Welcome to Part II of the Colorado Drive. Let’s begin:
The next day we made our way to Pikes Peak, just 30 miles west of Colorado Springs. First stop along the way was Garden of the Gods. This public park just west of Colorado Springs offers nice views with hiking and Segway tour accommodations. Since we wanted to be mindful of the time, we chose to just drive through.
Wait. Did we stumble upon another planet? More amazing views.
Cheesy photo by “balanced rock” in the park.
Now let’s get to the good stuff. Making our way to Pikes Peak highway was an easy drive. Upon arrival at the tollgate, a rather lengthy line of cars were awaiting their turn to pay the entry fee to continue onward. It wasn’t the cheapest at $30 ($15 per person), but trust me…all was worth it. Pikes Peak is regarded as the most visited mountain in North America, and only second in the world next to Japan’s Mt. Fuji. At 14,115 ft above sea level, this is the 31st highest peak out of the 54 in Colorado. The Pikes Peak Highway from the base to the summit climbs 7,400 ft over just over 12 miles!
Four major events take place on this mountain each year, Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon, Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, Pikes Peak Challenge and the AdAmAn Club New Year’s Fireworks display. Best part for me is simply enjoying the views and crossing off another bucket list item.
Making our way up to the summit. We are now beginning the 7,400 ft climb. THIS GETS STEEP!
…and steeper (at timberline here)
…and steeper! (now at alpine level) It’s certainly an odd feeling being nearly eye-level with the clouds.
Nah, you don’t need no stinkin’ guardrails here. Some areas you would fall to certain death if you got a little careless with driving.
Some views midway.
The views were quite intoxicating, and most curves were perfectly banked for some decent fun.
Mostly though, we just took our time at a steady pace. After a little under an hour which included many photo stops, we made it!
We checked out The Summit House which was the only facility at the summit. Stuffed full of endless souvenirs and a small cafe, you could get lost in there for quite some time. A small burger and milk shake sure hit the spot and I did manage to buy a few items.
Outside the Summit House, you’re free to walk around with no barriers, fencing or other obstructions and take in the scenery.
When it was time to start the descend, I was surprised that 1 – 2nd gear and 4,000 rpms were all I could use to comfortably control the speed. Rain started to come down which made me even more cautious.
Midway down the mountain, there was a mandatory brake check where a nice lady actually checked each vehicle’s rotors and pads with a temperature gauge. If your brakes were too toasty, you have to pull aside to let them cool before proceeding. This was serious stuff here. Luckily, we sailed on by with no issue.
That covers it! Apologies I couldn’t offer up some more excitement in the mix. Saying “Two dudes drive an old Mazda up two mountains without incident” doesn’t exactly make for an exciting read. However, if you stuck around long enough to read this, I thank you for joining the ride. Until next time…
Wow, the mandatory brake temp check thing is an interesting requirement. Did you coast downward in gear to avoid ‘riding’ the brakes much? I want to see a picture of the burger and milkshake from up top! You know food is a big motivator for me. I see a few raindrops on the windshield, was the weather notably cooler at the summit than at “ground” level?
Definitely coasted in a gear to save the brakes. It was steep enough 2nd gear was the max otherwise it would run away from me! I just kept it singing along at 4,000 rpms. I had a pic of the food but somehow I lost it in phone transitions. 😦 It wasn’t gourmet by any means, but it wasn’t bad. Weather was notibly cooler and misty rain was pretty constant the whole time at the top. Guy at the Summit House said that it was common to not see the sun for several days up there!
I’m stunned at how many other tourists (or visitors) were making the trip up Pikes Peak. It’s one of those items that I have on my bucket list, that I’ll eventually get to… one day… I’ve never heard of a stop where they do a brake temperature check – I wonder how hot the brakes actually have to be before they make you pull the car over for a rest period? Look forward to hearing about your next adventure. Cheers!
Thanks, Adam. Yes, we were surprised by the tourist activity too! I definitely say you NEED to do this soon. It was an epic drive. If the lady at the brake check wasn’t as busy as she was, I would have made more small chat and asked what an average temp is and her highest and lowest readings for the day. Stats are fun…haha!