02. January 2014 · Comments Off on Colorado Discoveries 24: Pikes Peak Highway · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , ,
That's the road we had just come up. Read on to learn more about the Pikes Peak Highway.

That’s the road we had just come up. Read on to learn more about the Pikes Peak Highway.

Greetings! I hope everyone had a nice holiday season these past couple months. I’ve plenty of catching up to do! Last week my in-laws were in town to celebrate Christmas with us. We were grateful for their company and for their taking a chance with the weather to fly out to Colorado from the east coast.┬áThe weather cooperated beautifully for their visit, in fact! We did quite a bit of sightseeing, including the traditional Colorado Springs sights: Garden of the Gods and the Air Force Academy. In fact, we all went to the Christmas Eve service at the Chapel, which was quite beautiful.

On the 24th we attempted to drive up the Pikes Peak Highway, but found out at the toll booth that the road wasn’t open all the way to the top due to icy conditions at the top that day. But that’s okay, we tried again on the 26th and the road was indeed open to the top.

The conditions at the summit. It was closer to 20F and no wind by the time we summited.

The conditions at the summit. It was closer to 20F and no wind by the time we summited.

The Pikes Peak Highway is a toll road from the town of North Pole, Colorado (between Woodland Park & Manitou Springs off U.S. 24) all the way to the summit house…the same summit house that we visited with our ride on the Cog Railroad back in July. The tolls vary with the time of year, and if you have at least 4 people in your vehicle, you can enjoy the “Family Plan” and save some money.

You can see how well-paved the road is. It's like this for all 19.5 miles.

You can see how well-paved the road is. It’s like this for all 19.5 miles. This was taken just as we were reaching “tree line”, the height above which trees can’t grow. In this case, this was around 11,000′ elevation.

The road surface quality is very good all the way up the mountain. If you are going on a nice clear day, the mountain management — the City of Colorado Springs — will plow the roads and you’ll have little problem. Up at the very top, in the last mile, we had some snow blowing across the road, but nothing bad. There were compact four-cylinder engine cars such as Toyota Corollas on the road along with us.

Fun fact: the top six miles of the road weren’t completely paved until Fall 2011. Read more about it here.

The drive itself isn’t for the faint of heart. Dave did the drive up the mountain and most of us were pretty nervous, especially with the stretches with drop offs. The mountain’s website provides some good driving tips.

It's not a drive for the faint of heart.

It’s not a drive for the faint of heart.

I got a kick out of seeing the winding road unfold below us as we continued to climb.

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Feeling dizzy yet?

When you’re on the edge, you can’t help but migrate towards the center line…to get as far from that edge as possible!

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Things get very slow going once you’re above tree line…but you don’t want to go fast unless you’re Sebastian Loeb.

We saw hikers near the summit. These hikers even had their dog!

We saw hikers near the summit. These hikers even had their dog!

More hikers.

More hikers.

We ate lunch at the Summit House (don’t recommend — it’s very expensive and not the best quality, bring a picnic lunch and eat in your car since outside food isn’t allowed in the Summit House itself). However, I do recommend the donuts that are cooked at the top. We also bought “I Survived the Drive” magnets for my inlaws and me.

You have to try the donuts! It's remarkable how well they cook at 14,110'!

You have to try the donuts! It’s remarkable how well they cook at 14,110′!

We did some sightseeing at the top of the mountain too. The drive down looked a lot like the drive up — except this time I did the driving. It takes a lot out of you — you don’t really take your eyes off the road…and you barely even blink! Make sure you’re well rested before doing the drive — but once you do it, it’ll be a magnificent view from the top!

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