Hiking Pikes Peak | Tips for a Great 14er Adventure
Pikes Peak is one of the most famous 14ers, and the only one that gave a name to a major Colorado historical event. Even though gold was found north in Denver, the Pikes Peak Gold Rush is largely responsible for the state’s early development. The Barr Trail up to the summit is a Class 1 hike, but it’s the longest of any 14er with nearly 7,500 feet of elevation gain.
The Peak is also is home to the Pikes Peak Highway and Railroad, both which provide accees to the summit – though hiking Pikes Peak is much better! I recommend doing this in two days with an overnight rest at Barr Camp. Here’s more info on hiking Pikes Peak, in my Pikes Peak Route Guide.
Hiking Pikes Peak | Fast Facts
Hiking Pikes Peak - East Slopes Route
Your trip hiking Pikes Peak starts at the Manitou Springs Trailhead. The Barr Trail is long but well-maintained and signed. You should expect easy route-finding and good conditions for the majority of the route. Once parked, set off for the Barr Trail. Optionally you can use the Manitou Incline to begin the hike, as it meets up with the Barr Trail towards the top.
After a time, you’ll pass the Manitou Incline around 7,800 feet. If you took that optional route to start, make sure you divert left to join the Barr Trail. Around 2.75 miles from the trailhead you’ll come to a fun rock arch that stands over the trail – go ahead and sneak through it.
A bit beyond this rock you’ll pass several overlooks that provide a great view of Pikes Peak. As you can see from the picture, you’re still a long ways from the peak, with several thousand feet of elevation gain to go.
After 6 miles of hiking you will finally pass Barr Camp. There are numerous campsites available here if you’d like to spend the night (highly recommended if you’re a beginner). Tree-line is just a bit further up the trail from here. There are also cabins you can rent but this must be arranged ahead of time and fills fast.
As you finally reach tree line near 12,100 feet the remaining route comes into view. While the trail is in good condition, it can be hard to see from where you are. Get ready for 2,000 feet of elevation gain to go to reach the summit!
The trail above tree line is rugged so make sure you take your time. You’ll pass several metal signs alerting you to the presence of a several thousand foot drop off just beyond it. Worth a rest to enjoy the view here!
The 16 Golden Stairs are really just a series of grueling switchbacks up the eastern face of Pikes Peak. If you’ve gotten this far, you can push through to the summit from here. Just don’t try to count the switchbacks, it won’t make things easier.
As you approach the top, the Summit House will come into view. Pikes Peak is the only 14er with a permanent structure on the summit. In fact, it offers doughnuts and coffee – a well earned treat after all your hard work.
I hope you found my Pikes Peak Route Guide helpful for hiking Pikes Peak. Be sure to head down with plenty of time to get back to tree line before afternoon thunderstorms become a hazard.
My Pikes Peak Route Guide includes this topographical map of the route and area. Click on it to view it and download it on your phone for your trip. I also recommend that you print out a paper backup copy in case anything happens to your electronics or if your battery dies.
Reading this Pikes Peak Route Guide is a good start, but you should also check the weather forecast for the peak several times before hiking Pikes Peak.
Pikes Peak is one of America’s most famous mountains. Located around 12 miles west of downtown Colorado Springs, it was named after Zebulon Pike who attempted but failed to climb it during his expedition west in November, 1806. Maybe if he has my Pikes Peak route guide to use he would have eventually succeeded!
The Peak has seen a variety of ways to reach its summit. Back in 1891, the Manitou and Pike’s Peak Railway built a cog railway to the summit that remains the highest railway in America today. Soon after, the Barr Trail was first built by Fred Barr from 1914 through 1917 for hiking Pikes Peak. One year after trail construction began, the Pikes Peak Highway began construction, with the first car reaching the summit shortly after. No need for my Pikes Peak Route Guide if you’re taking that approach!
Hiking Pikes Peak is an inherently high-risk activity – do so at your own risk, and use the following best practices to help keep yourself safe.
- Research your route and bring a compass & topographic map.
- Check the weather forecast and stay home during inclement weather.
- Bring the Ten Essentials and the knowledge/skill to use them.
- Leave your plans with someone back home along with a detailed itinerary.
- Start early, and end early: Be back at tree line by noon to avoid lightning.
- Bring a buddy on your first ascent, preferably someone experienced.
Hiking Pikes Peak and other high peaks is an inherently high-risk, dangerous activity. There is a significant risk of injury or death, even with proper planning and experience. Those using my guide accept all risks associated with climbing 14ers and do not hold this website or any information they obtain from it liable for any accidents or injuries that occur while engaging in these activities on Colorado’s high peaks. It is each hiker or climber’s responsibility to research their route carefully, bring the ten essentials, and practice other safe practices, though even these precautions do not eliminate risk and danger. Visit these summits at your own rosk.
About the Author: Alex Derr
Alex Derr is a mountaineer and blogger based in Denver Colorado. He is working to climb Colorado’s highest 100 peaks, and the 20 tallest peaks in California. He created The Next Summit to share advice, stories, history & reflections from the Colorado Rockies & Sierra Nevada. When not climbing, he is managing the Communications strategy at Visible Network Labs.