Pikes Peak

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Pikes Peak
View of Pikes Peak
Highest point
Elevation 14,115 feet (4,302 m) [1]
Prominence 5,530 feet (1,690 m) [2]
Isolation 60.6 mi (97.6 km) [2]
Coordinates 38°50′26″N105°02′39″W / 38.8405322°N 105.0442048°W / 38.8405322; -105.0442048 Coordinates: 38°50′26″N105°02′39″W / 38.8405322°N 105.0442048°W / 38.8405322; -105.0442048 [1]
Etymology Zebulon Pike
Native nameHeey-otoyoo' (Arapaho); Tavakiev (Ute)
USA Colorado relief location map.svg
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Pikes Peak
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Pikes Peak
Pikes Peak (the United States)
Location High point of El Paso County, Colorado, United States [2]
Parent range Front Range, Highest summit
of the Pikes Peak Massif [2]
Topo map USGS 7.5' topographic map
Pikes Peak, Colorado [3]
Age of rock ~1.05 Gyr
Mountain type granite
First ascent 1820 by Edwin James and party
Easiest route Barr Trail
Manitou and Pike's Peak Railway
Pikes Peak Highway

Pikes Peak is the highest summit of the southern Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, in North America. The ultra-prominent 14,115-foot (4,302.31 m) fourteener is located in Pike National Forest, 12 miles (19 km) west of downtown Colorado Springs, Colorado. The mountain is named in honor of American explorer Zebulon Pike (though he was unable to reach the summit). The summit is higher than any point in the United States east of its longitude. [2] [3]



The band of Ute people who called the Pikes Peak region their home were the Tabeguache, whose name means the "People of Sun Mountain". [4] Tava or "sun", is the Ute word that was given by these first people to the mountain that we now call Pikes Peak. It is thought that the Ute people first arrived in Colorado about 500 A.D.[ citation needed ], however their oral history states that they were created on Tava. In the 1800s, when the Arapaho people arrived in Colorado, they knew the mountain as Heey-otoyoo' meaning "Long Mountain". [5]

Throughout its history, European peoples have called the mountain El Capitán, Grand Peak, Great Peak, James Peak, Long Mountain, and Pike's Peak. [3]

Early Spanish explorers named the mountain "El Capitán," meaning "The Leader". American explorer Zebulon Pike named the mountain "Highest Peak" in 1806, and the mountain was later commonly known as "Pike's Highest Peak." American explorer Stephen Harriman Long named the mountain "James Peak" in honor of Edwin James who climbed to the summit in 1820. The mountain was later renamed "Pike's Peak" in honor of Pike. The name was simplified to "Pikes Peak" by the United States Board on Geographic Names in 1890.

Geography and geology

Pikes Peak (Pikes Peak granite, Mesoproterozoic) Pikes Peak (Pikes Peak Granite, Mesoproterozoic, 1.08 Ga; central Colorado, USA) 4.jpg
Pikes Peak (Pikes Peak granite, Mesoproterozoic)

Pikes Peak is one of Colorado's 58  fourteeners, mountains more than 14,000 feet (4,267.2 m) above sea level. The massif rises 8,000 ft (2,400 m) above downtown Colorado Springs. Pikes Peak is a designated National Historic Landmark. It is composed of a characteristic pink granite called Pikes Peak granite. The color is due to a large amount of potassium feldspar.

It is thought that the granite was once magma that crystallized at least 20 miles (32 km) beneath the Earth's surface, formed by an igneous intrusion during the Precambrian, approximately 1.05 billion years ago, during the Grenville orogeny. Through the process of uplifting, the hardened rock pushed through the Earth's crust and created a dome-like mountain, covered with less resistant rock. Years of erosion and weathering removed the soil and rock leaving the exposed mountain.

Soils on Pikes Peak above the timberline (approximately 12,000 ft or 3,700 m) are classified as Cirque land. Forests at lower altitudes mostly lie over the brown stony, sandy, loams of the Catamount loam or Ivywild loam series. [6]

Recorded discovery

The first Europeans to see Pikes Peak were the Spanish in the 1700s. The first American sighting is often credited to members of the Pike Expedition, led by Zebulon Pike. After a failed attempt to climb to the top 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 [24 or 26 km] 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 pinnacle. 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 anything to subsist on, with the further detention of two or three days, which it must occasion, determined us to return. [7]


An 1890 winter climb (near Windy Point) up Pikes Peak Pikes peak.jpg
An 1890 winter climb (near Windy Point) up Pikes Peak
Manitou and Pike's Peak Railway train rounding Windy Point, around 1900. Rounding Windy Pt. Manitou & P.P. Ry., Colo.jpg
Manitou and Pike's Peak Railway train rounding Windy Point, around 1900.

The first European-American to climb the peak came 14 years after Pike, in the summer of 1820. Edwin James, a young student who had just graduated from Middlebury College in Vermont, signed on as the relief botanist for Stephen Harriman Long's expedition after the first botanist had died. The expedition explored the South Platte River up as far as present-day Denver, then turned south and passed close to what James called "Pike's highest peak". James and two other men left the expedition, camped on the plains, and climbed the peak in two days, encountering little difficulty. Along the way, James was the first to describe the blue columbine, Colorado's state flower.

Gold was discovered in the area of present-day Denver in 1858, and newspapers referred to the gold-mining area as "Pike's Peak". Pike's Peak or Bust became the slogan of the Colorado Gold Rush (see also Fifty-Niner). This was more due to Pikes Peak's visibility to gold seekers traveling west across the plains than any actual significant gold find anywhere near Pikes Peak. Major gold deposits were not discovered in the Pikes Peak area until the Cripple Creek Mining District was discovered southwest of Pikes Peak and led, in 1893, to one of the last major gold rushes in the lower 48 states.

In July 1860, Clark, Gruber and Company commenced minting gold coins in Denver bearing the phrase "Pike's Peak Gold" and an artist's rendering of the peak (sight unseen) on the obverse. In 1863, the U.S. Treasury purchased the minting equipment for $25,000 (or $530,000 adjusted for inflation) to open the Denver Mint.

Julia Archibald Holmes and James Holmes traveled to the Rocky Mountains in Colorado in 1858, and reached the summit on August 5, with J. D. Miller and George Peck, making Archibald Holmes the first European-American woman to climb Pikes Peak. From the summit, she wrote in a letter to her mother: "Nearly everyone tried to discourage me from attempting it, but I believed that I should succeed; and now here I am, and I feel that I would not have missed this glorious sight for anything at all." [8] [9]

The summit of Pikes Peak in 1901 The summit of Pike's Peak-LCCN2008678206.tif
The summit of Pikes Peak in 1901

Thirty-five years later, in July 1893, Katharine Lee Bates wrote the song "America the Beautiful", after having admired the view from the top of Pikes Peak. It appeared in print in The Congregationalist, a weekly journal, on July 4, 1895. A plaque commemorating the words to the song was placed at the summit.

On July 17, 1913 William Wayne Brown drove his car, the Bear Cat, 20 miles (32 km) to the summit. [10] [11] The ascent took 5 hours and 28 minutes.

The uppermost portion of Pikes Peak, above 14,000 feet (4,267 m) elevation, was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1961. [12] [13]

Pikes Peak was the home of a ski resort from 1939 until 1984. [14]


The sign at the summit Pikes-Peak Summit-Sign 2012-10-21.JPG
The sign at the summit
Pikes Peak dominates the backdrop of Garden of the Gods. Pikes Peak from Garden of the Gods.JPG
Pikes Peak dominates the backdrop of Garden of the Gods.
View from Pikes Peak summit looking north Pikessummit.JPG
View from Pikes Peak summit looking north
View of Pikes Peak from the Crystal Creek Reservoir Pikes Peak Crystal Creek Reservoir P4160512.jpg
View of Pikes Peak from the Crystal Creek Reservoir

There are several visitor centers on Pikes Peak, some with a gift shop and restaurant. These centers are located at the 6-mile (9.7 km) and 12-mile (19 km) markers of the toll road, plus one at the summit itself. Along with other food, the Summit House sells special high altitude doughnuts, frying up to 700 per hour. The doughnuts collapse or go mushy if transported to lower altitudes. [15]

There are several ways to ascend the mountain. The Manitou and Pike's Peak Railway, the world's highest cog railroad, [16] operated from Manitou Springs to the summit, but closed for repairs in 2017. But after over three years of being closed, the cog railway resumed service seven days a week (conditions permitting) on May 27th, 2021. [17]

Road vehicles can be driven to the summit via the Pikes Peak Highway, a 19 mi (31 km) road that starts a few miles up Ute Pass at Cascade. The road has a series of switchbacks, treacherous at high speed, called "The W's" for their shape on the northwest side of the mountain. The road is maintained by the city of Colorado Springs as a toll road. A project to pave the remainder of the road was completed on October 1, 2011. [18] The project is in response to a suit by the Sierra Club over damage caused by the gravel and sediment that is constantly washed off the road into the alpine environment. [19] [20] The road remained open during construction.

The Highway is famous worldwide for the annual Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, a motor race held since 1916. The short film Climb Dance features Ari Vatanen racing his Peugeot automobile up the steep, twisty slopes. It also hosts the Pikes Peak Cycling Hill Climb (formerly Assault on the Peak), a cycling hillclimb race first held in 2010, [21] and the USA Cycling Hill Climb National Championships, a race first held in 2016. [22]

The most popular hiking route to the top is called Barr Trail, which approaches the summit from the east. The trailhead is just past the cog railway depot in Manitou Springs. Visitors can walk, hike, or bike the trail. Although the Barr Trail is rated only Class 1, it is a long and arduous hike with nearly 8,000 ft (2,400 m) of elevation gain, and a 13 mi (21 km) trip one-way. The Pikes Peak Marathon, a trail race held since 1956, is a round trip between the trailhead and the Pikes Peak. The Barr Trail Mountain Race is a 13 miles (21 km) round trip between the trailhead and Barr Camp. Another route begins at Crags Campground, approaching the summit from the west. [23]

Barr Trail can also be accessed via the Manitou Incline.

Since the end of 1922, the AdAmAn Club, a mountaineering group, climb the Barr Trail on the east face of Pikes Peak each year on December 30th, stay overnight at Barr Camp, and continue to the top on December 31. Then, at midnight on New Year's Eve, the AdAmAn members and their guests ignite a fireworks display from the summit. [24]

Since 1969, the summit of Pikes Peak has been the site of the United States Army Pikes Peak Research Laboratory, a medical research laboratory for the assessment of the impact of high altitude on human physiological and medical parameters of military interest.

On June 4, 2018 ground-breaking was held for a new 38,000 square feet (3,500 m2) Summit Complex which is being constructed next to the current Summit House. The older facility will remain open to the more than 600,000 visitors annually through the end of construction in the fall of 2020 or summer of 2021. Around 40 contractors are working on the $50 million project. The general contractor, G.E. Johnson Construction Co., estimates that about half of the budget is for materials, many of which are prefabricated in downslope shops, and the balance is for labor, because of the project's high standards and the rigors of working for a maximum of 6+12 hours per day at such a high altitude during a short season of April to October. Heavy equipment and prefabricated building components are slowly moved up the mountain's highway in the middle of the night to avoid any car traffic. Ground conditions are bedrock and alpine permafrost, soil and rock that remains at or below freezing temperatures all year to depths of up to 200 feet (61 m), only warming above freezing in direct sunlight or due to external sources. Problems with excavation and blasting exist because the permafrost in the fractured granite actually absorbs energy. The project is being constructed to achieve both Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum Certification and Living Building Challenge. The new complex will include a visitor center, a communications facility for Colorado Springs Utilities, and the Army's High-Altitude Research Laboratory. [25] [26] [27] [28]


At the peak, the partial pressure of oxygen is only about 60% of that at sea level. Water boils at 186 °F (86 °C) at 14,000 feet, rather than 212 °F (100 °C) at sea level. [29]

A faster rate of respiration is required by humans and animals not acclimated to high altitudes. [30] Altitude sickness may develop in those who are sensitive or who over-exert themselves.

The summit of Pikes Peak has a polar climate (ET) due to its elevation. Snow is a possibility any time year-round, and thunderstorms with high winds gusting up to 100 miles per hour (160 km/h) or more are common in the afternoons. [31] [32]

Surrounding areas have different climatic variations depending on location and elevation. Much of the area near Pikes Peak has a continental semiarid climate, while other areas would be classified as hemiboreal.

Climate data for Pikes Peak summit. (Elevation 14,115ft)
Average high °F (°C)8.1
Average low °F (°C)−3.7
Source: summitpost.org [33]

See also

Related Research Articles

Manitou Springs, Colorado Home Rule Municipality in Colorado, United States

The City of Manitou Springs is a Home Rule Municipality located at the foot of Pikes Peak in western El Paso County, Colorado, United States. The town was founded for its natural mineral springs. The downtown area continues to be of interest to travelers, particularly in the summer, with many one-story small shops, restaurants, and pubs, as well as a creekside city park with a children's playground made from unusual materials. Among other services, shops sell clothing, candy, souvenirs, and outdoor recreation. The main road through the center of town was one of the direct paths to the base of Pikes Peak. Barr Trail, which winds its way up Pikes Peak, is accessible from town. The subdivision Crystal Hills was added to the municipality in the 1960s.

Manitou and Pikes Peak Railway Tourist cog railway to Pikes Peak, Colorado

The Broadmoor Pikes Peak Cog Railway is a Strub rack system cog railway with 4 ft 8+12 instandard gauge track in Colorado, United States, climbing the well-known mountain Pikes Peak. The base station is in Manitou Springs, Colorado, near Colorado Springs.

Mount Evans Mountain in Colorado, United States

Mount Evans is the highest peak in the namesake Mount Evans Wilderness in the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains of North America. The prominent 14,271-foot fourteener is located 13.4 miles (21.6 km) southwest by south of Idaho Springs in Clear Creek County, Colorado, United States, on the drainage divide between Arapaho National Forest and Pike National Forest.

Pikes Peak Marathon Annual race in the United States held since 1956

The Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon is a trail running competition that begins at the base of Pikes Peak, in Manitou Springs, Colorado, and climbs over 7,815 feet to the top of the 14,115 foot peak. Since 1956, the event takes place each year in late summer, with the Ascent taking place on Saturday, and the round-trip marathon on Sunday.

Pikes Peak International Raceway Motorsport track in the United States

Pikes Peak International Raceway (PPIR) is a racetrack in the Colorado Springs area within the city limits of Fountain, Colorado, that by October 12, 1997, was "the fastest 1-mile paved oval anywhere". The speedway hosted races in several series including the Indy Racing League and two NASCAR series until operations were suspended 2005–08. A wide variety of amateur racing groups use PPIR for racing and training, and many NASCAR teams use PPIR for testing.

Ute Pass (Rampart Range)

The Ute Pass is a mountain pass west of Colorado Springs that ranges from a peak elevation at Divide of 9,165 to 6,165 feet at its lowest point.

Cascade, Colorado Unincorporated community in State of Colorado, United States

Cascade is an unincorporated community and U.S. Post Office in El Paso County, Colorado, United States. The ZIP Code of the Cascade Post Office is 80809.

Pikes Peak Highway Alpine road in Colorado, United States

The Pikes Peak Highway is a 19-mile (31 km) toll road that runs from Cascade, Colorado to the summit of Pikes Peak in El Paso County, at an altitude of 14,115 feet (4,302 m). It is at least partially open year-round, up to the altitude where snow removal becomes excessively difficult.

History of Colorado Springs, Colorado Place in Colorado, United States

Before it was founded, the site of modern-day Colorado Springs, Colorado, was part of the American frontier. Old Colorado City, built in 1858 during the Pike's Peak Gold Rush was the Colorado Territory capital. The town of Colorado Springs, was founded by General William Jackson Palmer as a resort town. Old Colorado City was annexed into Colorado Springs. Railroads brought tourists and visitors to the area from other parts of the United States and abroad. The city was noted for junctions for seven railways: Denver and Rio Grande (1870), Denver and New Orleans Manitou Branch (1882), Colorado Midland (1886-1918), Colorado Springs and Interurban, Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe (1889), Rock Island (1889), and Colorado Springs and Cripple Creek Railways. It was also known for mining exchanges and brokers for the Cripple Creek Gold Rush.

Barr Trail

Barr Trail is a 13-mile (21 km) trail in the Pike National Forest that begins in Manitou Springs, Colorado and ends at the Pikes Peak summit. The high elevation trail with a long sustained grade is rated more difficult by the U.S. Forest Service. With a 7,800 feet (2,400 m) elevation gain to reach the summit, the Colorado Springs Convention & Visitors Bureau states that it is an advanced trail and is the most difficult trail in the Pikes Peak region.

Mineralogy of the Pikes Peak Region

The Pikes Peak region is renowned for its rare mineral specimens. It is a favorite collecting area for rock hounds and serious collectors alike. Scientists from around the world come to Colorado to study the minerals of this region. Because the granite covers a large portion of the Colorado Front Range, there are good mineral collecting areas scattered all over the Pikes Peak region. The collecting localities range from near Colorado Springs on the south to just west of Denver on the north.

Cheyenne Mountain Highway

The Cheyenne Mountain Highway, also called Cheyenne Mountain Zoo Road, is a road in Colorado Springs, Colorado that begins at the intersection of Penrose Boulevard, Old Stage Road, and West Cheyenne Mountain Boulevard. It is a paved road to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo and Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun. Thereafter, it is an unpaved private road to the summit, known as The Horns.

Manitou Incline

The Manitou Springs Incline, also known as the Manitou Incline or simply the Incline, is a popular hiking trail rising above Manitou Springs, Colorado, near Colorado Springs. The Incline ascends on the east slope of Rocky Mountain which is itself on the eastern flank of Pikes Peak. The trail is the remains of a former 3 ft narrow gauge funicular railway whose tracks washed out during a rock slide in 1990. The Incline is famous for its sweeping views and steep grade, with an average grade of 45% (24°) and as steep as 68% (34°) in places, making it a fitness challenge for locals of the Colorado Springs area. The incline gains 2,011 feet (613 m) of elevation in 0.88 miles (1.42 km) horizontal. Currently the Incline has approximately 2,744 steps from the bottom to the summit, although the top step is numbered "2768". The number of steps changes occasionally with trail maintenance and deterioration.

Manitou Mineral Springs United States historic place

Manitou Mineral Springs are natural mineral springs in Manitou Springs, Colorado and Cheyenne Spring House is on the National Register of Historic Places. The springs are located in one of the country's largest National Historic Districts.

Iron Springs, Colorado

Iron Springs, a neighborhood in Manitou Springs, Colorado, was an area named for one of Manitou Mineral Springs. The Manitou area had been frequented by Native Americans who considered it a sacred and healing place before European Americans settled in Manitou.

Englemann Canyon is a valley along Ruxton Creek, in Manitou Springs, El Paso County, Colorado. It is one of three canyons in Manitou Springs, the others are Ute Pass and Williams Canyon.

Blodgett Peak

Blodgett Peak is a mountain summit in El Paso County, Colorado. Blodgett Peak is located in Pike National Forest. and at its base is Blodgett Peak Open Space of Colorado Springs.

Ruxton Park

Ruxton Park is a park in Manitou Springs, El Paso County, Colorado at 9,078 feet (2,767 m) in elevation. The Manitou and Pike's Peak Railway, which departs from the depot at 6,570 feet (2,000 m) in elevation, climbs into Englemann Canyon along Ruxton Creek. It passes by the site of the Halfway Hotel and then Ruxton Park at mile marker 3 on the 8.9 mile trip to Pikes Peak summit.

Fred Barr

Fred W. Barr (1882-1940) ran a burro train business to Pikes Peak, but was known for his work blazing trails. He developed Barr Trail, built Barr Camp, and created other trails in the Pikes Peak area.

Cheyenne Mountain Mountain in El Paseo County, Colorado, US

Cheyenne Mountain is a triple-peaked mountain in El Paso County, Colorado, southwest of downtown Colorado Springs. The mountain serves as a host for military, communications, recreational, and residential functions. The underground operations center for the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) was built during the Cold War to monitor North American airspace for missile launches and Soviet military aircraft. Built deep within granite, it was designed to withstand the impact and fallout from a nuclear bomb. Its function broadened with the end of the Cold War, and then many of its functions were transferred to Peterson Air Force Base in 2006.


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  2. 1 2 3 4 5 "Pikes Peak, Colorado". Peakbagger.com. Retrieved 6 January 2016.
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  11. "William Wayne "W. W." Brown a.k.a. "Cockeyed" Brown (1886–1958" . Retrieved 4 October 2012. This photograph of W. W. Brown was taken on July 17, 1913 as he drove his Model 10 Buick "Bearcat" up Pike's Peak in Colorado. He had raced the car in Winfield, Kansas just 13 days earlier.
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Further reading