• Pikes Peak 1

    Pikes Peak

    Experience America’s Mountain

Breathtaking National Icon

Imagine what you’ll discover on your 9-mile journey to the top of this 14,115-foot National Historic Landmark. This striking mountain of granite, carved by glaciers over millions of years, was home to the Ute Indians long before anyone explored the region. The Utes called it Ta-Wa-Ah-Gath or “Sun Mountain Sitting Big.” Beautiful scenery surrounds a range of wildlife, from foxes, coyotes, and elk, to bighorn sheep and whistling yellow-bellied marmots above timberline. And then there’s the summit, with its sweeping 360-degree views of the Pikes Peak region, vistas that inspired the song of a nation and natural beauty that has drawn generations of explorers and travelers.

The Great Peak

Pikes Peak was named for Zebulon Montgomery Pike, an early explorer of the Southwest who first sighted what he called “The Great Peak” in November 1806, but was not actually the first to climb it. He attempted to summit the mountain, but heavy snows had other plans for his crew who turned back at about the 10,000-foot mark. It was Edwin James, a botanist who had climbed many peaks in Colorado, who made it to the top in 1820. By the mid-1800s, a trail was well established to the top, and the first woman, Julia Archibald Holmes, climbed the peak in 1858.

An Early Icon

After the Louisiana Purchase, people began traveling and searching for new fortunes and new beginnings. Pikes Peak’s proximity to the edge of the Great Plains, as well as its height, made it the first sight of westward bound wagon trains, making “Pikes Peak or Bust” the motto for gold seekers. In 1873, the U.S. Signal Service (an early Weather Bureau) built a telegraph station on the summit to monitor the weather.

A mule along the Cog Railway in Manitou Springd

From Mule to Cog

In the late 1880s, a Mr. Zalman Simmons, owner of the Simmons Mattress Company, rode a mule to the top of Pikes Peak to inspect new insulators for the telegraph wires at the signal station at the summit. He was in awe of the incredible views from Pikes Peak but was worn out and saddle-weary from the arduous trip. Legend has it that as he sat soaking in one of the mineral spring spas (reportedly at the Cliff House in Manitou Springs), the proprietor of the hotel mentioned the idea of a mountain railroad to the top of Pikes Peak, an idea that sparked his imagination, and soon he set about organizing a company to build the Manitou & Pikes Peak Cog Railway. The rest, as they say, is history.

Bryan Test

The Sound Behind the Mountain

More than just a mountain, Pikes Peak is emotionally moving: this is the place that inspired “America the Beautiful”, written by Katharine Lee Bates. Her experience in 1893 on top of Pikes Peak moved her to pen the poem that became one of the most patriotic songs honoring America. Once you make your way to the top of Pikes Peak, America’s Mountain, it’s hard to say how the experience will move you.

Fun Facts

While certainly one of the most famous mountains in the country and the second most visited mountain in the world (behind Mount Fuji), Pikes Peak stands at 14,115 feet, towers 8,000 feet above Colorado Springs, and yet it is not the highest mountain in Colorado. That honour belongs to Mt. Elbert at 14,433 feet.

Actually, the altitude of Pikes Peak has changed many times over the years. Initially, it was 14,109 feet, with the addition of the Summit House Tower in the late 1800s it was increased to 14,147 feet, then when the new Summit House was built, it was changed again to 14,110 feet. Congress recalculations in 2002 set it at 14,115 feet and then the National Forest Service declared they were “keeping” the old height of 14,100 feet.

Bring your measuring tape!