COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Pikes Peak, one Colorado’s most recognizable landmarks, has been a significant place to people dating back hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Known as America’s Mountain, Pikes Peak also happens to be one of the most accessible 14er, and it is open to visitors all year round.
By the late 1800s, the only structure on the summit of Pikes Peak was a military-owned weather station, and the only way to get to the summit was to travel by foot, horse, or mule. As more people moved into the area and tourism to Peaks Peak increased, a man named Zalmon Simmons decided to raise funds to build a railway to the summit of Pikes Peak.
After several years of construction, the Pikes Peak Cog Railway completed its first trip to the summit on June 30, 1891. Now, 130 years later, visitors are still riding the train to the top of Pikes Peak.
“We’re one of only two cog railways in the U.S., and about 40 around the world. Most are located in the Alps. This is truly a unique attraction to the United States. And so, if you truly want a once in a lifetime experience of going to a 14-thousand-foot mountain, this is it,” says Ted Johnston, assistant general manager at the Pikes Peak Cog Railway.
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The completion of the Pikes Peak Cog Railway, followed by the Pikes Peak Highway, brought a huge increase of tourism to the summit of Pikes Peak. Over the years, the military weather station at the top was turned into the Summit House. In 2018, the Summit House was torn down to make way for the new Summit Visitor Center, which officially opened its doors this year in June.
“We’ve done a complete redesign of the summit facilities. The new Summit Visitor Center offers guest brand new opportunities to explore the history, the people, the place,” says Sandy Elliott, the parks operations administrator of Pikes Peak.
Though many things throughout Pikes Peak have changed over the years, one thing remains the same. The view and the experience from the summit are well-worth the journey to the top.
“For most people, this is the only time they will ever set foot on a fourteener. It’s magnificent between the views and the experience itself,” says Elliott.