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, the Pikes Peak highway or railway?
Pikes Peak Highway
Pros: Adrenaline Rush | Your Own Pace | No Reservations | Less Expensive
Driving up the 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 mountain roads. Or at the very least it will get your heart pounding. 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.
Another perk to driving is the ability to take a spontaneous trip up the mountain without planning ahead. (reservations are suggested for the cog railway). At only $12 per adult vs. $38 plus a $5 parking fee, driving is definitely the more cost-effective option.
Cons: Not for Nervous Drivers | Need to Have Semi-Decent Car (with reliable brakes)
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)!
Pikes Peak Cog Railway
Pros: Unique Experience | Relaxing Trip | More Educational
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 who want to gain a little bit more knowledge of the area on their way up the mountain. You still get to the summit and get to ride in a super-cool cog train!
Cons: More Expensive | Reservation Needed | Not on Your Schedule
At $38 per person, plus a $5 parking fee, this option is more expensive, but well worth it if this is your only way to see the summit (if you are not up for the drive). 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.
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.
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.