Pikes Peak

Top choice mountain

in Manitou Springs
Image by Steve McAlister / Getty Images
Image by Steve McAlister / Getty Images

Pikes Peak (14,110ft) may not be the tallest of Colorado's 54 fourteeners, but it's certainly the most famous. The Ute originally called it the Mountain of the Sun, an apt description for this majestic peak, which crowns the southern Front Range. Rising 7400ft straight up from the plains, more than half a million visitors climb it every year.

Its location as the easternmost 14er has contributed heavily to its place in American myth. Zebulon Pike first made note of it in 1806 (he called it 'Grand Peak,' but never made it to the top) when exploring the Louisiana Purchase, and Katherine Bates, a guest lecturer at Colorado College in 1893, wrote the original draft of America the Beautiful after reaching the summit.

Today there are three ways to ascend the peak: the Pikes Peak Hwy (about a five-hour round-trip), which was built in 1915 by Spencer Penrose and winds 19 miles to the top from Hwy 24 west of town; the cog railway, which is slated to reopen in 2021; and on foot via the Barr Trail.

The hike to the top is nothing to scoff at. It's 13.5 miles straight up. In fact they run a marathon here. To take it on, you should have proper clothing, food and water, and expect to get up before the sunrise to make the summit by noon.