Pikes Peak is one of the most famous of the Colorado 14ers. It towers almost 9000 feet above Colorado Springs. The song America The Beautiful was inspired by the views from the summit of Pikes. With a road and a cog railway to the summit, be prepared to share the summit with a lot of people. We decided to hike Pikes from the Crags Trailhead on the northwest side of the mountain. This route is only 11 miles compared to the 26 mile Barr Trail. The photo below is Pikes viewed from the north.
June 20, 2003
Departing Boulder around 5 p.m. we arrived at the Crags Campground around 9 p.m. Not wanting to pay a fee and camp surrounded by noisy boy scouts, we found a nice spot to pull off the road about .5 miles down from the campground. It was a beautiful star filled night and the temperature stayed warm.
June 21, 2003
The alarm sounded at 5:30 and it took us a little while to gather the motivation to crawl out of our warm sleeping bags and get ready for the hike. After breakfast and getting our gear together we parked off the dirt road just outside the campground, thus not having to pay just to park at the trailhead. It was a quick .25 mile walk to the trailhead. Roach notes in his book that about 200 yards down the trail you'll see 3 water pipes of varying sizes. About 100 feet down the trail from these pipes you'll want to peel off the trail to the right. Just down from the pipes shown below, there is a bridge across the northern of 2 streams.
You'll find an old road between the streams and you want to follow this up through the forest. Not far from the beginning of this road you'll see a sign showing the way to the Devil's Playground, this is the way you want to take. The road ascends the forest at a very comfortable grade show below.
After following the road for 1 mile, you'll cross the stream again below some large rock formations and from here the road turns into a climbers trail. The trail begins to steepen and then switchbacks up the slope a few times before steepening again and heading straight up the slopes towards treeline. After getting to treeline the route wanders through the basin shown below.
The trail was covered in ice from water that had been running down the trail. In some spots we could avoid the ice and it others we had no choice but to skate across it. The trail remained fairly steep through this basin until we finally reached the saddle at about 12,750 feet. From here Pikes Peak finally comes into view shown below. Also from the point the wind was just howling and we put on all the warm clothing we brought.
After a relatively flat .7 miles we got the the Devil's Playground Campground just off of the Pikes Peak Road. The sign in the photo below explains how this area got its name, sounds like a lovely place to camp, doesn't it.
We crossed the road at the Devil's Playground and the book notes that you must walk at least 50 feet from the road since hitch hiking and walking along the road is prohibited. The route follows the side of the road for awhile until you come to the nice overlook shown below.
Continuing onward and upward the route follows the side of the road for awhile until you come to the shortcut shown below. As the road proceeds to the right of the hill below, you can go around to the left and shed some distance. The remainder of the route is also shown in the photo below.
Nearing the final summit ridge we left the road and proceeded up the northwest shoulder of Pikes. Snow was still present on this section of the route but was quite pleasant and not deep enough to be a hinderance. This portion of the trail is fairly steep as you meander through the boulders.
We finally gained the ridge and could see the summit. We arrived on the summit at about 10:30 a.m. taking 3.5 hours for the ascent.
It was extremely windy and cold on the summit as we wondered around reading the various signs and plaques. It was extremely hazy so the view was rather limited but several lakes and reseviors could be seen as well as Colorado Springs. Many people were interested in hearing how long it took us to hike to the summit and which way we had come up. We hunkered down behind a wall and ate some lunch, seeking shelter from the wind. The cog railway arrived while we were on the summit and many of the passengers getting off the train made a beeline to the gift shop to get out of the cold.
After 45 minutes or so on top we were cold and wanted to head down. The way down went much faster and we couldn't wait to get back to treeline and get out of the wind. We passed Devil's Playground again and once passed the saddle we began descending down the basin. The ice was completely melted so we were able to stay on the trail and make good time. We arrived back at treeline and shed some layers of clothing and finished the pleasant hike through the forest in short order. We arrived back at the trailhead around 1:30 p.m. bring our total hiking time to 6.5 hours. Amy got her 3rd 14er in 2 weeks and this was my 27th 14er so I'm halfway done, and it was my last 14er in the Front Range. It's a nice feeling to finish all the 14ers in a particular range, now if I could just close out the Sawatch Range soon.