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Colorado Color: Pikes Peak

Cascade, Colo. - Snow shines bright on the side of Pikes Peak on June 5, 2016. With temperatures barely reaching 40 degrees even in the summer, snow can be seen on the summit year round.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Amber Grimm)

Cascade, Colo. - Snow shines bright on the side of Pikes Peak on June 5, 2016. With temperatures barely reaching 40 degrees even in the summer, snow can be seen on the summit year round. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Amber Grimm)

Cascade, Colo. - The Pikes Peak Highway winds its way up the side of the mountain. The highway offers 19 miles of views of forests, valleys and lakes in the outlying areas of Colorado Springs and Manitou. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Amber Grimm)

Cascade, Colo. - The Pikes Peak Highway winds its way up the side of the mountain. The highway offers 19 miles of views of forests, valleys and lakes in the outlying areas of Colorado Springs and Manitou. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Amber Grimm)

Cascade, Colo. - The Manitou and Pikes Peak Railway, also known as the Cog Railway, arrives at the summit of Pikes Peak on June 5, 2016. The Cog offers passengers a leisurely three-hour round trip to the top of America’s Mountain. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Amber Grimm)

Cascade, Colo. - The Manitou and Pikes Peak Railway, also known as the Cog Railway, arrives at the summit of Pikes Peak on June 5, 2016. The Cog offers passengers a leisurely three-hour round trip to the top of America’s Mountain. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Amber Grimm)

CASCADE, Colo. -- A snowcapped peak towers above the surrounding landscapes of Colorado Springs, Manitou and Cascade. Known throughout the country as “America’s Mountain,” Pikes Peak is the first of the 54 Colorado fourteeners visitors see when traveling from the East.

Standing at 14,115 feet above sea level, it is an amazing place to visit. In fact according to the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce, Pikes Peak is the most heavily visited mountain in North America. Over 500,000 people visit year round, taking in the scenery and enjoying the different picnic areas, hiking trails and fishing opportunities.

There are several ways to take in Pikes Peak depending on the preferred mode of travel.

Barr Trail is the place to go for hiking adventures. Beginning at the base of Pikes Peak in Manitou Springs at a challenging 26-mile round trip, it is the longest of any trails to the top of Colorado’s highest mountains. With a 7,390 feet gain in altitude, it offers the greatest base-to-summit elevation gain in the state. The trail also has the distinct advantage of being the only way to reach the summit for free.

For a relaxing scenic way up, visitors can ride the Manitou and Pikes Peak Railway, also known as the Pikes Peak Cog Railway, a three-hour round trip available throughout the year, weather permitting. The Cog only goes all the way to the summit from March-December because the rest of the year the weather is too unpredictable to ensure passenger safety. To ride the Cog Railway March-December the price is $38 for adults and $20.50 for children ages 3-12, with winter rates of adults $29 and children $16.50. Tickets need to be reserved in advance.

There is also the winding drive of the Pikes Peak Highway, a 19-mile road into the clouds with the option of stopping at the Crystal Reservoir or Historic Glen Cove Inn on the way. The Pikes Peak Highway costs $12 for adults and $5 for children ages 6-15, a car load of up to five people is a flat fee of $40, with a discount of $2 per military ID.

Whichever path is taken, visitors to the mountain have the unique opportunity to travel through five of the eight distinct zones that exist in Colorado. The base is the Eastern Plains Zone and is comprised of grasslands that are home to many small animals like prairie dogs and rabbits.

The Foothills Zone is home to scrub oaks, junipers and sagebrush where animals like raccoons, skunks and deer reside. The Montane Zone has large forests of Douglas Fir and colorful aspen trees where deer, elk, bear and mountain lions make their homes. The Subalpine and Alpine zones are less hospitable, where spruce and fir only grow up to the 11,500 feet area before giving way to the limited life of the tundra. The mountain at this point becomes a windy, barren zone that is home to the state’s largest bighorn sheep herd.

Visitors should keep a wary eye out for Bigfoot on their way through each zone. There have been enough supposed sightings in the area to warrant the placement of ‘Bigfoot Crossing’ signs along the highway.

Travelers who make it all the way to the summit are greeted with a panoramic view of the Rocky Mountains. The vista inspired Katharine Lee Bates to write the poem “America the Beautiful,” which would later be put to music and turned into a famous patriotic song.

There are some highly advisable things adventurers should keep in mind to make their trip to the summit more enjoyable. First, if the plan is to take the highway, make sure to call the Rangers in advance to see if the road is open all the way to the top as weather conditions can increase safety concerns for travelers. Bring plenty of water to counteract the possible effects of the altitude such as headaches and increased difficulty breathing. It is also advisable to bring a jacket of some kind as even summer temperatures on the summit rarely go above 40 F.

Regardless of how visitors choose to take in the mountain, the views and experiences on the way to the summit make Pikes Peak, home of the purple mountains majesty, a must see part of Colorado Springs.



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