Monday, July 28, 2008

Pikes Peak, Colorado Springs

Since we were planning on returning the rental car tomorrow morning, we decided to take it up to Pikes Peak tonight. Most of the Pikes Peaks Highway is paved but 11 of the miles are not paved. Even though I’ve read a few websites that say the unpaved section is gravel, it’s not. It’s hard packed dirt that turns in to sticky slop when wet.

Pikes Peak Highway (left) and toll gate (right)

Yep, it's pretty twisty

During the summer days you have to pass the toll gate before 7PM and be off the peak by 9PM. Leaving Colorado Springs tonight around 6PM we were in a mad rush to reach the toll gate. The Pikes Peak website suggests that you have at least half a gas tank of gas before heading up to the peak, the PT Cruiser was almost on empty and there were no gas stations in Cascade, so we had to turn around and get gas in Manitou Springs, big mistake since it’s a tourist town and the traffic through town was moving very slowly. First gas station didn’t accept credit cards, second one did, so we filled up and headed back up 24 but as we followed the sign for 24 we realized that the road out of town was heading east and we wanted to go west.

So that's where Big Foot lives

At this point we really didn’t think we’d make it but miraculously we arrived at the Pikes Peak toll gate at 6:57PM. We both paid $10 each and headed up the mountain. The hand written sign that gets updated at the toll booth said that the temperature at the top was currently 38 degrees… brrrrrrrrrrr.

Starting the climb to the peak

Hair pin switch backs up the mountain

Eventhough the Pikes Peak Highway is only 19 miles long each way, the speed limit is low on this road since it is steep and curvy. The Pikes Peak website suggest that at least 2 hours are needed to make the trip, 3.5 hours are needed if one intends on stopping.

Views of the Pikes Peaks Highway from above

It actually did take us an hour to get up to Pikes Peak and we only pulled over once. We stopped for pictures at the top of Pikes Peak, it was very cold and windy so I went back to the car while Mike went and checked out the gift shop. Unfortunately we ended up skipping dinner in the rush to get to the toll booth on time and now I was developing a bad headache, partly due to elevation sickness because of the fast climb in elevation, and because I was very hungry.

Some snow near the road

Rain clouds were building over Pikes Peak as we headed up the mountain and the road was wet at the top, parts of the road were enveloped in thick fog, but on the way down the clouds moved away and we got to see a super nice sun set from the top of the mountain.

Entering the fog

No guard rails here

Colorado Springs in the distance

We were making good time until we reached brake checkpoint where a ranger checks the brake temperature of each vehicle passing through. There are signs posted on the road to drive in lower gear, but the decent in lower gear was taking much too long. The result was that our breaks were red hot. We actually had the hottest brakes of the day. So while other vehicles had to pull over and sit 10-20 minutes we had to sit for 40 minutes and even then our brakes were still too hot to leave and we had to sit a few more minutes. At this point I was really looking forward to getting off the mountain so I could eat something, my headache was not going away, but we did get to see a cool sun set while waiting for the brakes to cool down. I think we were the last vehicle to enter the toll gate and the last vehicle to get off the Pikes Peak Highway.

It was 38 degrees and windy at the top

As for the road. It’s definitely worth the $10 admission. The road is great and the views are amazing. I wouldn’t take my street bike up to Pikes Peak since the road gets muddy and slick when it rains, but I’d definitely bring a dual sport up there.

Heading back down

Waiting for our brakes to cool off (left) the brake checkpoint station (right)

The sun sets as we wait for our brakes to cool off

1 comment:

grams said...

what beautiful pictures. I have been wondering if I wanted to have our son take me there. He just moved to Loveland and had not visited Pikes Peak yet. You convinced mne it is the place to go. Again thank you so much for sharing your pictures with us and your comments.