Hiking Pikes Peak | Route Description, Map & Advice
Pikes Peak is one of the most famous 14ers, and the only one that gave a name to a major Colorado historical event. Even though gold was found north in Denver, the Pikes Peak Gold Rush is largely responsible for the state’s early development. The Barr Trail up to the summit is a Class 1 hike, but it’s the longest of any 14er with nearly 7,500 feet of elevation gain.
The Peak is also is home to the Pikes Peak Highway and Railroad, both which provide accees to the summit – though hiking Pikes Peak is much better! I recommend doing this in two days with an overnight rest at Barr Camp. Here’s more info on hiking Pikes Peak, in my Pikes Peak Route Guide.
NEW TO 14ERS? CHECK OUT MY BEGINNERS GUIDE FOR A SAFE FIRST SUMMIT!
Hiking Pikes Peak | Fast Facts
Hiking Pikes Peak - East Slopes Route
Your trip hiking Pikes Peak starts at the Manitou Springs Trailhead. The Barr Trail is long but well-maintained and signed. You should expect easy route-finding and good conditions for the majority of the route. Once parked, set off for the Barr Trail. Optionally you can use the Manitou Incline to begin the hike, as it meets up with the Barr Trail towards the top.
After a time, you’ll pass the Manitou Incline around 7,800 feet. If you took that optional route to start, make sure you divert left to join the Barr Trail. Around 2.75 miles from the trailhead, you’ll come to a fun rock arch that stands over the trail – go ahead and sneak through it.
A bit beyond this rock, you’ll pass several overlooks that provide a great view of Pikes Peak. As you can see from the picture, you’re still a long ways from the peak, with several thousand feet of elevation gain to go.
After 6 miles of hiking, you will finally pass Barr Camp. There are numerous campsites available here if you’d like to spend the night (highly recommended if you’re a beginner). Tree-line is just a bit further up the trail from here. You can also rent cabins, but this must be arranged ahead of time and fills fast.
As you finally reach the treeline near 12,100 feet, the remaining route comes into view. While the trail is in good condition, it can be hard to see from where you are. Get ready for 2,000 feet of elevation gain to go to reach the summit!
The trail above treeline is rugged, so make sure you take your time. You’ll pass several metal signs alerting you to the presence of a several thousand-foot drop-off just beyond it. Worth a rest to enjoy the view here!
The 16 Golden Stairs are really just a series of grueling switchbacks up the eastern face of Pikes Peak. If you’ve gotten this far, you can push through to the summit from here. Just don’t try to count the switchbacks; it won’t make things easier.
As you approach the top, the Summit House will come into view. Pikes Peak is the only 14er with a permanent structure on the summit. In fact, it offers doughnuts and coffee – a well-earned treat after all your hard work.
I hope you found my Pikes Peak Route Guide helpful for hiking Pikes Peak. Be sure to head down with plenty of time to get back to treeline before afternoon thunderstorms become a hazard.
My Pikes Peak Route Guide includes this topographical map of the route and area. Click on it to view it and download it on your phone for your trip. I also recommend that you print out a paper backup copy in case anything happens to your electronics or if your battery dies.
Reading this Pikes Peak Route Guide is a good start, but you should also check the weather forecast for the peak several times before hiking Pikes Peak. Below you’ll find the complete National Weather Service forecast. Scroll down to review it before hiking Pikes Peak.
It’s important to bring the right gear with you while hiking Pikes Peak if you want to successfully summit. Here is a full list of what you should bring with you.
The Bar Trail on Pikes Peak is busy, so you don’t need too much emergency gear. The basic necessities will do for most situations:
- Small First Aid Kit
- Sunscreen and Lip Balm
- Water Bottle (2 liters minimum)
- Snacks (trail mix, jerky, protein bars)
The most important/expensive gear necessary for those hiking Pikes Peak is a good backpack to store your gear and a good pair of hiking boots that will withstand the tough conditions. I recommend hiking boots instead of hiking shoes as tripping is very possible on the rocky slopes you’ll navigate while hiking Pikes Peak
I also suggest you. bring a pair of trekking poles too, as they help you use your upper body strength to support your legs and increase your balance. If you bring them, make sure they collapse so you can store them in your pack if needed.
Click here to learn more about what to bring with you for a safe and successful fourteener, including Pikes Peak.
Camping near Pikes Peak:
Learn more about dispersed camping near 14ers here.
Lodging near Pikes Peak:
There are also many cabin rentals and Airbnbs available near the Pikes Peak trailhead.
Pikes Peak is a very busy mountain, largely due to its proximity to Colorado Springs and its class 1 route. It’s critically important that you practice Leave No Trace outdoor ethics while hiking Pikes Peak to help conserve the mountain for the future. This includes:
- Plan ahead, review the route and pick a weekday or day in September to hike.
- Stay on the trail, and keep dogs leashed on and off-trail to reduce trampling of alpine grass.
- Leave your Bluetooth speaker at home and let nature’s sound reign.
- Urinate off-trail, and pack out your waste – a cathole won’t work at high altitude.
- Give wildlife a wide berth – 100 meters if possible. If they approach, back up to keep space.
- Take nothing but pictures, and leave nothing but footprints.
Safe travels, and good luck hiking Pikes Peak! Learn more about Leave No Trace on 14ers here.
Embarking on a hike up Pikes Peak is an exciting adventure, but it’s essential to prioritize safety during your journey. Adhering to mountain safety best practices will ensure a more enjoyable and secure experience for both novice and experienced hikers alike.
Plan and Prepare
Thoroughly research the trail conditions, weather forecasts, and any potential hazards or challenges specific to Pikes Peak. Ensure you have appropriate gear, clothing, and sufficient food and water for the duration of your hike. Notify someone of your planned route and estimated return time.
Begin your hike early in the morning to avoid afternoon thunderstorms, which are common in the Colorado mountains. Aim to be off the summit and below the tree line before noon to minimize the risk of lightning exposure.
Understand Altitude Sickness
Know the symptoms of Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE), and High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE). If you or anyone in your party exhibits symptoms (coughing, shortness of breath, severe headache, confusion), do not hesitate to descend to a lower elevation.
Stay on Established Trails
Preserve the environment and minimize your impact by staying on marked trails. Not only does this protect fragile vegetation, but it also reduces the risk of getting lost or encountering unexpected hazards.
Hike with a Buddy
Hiking with a partner or group provides additional safety and support. In case of injury or an emergency, having someone with you can make a significant difference in the outcome.
Monitor the Weather
Mountain weather can change rapidly, so keep an eye on the sky and be prepared to adjust your plans if necessary. If thunderstorms or other dangerous weather conditions develop, prioritize safety and consider turning back.
Know Your Limits
Be honest about your physical fitness, experience, and skill level. If you’re unsure about your ability to complete the hike or reach the summit, it’s better to turn back and try again another day.
Be Prepared for Emergencies
Carry a fully charged cell phone or a personal locator beacon (PLB) in case of emergencies. Familiarize yourself with basic first aid and wilderness survival skills, and know the emergency contact numbers for the area.
Following these mountain safety best practices and advice will help ensure a successful and enjoyable hike on Pikes Peak, while also promoting responsible stewardship of our treasured natural landscapes.
There are no permits required to climb Pikes Peak.
The summit is located in Pike National Forest. Please follow Leave No Trace and mountain safety best practices to protect access to the public for the future.
DIRECTIONS: Take E Colorado Ave to US-24 W and drive west. Turn left onto Serpentine Drive and then merge onto Manitou Avenue. At the traffic circle, take the 1st exit onto Ruxton Ave, and continue until you reach the trailhead.
Pikes Peak is one of America’s most famous mountains. Located around 12 miles west of downtown Colorado Springs, it was named after Zebulon Pike who attempted but failed to climb it during his expedition west in November, 1806. Maybe if he has my Pikes Peak route guide to use he would have eventually succeeded!
The Peak has seen a variety of ways to reach its summit. Back in 1891, the Manitou and Pike’s Peak Railway built a cog railway to the summit that remains the highest railway in America today. Soon after, the Barr Trail was first built by Fred Barr from 1914 through 1917 for hiking Pikes Peak. One year after trail construction began, the Pikes Peak Highway began construction, with the first car reaching the summit shortly after. No need for my Pikes Peak Route Guide if you’re taking that approach!
Here are some of my favorite images of Pikes Peak.
Here are some additional websites and resources with information and advice for those hiking Pikes Peak.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q: There are several hiking trails to reach the summit of Pikes Peak, but the most popular one is the Barr Trail. Starting in Manitou Springs, it spans 13 miles one-way and gains 7,800 feet in elevation. Another option is the Crags Trail, which is shorter and less steep but still challenging, with a distance of around 14 miles round-trip.
The ideal time to hike Pikes Peak is from late June to early October when the weather is more predictable and the trail is clear of snow. However, the peak can be hiked year-round, provided hikers are prepared for changing weather conditions and potential snow on the trail.
The time it takes to hike Pikes Peak varies depending on the trail and the hiker’s physical fitness. For the Barr Trail, most hikers take an average of 7-8 hours to ascend and 5-6 hours to descend. For the Crags Trail, it usually takes 7-9 hours for the round-trip hike.
Some essential items to pack for a Pikes Peak hike include appropriate clothing layers, sturdy hiking boots, a hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, a backpack, plenty of water, high-energy snacks, a trail map, a compass or GPS device, a first-aid kit, and a headlamp or flashlight.
There is no permit required to hike Pikes Peak. However, there is a parking fee for the Barr Trailhead in Manitou Springs. Hikers are advised to check for any updates on fees and regulations before heading out.
Notice: The material presented in this route guide may not be comprehensive or precise and should not be solely relied upon when planning your climb. Inadequate experience, physical fitness, supplies, or equipment may result in injury or fatality.
The Next Summit and the author(s) of this hiking guide offer no guarantees, neither explicit nor implied, regarding the accuracy or dependability of the information provided.
By utilizing the information herein, you agree to indemnify and absolve The Next Summit and the hiking guide author(s) from any claims and demands against them, including any legal fees and expenses.
Alex is an Eagle Scout, climber, and environmental policy expert located in Denver, Colorado. He created The Next Summit to help others stay safe exploring the mountains and advocate to preserve the peaks for the future. Follow him on Linkedin or Twitter or click here to contact him.