The commanding Pikes Peak is one of the most famous mountains in Colorado. The towering mountain draws in visitors and locals alike. But, many of them wonder, can you drive to the top of Pikes Peak?
Weather permitting, you can drive up to the 14,115 summit of Pikes Peak. The two-lane road winds its way up the mountain, and vehicles have to navigate many switchbacks. Vehicles must have a “Low” or “1st” gear and not exceed 24 feet in total length to be allowed on Pikes Peak Highway.
Pikes Peak is the tallest mountain you will find in the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, so it is a popular stop for those visiting the Rockies. From the summit of Pikes Peak, you can see from New Mexico to Kansas on a clear day. Below you can find out what to expect and plan for on a drive up to Pikes Peak.
Driving Up Pikes Peak
The front range of the Rocky Mountains, where Pikes Peak is located, is the backdrop of Colorado Springs. Colorado Springs is a city located 70 miles south of Denver, Colorado. So, if you are in the Denver area, you are only about an hour away from Pikes Peak.
Pikes Peak is also known as America’s Mountain. It gained this nickname because Katharine Lee Bates wrote the poem “America The Beautiful” after climbing to the top of Pikes Peak in the year 1893.
Pikes Peak is one of the many mountains you can drive to the top of. The Pikes Peak Highway is a paved road that goes all the way to the summit of the mountain. Pikes Peak Highway gains 7,400 feet in elevation from the base to the top, which stands at 14,115 feet.
The popular Pikes Peak Highway takes about two to three hours round trip, depending on how many times you stop and how much traffic is on the mountain.
The road up Pikes Peak is paved and winds through various ecosystems, from the montane life zone at the lower elevations to alpine, rocky slopes above the treeline.
To get to the summit of Pikes Peak, take Take US-87 N and I-25 N to Fountain Ave in Cascade-Chipita Park, then take exit 141 toward US 24 W. This road will then take you to Pikes Peak toll road.
Pikes Peak Highway is just over 19 miles one-way, but the road is rarely straight. The road has 156 turns and winds its way up the mountain. The road is so twisty and turny that it can be challenging to see what’s just ahead of you in some places.
The speed limit up and down the scenic highway is 25 miles per hour due to the curves in the road. Though this makes the trip slower, it makes it easier to enjoy the views, which you will want to do often. Check here to make sure your vehicle is allowed on the Pikes Peak Highway.
Sometimes, the road may be closed temporarily due to heavy snow or other dangerous conditions. If you purchase your ticket to drive up the mountain in advance, there are no refunds, so check to see what the weather will be like if you plan on paying the toll before you get to the mountain.
Road Trip Answers Fun Fact: Chugging all the way to 14,115 feet, Pikes Peak Cog Railway is the tallest in the world.
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If you are worried the mountain will be closed, you can always buy your ticket once you’re at the mountain instead of purchasing it online, so you can make sure the mountain is open before spending any money.
You can check here to see the road conditions. Even if the road is open, you can look at the cameras to see if there’s any snow on the ground and how heavy the traffic is.
There is a fee required to drive up this road. There is a $15 per adult and $5 per child (6-15 years old) toll from May to November. From December to April, the price is $10 for adults and $5 per child (6-15 years old) for those driving up the Pikes Peak Highway.
Another option is to pay $50 per car in the more expensive months and $35 per car in the less costly months. This fee is collected at the entrance to the highway and covers both ways.
This peak is one of the most popular peaks to visit in the Rocky Mountains for many reasons, one being that it is so accessible. Many peaks over 14,000 feet are only accessible by foot. So it’s no surprise that over 500,000 people visit this mountain each year.
The Pikes Peak Highway is a popular road to drive, but there are plenty of places along the way where you can stop. There are several parking lots and pull-offs with scenic views as well as some areas to hike. As you travel up to the top, it’s pretty common for cars to pull over to let other vehicles pass.
Another thing that makes this peak so popular is that it has a train that runs to the summit. Pikes Peak Cog Railway leaves from Manitou Depot in Manitou Springs and takes you up the mountain to the summit.
The tickets cost around $60 for ages 13 and above and $50 for children.
Also, if you enjoy scenic mountain drives, make sure to include a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park in your itinerary, which is about 190 miles north of Pike’s Peak.
When is the Best Time to Drive up Pikes Peak?
The best time to drive up depends on your personal preference. If you want to enjoy nicer, warm weather, May to November is the best time to go. However, during this time, the highway is the busiest.
If you want to avoid crowds and enjoy cooler weather, December through April might be a better time for you. The road may not be open to the summit during this time due to weather conditions, but if it is open, these are usually less busy times of the year.
The winter is a riskier time to visit the mountain on a tight schedule. If you can only stay for a few days to potentially visit the summit, you might not be able to drive up if there is lots of snow or ice since the road might be closed.
However, the winter offers a beautiful view of the mountain and surrounding area. The snow-covered rocks, trees, and cities below offer a magical scene.
Do You Need Four Wheel Drive for Pikes Peak?
You do not need a four-wheel drive to make it up the mountain. The highway is paved the whole way, and most cars can make it up without any trouble. But the road is very windy and has sheer drop-offs on the side in many areas. Driving this road isn’t the best for those scared of heights or that get car sick easily.
Even though you don’t need a four-wheel-drive vehicle to make the trip up the mountain, it can be helpful. The road is paved up to the summit, but there are some spots where it’s a little rougher, and you may want four-wheel drive.
Especially in the summer, it is safe to have a two-wheel-drive vehicle. The roads are usually clear of snow and ice, though the occasional storm can pass through and bring snow in the summer.
In the winter, if there is a lot of snow on the ground or ice on the road, it might be harder to make it to the summit with a two-wheel drive. In this case, a four-wheel-drive vehicle would be beneficial if there is any snow or black ice on the road.
Is Pikes Peak Highway Scary?
One thing that can make this road scary is that it is narrow like most mountain roads. Many sides of the road have guardrails, but there are also sections without guards. Yet some things help make the drive less intimidating. If you want to take it slow and easy, there are many turnouts where you can let cars behind you move ahead so that you can take your time without the pressure of vehicles behind you.
Another excellent option for those who are nervous about driving but who still want to get to the summit is taking the train. The train offers a leisurely ride without having to worry about sharp turns on a narrow road.
There are no gas stations on Pikes Peak Highway, which is another scary aspect of this highway, so make sure your car has at least a half tank of gas or more before starting your drive.
Is the Road to Pikes Peak Open Year Round?
This road up Pikes Peak is open year-round, weather permitting. There is no hard-and-fast date for when the road opens or closes. It all depends on the weather and if it is safe to drive up the mountain. After a large storm, maintenance workers often have to wait for warmer weather to melt any ice that may still be on the road before they open it again.
If the weather is clear, you should be able to drive up the mountain regardless of the time of year.
The road is plowed in the winter months, which makes it safer for driving, but also makes it narrower since the snow piles up on the sides; this makes some drivers nervous about driving. Also, consider how windy it will be. If you drive Pikes Peak Highway when it’s windy and you have a taller vehicle, like a camper van, you might feel the wind push against your vehicle as you drive.
If you take your time and check the weather and road conditions before heading up, your drive to Pikes Peak will be much more enjoyable.
Pikes Peak is Accessible and Historic
Few peaks in America are as easy to visit and as historic as Pikes Peak. A drive up this mountain will not disappoint those looking for historic landmarks and beautiful landscapes. If the opportunity arises, don’t pass up on a chance to drive to the top of Pikes Peak.