Are you up for a drive to 14,115 feet? If your answer to this question is a resounding “yes” then you’d better get yourself over to Colorado and take a ride up to Pikes Peak. For anyone who has a love of cars and driving, Pikes Peak is arguably considered the pinnacle of American Driving. We had the opportunity to drive Pikes Peak while on a recent road trip to Colorado and can say it’s an experience we’ll never forget.
Pikes Peak ranks 31st in elevation amongst Colorado’s 54 “Fourteeners” with a peak of 14,115 feet. From its summit you can see 5 states (Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Wyoming, and New Mexico ) and it was the inspiration for America the Beautiful after Katherine Lee Bates visited the peak back in 1893. It’s no wonder Pikes Peak has been named, America’s Mountain.
For most folks this is reason enough to make the drive to the summit, but if you’re a motor head like me, there’s one more reason to take this incredible drive: The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb! For the uninitiated, the hill climb event is an annual event that sees racing teams from all over the world summit the peak at neck breaking speeds. The current record was set in 2013 when the track, which is 12.42 mi long, contains 156 turns, and covers 4720 ft of elevations, was completed in a mind numbing 8:13.878
Unfortunately a regular civilian like myself would never have access to a fully open road, or the opportunity to race up the road as fast as my heart desires, but there was no way I was going to be close to this famous peak and not give it a shot. :-)
The first couple of miles up the road start off slow and easy as you begin to scale the behemoth of a mountain. Apparently, Bigfoot is known to love gentle slopes at the base of the mountain so make sure you keep your eyes peeled while you make the drive. We tried to spot him, but he decided not to make an appearance during our visit.
As the climb becomes more steep, the scenery is everything you’d hope it to be and yet somehow surpasses anything you could imagine.
The road gets more difficult as you reach the top of the climb but the view makes it all worth it. Once you’ve crossed the timberline ( at about 11,800 ft) you can hear and feel your car starving for oxygen while trying to navigate an intense series of switchbacks.
The combination of stunning vistas and a highly technical driving road makes the experience unique. During the drive up I couldn’t help but think of all the race car drivers and automotive engineers that have used this road as their inspiration. It’s a nice reminder that your car wasn’t designed to tote you & your groceries through suburbia, it was designed to conquer these 19 miles of exquisite asphalt.
The only bad part of the drive was the way down. Not because of the road or because I had to leave a place that is so rich in automotive history. I got stuck behind someone who thought the best way down was riding their brakes. There’s nothing worse than driving one of the best roads in the country at 15 MPH while the person in front of you repeatedly stomps their brakes flashing those awful red lights again and again. :-(
I absolutely recommend taking a trip up Pikes Peak if you’re in the Denver or Colorado Springs area. If you do take the trip just do me one favor: Make sure you know how to descend a mountain at a decent speed. :-)
Info on Driving Pike’s Peak
Total Drive Time: Race Cars: 11 Minutes Normal Humans: 60 – 90 minutes ( depending on stops)
Speed Limit: 25 MPH
Cost: $ 10 Per Person ( yes, that’s per person, not per car :-( )
5069 Pikes Peak Highway
Cascade, CO 80809
Where to Stay Near Pikes Peak
The Broadmoor : For pet friendly luxury the Broadmoor can’t be beat!
La Quinta Inn: Great economy choice for a pet friendly stay centrally located
Mystic Portal – Pet Friendly B&B with gorgeous views!