If you happen to travel to central Colorado, especially to Colorado Springs and the surrounding areas, one attraction you shouldn’t miss is the magnificent Pikes Peak summit. Just a few miles from Colorado Springs and also quite close to another landmark natural monument, the Garden of the Gods, Pikes Peak is the most visited mountain in North America and the second most visited in the world, after Japan’s iconic Mount Fuji.
You can get to the summit of Pikes Peak by car or by hiking but you will miss out on a great experience: riding the Pikes Peak Cog Railway. A cog railway is operated by a special train car which uses a cog to move the vehicle on the steep inclines of the Rockies. The cog fits in a rack mounted on the rails slowly pushing the car towards the summit. Currently, the company who runs the rail is using gasoline powered cog vehicles, which run several times a day. A historic steam locomotive, fitted with inclined boilers, is still used to this day, to the joy of rail enthusiasts, who travel long distances to ride the cog rail.
Built in 1890, the railway climbs to over 14,000 feet, on slopes which can get up to a whopping 38o inclination. The altitude reached by the cog railway make it the highest in the world by a substantial margin. The journey up the mountain begins in Manitou Springs, at the cog railway depot. In full season, up to 8 cog trains travel up and down Pikes Peak, taking about 3 hours for a round trip.
As you ascend on the mountain, you will witness four different climatic zones, from the lush meadows from the bottom to the alpine tundra which covers the summit. The high altitude of Pikes Peak means that snowfall is possible in every month of the year. Tourists are warned to layer and be prepared for sudden changes in temperature. From the open windows of the cars, visitors can admire breathtaking views, as well as beautiful wildlife. The majestic pines and aspens make way near the top to alpine meadows and unrestricted panoramas. It is said that from the top of the mountain you can see four states and admire the ridges of the Continental Divides, hundreds of miles away.
Animal lovers are in for a treat. Bighorn sheep, marmots, elks and deer roam the rocky outcrops, oblivious to the rumbling noise of the engines which power the train towards the top. At the very summit of the mountain, the cog train takes a half an hour break, which you can use to have a snack at the Summit House or gaze in awe at the spectacular panoramas which gratify your eyes.
Put in a few words, the Pikes Peak Cog Railway is an amazing adventure. It allows you to admire the splendid natural beauty of the Rockies, from the comfort of a charming rail car. Don’t miss it for nothing in the world!