Pikes Peak

Pikes Peak in a mountain located about 10 miles from Colorado Springs, Colorado. It is a part of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, and is classified a National Historic Landmark. Originally named "El Capitan" by Spanish settlers, the mountain was renamed in honor of Zebulon Pike, Jr., an explorer who led an expedition to the southern Colorado area in 1806. Pikes Peak rises to an altitude of 14,115 feet, making it one of Colorado's 54 "fourteeners", or mountains that rise 14,000 feet.

The easternmost fourteen thousand ft peak in the US, Pikes Peak is home to the annual Pikes Peak International Hill Climb and Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon foot races, which are held every year on Barr Trail. The mountain is comprised mostly of a characteristic pink granite called Pikes Peak granite, which gets its color from a high concentration of potassium fieldspar. This granite was once magma that crystallized at least 20 miles beneath the Earth's surface. Through the process of uplifting, the hardened rock pushed through the Earth's crust and created a dome-shaped mountain, covered with less resistant rock. Centuries of erosion and weathering then removed the soil and rock, exposing the Pikes Peak granite.

The first sighting by non-natives of Pikes Peak is often credited to members of the Pike expedition, led by Zebulon Pike, Jr. After a failed attempt to climb the peak in November, 1806, Pike wrote in his journal: "...here we found the snow middle deep; no sign of beast or bird inhabiting this region. The thermometer which stood at 9 above 0 at the foot of the mountain, here fell to 4 below 0. The summit of the Grand Peak, which was entirely bare of vegetation and covered with snow, now appeared at the distance of 15 or 16 miles from us, and as high again as what we had ascended, and would have taken a whole day's march to have arrived at its base, when I believed no human being could have ascended to its (peak). This with the condition of my soldiers who had only light overalls on, and no stockings, and every way ill provided to endure the inclemency of the region; the bad prospect of killing any thing to subsist on, with the further detention of two or three days, which it must occasion, determined us to return.

Fourteen years after the Pike expedition's failed attempt to scale Pikes Peak, Edwin James became the first European to climb to the top, achieving the feat in two days. Along the way, James became the first botanist to describe the blue columbine, which is now the state flower of Colorado.

Gold was discovered in the area of present-day Denver in 1858, and newspapers began referring to the mining area as "Pike's Peak." "Pike's Peak or Bust" would become the slogan of the Colorado Gold Rush, mainly due to the mountain's visibility to gold seekers heading west across the plains. Gold would not be discovered anywhere near the mountain until the discovery of the Cripple Creek Mining District southwest of there, sparking one of the last major gold rushes in the lower forty-eight states in 1893.

In 1893, as the Cripple Creek gold rush was going on, Katharine Lee Bates wrote the famous song "America the Beautiful" after having admired the scenic view from the top of Pikes Peak. A plaque with the words to the patriotic song can still be viewed today at the summit. In 1899, Pikes Peak became the location for a number of experiments conducted by famous electrician and inventor Nikola Tesla. Tesla chose the location for its remoteness and proximity to the El Paso Power Company of Colorado Springs. Tesla worked from atop Pikes Peak for about a year before returning to New York City. One of his more notable experiments there entailed trying to send a radio signal from the mountain to Paris, France. The experiment went awry, causing a blackout throughout Colorado Springs and significant damage to the El Paso Power Company.

The uppermost portion of Pikes Peak was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1961. There are several visitor centers on and around the mountain, including one at the top with a gift shop and restaurant. There are visitor centers at the 6-mile and 12-mile marks, as well. There are a number of ways to reach the summit of Pikes Peak. The Manitou and Pikes Peak Railway is a cog railroad operating from Manitou Springs, at the base of the mountain, to the summit. The railroad is open year-round, conditions permitting. Visitors can drive to the top of Pikes Peak on the Pikes PeakHighway, a 19-mile paved road made famous by the short film "Climb Dance." The road has a series of switchbacks called the "W's" for their shape. The road is maintained by the city of Colorado Springs and there is a toll for use of the road.

The most popular hiking trail on Pikes Peak is a trail that goes all the way to the summit called Barr Trail. The trailhead is close to the cog railway depot in Manitou Springs, and the trail is open to walkers, hikers, runners or bikers. Another route scales Pikes Peak from the west, beginning at Crags Campground. Conditions atop Pikes Peak are typical of a high-altitude alpine environment. The thin air contains about 60 percent as much oxygen as air found at sea level. Snowfall is possible at the summit any time of year, and thunderstorms are common in the summer, often bringing hail and occasional wind gusts in excess of 100 miles an hour.

Pikes Peak Highway Hours
October 1st - Thursday before Memorial Day Uphill Gate Opens - 9 AM
Uphill Gates Close - 3 PM
Pikes Peak Summit Closes - 4 PM
Downhill Gates Close - 5 PM

Rates
Adults (16 and Over) $12 per person
Children (6 to 15) $5 per person
Carload Discount Rate (Up to 5 passengers) $40 per car
Carload Rate Additional Adults $8 per adult
Carload Rate Additional Children $2 per child

Pikes Peak Tollgate - Entrance to Pikes Peak Highway


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