up to an elevation of 14,115 feet above the sea level, and it is located near Colorado Springs in El Paso County. Along your journey to the summit, you’ll encounter some of the most breathtaking scenery in the world! You will switchback through a high alpine environment – taking in the immense beauty of the landscape, skies, and rocky formations that will engulf you.

This road is open year-round, weather permitting, but it can be closed anytime when the access is not cleared of snow. The road to reach the summit was built in 1915, and it runs from Cascade all the way to the top. Over 500,000 travelers reach the summit every year by the Pikes Peak Highway. Pikes Peak is the most visited mountain in North America, and it is the second most visited mountain in the world behind only Mount Fuji in Japan. It forms an incredible western backdrop for Colorado Springs and the Garden of the Gods (one of the best places to hike in the Springs).

Pikes Peak Highway Switchbacks
Pikes Peak Highway Switchbacks

Pikes Peak Highway Highlights

  • Big Foot Crossing sign at mile 3
  • Crystal Creek Reservoir parking at mile 6
  • Crystal Creek Visitor’s Center near mile 6.5
  • Best place to take a photo of Pikes Peak between miles 7-8
  • Halfway Picnic Ground between miles 9-10
  • Glen Cove Ski Area between miles 11-12
  • Krummholz zone (krummholz is German for “crooked wood”) is located between miles 13-14
  • Devil’s Playground at mile 16
  • Bottomless Pit pullout at mile 17 provides stunning views down the mountain
  • Pull off at mile 18 often provides viewing opportunities of Colorado’s State Mammal, the Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep
  • Summit at mile 19!

Originally called “El Capitan” by Spanish settlers, the mountain was renamed Pikes Peak after Zebulon Pike, an early, famous explorer who led an expedition to southern Colorado in 1806. It’s designated as a National Historic Landmark.

Due to its unique location and the climb in elevation over 7,000 feet, it is essential to be prepared. Older adults, people with known health conditions, and young children should consult with a doctor before making the journey.

The drive is something you simply cannot forget!  There are innumerable photo opportunities – so be sure to grab your camera!  And definitely be prepared to face cold and wind, even on hot summer days.  Just because it might be 90 degrees in Colorado Springs in the middle of July, it doesn’t mean you’ll have anywhere close to those conditions on the mountain.  You should also protect yourself against Colorado’s extreme sun.

The road’s winding design, providing stunning panoramic views, is very winding and fun for a leisurely ride.  Built in 1915, this winding road is perfect for scenic drives, offering visitors views of lakes, mountains, wildlife, and the surrounding area. There is a fee to travel the road, and all fees are posted here and regularly updated.

Pikes Peak Highway Tips

  • The 39-mile round trip to the summit takes about two hours, not including time you spend at the stops along the way.
  • The speed limit on the highway is 25 mph.
  • All vehicles should have at least a half tank of gas.
  • Uphill traffic has the right-of-way at all times.
  • Do not pass other vehicles when going around corners.
  • Watch for maintenance equipment on the road.
  • When stopping, use the parking areas provided. If you must stop on the roadway, choose a straight section so your vehicle is visible to the other motorists.
  • If your engine begins to labor on steeper grades, shift to a lower gear to maintain speed and engine cooling. Shift an automatic transmission manually to stay in a lower gear.
  • When you reach the summit, run your engine at fast idle for a few minutes to dissipate engine heat.
  • On the way down, use your vehicle’s lowest gear to allow the engine to brake your vehicle. Above all, don’t ride your brakes as this will cause them to overheat and possibly fail.
Pikes Peak Highway Views
Pikes Peak Highway Views

Getting to the Pikes Peak Highway

1. From Denver International Airport (DEN):

Exit the airport on Pena Blvd. Take E-470 South (toll road) for about 34 miles. Then exit onto I-25 Southbound to Colorado Springs. In approximately 55 miles, take Exit #141 for US-24/West Cimarron St. Continue west on US 24 for about 9.5 miles.

2. From Colorado Springs Airport (COS):

Exit the Airport on Milton Proby Parkway/Drennan Road. After approximately 4 miles, turn left on SE Academy Blvd/CO-83. In approximately 1.8 miles, merge onto I-25 North and continue for approximately 5.7 miles. Take Exit #141 for US-24/West Cimarron St. and continue west on US 24 for about 9.5 miles.

Josh T

Josh is a native son and big fan of pack burro racing. He thru-hiked the Colorado Trail, loves running and biking, and is passionate about sharing his favorite journeys and experiences with others. You can typically find Josh out exploring the less beaten paths under Colorado’s sunny skies.

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