Pikes Peak, cheesily called “America's Mountain", is a a high mountain peak at an elevation of 4.302m (14,115ft) above the sea level, located in the Rocky Mountains in El Paso County in the United States of America. Along the way you’ll encounter some of the most breathtaking scenery in the world as you wind your way through an alpine wonderland of scenic beauty, mountain reservoirs, beyond timberline, overtaking the clouds… It's one of the highest roads of the USA.
This road is at least partially open year-round, "weather permitting", i.e. open up to the altitude where snow removal becomes excessively difficult, but it can be closed anytime when the access is not cleared of snow. The road to reach the summit, called Pikes Peak Highway is a 19-mile (31 km) toll road that runs from Cascade to the summit and it was built in 1915. Over a half million people reach the summit house every year by the Pikes Peak Highway. Pikes Peak (originally Pike's Peak) is the most visited mountain in North America and the second most visited mountain in the world behind Japan's Mount Fuji. It forms a stunning backdrop for Colorado Springs and the Garden of the Gods. When you get above timberline, it’s like driving on Mars with a boulder-strewn, reddish-hued landscape.
When was Pikes Peak Highway built?
It's one of the highest roads of Colorado. The road to the summit is asphalted. It was built in 1915 and is very exciting, with innumerable twists and turns, bordered by a drop of hundreds of meters (many hundreds of feet) unprotected by guardrails. Originally called "El Capitan" by Spanish settlers, the mountain was renamed Pike's Peak after Zebulon Pike, an explorer who led an expedition to the southern Colorado area in 1806. It’s designated National Historic Landmark. The road is difficult and it’s a nightmare in the wet or dark (or both). The road to reach the summit has a length of 19.99 km (12.42 miles) over 156 turns, climbing 1,439 meters (4,721 ft) from the start at Mile 7 on Pikes Peak Highway at 2,862 meters (9,390 ft) on grades averaging 7% over paved sections.
This paved road includes some steep sections. Uphill traffic has the right-of-way at all times. Watch for maintenance equipment working on the road. Whenever possible, to stop use the turnouts provided. If you must stop on the roadway, choose a straight section where your vehicle is clearly visible. If your engine begins to labor on steeper grades, shift to a lower gear to maintain speed and engine cooling. Shift your automatic transmission manually to stay in a lower gear. When you reach the summit, run your engine at fast idle for a few minutes to dissipate engine heat. Use your lowest gear to allow your engine to brake your vehicle. Don't ride your brakes; this will cause them to overheat and cause problems. If your engine overheats, run it at a fast idle. You may wish to run water on the radiator core.
Due its unique location and the climb in elevation over thousands of feet, and passing through remote areas, it is important when driving in these conditions to be prepared. If you have a history of severe cardiac or respiratory problems, we recommend that you do not make the ascent to the summit. Babies under 4 months of age should not make the ascent, either.
On your way to the summit you need to stop and adjust to avoid altitude sickness
The drive is definitely worth it. There are many excellent photo opportunities here. Don’t forget your camera! There are several stops on the way to the top that are all worth your time (which is good because you need to stop and adjust to avoid altitude sickness). Try to make the trip on a clear day, so you will have a better view and you may want a jacket for the summit, even in summer. Be prepared for the cold and wind!
The road is in dreadful condition and requires strong nerves to negotiate it. Any barriers along the edge afford little more than token protection. The driver is so busy navigating the very windy road that they don't get to see anything on the way. The view from the top is incredible, but there is limited oxygen up there so you might start feeling a little sickly. The drive itself is pretty tame until the last stretch. You'll know you've reached it when you see the rangers checking the temp of the brakes of people coming down the mountain.
The road's winding design, providing stunning panoramic views, is very curvy and fun for a leisurely ride, so it pays to take it slow. Speed Limit is 25mph unless otherwise posted, uphill traffic has the right of way at all times. Built in 1915, this winding road is perfect for scenic drives, offering visitors views of lakes, mountains, wildlife and the surrounding area. There are no gas stations along the highway. Be sure that you have at least 1/2 tank of gas before you start your scenic drive.
Do not take this drive if you have respiratory problems or any type of heart condition. Notorius lack of oxygen that tests the organisms and a high degree of steepness. Most people feel altitude sickness at around 2,500-2,800 meters. Extremely low oxygen for engine combustion. A major hazard of altitude is the sickness that can indiscriminately affect anyone regardless of age or fitness. The summit has about 40% less oxygen than at sea level, thus breathing is more difficult. Your pulse rate will increase and movement will be more laborious at the summit. The high elevation with its risk of altitude sickness, weather concerns, steep road grade, and overall inaccessibility make the pass dangerous and summit trips difficult.
On June 2018, the French auto racing driver Romain Dumas (with an electric Volkswagen I.D. R) beat the all-time Pikes Peak Hillclimb record from Sebastien Loeb by setting the first-ever time under eight minutes. The race is an annual automobile race covering 12.42 miles, 156 turns, and 4,720 vertical feet.