Driving Up Pikes Peak Highway in Colorado
Dream about driving up Pikes Peak Highway? One of the highest roads of the USA? Pikes Peak Highway in Colorado offers breathtaking and thrilling emotions. How to prepare for this adventure? Is driving up Pikes Peak dangerous? What to expect on the road? How does it cost? What are the other ways to get to Pikes Peak Summit? Check our detailed Guide to Pikes Peak Highway.This article may contain affiliate / compensated links. For full information, please see our disclaimer here.
Where is Pikes Peak?
Pikes Peak Highway is located close to Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs in El Paso County, Colorado. On the US-24 highway, it runs from Cascade to the summit at an altitude of 14,115 feet (4,302 m). The driving up Pikes Peak is breathtaking, so it’s worth adding this place to the Colorado itinerary. Check out our ready-to-go Colorado road trip itinerary.
Directions to Pike’s Peak
The entrance to the Pikes Peak Highway is located West of Colorado Springs in Cascade. Follow these directions or enter 5089 Pikes Peak Highway, Cascade, CO 80809 into your GPS or Phone. You can make this trip on your own, and we share all our tips to help you prepare for this adventure. Or, you can book Private Tour to Pikes Peak with the Garden of Gods. Another option is to take a cog train to the Pikes Peak summit. If you prefer to get there on tour or train, make your Pikes Peak reservations in advance. But, most of all, we focus in this article on how to organize a Pikes Peak summit drive on your own. So follow our tips.
Facts about Pikes Peak
- The Pikes Peak Highway is a 19-mile (31 km) toll road.
- It runs from Cascade to the summit of Pikes Peak, at an altitude of 14,115 feet (4,302 m).
- The Pikes Peak Highway has 156 turns and climbs 6,715 feet from the entrance of the highway.
- The Pikes Peak Highway was constructed in 1915.
- It was financed by Spencer Penrose at a cost of $500,000.
- Since 1916 on the Pikes Peak Highway, an annual automobile and motorcycle race called the Pikes Peak International Hillclimb are organized.
- Since 2010 is also organized another race – the Pikes Peak Cycling Hill Climb.
Colorado is a state that delights with its picturesque roads winding through the mountains. Pikes Peak Highway is unique as it rises to 14,115 feet. But if you love scenic drives, check out our article about driving the Million Dollar Highway in Colorado, which is also a fantastic adventure.
Why is Pikes Peak Called America’s Mountain?
Pikes Peak rising to 14,115 feet, is among more than 50 “Fourteeners” in Colorado. What makes this mountain special is that it is easily accessible to the general public. What’s more, you can even be driving up Pikes Peak summit!
So, as a “Fourteener,” which means mountains that rise above 14,000 ft (4,267 meters) above sea level, it’s pretty easy to get to the top. Due to this, Pikes Peak is the most visited mountain in North America. It’s the 2nd most visited mountain in the world behind Mount Fuji.
The mountain was important for indigenous people. The Ute communities called the region home and referred to themselves as Tabeguache, or “People of Sun Mountain.” The name Pikes Peak was given to this place in honor of American explorer Zebulon Pike in 1890.
But why is Pikes Peak called America’s Mountain?
The American professor and songwriter Katharine Lee Bates took in the views from the top of Pikes Peak a few years later. The breathtaking view inspired her to write the song “America the Beautiful”. The first draft of “America the Beautiful” was down in a notebook during the summer of 1893, during which Bates spent teaching English at Colorado College in Colorado Springs. The song was published in 1910. Her final expanded version was written in 1913 and became one of America’s most popular and patriotic pieces of music.
On November 11, 1918, a battalion of the 26th Infantry Division of the US Army (the Yankee Division) sang “America the Beautiful” upon hearing the announcement of the Armistice.
Can you drive up Pikes Peak?
Yes! It’s an amazing and thrilling experience to driving up Pikes Peak. The most important thing is knowing that Pikes Peak is one of the only mountains you can drive to the summit.
Pikes Peak Highway is considered one of the most beautiful highways in the United States. So it’s worth adding it to your must-do list during your Colorado road trip.
Hiking over 14,000 feet requires experience and good physical condition, even though the trail is not very difficult.
So, driving up Pikes Peak is a great idea if you are traveling with kids or older people, lack hiking form, or have no experience with that altitude.
Driving Pikes Peak Highway is also the best idea if you have just a half-day to visit the area. Pikes Peaks Scenic Drive is one of the top things to do when visiting Colorado.
What are the other ways to get to Pikes Peak Summit?
You have a few options to get to Pikes Peak summit, and we described all of them for you. So, you can choose what suits you best.
- you can be driving up Pikes Peak
- or you can take the Cog Railway to the top of Pikes Peak
- it’s also possible to take a guided tour to the Pikes Peak summit
- and you can hike to the summit of Pikes Peak
First, we provide details and valuable tips on driving to the top of Pikes Peak by car.
How much does it cost to drive up Pikes Peak?
Pike’s Peak Highway is a toll road. Pikes Peak is not a national park, so the national park passes cannot be used.
But the prices are affordable, and it’s truly worth it to drive up to the summit.
It’s also worth using the Pikes Peak coupon on the official page to save a bit of money on your tickets. You can pay for a drive also at Pikes Peak Highway Entrance.
From May 1 to November 30, it cost $15 per person for Adults (16 and over) and $5 per child (6 to 15). With the official web coupon, you will get $2 off.
It’s also possible to take Carload Discount Rate (Up to 5 passengers). It’s $50 per car.
From December 1 to April 30, it cost $10 per person for Adults (16 and over) and $5 per child (6 to 15). The carload Discount Rate (Up to 5 passengers) is $35 per car.
Pikes Peak Operating Hours
Pikes Peak Highway is open year-round, weather permitting. How to check if Pikes Peak is open? The best idea is to call to check if it’s open, especially in the winter months from November through March. Call 719-385-7325 and select option 1 for current road conditions. Or check it on the official page.
Operating Hours from Friday before Memorial Day to Labor Day are:
- Uphill Gates Open – 7:30 am
- Uphill Gates Close – 6:00 pm
- Pikes Peak Summit Closes – 7:00 pm
- Downhill Gates Close – 8:00 pm
Pikes Peak Operating Hours from Tuesday after Labor Day to September 30 are:
- Uphill Gates Open – 7:30 am
- Uphill Gates Close – 5:00 pm
- Pikes Peak Summit Closes – 6:00 pm
- Downhill Gates Close – 7:00 pm
Pikes Peak Operating Hours from October 1 to Thursday before Memorial Day
- Uphill Gates Open – 9:00 am
- Uphill Gates Close – 3:00 pm
- Pikes Peak Summit Closes – 4:00 pm
- Downhill Gates Close – 5:00 pm
How long does it take to drive up Pikes Peak?
Pikes Peak summit drive is an exciting trip. Reserve at least 2-4 hours for the trip. The drive up Pikes Peak will take you an hour to one and a half. The downhill ride will be faster. With no stops, it is about 30 minutes downhill. But give yourself time, especially at the beginning of the road, to get used to the altitude. Besides, the views are so beautiful that it’s a pity to rush. It’s worth spending some time at the Pikes Peak summit. Not every day is the opportunity to enter the 14,115 feet (4,302 m).
Is driving up Pikes Peak dangerous?
People often ask us: If Pikes Peak Highway is safe? Can anyone drive up Pikes Peak? Is driving up Pikes Peak dangerous?
In our opinion Pikes Peak Highway is safe, and driving up Pikes Peak is not dangerous if you are careful, obey traffic regulations, drive slowly, and are careful on bends. The Pikes Peak Highway is totally paved and wide enough. What’s more, there are lots of established pull-offs. So, you can pull over and take a break, enjoying the views.
The road to the summit is very steep. On the 19 miles long is over 156 turns. The average gradient is 6.70%. But it’s not scary at all. It’s a breathtaking road.
The Pikes Peak Highway is open year-round if weather permits. So, if there is a snowstorm, or it’s too slippery, or there are other possibilities of danger on the road, it might be closed. So, before you go, check on the official website if the Pikes Peak Highway is open.
Call 719-385-7325 and press 1 twice. They will tell you about the weather/ road conditions.
Driving Pikes Peak is exciting and easily accessible, but before you go, check all our tips to prepare for this fabulous mountain driving adventure.
But the drive is not recommended for infants under the age of six months or anyone with a history of cardiac or respiratory problems.
Driving up Pikes Peak Tips
- Before you drive, check if your brakes are in good condition.
- Fill up your fuel tank before your trip. Have a minimum of a ½ tank of fuel. The Pikes Peak Highway trip to go and back is only 39 miles, but you will use a lot of gas. The closest gas station you will find is Manitou Springs.
- Be prepared for altitude sickness. Take plenty of water and remember to stay hydrated. Just a few days before the planned trip to Colorado, you should be well-hydrated and drink electrolytes. Due to the significant altitude, the headache can be excruciating for you, especially during the first few days of your Colorado road trip. Altitude sickness is pretty common in this area. You are driving up an altitude of 14,115 feet (4,302 m). So, be prepared for it. You can feel dizzy or lightheaded. Stop in all designated places on the way and get out of the car to get used to the heights. If the symptoms of altitude sickness are very strong, drive to the lower elevation.
- Drive following the road traffic regulations. The speed limit is 25mph unless otherwise posted. Uphill traffic has the right-of-way at all times.
- Stop only at designated stopping areas. Take your time on the stops, rest a little, take pictures and enjoy the views. It will help you get used to the altitude.
- Never pass other vehicles, especially on the turns.
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How To Dress For The Driving Up Pikes Peak?
Dress in layers. As altitude increases, the temperature drops. The Pikes Peak summit is, on average, 30 degrees colder than the temperature at the gate to the highway. Depending on the season, it can get chilly or even icy at the Pikes Peak summit. There are frequent breaks in the weather. Get something warm and rainproof. At the top, gloves and a hat or a windproof bandana will be useful.
During the summer months, from June through August, the average high temperature on the Pikes Peak summit high is 45°F, while the average lows are 30°F. At the same time in Colorado Springs, the average temperature is 80-90°F. So, be prepared for large temperature fluctuations.
But also pack sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat. Even in winter you can get sunbathing in the strong sun. In addition, snow reflects light, so the glasses protect your eyesight. It’s over 300 days of sunshine in Pikes Peak. Remember to stay hydrated, and drink water with electrolytes or electrolytes drinks.
Pikes Peak Summit Shuttle
From Mile 16 is a free shuttle bus to the summit. It is also a great option for those who want to drive Pikes Peak but want to avoid the gnarliest switchbacks near the top.
Pikes Peak Cog Railway
The Pikes Peak Cog Railway is also a popular way to get up to the summit for people who don’t want to drive or love railway driving. The Pikes Peak Cog Railway has been in operation since 1891 and is the highest-cog railway in the world. It’s about a four-hour experience. The round trip is about three hours (one hour up, 40 minutes at the summit, and one hour and 10 minutes back down to the Depot). Return Standard Admission Ticket for Adults starts from $58. But check the actual rates and book your ride on the official website. In the summer season, it is worth booking tickets in advance.
Guided tour to the Pikes Peak Summit
A great idea to get to the summit is also a guided tour. It’s the best option if you have limited time to visit the area and not experience enough for driving up mountains.
Half-Day Pikes Peak Jeep Tour has really affordable price. They use modern Jeeps, which are comfortable with modern amenities. Experienced guides tell you a lot about the area. You will have a lot of stops on the way to take amazing photos and enjoy views. It’s also enough time to visit the summit.
Another option is to combine two main attractions in the area and book a Private Garden of the Gods and Pikes Peak Tour. It’s a guided tour at an affordable price. Details about Garden of the Gods, photos, and tips you can check in our separate post.
Hiking Up Pikes Peak
Experienced hikers can, of course, ascend the summit of Pikes Peaks. But prepare yourself for this hike. Check our Day Hiking Packing List before you hit the trail. The Pikes Peak hike is 13 miles (21 km) each way with a vertical climb of 7,400 feet to the 14,114 feet summit. Trailhead starts from Barrs Trail near Manitou Springs. Don’t forget to pack Topographic Hiking Map for this adventure.
Biking Up Pikes Peak
It is also possible to get to the top by bike. But due to the hefty car traffic on this road, take special care. Be sure your breaks are in good condition.
What To See and Do On The Driving Up Pikes Peak?
Pikes Peak Highway offers stunning views. So it’s worth stopping on the way (only at designed areas) and enjoy the views.
The best stops on the way to the Pikes Peak Summit are
- Crystal Reservoir Visitor Center offers dramatic views of the Crystal River dam. What’s more, there is a picnic area, restaurant, and souvenir shop. It’s also possible to rent a gear for exploring deeper in Pikes Peak State Park if you have more time.
- Half Way Picnic Area offers great views and it’s the perfect place for a stop and rest. There are a number of picnic spots here, each with its own Hibachi grill.
- Pikes Peak Ski Area was closed in 1984, but backcountry skiing is still available. But the ski lifts won’t take you back up to the top anymore. The Ski resort in Pikes Peak State Park is worth a stop anyway.
- Glen Cove Inn is found at mile marker 13, about halfway up the mountain. Here you can find restrooms and a nice sit-down area with food.
- Devil’s Playground offers stunning views if you hike up the short path to the large rocks at the top of the hill. You can continue up around the bend for some fabulous views of the Pikes Peak Highway.
- Pikes Peak Summit is your last stop on the Pikes Peak Highway. Enjoy the view from the top of 14,115 feet (4,302 m). It’s worth stopping in the brand-new Pikes Peak Summit House Visitor Center and eating a delicious donut.
Where to stay near Pikes Peak?
The best option is to stay in Colorado Springs, which offers a wide selection of accommodations for any budget. Below you will find the best deals from Colorado Springs.
I appreciate all the interesting facts and trivia I’ve learned from this post. The photos are simply magnificent. It proves to us how nature can amaze and inspire us. Such a comprehensive guide you’ve put together!
I will definitely ensure to take that shuttle to Pikes peak summit. Its lovelythat they have free shuttles. The mountain looks amazing and its awesome that the roads are constructed at that height. I have never been to Colorado before but will surely add Pikes Peak Highway to my list. I would love to see those snow capped mountains.
Wow! What a challenging and adventurous drive up the mountain! I would love to do this. That image showing views from the top is simply stunning. I would love to sit on top and enjoy the views. The railway route also may be a good idea for a different experience. I have not been to Colorado yet, but keeping this in mind for sure. Great blog post!:-)
I sure hope that border restrictions and pandemic state let us head home from the west coast and stop in Colorado. We would definitely love to drive the Pikes Peak Highway. Hopefully our timing would have snow on the mountains but have roads that are still safe to drive. I am sure the views from the summit would be stunning at all times of year. A great way to spend a half day stop.
I’d love to drive up Pikes Peak and to the summit. The views along the way and from the top surely look amazing in your photos. I can already imagine sitting there and take in the beautiful natural scenery. Taking the cog railway sounds interesting too. Thanks for all the tips and info.
I just recently learned about this road that I had never heard before. Looks like a beautiful place with amazing views! I would definitely like to drive it up and maybe do a little hike too. All though I get altitude sickness easily and going high up always makes me nervous.
Driving in Pikes peak highway seems like driving in Indian Himalayas. Beautiful pictures! On the another note, it reminds me that I need to go back to the mountains asap 🙂
I remember visiting Colorado Springs and going to the top of Pikes Pikes as a child and have wanted to return for years, this reminds me why. I did not know it inspired the song “America the Beautiful” or is America’s mountain, love that. Cog trains are so much fun, I need to makes this happen again.
There is so much good information in this post! I’m glad there is a shuttle for those who maybe don’t want to drive all the way up themselves. I also like your tip about dressing in layers as I’m sure the temperatures change a lot.
Wow – this is actually how I’ve imagined Colorado. However, in your pictures, it looks even more beautiful. Those mountains at the horizon are just so majestic. I still need to visit this part of the US.
We drove up another fourteener Mt. Evans nearer Denver. I would have loved to do this because it is America’s Mountain…what inspired America, the Beautiful.
The scenery on this drive is absolutely beautiful. I have only been up to Colorado once, but it was during the Summer. After seeing all of the snow I would love to get the opportunity to visit in the Winter! I for one could not be driving, I get too nervous driving up in the mountains!
It was a very nice introduction article, you explained it in every detail.