2023 Update: The Cog Railway underwent renovations and re-opened after a long pause in operations. There are now new Pikes Peak trains, as well as a new track, depot, and Pikes Peak Visitor Center. Tickets are now $58+ for an adult (up $20 from their pricing before these updates).
Thinking of taking a trip to the summit of Pikes Peak? Experiencing the views at the top is a classic Colorado bucket-list item. And at 14,115 ft, it is literally a breathtaking experience. But the journey to the top is a huge part of the fun. So make sure you choose wisely! Check out the reviews and photos below to decide which option is best for you, Driving Pikes Peak highway or taking the railway?
Pros of Driving Up Pikes Peak Highway
Driving up Pikes Peak Highway is definitely more of an adventure than taking the railway. The 19-mile highway is lots of fun and you may even feel a little bit of an adrenaline rush driving up the steep curvy mountain roads with death drops on both sides. Or at the very least it will get your heart pounding.
Go at Your Own Pace
Plus, driving allows you to go at your own pace and stop to snap pictures or take in the views wherever your heart desires – instead of being on the train tour’s set schedule. There are plenty of pull-offs and places to stop to take a break on the drive.
Another perk to driving up Pikes Peak is the ability to take a spontaneous trip up the mountain without planning ahead. The cog railway suggests making a reservation in advance, as they can book to capacity, you don’t need to worry about this if you are driving.
At only $15 per adult ticket to drive up Pike’s Peak ($50 for a carload of up to five) compared to $58+ for a ticket on the cog railway, driving is definitely the more cost-effective option.
Cons of driving up Pikes Peak Highway
Not for Nervous Drivers
There are steep grades of up to 13%, sharp turns and many places with no guardrails. Also, riding your brakes could cause them to overheat and possibly fail. Inexperienced drivers or those who are not comfortable with these circumstances may want to take the cog railway. You definitely don’t want to be the jerk driving in the middle of the road causing problems for everyone else. Or that person doing an 18-point turn on the edge of a switchback because they freaked out and had to turn around (yes, we’ve seen this)!
Need to have a Semi-Decent Car
If you opt to drive up Pikes Peak, you need a car that can handle the climb and descent. The grades up to the top of Pikes Peak at 13%, and some of the curves on the edge of the mountain cliff does not have guardrails. If you opt for the drive, make sure you have a reliable car, with good brakes.
Pros of the Pikes Peak Cog Railway
The Pikes Peak Cog Railway is the highest in the world and is a really unique experience. These beautiful Swiss-made cog trains head up the mountain about once an hour. And since they have been climbing to the top of Pikes Peak for more than 125 years, this trip is both beautiful and historical.
It is especially great for people that don’t want to deal with the drive, are afraid of heights (this is way less scary), or just don’t have a reliable enough car. You will get to leisurely climb up the mountain with stunning scenery all around you. They even have a stopping point where you can get out and stretch your legs.
If you want to gain a little bit more knowledge of the area on their way up the mountain, then the Pikes Peak Cog Railway is a better option than driving up Pikes Peak. You still get to the summit and get to ride in a super-cool cog train!
Cons of the Pikes Peak Cog Railway
At $58+ per adult, plus a $10 parking fee, this option is much more expensive, but likely worth it if this is your only way to see the summit (or if you are not up for the drive up Pikes Peak Highway).
The cog railway usually requires a reservation ahead of time. And, tickets should be picked up 30 minutes in advance. So, this may not be the best option for a spontaneous trip up the mountain. This option in busy months also books up far in advance, so if you don’t plan ahead, you might not be able to go last minute.
Not on Your Schedule
Another thing to keep in mind is that the ride on the cog railway takes a little over 3 hours roundtrip, including 30-40 minutes to take in the views at the summit. Roundtrip on the highway takes at least two hours, but there are countless beautiful places to stop to take pictures or have a picnic – not to mention the awesome views from the top and the fun gift store (with unique souvenirs and delicious snacks). You may want some more time to check things out or if the altitude gets to be too much, it is nice to have the option to turn around.
Other Options to Reach the Summit of Pikes Peak
Is the idea of riding, or even driving, to the top of Pikes Peak just not doing it for you? Do you crave a little bit more adventure and effort in your explorations? If you are hoping for an even more exciting experience try biking or hiking to the top! The cog railway even has a one-way option for hikers that don’t want to commit to going both ways.
No matter what you plan to do, make sure you drink plenty of water… the altitude is no joke! Also bring a jacket, the temperature at the top can be pretty chilly. And definitely take an obligatory picture next to the summit sign and get some unique gifts in the shop.
Pikes Peak FAQ: Driving, Taking the Cog Railway & More Tips!
If you are visiting Colorado, a trip to the top of Pike’s Peak is a fun and memorable activity that offers great views and tons of photo opps. You may even see some wildlife, wildflowers, or snow! It is actually one of the most visited mountains in the world!
About Pikes Peak:
Where is Pikes Peak?
Pikes Peak is located about ten miles west of Colorado Springs (about 20 minutes) and is part of the Front Range of the famous Rocky Mountains.
How tall is Pikes Peak?
The Pikes Peak elevation is 14,115 feet. While tall, this is not the tallest mountain in Colorado which is known for having multiple “14ers.” However, it is still possible to experience altitude sickness at this elevation, so take precautions.
Is Pikes Peak open year round?
Pikes Peak is open all year, but it is weather dependent. If they get too much snow or severe weather at the summit, they close the Pikes Peak highway at a specific point and stop running the cog railway.
How long is the Pikes Peak highway?
The Pikes Peak highway is about 19 miles one-way all the way up to the summit.
What things to do at Pikes Peak?
While visiting “America’s Mountain,” you can take the Pikes Peak train, go on a hiking trail, drive the Pikes Peak Highway to the summit, look for wildlife, and take lots of pictures. The famous Garden of the Gods natural area and the Manitou Cave Dwellings are also close by.
Basics of Visiting Pikes Peak:
How much does it cost to go on Pikes Peak?
It costs $15 per adult to go up Pikes Peak, or $50 per car load of up to five. Taking the Pikes Peak Train on the Cog Railway is $58.50 for a standard adult ticket (in 2023).
What are the cog railway prices for tickets?
The Cog Railway tickets are $58.50 for a standard adult ticket, reserved admission is $68.50, and engineer’s view is $78.50.
How much does it cost to drive to the top of Pike’s Peak?
The ticket price to drive to the top of Pike’s Peak is $15 per adult and $5 per child. Or $50 per car load of up to five ($10 per additional adult, $2 per child). Annual passes are also available.
Does a Pikes Peak visit take all day?
No, you can drive up Pike’s Peak or take the train in about three hours. Many people pair Pikes Peak with the nearby Garden of the Gods.
How long does the cog railway take?
The Cog Railway to Pike’s Peak takes about three hours; however, plan to get there early to park and retrieve your tickets.
How long does it take to drive up Pikes Peak Highway?
Plan around three hours to drive up Pikes Peak and back down.
Is Pikes Peak a difficult drive?
Pikes Peak is not a drive meant for timid drivers. It can be especially challenging, and even dangerous, in snowy, icy, or windy conditions. They will close the road if conditions become too bad, but there are many drop-offs that can be unnerving.
Can you drive your own car to the top of Pikes Peak?
Yes, driving up Pikes Peak is a self-drive activity so you can drive your personal vehicle or rental car. Just make sure the brakes are in good condition!
When is the best time of day to visit Pikes Peak cog railway?
Morning is often the best time to go up the Pikes Peak Cog Railway. Many mention that the window seats on the left side are best.
Can you drive Pikes Peak in the winter?
Pikes Peak is a great spring, summer, or fall activity in Colorado Springs. Driving to the top depends on the weather, and it can snow even into the summer months, so just look at updates before heading there.
Are there hotels near Pikes Peak?
There are plenty of hotels near Pikes Peak, with the closest being in Manitou Springs and Colorado Springs. The Broadmoor is a locally famous and well-known more upscale hotel.
Are there RV parks near Pikes Peak Colorado?
With about a dozen or more RV parks within an hour of the entry to Pike’s Peak, you should have plenty of options for parking your rolling home.
Getting to the Cog Railway:
How far is it from Breckenridge to Pikes Peak?
It takes about two hours to get from Breckenridge to Pikes Peak. But keep in mind that you will need to commit another two or three hours to get to the summit and back.
How far is Pikes Peak from Denver?
If going to Pikes Peak from Denver, it will take about an hour and a half to get to the entry of the highway.
How far is Pikes Peak from Colorado Springs?
Downtown Colorado Springs is about half an hour from the entry to Pikes Peak.
How far is Manitou Springs from Pikes Peak?
Manitou Springs is only about 15 minutes from Pikes Peak Highway toll booth.
Other Top Pike’s Peak Questions:
How many cog railways are there in the U.S.?
There are only two cog railways in the United States, including Pikes Peak.
Does Pikes Peak offer any discounts?
There is a coupon on the Pike’s Peak website for $2 off that can only be redeemed online. Active-duty military can also get $2 off at the gate, according to the Pikes Peak website.
What are the Pikes Peak hiking trails near Colorado Springs?
The Barr Trail and Crags Trail go to the Summit of Pikes Peak and are both very difficult. However, you can stroll along parts of the trail if you don’t want to do all 13 miles.
Is the Pikes Peak cog railway worth it?
If you want a more relaxing trip up Pikes Peak with gorgeous views and a unique experience on a train, the Pikes Peak cog railway train is definitely worth it!