PHOTO: Driving Pike’s Peak (Courtesy Flickr/kosheahan)
In the Rocky Mountains, near Colorado Springs, is the 19-mile scenic journey up the Pikes Peak Highway – a drive you won’t soon forget.
You travel past alpine meadows, mountain reservoirs and breathtaking drops until you reach the summit of Pikes Peak at 14,115 feet above sea level.
Along the way, there are plenty of places to pull over and take in a stunning scenic vista or stop for a hike or even some fishing, depending on the season.
Here’s how your journey in an Enterprise Rent-A-Car might unfold as you explore this great national resource.
As you enter the highway, keep your eyes peeled for a Sasquatch. It was right around Mile Marker 3 that a visitor to the park saw Big Foot in 2001.
Just past Mile Marker 6 is the Crystal Reservoir Visitor Center. Although just a few miles into your journey, it’s a great place to stop for snacks, or even some bait if you plan on doing some fishing. It’s also a good place to familiarize yourself with the highway and the many things you will see along the way thanks to ranger-led classes. And in summer months, paddle boats are available for rent. In autumn, the hills are covered in a patchwork of reds, oranges and bright yellows as the golden aspens begin to turn colors.
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About halfway up the mountain, you’ll come to the historic Glen Cove Inn, the perfect stop for some lunch or an afternoon snack and a restroom break. The Inn offers visitors the chance to enjoy a meal and even purchase some souvenirs of their journey. In the summer, rock climbing lessons are offered, and those who feel lucky may wish to try their hand at panning for gems. Make a note of this stop, because on the way down, rangers ask that you stop back by so they can check the temperature of your car brakes.
As you continue your drive up the mountain, the scenery becomes even more dramatic as the high elevation makes it practically impossible for anything to grow. Several striking switchback “Ws” later and you have reached the top. Be warned that these views are not for the faint of heart, as you might guess with names such as the Devil’s Playground and the Bottomless Pit.
Once you reach the top, you’ll want to spend some time at the Summit House and observation deck. While you are there, be sure to try their world-famous donuts, the only donuts to be made at an altitude higher than 14,000 feet. Note: Be sure to eat them while still at the summit as these donuts are made with special ingredients that change their texture depending on the altitude.
On the way down, there are other opportunities to get out and take in the sights. Just remember not to ride your brakes and go down in the lowest gear possible. Also remember to take a jacket, even in summer, as temperatures at the top are often 30 degrees cooler than at the start of your journey, and make sure to check the weather report, as inclement conditions may result in portions of the highway being closed as a result of snow. Lastly, before embarking on your trip be sure you have at least a half tank of gas. It’s a long, slow climb to the top (and then you need to come back down), and there aren’t any gas stations along the highway.