Everyone knows Colorado is breathtakingly beautiful, but a trip up into its mountains adds a whole level of adventure to the lavish landscapes.
About an hour south of Denver, the skyline of Colorado Springs isn’t impressive for its buildings. It’s impressive for its 14,115 foot mountain just to the city’s west. There are several ways to get to the peak, including a cog railroad or even a breathless high-altitude hike. My preferred method, though, is to drive it.
Frankly, I’m too lazy for the hike, and I think most people should be. The cog rails is smooth and comfortable, but it seriously lacks the adventure of the mountain drive.
For a modest fee at about 7,400 feet, you can take your vehicle through dozens of switchbacks, beyond the tree line and up the dusty curves, hills and ridges all the way to the visitors center at the top of the peak.
The road makes for some white-knuckle driving, especially near the top when you get past the trees and don’t realize there is nothing to stop you if you somehow veered off the road. The dirt and gravel roads don’t have the traction of highways like the mountaintop roads in Rocky Mountain National Park, but the loose-traction road gives your trip an edge of danger, especially when you look on both sides of the road and see downhill.
So what do you get to do at the top? Look around. Check out the views. Take some pictures. Visit the gift shop.
Okay, so there’s not much up there to do, but the journey is the adventure. The destination is just the breather. And definitely do your best to catch your breath – even if that means grabbing some oxygen (and a lot of water to prevent dehydration and altitude sickness). You’ll need to feel refreshed, because there’s only one way up and one way down.
That means if the road scared you coming up, it might be even more intense headed down hill while you’re desperately hoping that your brakes are in good shape.
If that’s not enough for you, you could always enter the annual race up the mountain – the Pike’s Peak International Hill Climb. It got real this year with one of its participants dying in an accident at Pike’s Peak. I’ll stick to my leisurely, white-knuckled pace, thank you very much.