After being closed for three years, the iconic railway reopened after a $100-million renovation of its tracks, cogs, railcars and depot. Originally built in 1891 and owned and operated by The Broadmoor since 1925, the historic railway is the highest railroad in America and the highest cog railway in the world.
Now it will take you to a brand new, state-of-the-art Visitor Center that upgrades the visitor experience in every way. After three years of high-altitude construction, the $65-million Summit Complex achieves high marks for sustainability, including Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design(LEED) Silver certification and the Living Building ChallengeSM (LBC), a two-year certification process, as a net-zero energy building.
“The City of Colorado Springs and many other stakeholders have long been committed to the task of building a new Pikes Peak Summit Visitor Center that is truly worthy of the majesty and magnificence of Pikes Peak and the luster of its history,” said Mayor John Suthers at the Pikes Peak Visitor Center Grand Opening. “Today we dedicate a building that complements the majesty of a great mountain, and we commence a new era in the history of Pikes Peak and of Colorado Springs.”
All speeches aside, riding the Cog Railway to the new Visitor Center is a bucket-list worthy experience for Colorado Springs visitors and locals. Here are our tips for making the most of your Pikes Peak visit.
You can walk up at the depot ticket window, but you may be out of luck. Trains regularly sell out. Your best bet is to book ahead and online at https://www.cograilway.com. Plus, you’ll save a couple bucks per ticket.
Sit Up Front—Or in Back
There’s not a bad seat in the two-car trains, but nothing beats a front-row view. That’s true in the back of the train too. On the way up, you’ll have those unobstructed views looking down. And on the return, you’ll be in the front row looking forward. The trains simply drive the opposite direction for the return trip. Tickets aren’t cheap, and you’ll pay more for a reserved seat: $68 for adults and $58 for children under 12, versus $58 and $48 for general seating. But this is for the bucket list, right?
Catch a Classic Car
If fresh air is your jam, call and inquire about riding one of the four refurbished railcars. The windows go down farther for a breezier experience. The three new railcars are sleek and stylishly new, and in winter you probably want to keep those windows closed anyway. But if you want to feel the clouds in your face, ride the classic.
Plan for Parking
The nestled-against-the-mountains charm of Manitou Springs means there are a lot of people in a relatively small area. There’s no way around the fact that parking is tight for the town and Cog Railway. The Depot lot costs $10, and is only available 30 minutes before your departure. So arrive early, but not too early. Busses, RVs and trailers are not permitted. If you reserve your tickets ahead, you’ll receive a text notifying you when and where parking is available. Otherwise, you’ll need to build in time to park in one of the Manitou Springs lots and ride the free shuttle.
If you’re visiting Colorado, you might get sick of the warnings to drink water generously and often. But your body will thank you for complying. You’ll be gaining almost 8,000 feet of elevation on the Cog Railway, and there’s less oxygen at 14,115 feet. Staying hydrated is the best way to prevent headaches, dizziness or other altitude-induced problems that could detract from your experience.
Eat at Elevation
Everything tastes better, even the famous doughnuts. There’s a brand new doughut-making machine making the circular treats daily from the recipe passed down since 1916. But now you can add your own seasonings, including sugar, cocoa, cinnamon, cardamom, coriander or nutmeg. The revamped and upgraded menu includes tasty panini sandwiches, barbecue sliders, soups, custom trail mix and more. Get a seat against the window and stare out at the spectacular view that inspired the song “America the Beautiful.”
Don’t Miss Your Return Train
It’s a 3.5-hour round-trip experience on the Cog Railway, and you’ll have about 40 minutes at the top. Your conductor will let you know your departure time, and the train horn will signal a warning for reboarding time. Just make sure you don’t miss your train! It’s a long walk down.
Up Your Adventure
Want to blend a more adventurous experience with a relaxing Cog Railway ride? If you’re prepared for the challenge, hike up the Barr Trail for 13 miles to the summit, then ride down the Cog Railway. Or book your ticket up the Cog Railway and ride a bike 19.5 miles down the Pikes Peak Highway with Broadmoor Outfitters or Pikes Peak Bike Tours.
However you choose to customize it, a trip to the Pikes Peak summit on the Cog Railway is a must-do experience.