The Pikes Peak Highway is a 19-mile paved road that ends on the summit of 14,115-foot Pikes Peak. The mountain is the most visited peak in North America and the second-most visited peak in the world (behind Mount Fuji in Japan). It ranks 31st on the list of Colorado’s 54 peaks over 14,000 feet in elevation, and is the easternmost peak in the Rocky Mountains.
What Makes It Great
In 1901, two intrepid car enthusiasts, C.A. Yont and W.B. Felker, were the first drivers to reach the summit on the carriage road. They drove a two-cylinder Locomobile Steamer. More than a century later, on Jan. 1, 2013, the paved road was finally open to cyclists. The road is challenging, and since its opening to bikes, more than 7,000 cyclists have attempted it. This route gives a whole new meaning to “workout.”
The Pikes Peak Highway includes 150 turns, and climbs more than 4,700 feet to 14,115 feet. Although the road reaches 19 miles from a tollgate just off U.S. Highway 24 in Cascade, cyclists are encouraged to start their ride to the summit at Crystal Reservoir Visitors Center, 12.5 miles below the summit. Riders must sign a user agreement and liability waiver at the tollgate, and they must pay the regular admission fee of $12.
The highway is paved all the way to the summit, and other than a short stretch of downhill around 13,000 feet, is relentlessly uphill. (Conversely, those who reach the summit and then ride back all the way downhill will encounter a short stretch of climbing just below the Crystal Reservoir.) The highway is open year-round, depending on the weather. For those who like competition, the Pikes Peak Cycling Hill Climb is an annual event which started in 2013. The 2014 event had added challenges – in August, riders were met with “typical” Pikes Peak weather – 40-m.p.h. winds and dense fog.
This isn’t just a great workout. There are great rest stops along the way. The North Slope Recreation Area features a small gift shop, nature trail and sweeping views of the summit of the peak you’re climbing; three lakes are open to fishing, and picnic areas and hiking trails are favored by hikers and mountain bikers.
Who is Going to Love It
The highway passes through four life zones – the foothills, montane, subalpine and alpine. That fact alone makes this a ride to remember.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
From I-25, take U.S. Highway 24 west to Cascade. At Cascade, turn left at the stoplight and follow the signs to the tollgate. The highway is open year-round, depending on weather conditions.
Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 1 through the Thursday before Memorial Day; 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. from the Friday before Memorial Day to Labor Day, and 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. from the Tuesday after Labor Day to Sept. 30.
Riders must ride as far to the right as possible and helmets are required.