Pikes Peak as seen from Garden of the Gods

Pikes Peak is not the tallest mountain in Colorado, Mt. Elbert is, but only by about 300 feet. There are about 50 mountains over 14,000 feet in the state, but Pikes Peak is best known because in  the gold rush days, wagon trains could see it rising up from far out on the plains since it is located at the edge of where the mountains and plains meet.

Its sheltering presence makes for a generally mild climate, and the many springs on its eastern edges drew Indians and early settlers to the region. Manitou Springs, at its base, was an early spa town where one could "take the cure" of tuberculosis and quickly became a tourist destination because of the natural beauty of Pikes Peak, Garden of the Gods, the Cave of the Winds, Seven Falls, etc.

Colorado Springs (the springs are actually Manitou's) grew up at the confluence of large creeks and railroad junctions about four miles east of Manitou, and the city has engulfed Manitou and the surrounding towns although Colorado Springs is a still only a mid-sized city.

Pikes Peak has been a magnet for sightseers since probably the early native Americans. An early trail was well established by the 1870s and a signal/weather station was built on its summit in 1873. A carriage road took travelers by horse (and burros for the final few miles) and a cog train (rack and pinion system used widely in the Alps) was built to the top in 1891. The train ( Pikes Peak Cog Railway ) is the highest train in the northern hemisphere and the highest cog train in the world. The Pikes Peak Highwaywas built by millionaire Spencer Penrose in 1916 to host an auto race, the Pikes Peak Hill Climb. The highway (a toll is charged) is 19 miles long and is in the process of being paved all the way to the summit. Both the highway and the railway are now open year-round, weather permitting. Fred Barr and his father built (and improved existing paths) a burro trail from the Mt. Manitou Incline Railway's upper station to the summit of Pikes Peak in 1914-1918 on which they took parties up to Barr Camp and on to the summit. Today, Barr Trail hosts an ultra-marathon and thousands of recreational hikers every year. Barr Camp, at 10,000 feet, is a base camp and has accommodations for 25 overnight guests, many of whom spend a few days while exploring the trails in the area.  The hiking trail up Pikes Peak is an arduous 12.6 mile hike, with 7,500 feet of elevation gain, the most of any Fourteener in Colorado.  In 2009 the Colorado Springs City Council imposed a new fee for rescue for tired hikers.  The $500 fine is the new charge for the privilege of being rescued from the summit of Pikes Peak in the off-hours when the 19-mile-long Pikes Peak Highway is closed and an employee has to be rousted out of bed to drive up the sometimes treachous road. Hikers who call for a ride before employees have gone home will be charged $100, while those who want just a short ride down the mountain to Glen Cove will fork over 20 bucks.

Pikes Peak is home to quite a large herd of bighorn sheep as well as elk, deer, marmots (a high-altitude groundhog), eagles and many other various wildlife. The Peak's proximity to the plains means that its flanks encompass a wider variety of life-zones than other 14ers (as they are known in Colorado) and it is supposedly the second most visited mountain in the world (after Mt. Fuji). Check out the web cam at the summit here.