Pikes Peak really stands out above Colorado Springs as the highest point in El Paso county. The classic route from Manitou Springs trailhead is Class 1. Get an early start as afternoon storms are common in the summer. If you want to take it easy.. do it as a camp over one night at Barr Cabin. Round trip distance is about 26 miles, so be prepared for a long day. Pikes Peak ranks as 31st highest in Colorado, but is certainly more famous than many of the higher peaks. Pike's Peak also has the greatest vertical gain of all the Colorado 14er's. The vertical gain from the trailhead in Manitou Springs to the summit is about 7400 feet. The summit is also unique as you will find hundreds of people there that drove their cars or took the cog railway to the summit . A souvenir shop and snacks await the weary climber at the summit. Katherine Lee Bates was so inspired by the beauty of Pikes Peak that she wrote her most famous poem "America the Beautiful" on the summit.
The entire route is on trails and quite easy to follow. You can do it all in one day, but if you dont want to push as much , camp at Barr cabins and then summit the next morning and descend all the way to parking lot.
Barr Trail is the most common route. It is a long hike for one day from the trailhead at the Hydro Plant. The trail is well defined and quite easy to follow. Be sure to allow plenty of time if you are going to do this in one day. I would suggest a predawn start for the one day hikers to avoid the afternoon storms higher on the mountain. To get to the trailhead from Manitou Springs City Hall go west 1/2 mile to Ruxton, turn left 3/4 mile past the cog railway to the parking lot by the hydro plant. There is not a lot of parking for late comers so plan to arrive early. If the cog railway is closed you can use their parking lot... but in the summer the cog is running. There is also a nice route to the summit from the Crags. The trailhead is about 10,000 feet and allows for a faster roundtrip time of about 6 hours. The Crags is located south of Divide near Mueller State Park. The route is far less traveled than Barr Trail, and about the only people you will see is when you intersect the Pikes Peak Toll Road near Devil's Playground. The route is off the road about 50-100 yards... so don't hike up the road unless you want a ticket. The last stretch to the summit is over talus. See the excellent route description of the Crags Route under the Routes sidebar.
The following weather forecast is added here as a GUIDE. My suggestion is if the forecast is bad- expect the mountain to be as bad or worse. If the forecast is good- still expect afternoon storms during the summer.
New links for summit weather and webcams.Weather forecast can be found here:
Webcams can be found here:
Generally conditions are excellent on this mountain. A trail goes all the way to the summit, there is no scree or talus enroute...there is a great photo op of a beautiful cirque... bring a parka or jacket even in summer... afternoon weather can be a problem and you can encounter snow even in June on this mountain.
Courtesy of Scott Patterson:
Here are the average high and low temperatures for the summit of Pikes Peak. It is sort of interesting. Data is from the US Army Corps of Engineers:
Highest temperature for period of record: 64
Lowest temperature for period of record: -39
Conditions on this mountain, like all Colorado 14ers, are subject to change rapidly- especially during the prime climbing summer season. The mountains are their own weather system, and weather forecasts from nearby towns often have little to do with actual mountain conditions. You can generally count on clear to partly cloudy in the morning, and heavy clouds and thunderstorms in the afternoon during the summer climbing season.
There is no substitute for getting an early start, and getting as much of the mountain "behind you" as early in the day as possible. Keep a good eye on the sky as weather conditions can deteriorate rapidly. The greatest weather danger is from lightning strikes, and climbers are killed almost every summer in Colorado by lightning strikes. July seems to be the most deadly month for lightning.
Two climbers were killed by lightning in Colorado within a couple days of each other in the summer of 2003. I think the following important information from Gerry Roach's book "Colorado's Fourteeners From Hikes to Climbs" bears repeating. Added here with permission from Gerry Roach:
Colorado is famous for apocalyptic lightning storms that threaten not just your life, but your soul as well. This section will have special meaning if you have ever been trapped by a storm that endures for more than an hour and leaves no gap between one peal of thunder and the next. The term simultaneous flash-boom has a very personal meaning for many Colorado Climbers
1. Lightning is dangerous!
2. Lightning is the greatest external hazard to summer mountaineering in Colorado.
3. Lightning kills people every year in Colorado's mountains.
4. Direct hits are usually fatal.
1. Start early! Be off summits by noon and back in the valley by early afternoon.
2. Observe thunderhead buildup carefully, noting speed and direction; towering thunderheads with black bottoms are bad.
3. When lightning begins nearby, count the seconds between flash and thunder, then divide by 5 to calculate the distance to the flash in miles. Repeat to determine if lightning is approaching.
4. Try to determine if the lightning activity is cloud-to-cloud or ground strikes.
5. Get off summits and ridges.
1. You cannot outrun a storm; physics wins.
2. When caught, seek a safe zone in the 45-degree cone around an object 5 to 10 times your height.
3. Be aware of ground currents; the current from a ground strike disperses along the ground or cliff, especially in wet cracks.
4. Wet ropes are good conductors.
5. Snow is not a good conductor.
6. Separate yourself from metal objects.
7. Avoid sheltering in spark gaps under boulders and trees.
8. Disperse the group. Survivors can revive one who is hit.
9. Crouch on boot soles, ideally on dry, insulating material such as moss or grass. Dirt is better than rock. Avoid water.
The following link is also helpful: Lightning Safety and Crouch
Also see this report by nchenkin It will make you really think about lightning safety: Struck By Lightning!
Larry Versaw adds: Several of the comments under Mountain Conditions reminded me of a well known person who attempted to climb this mountain in late November. I'll quote him:
"The summit… which was entirely bare of vegetation and covered with snow… would have taken a whole day's march to have arrived at its base, when I believe no human being could have ascended to its pinical."
Of course, we smile at those now famous words of Zebulun Pike in 1806. As Pike learned, good preparation for the mountain conditions makes all the difference when it comes to climbing... to the "pinical."
You can spend the night at Barr Camp. They have cabins that can be reserved (a must for summer) and some tent spaces available first come first serve. For those staying at Barr Camp, propane cook stoves, cooking and eating utensils, mattresses, a horseshoe pit, and picnic tables are available. Meals can be provided. Guests must provide all of their own personal equipment (including bedding or a sleeping bag!). Emergency communication and first-aid is available at the Camp, or at the Summit House on top of Pikes Peak. Soda, snacks, and T-shirts are sold year-round to help support upkeep of the camp. See
Barr Camp for information on facilities, availabilty, rates etc. It is an excellent site. Reservations must be made on this site. Barr's Camp is located at 9,800 feet.
Chenault adds: This is a great place to stay, with a nice view of sunrise. It also allows a mellow start the first day, and if you are off at sunrise you can beat the tourists and have the top to yourself.
There is also an old A frame cabin just below treeline available for first come first serve camping. This hut is also used for emergency bivouacs. Barr Camp has nothing to do with this and there are no reservations for it.
Usually climbed in summer... but anytime besides winter is a pretty easy climb. Just remember summer storms are common in the afternoon so be prepared. One saving grace is that if you do get caught in a bad storm, if you can make the summit there are rangers and tourists at the summit that can always get you a safe ride down.
If you are going to do this climb in 1 day from Manitou Springs, GET AN EARLY START. I believe this is not only the longest hike of any of the 14er's, but also the greatest elevation gain. I lived in Colorado Springs for 4 years and I can assure you there is a great probability of afternoon storms on Pikes Peak. As Diggler adds: Though it's mentioned briefly in this section, as well as in the 'Mountain Conditions' section, maybe you could make it even more blatant for those naive, oblivious souls unfamiliar with Colorado Rockies weather, who intend to do the Barr trail route- START EARLY, so you don't get 80% to the top of this grueling trail, and determine that the weather suddenly turned ominous enough that you have to abort your (great) effort! My dad & I went this route & made it to the A-frame on an up-until-then beautiful day, before the should-have-been-expected dark clouds & apocalyptic thunderstorms moved in, following our late start, aborting our attempt. We made it to within 3 mi of the summit, & did a 20 (/26) mile hike, w/o summiting- bummer!!!
A good point to remember from ctruscot : Do not try and climb Pike's Peak on the third weekend in August. Every year, the third Saturday in August is the Pike's Peak Ascent which is the 13 mile run to the top. Then the next day, Sunday, is the Pike's Peak Marathon which is the 26 mile run up and back down. August is a busy month with many runners doing last minute training. My advice is to skip the first 3 weeks in August and go after the race weekend.
Add your Pikes Peak People Pics and any other miscellaneous information here.
USGS Quad: Pikes Peak
Trails Illustrated® - TOPO Map # 137
US Forest Service, Pikes Peak Ranger District 719-636-1602
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