Barr Trail Hiking

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Summary

The 13-mile one-way hike to Pikes Peak via the Barr Trail is a scenic route that is one of the easier 14,000-foot hikes in Colorado, but it's still exposed to potentially dangerous weather and features quite a bit of mileage and elevation gain.

Written by

Deb Acord

Distance

26.0 miles

Destination Distance From Downtown

9.3 miles

Difficulty

5 of 5 diamonds

Time To Complete

8 hours

6-10 hours, depending on fitness level and pace.

Seasonality

All Seasons

Dog Friendly

Yes

Fees Permits

No

If camping, yes. If parking at the Barr Trail lot, it is $5 per 24 hours.

Land Website

Barr Trail Hiking

Review

Intro

Pikes Peak tops out at 14,115 feet. From Colorado Springs, its summit can be reached several ways - by car or bike via the Pikes Peak Highway, by train on the Pike’s Peak Cog Railway, or by foot on the Barr Trail. Barr is beloved by locals and explored by thousands of people each year. It stretches 13.3 miles one way with a 7,300-foot elevation gain and it takes hikers through three different ecosystems, offering sweeping views and an unforgettable hiking experience. It frequently appears on lists as one of the “easiest fourteeners,” “most dangerous climb,” and “most popular summit hike.” 

What Makes It Great

The dichotomy of “easiest” and “most dangerous” comes from several factors. First, the trail leading to the summit is wide and doesn’t require technical climbing skills, which makes it popular, but it also includes several miles of mountain-top trekking without cover, making hikers the targets of extreme weather and lightning storms. And don’t forget – it’s around 13 miles, one way. Even walking that far at sea level requires a certain level of fitness. This trail begins at about 7,000 feet and heads upwards into the clouds.

Barr Trail starts at a trailhead near downtown Manitou Springs. The first three miles are among the steepest, with sharp switchbacks zigzagging through pine and fir forests. After that, the trail levels a bit, winding through glittering aspens. About halfway up the mountain, Barr Camp offers a respite. This rustic cabin was built in the 1920's by the trail’s namesake, Fred Barr, and it offers a sun-drenched deck for sitting. Hikers can stay overnight in a hostel-like bunkroom or at nearby campsites, and the camp caretakers make breakfast and dinner every day for their guests. Reservations must be made if staying overnight, however. 

After Barr Camp, the trail gets steeper as it heads three more miles up to the treeline. When it leaves the trees, its switchbacks become longer, and the views more impressive. The final stretch of the trail features the “16 golden stairs,” a series of short switchbacks through a rocky scree field that mark the last half mile.

This trail can be attacked several different ways – uphill only, with an arranged ride waiting at the top; downhill only after a one-way ride on the Cog railway, or up and down. 

Who is Going to Love It

Anyone who appreciates a challenge loves Pikes Peak. It offers an unforgettable tour through ecosystems, unforgettable views, and the bragging rights held only by those who have climbed a fourteener. Only fit hikers who are accustomed with both elevation gain and the marathon-length mileage should consider doing this hike. 

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

The Barr Trailhead is in the town of Manitou Springs, west of Colorado Springs. From Colorado Springs, head west on Colorado Avenue, which turns into Manitou Avenue. Turn left at the roundabout in downtown Manitou and take Ruxton Avenue towards the Cog depot. About 200 yards past the depot, turn right on Hydro Street and climb to the trailhead parking area. 

Cost is $5 per 24 hours. This lot is often full; another option is a free shuttle run by the city from May to September – find it on El Paso Blvd., off Manitou Ave.

Location

Barr Trail Hiking

Hydro Street
Manitou Springs, CO, 80829
38.85571, -104.93354

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