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Pikes Peak Cog Railway Travel Guide

Updated: Sep 27

Rising up above the Colorado prairie stands one of the state 14ers. A 14er is a peak over 14000’ which Colorado is famed for, and Pikes Peak is its most famous. Reaching 14115’ Pikes Peak is the most visited mountain in the USA and the second most visited in the World! (Mount Fuji being number one). The Peak has many hikers each year looking to bag another 14er on their bucket list. Driving is also an option with a road that’ll take you all the way to the car park and visitor center at the top. A much quicker, energy-efficient, and frankly cool way to summit this mountain is on the Cog Railway.

The Ute Native Americans called it “Sun Mountain Sitting Big”, which sums up the sheer scale of the rock. In the 1880s a man named Zalmon Simmons decided that he wanted to summit the mountain. This took him around 2 days to reach the summit on a mule. After reaching the peak he was in awe by the view and decided that everyone should have the opportunity to see it, so construction for a cog railway started in 1889. It was completed in 1891 and ran until 2018 when it was closed for 3 years of renovation. After re-opening with new tracks and trains sent from Switzerland, the railway continues to climb to the top. The current journey on the new trains takes approximately 3 hours round trip from base to peak. This gives you 45 minutes to take in the view as well as check out the visitor center before the whistle blows warning you to return to the train. Be sure to make it back on time or you’ll become a hiker!

The Pikes Peak visitor center is known for the world's only donuts made at 14,000 feet

Starting in Manitou Spring, the 9 miles of tracks see you gain just under 8000’ and I certainly felt it. Be aware of the elevation gain and the risk of altitude sickness even if you’re a fit and healthy individual. A lot of stores in the area supply mini oxygen bottles. I didn’t need to use any supplementary oxygen but, if you’re in any way concerned there’s no harm in bringing a bottle.

As it’s also colder the further up you go (around 2 degrees C per 1000’) you’ll need to be sure to bring the right clothing. We went in early April so we made sure to wrap up well!

Something I learned from my trip up the mountain was about the poem ‘America the Beautiful’. Written by Katherine Lee Bates from her trip up the mountain in 1893, she was so inspired by what she saw she wrote a poem about her visit. It can be seen on the summit and is popular in American culture.

This novel way of summiting Pikes Peak is a must if you’re in the area. I’ve no doubt that everyone summiting the peak should consider taking the Cog at least once. to learn from the conductor about the history of "America's Mountain".

Check out the link to buy your tickets on the Cog!

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