This weekend, Alex and I enjoyed a fun, non-hiking class weekend with our friend, Sana, who visited us from Georgia! Sana and Alex became fast friends when he worked in Florida and I liked her immediately. No matter how long it’s been since we’ve seen or talked with Sana, it’s like no time has passed at all – we all fall into easy conversation and laughter quickly follows.
Sana really wanted to see mountains and snow last weekend – unfortunately, skiing was out of the question but we were able to show Sana both mountains and snow, up close and personal! We drove down to Manitou Springs, just outside of Colorado Springs, to ride the Pikes Peak Cog Railway to the top of Pikes Peak.
Sometimes, Alex and I forget to do the ‘touristy’ things in Denver and Colorado because there’s so much non-touristy things we like to do. Visitors give us a great chance to do exactly those things. Visiting Pikes Peak has been on my ‘must do in Colorado’ list since I’ve moved here so down to Pikes Peak we went!
The cog railway train is the world’s highest cog train. Tickets are $35 and we weren’t able to find any discounts that fit our schedule. We piled in the train at 1 p.m. for our 1:20 p.m. trip. The ride up takes about an hour and as the train passes interesting landmarks, the conductors point it out and give history of the mountain, rail and train. At one point during the climb, the bottom of the train was 3 stories lower than the front of the car. That’s a steep incline!
We had a mostly cloudy day with some small interruptions of beautiful blue sky. For me, the best part of the train ride was seeing everyone get so excited about mountains, rocks, snow and how high we were climbing. It’s not that that stuff doesn’t excite me anymore – it absolutely does! But it’s lost it’s ‘first time seeing mountains’ magic so it was so fun to watch everyone else squeal with delight on the ride up.
Just over an hour after our trip started, we reached the summit! The conductor team warned that it might be cloudy and snowing in the summit and they were right. Sana certainly got her snow!
My question for other ‘peak baggers’… does riding the train to the summit count?! Can I cross Pikes Peak off our list of 14ers achieved?!
Kidding. Kind of.
There’s also a summit house (… on the summit) that sells these awesome donuts, snacks, fudge, gifts, etc. After we climbed through the snow outside, we poked around inside and bought some donuts for the trip down the mountain. YUM. If you ever get to the top of Pikes Peak, try the donuts.
After 35ish minutes on the summit, we boarded the train to head back down. Many people on the train were feeling the altitude – lightheaded, dizzy, nausea, sleepy – and they were ready to start getting to lower elevation. Because the weather was getting worse, the last train of the day was not going to make it to the top so we waited a few extra minutes for the summit house staff to hop on the train to ride down with us. Those few minutes felt much longer than they actually were!
The ride down takes just as long as the ride up but the sensation is very different – the steep decline really works your core muscles to keep yourself in your seat! Fortunately for us, the sky cleared a little on the way back down so we were able to see a bit more than our ride up.
This is Inspiration Point which is where Katherine Lee Bates was inspired to pen America The Beautiful. I’m sure the view on a crystal clear day is phenomenal!
We all really enjoyed the train ride – it was a unique and fun experience in Colorado! If you’re just visiting Colorado or are looking for a place to take visitors, this short day trip gives visitors a taste of our beautiful mountains and what altitude feels like in a safe, non-exerting/hiking way. I highly recommend it!
(Pikes Peak from the back of a random King Soopers parking lot)