Driving to the Top of Pikes Peak

For our seventh wedding anniversary, we spent a weekend in Colorado enjoying time together in the great outdoors. In addition to spending a couple days in Rocky Mountain National Park, we drove to Colorado Springs to check out the infamous Pikes Peak.

When we arrived mid-morning, traffic was already lined up to enter Pike National Forest. We eventually made it in and wound our way up the 19-mile drive to the 16-mile turnout where we had to stop and park in order to continue our journey to the summit.

Right now the summit of Pikes Peak is completely under construction – they are building a brand new visitor center, parking areas, and boardwalks to accommodate the increasing number of visitors who arrive each year.

In order to reach the summit right now, you have to take a shuttle from the 13-mile or 16-mile turnouts to the top. Due to the safety precautions in place because of COVID-19, each shuttle takes a very limited number of masked individuals to the top at a time, making for quite a long wait.

Thankfully we were dressed appropriately for the cool, windy weather and surrounded by an incredible landscape to occupy our attention while we waited. Many other people were not, and individuals in shorts and short-sleeved shirts continued to return to their vehicles, helping us quickly move to the front of the line.

Note: While it might be warm and sunny in Colorado Springs when you begin your journey, remember you’re going to be at 14,000 feet for your visit!

When we finally arrived at the Summit House, we were greeted with another line as they’re limiting the number of people indoors at any given time. While we were waiting, we stepped away from the crowd to take a few pictures.

Once inside, we quickly grabbed some of the iconic doughnuts before heading back outside to enjoy them among the construction debris as we waited in line to catch a return shuttle down to our car.

Given all of the construction and COVID-19 limitations, it’s not a great experience visiting right now. I’d recommend waiting until the new visitor center is complete, which they’re targeting to open in May 2021.

We took some time to hike around the 16-mile turnout when we arrived back at the parking lot. There was a nearby hill with trails that led to a nearly 300-degree view of the road winding up to our location and the valley below.

I was especially struck by the views in the other direction, looking out into the mountain range. It was barren, rocky and looked like something from another planet.

After we had taken in our fill, we made our way back down the mountain. I’m not sure whether the ride up or down was more frightening – on the way up our engine was making disturbing sounds that made we wonder whether we were going to make it, while on the way down I was concerned our brakes might give out and we’d go flying over a cliff.

Thankfully Brian had the downshifting down to an art – when they tested our brake temperature on the way down to let us know whether we could continue or needed to give them a rest to cool down, we passed with flying colors. Whew!

Our last stop of the day as we headed north to Estes Park for the night was in Boulder. My cousins planned an amazing socially distanced outdoor picnic in the foothills of Green Mountain so we could safely visit while we watched the sunset.

It was hard staying apart and wearing our masks when we had to be within six feet of each other, but those small inconveniences were more than worth it so we could share a meal together during these crazy times.

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