How to Play on Pikes Peak This Summer

Here’s the lowdown on how to drive, fish, hike, bike, run, Jeep, marvel at the views and navigate public health guidelines on America’s Mountain now.

No matter where you look in Colorado Springs, there’s Pikes Peak, sending out its reassuring welcome to get out and enjoy the great outdoors. This summer is definitely not a normal one, but there are still many ways to enjoy America’s Mountain. Continuing construction on the Pikes Peak Summit Complex combined with COVID-19 safety standards mean there are some new permits and procedures in place, but most favorite recreation spots and activities on the Peak are open. We’ve laid out everything for you to make it easy.

Drive to the Summit

It’s still feels like you can see forever from the top. Due to ongoing construction on the new Summit Complex, parking capacity is decreased, so most planning to drive the Pikes Peak Highway will be required to take a complimentary shuttle up to the summit, at least part way. Shuttles will run until the end of September, and riders should anticipate COVID-19 safety measures. Each free 15-passenger van is operating at less than 50% capacity and with increased cleaning and sanitization. Physical distancing is standard in waiting lines, and face coverings are required.

You can drive your own car to one of three parking lots where you can catch a summit shuttle every five to 10 minutes. They leave from the 7-mile lot (the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb starting line), 14-mile lot (Glen Cove), and the 16-mile lot at Devil’s Playground. A limited number of vehicles may still drive all the way to the top, but access is dictated by parking availability, so it’s not guaranteed.

Tickets to drive the Pikes Peak Highway can be purchased online or in person at the Pikes Peak Gateway.

Visit the Summit House

While the new state-of-the-art Summit Complex is being constructed, the Summit House is still operating. Yes, that means donuts are for sale inside!

Construction obstructs some of the views near the Summit House, but the visit to the top is still worth it. Trails allow access to sweeping vistas from the summit. Exiting the gift shop from the east gives you a close-up look at the construction. If that doesn’t sound exciting, consider that at 14,115 feet, the complex endeavor is one of the highest construction sites in the world.

Driving up Pikes Peak.
Photo Courtesy of: Pikes Peak – America’s Mountain

Hike Barr Trail or Crags Trail to the Top

You can climb the popular 14er, but the traditional route for the Barr Trail is detoured near the summit until July 31, due to the Summit Complex construction. Just below the Summit House, hikers are rerouted along the Cog Railway track to its 19-mile marker where they finish their ascent along the shoulder of the road.

After earlier closure, Barr Camp is now reopened with restrictions. Social distancing is in place, and there’s no overnight camping or hot food. But bathrooms are open, and prepackaged snacks are available at the popular resting spot about 6 miles up Barr Trail from its Manitou Springs trailhead.

Around the back side of the Peak, the Crags Trail is open. The shorter trail is about half the length of the traditional Barr Trail route but requires about a 30-mile drive to the trailhead from downtown Colorado Springs.

Barr Trail Detour
Barr trail detour. Photo Courtesy of: Pikes Peak – America’s Mountain

Fish, Hike or Mountain Bike the North and South Slope Recreation Areas

It’s a short drive up the Pikes Peak Highway to the North Slope Recreation Area, where the lakeside scenery is spectacular for fishing, standup paddleboarding, canoeing, hiking and mountain biking. You’ll need to purchase admission online or at the Pikes Peak Gateway, only $5 for adults.

To access the popular North and South Catamount Reservoirs, make sure to reserve one of 120 daily free parking passes. Parking passes are also available at the Pikes Peak Gateway. No parking pass is needed for Crystal Creek Reservoir, but the water level is low and has not been restocked by the Colorado Department of Parks and Wildlife – so fishing and boating there are discouraged. 

To enjoy the pristine South Slope Recreation Area, plan on a 90-minute drive from the Springs. You’ll have to reserve a permit online for $20, and the high-elevation area is only open Thursday through Saturday, 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Fishing in Mason Reservoir is the most popular activity, but there are 16 miles of singletrack for hiking and biking as well. Your permit will cover up to eight people, and groups of more than 10 are not allowed. Make sure to plan ahead; permits are limited and cannot be bought on-site.

For both recreation areas, masks are required in parking areas, and they should be worn elsewhere when social distancing between groups is impossible. And if you’re planning to fish either the North or South Slope, don’t forget your Colorado fishing license.

Paddling beneath Pikes Peak.
Paddle Boarding, Crystal Reservoir below Pikes Peak. Photo Courtesy of: Pikes Peak – America’s Mountain.

Run the Pikes Peak Marathon

The Pikes Peak Marathon will take place on August 23! The epic race takes runners from Manitou Springs to the summit of Pikes Peak at 14,115 feet and back down for a total of 26.2 miles on mountain trail. Runners will start in small waves as opposed to the typical 100-person waves typically used. Many of the lead-up and post-race events are cancelled, and masks will be required before and after the race. The popular, upward-only Pikes Peak Ascent was canceled due to COVID-19, but the nation’s second-oldest continually held marathon will go on. “We are pleased to be able to continue this 66-year Pikes Peak region tradition in 2020 and feel confident the event will be safe and enjoyable for all participants and volunteers,” said Ron Ilgen, president of Pikes Peak Marathon, Inc. Currently the race is full, but interested runners can put themselves on a waitlist in case entries become available.

Ride or Shuttle With an Outfitter

Want to drive up and bike down? Or hike up and ride down? Or just enjoy the views while someone else does the driving both ways? Tour companies are still running this summer in and around Pikes Peak, although there are fewer open and passenger capacity is limited. Here are some to check out:

With Pikes Peak Bike Tours you’ll be dropped off at the summit and have the chance to take in views as you ride down the Pikes Peak Highway. Vans are operating at 50% capacity or less. Private van groups are also available. Be sure to reserve ahead of time

Adventures Out West and Manitou Springs Adventures are both offering jeep tours of the Pikes Peak summit. Jeeps are sanitized between each tour, and tours are exclusive to your party.

Gray Line is offering tours in their mini-coaches with the windows rolled down, among other social distancing and sanitization precautions. Tours drive to the Pikes summit and stop along the way so you can get a look at the expansive views of Colorado Springs below.

Rocky Mountain Ride offers hiker shuttles that give you the chance to hike up Pikes and ride down. Shuttles depart the Pikes Peak summit at 1 and 4 p.m. Masks are required. Vans are kept at 50% capacity or less, so book early. Private tours and pickups are also available to book in advance.

Read More

Trail Maintenance in the Summer of COVID-19

Your PPLD Library Card Has Superpowers

Read More