Is the Cog Railway or Driving Up Pikes Peak Better?

by | May 13, 2024 | Colorado | 0 comments

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Pikes Peak is an iconic mountain to visit when in Colorado Springs. The entire mountain can be seen throughout the city of Colorado Springs and it is one of two mountains in Colorado that you can ride to the top of. When visiting the city of Colorado Springs, going to the top of Pikes Peak should be at the top of your list of things to do. 

The one important thing to decide is if you should drive to the top or take the Cog Rail to the top. There are pros and cons to each and this post will help you decide which route is better for you. I have done both many times and enjoy each of them for different reasons. Below are all the details you need to know before you visit Pikes Peak Mountain. 

 

Driving Up Pikes Peak Mountain:

One of the best ways to see Pikes Peaks is to drive up the mountain. If you choose to drive up the mountain, you will take the scenic Pikes Peak Highway to get there. This beautiful road goes up the mountain and is 19 miles long from the start to the top of Pikes Peak. You should plan on taking about 2-3 hours for your entire driving journey.   

Things to Know Before You Go:

Below are some helpful tips to help you prepare for your trip driving up Pikes Peak:

1. You have to make a timed reservation to drive up Pikes Peak from May 24th thru September 30th. This is high season so be sure to make your reservations online. You have to arrive within 2 hours of your reservation.

2. In addition to a timed reservation during high season, you also have to pay to drive up the mountain. You can pay per adult or per car load. The current rates are $10 per person or $35 per car load (up to 5 people). You can purchase your day pass online or at the entrance.

3. It is very important to watch the weather before driving up the mountain. Conditions on Pikes Peak can change very quickly so be sure to stay up to date on weather.

4. The highway is technically opened all year round but there can be closures especially in winter. Be sure to check their website or call 719-385-7325 to check current road condtions before making the drive. 

5. It is important to remember that you will be driving up to 14,000 feet in elevation. You want to make sure to stay hydrated on your drive up the mountain so you do not get altitude sickness. 

6. There are tons of pull offs throughout the drive up that you can stop at and take pictures. Make sure to stop and enjoy these pull offs as they offer some incredible views of the mountains. There are also some great areas that have fun rocks for kids to climb all over if you are traveling with children. 

7. The best time to drive up the mountain is on a clear, sunny day. If you happen to go on a cloudy day, you will not be able to experience the wonderful views from the top. It is also best to go in the morning since afternoon storms tend to happen during the summer months. 

 

8. Another important thing to know is that you have to be familiar with driving in low gear when you head down the mountain. If you do not use low gear, your brakes will overheat. They actually check your brakes at a check point on the way down to make sure they are not overheating. 

9. There is a large parking lot at the top of the mountain near the Summit Visitor Center. I have personally never had a problem finding parking at the top so this is something that you don’t have to worry about. 

10. When you drive up the mountain, you can take as much time as you want. There are lots of places to stop and you can spend as much time as you want on the top of the mountain.  

 

Pros and Cons of Driving:

Pros: 

– You can take as much time as you want on the mountain

– The drive is beautiful and you get to see so much of the mountain when driving

– There are lots of places to stop on the way up and take pictures or just enjoy the view

Cons:

– The person driving won’t get to enjoy the views

– The drive is long and may not be ideal for small children

– You need to be comfortable driving up and down mountain roads

– The road is not open if weather is bad

 

The Pikes Peak Cog Railway:

The Pikes Peak Cog Railway has been climbing Pikes Peak since 1891. It is an amazing experience and a must do thing when visiting Colorado Springs. It is a 9 mile trek up the mountain and you get to learn about the mountain along the way. The whole experience takes about 3 hours and you should arrive about 30 minutes before your train leaves. 

Things to Know Before You Go:

Here are some helpful tips to help you plan your Cog Railway trip:

1. Admission for the Cog Railway can be purchased online or in person. I always suggest booking online as buying tickets in person is subject to avaliability. 

2. The price for adult tickets is $59.50 and the children 13 and under are $49.50. Assigned seats are assigned during the booking process. Infants under 6 months old are not recommended to ride up the Cog Railway.

3. No outside food or drink is allowed on the Cog Railway. There is a place to buy food ahead of time that you can bring on the train. 

4. There is no free parking near the Cog Railway. Parking at the depot costs $20.00 and can be purchased in advanced. I highly recommend purchasing your parking in advanced since the lots tend to fill up especially during the summer months.

5. The Cog runs about 8 times per day during the busy season. I always suggest going right away in the morning since the weather is usually better. 

6. Make sure to book your tickets in advance especially during the summer months. Fall, winter and spring are usually not as busy but I would still book them online just to be on the safe side. 

7. The whole journey is about 3 hours long. It takes the cog an hour to get to the top, you get to spend about 40 minutes at the summit and then it takes an hour to get back down. 

8. Strollers are not allowed on board the cog. If you are traveling with young children, I would suggest bringing a carrier for walking around the summit. 

9. Make sure to drink lots of water on your way up the mountain. Altitude sickness happens quite often with visitors and you want to enjoy the summit when you get there.   

 

Pros and Cons of Cog Railway:

Pros:

– You don’t have to worry about driving up a mountain

– You get to learn about the history of Pikes Peak and the Cog Railway

– Everyone in your party gets to enjoy the views as you ride up the mountain

– You get to experience a different side of the mountain

– The Cog is a super unique experience and something that I recommend everyone try at least once in their life

 

Cons:

– The price: this is not a cheap experience and driving is a much cheaper option

– You can’t bring your own food and drink on board which can be challenging with kids

– You have to pay for parking as well as your tickets

– You only get 40 minutes at the summit  

What to Expect on the Summit:

The summit of Pikes Peak is amazing and the best part of your journey up the mountain. When you reach the top, there are lots of vantage points to stop and admire the beautiful views. The other thing you don’t want to miss is the Summit House Visitor Center. The visitor center is fairly new and is something you don’t want to miss when exploring the top of the mountain.

These are a few things to keep in mind when exploring the Summit:

– Be sure to dress appropriately! Bring layers to wear at the top since it tends to be very cold at the summit. It may be 80 degrees in Colorado Springs but the summit may only be 30 degrees.

– Make sure to try the world famous donuts that can only be made at 14,000 feet

– There are new interpretive exhibits in the new Visitor Center

– If you get hungry, there are several dining options in the Visitor Center

– Make sure to walk around the entire summit to get the best views

– Always drink lots of water on the summit; altitude sickness can happen to anyone and can ruin your day 

– There is a really cool summit marker at the top so be sure to stop and take your picture with it. 

 

The summit of Pikes Peak is a beautiful place to experience and you should plan on spending a decent amount of time at the top to see everything. 

 

Pikes Peak is a must visit destination when visiting Colorado Springs. The great thing about this mountain is that there are two different ways to experience it. The cheaper option is to drive up the mountain but the cog railway is a completely unique experience.

Both experiences are unique in their own way and you will not be disappointed in choosing either one. If you want to save money and spend as much time as you want on the mountain, I would choose to drive up the mountain. If you are looking for a unique experience which will only take you a few hours, I would choose the Cog Railway. 

This is one of my most recommended experiences for visitors when visiting Colorado Springs; make sure not to miss this incredible experience! 

 

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