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On Walkabout On: Pikes Peak via Barr Trail (July 2014)

Basic Information

  • Name: Pikes Peak
  • Where: Colorado Springs, Colorado
  • Max Elevation: 14,410 feet
  • Distance:  11 miles one-way
  • Elevation Gain: 7,500 feet
  • Time: 5-8 hours one-way
  • Difficulty: EasyModerateHardDifficult
  • More Information: 14ers.com

Route Up Pikes Peak

Topographic Map of Barr Trail

Barr Trail Map

Elevation Map of Barr Trail

Pikes Peak Elevation Map

Narrative

This week some of my co-workers and I did our annual team building activity which is our hike up Barr Trail to the summit of Pikes Peak.  This would be my third year straight hiking up to the summit of “America’s Mountain”:

We met at the trailhead at 4:30 AM in Manitou Springs with the plan to begin hiking up the mountain at 5:00 AM.  To our surprise the Barr Trail parking lot even at 4:30 in the morning was near full and about half of our group of 18 had to find parking below along Ruxton Avenue where they charge much more for parking than the $5 charge at the trailhead to park.  So we ended up hiking up in two groups with one being the group that found parking at the trailhead and other who left a few minutes later because they were still looking for parking.  As we hiked up the monotonous switchbacks at the start of Barr Trail at least we had a great view of the rising sun over the fog covering Colorado Springs down below:

Picture from Pikes Peak, Colorado

We also had a nice view of the sunrise hitting the side of the impressive 10,707 foot Cameron Cone:

Picture from Pikes Peak, Colorado

Cameron Cone is another great, but difficult hike from Manitou Springs that I have completed before.  You can read more about hiking up Cameron Cone at my below trip report:

After about 45 minutes of hiking we came to this notch in the rocks that the trail passes through:

Picture from Pikes Peak, Colorado

As I passed through the notch in the rocks I noticed this nice view of Cameron Cone:

Picture from Pikes Peak, Colorado

From the notch I continued up the trail and my co-workers started falling behind me.  I figured I would wait for them at Barr Camp.  So I continued up the trail and took in some nice views of of the 12,367 foot Almagre Mountain:

Picture from Pikes Peak, Colorado

I have always thought that this is the best view of Almagre Mountain since it shows the mountains red tint and steepness pretty well.  You can read about my prior hike up Almagre Mountain at the below link:

Soon I also had a nice view of the 14,110 foot Pikes Peak looming in front me:

Picture from Pikes Peak, Colorado

After a total of 2 hours and 15 minutes of hiking I reached Barr Camp which is located at approximately the halfway point of Barr Trail at 6 miles:

Picture from Pikes Peak, Colorado

Barr Camp as usual this time of day was a bustling place with plenty of campers eating breakfast or getting ready to head up Barr Trail:

Picture from Pikes Peak, Colorado

I waited for about 15 minutes at Barr Camp and did not see any of the rest of my group coming up.  I then saw a very large group of about 20 hikers getting ready to depart and I did not want to get stuck behind them.  So I decided to continue up the trail towards the next destination on Barr Trail, the A-Frame.  The hike to the A-Frame is my least favorite part of Barr Trail because the long switchbacks are monotonous, but unlike the initial switchbacks from Manitou Springs there are no views to be seen due to all the trees.  Once I got to the trail cutoff to the A-Frame I was quite happy because it meant the end of the switchbacks:

Picture from Pikes Peak, Colorado

I followed the cutoff trail over to the A-Frame and was impressed by all the beautiful wildflowers located there:

Picture from Pikes Peak, Colorado

Picture from Pikes Peak, Colorado

Here is the sign that welcomes hikers to the A-Frame:

Picture from Pikes Peak, Colorado

Inside the A-Frame a collection of old mats and sleeping bags have piled up over the years for people who may have forgot something or need to stay here due to an emergency can use.

Picture from Pikes Peak, Colorado

The A-Frame is located along a beautiful creek that flows down the mountain towards Colorado Springs down below:

Picture from Pikes Peak, Colorado

From the A-Frame the summit of Pikes Peak is 3-miles and about 2,500 feet of elevation gain away:

Picture from Pikes Peak, Colorado

I stayed for about 15 minutes at the A-Frame to see if any of the rest of my group would pop up.  Seeing the clouds I wanted to get to the summit to take pictures before it got clouded in.  During last year’s hike I waited for my group of co-workers and ended up not getting any summit views due to clouds.  So this year I decided I would just wait for them on the summit.  So I started up the trail from the A-Frame and somehow I got off the main trail and was now following a scree trail:

Picture from Pikes Peak, Colorado

I looked around to see if I could spot the main trail and could not see it.  So I decided to just go ahead and follow this scree trail until it reconnected with the main trail.  I made sure to stay on the scree and not walk on any of the fragile alpine grass.  It sucked to walk on the scree, but I was quickly gaining altitude from going straight up the mountain:

Picture from Pikes Peak, Colorado

The scree trail eventually connected on to the main trail:

Picture from Pikes Peak, Colorado

After i got home and downloaded my GPS track from my Garmin Fenix I found out that I cut over a mile of distance from the hike by inadvertently following the scree trail.  I would find out later that other people in my group also ended up inadvertently following the scree trail as well.  The Forest Service should really sign the trail a little better there so people do not follow the scree trail.  Now that I was on the main trail the hiking was easier, but the elevation gain was taking longer due to all the switchbacks:

Picture from Pikes Peak, Colorado

However, I could see the end of the hike was near when I spotted the Summit House just above me:

Picture from Pikes Peak, Colorado

On one of the switchbacks I could see spring water flowing out of the rocks and towards the creek located at the A-Frame below:

Picture from Pikes Peak, Colorado

About a half mile to the summit, Barr Trail comes to a very awesome lookout called the Cirque:

Picture from Pikes Peak, Colorado

The Cirque is a large gash in the side of Pikes Peak carved out by an ancient glacier:

Picture from Pikes Peak, Colorado

Picture from Pikes Peak, Colorado

This gash in the side of the mountain is 1,600 feet deep and quite impressive to see from the trail:

Picture from Pikes Peak, Colorado

From the Cirque I could see the Summit House was just up ahead:

Picture from Pikes Peak, Colorado

The final challenge on Barr Trail was to hike up the 16 Golden Stairs:

Picture from Pikes Peak, Colorado

The 16 Golden Stairs are actually 16 small switchbacks that lead to the summit.  I love this section of the hike because it means the summit is near and I can quickly gain altitude instead of dealing with the monotonous and long switchbacks lower on the mountain.  Here is the view from the 16 Golden Stairs looking down the Eastern face of Pikes Peak:

Picture from Pikes Peak, Colorado

From the 16 Golden Stairs I also had a nice view of beautiful Lake Moraine lying below Pikes Peak to the South:

Picture from Pikes Peak, Colorado

A trail up Bear Creek Canyon to Lake Moraine and then up the southern slopes of Pikes Peak used to be the standard trail to reach the summit until Fred Barr completed his trail in 1918.  As ascended up the 16 Golden Stairs I could see the summit house come into view:

Picture from Pikes Peak, Colorado

It ended up taking me just 15 minutes to complete the 16 Golden Stairs and I found myself finally at the Summit House:

Picture from Pikes Peak, Colorado

Of course the first thing I see on Pikes Peak summit is its infamous garbage truck:

Picture from Pikes Peak, Colorado

At least the septic truck was not there to greet me when I arrived with its smell of poo.  The summit was an absolute madhouse as hordes of tourists arrived by either car via the Pikes Peak Highway or by the Cog Railway:

Picture from Pikes Peak, Colorado

I found it amazing how the first thing many people did when they first arrived to the summit was head inside the Summit House which has to be the one of the most depressing buildings I have ever seen:

Picture from Pikes Peak, Colorado

Fortunately the city of Colorado Springs has plans to scrap the current Summit House and redesign the entire summit of Pikes Peak.  I cannot wait for the day when I hike up to the summit of Pikes Peak and I am not welcomed by garbage trucks and the smell of poo.  Something I do hope they keep on the summit after its redesign is this memorial to Katharine Lee Bates who wrote in 1893 the song “America the Beautiful” which was inspired by the view she saw from Pikes Peak:

Picture from Pikes Peak, Colorado

I am sure Bates would be aghast by the summit today, but I am sure she would still enjoy the views like I do every time I hike up here.  Unfortunately clouds had obscured much of the far off views, but everything within 30 miles of Pikes Peak I could see.  Here is the view to the West looking towards the Cripple Creek and Victor Gold Mine:

Picture from Pikes Peak, Colorado

To the South I could the Cog Railway car traveling up Pikes Peak being backdropped by the summits of Almagre Mountain and Old Baldy in the distance:

Picture from Pikes Peak, Colorado

Further out in the distance I could also see the pointy summit of the 11,499 foot Mt. Rosa:

Picture from Pikes Peak, Colorado

Mt. Rosa provides some of the best views of the region and is the mountain that Zebulon Pike, the Army officer that Pikes Peak is named after actually climbed when he explored this area.  You can read more about Zebulon Pike and Mt. Rosa and the below link:

Here is a panorama of the view from the summit looking towards the West and the South:

Picture from Pikes Peak, Colorado

Here is another panorama centered on Almagre Mountain to the South:

Picture from Pikes Peak, Colorado

Here is a picture looking East towards Colorado Springs down below:

Picture from Pikes Peak, Colorado

In the above picture Cameron Cone can be seen on the right and it looks like an insignificant bump in the terrain compared to when viewed from Colorado Springs where it is one of the most impressive terrain features. Here is a view of the Waldo Canyon Burn Scar located to the East of Pikes Peak as well:

Picture from Pikes Peak, Colorado

The environment around the burn scar is slowly recovering from the 2012 wildfire, but it is going to be about 20-30 years before the trees can really set in and stop the flooding that frequently comes down the hillsides into Ute Pass.  Speaking of Ute Pass here is a picture of it as it travels through the foot hills to Woodland Park down below:

Picture from Pikes Peak, Colorado

Here is a panorama that encompasses the views looking to the South and the East:

Picture from Pikes Peak, Colorado

This next picture shows the view looking towards the North:

Picture from Pikes Peak, Colorado

It was too cloudy to see any of the high peaks to the North such as the 14,264 foot Mt. Evans outside of Denver.  Here is a panorama view looking towards the North and East from the summit of Pikes Peak:

Picture from Pikes Peak, Colorado

I reached the summit in 5 hours and 15 minutes and ended up spending a lot of time up there since it took two hours for the rest of my group to arrive.  On the summit we had a van waiting to drive our group down the mountain.  By the time we left I was happy to get off the summit because of what a madhouse it was up there.  On the way down we ended having to stop at Glen Cove due to hot brakes which was slightly less of a madhouse than the summit:

Picture from Pikes Peak, Colorado

After waiting for about 15 minutes we finished the drive down the Pikes Peak Highway and headed over to Amanda’s Fonda in Manitou Springs for some well deserved enchiladas and margaritas:

Enchiladas at Amanda's Fonda

Conclusion

Overall it was another great hike up Barr Trail.  I was pretty happy with my 5 hour and 15 minute time to the summit.  I think I can definitely do this hike in under 5 hours if I scale down the weight in my bag, do not take long breaks, and do not take so many pictures.  However, that would take a lot of fun out of the hike.  However, no matter how many times I hike up Pikes Peak I never get tired of it and I just love exploring this mountain.  I am definitely looking forward to my next opportunity to explore not only “America’s Mountain”, but my favorite mountain as well, Pikes Peak.

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