The track of the Pikes Peak Cog Railway is 8.9 miles long. The round trip lasts 3 hours and 10 minutes.
See Rates | Times | Coupons for departure dates and times.
The first third of our trip is along Ruxton Creek in Englemann Canyon. Here the steep track follows a cascading stream through dense stands of Englemann spruce, Colorado blue spruce as well as Ponderosa pine trees. The track is built next to the stream and there are boulder fields on both sides of the train. Conductors like to point out the various "faces" and shapes which, with a bit of imagination, can be seen in the giant boulders. Right near the Minnehaha switch (where the down coming trains pass the up going train on many trips) is Minnehaha Falls.The middle third of the trip is on a gentler grade.
Right below the old settlement of Ruxton Park, the train passes through what is known as "Hell Gate", a natural gateway in the mountains.
After a few more minutes, the train passes through Deer Park, where passengers sometimes catch a glimpse of mule deer grazing.Then we pass over the Four Mile Siding and get our first glimpse of Pikes Peak! Another siding comes up, Mountain View, which is the half-way point on the journey.
At about the 5 mile point, the grade steepens again. Now we begin climbing in earnest.
Lake Moraine and Mount Almagre dominate the views here.
Many of the trees in this area are bristlecone pine, some of the oldest living things on earth! It is estimated that some trees on Pikes Peak are over 2000 years old. There is an excellent internet site on these trees here:http://www.sonic.net/bristlecone/home.html
Once we climb above timberline, the views become more expansive. Timberline is the area where trees stop growing. They cannot get enough moisture because, just under the surface,there is permafrost: the ground remains frozen year-round. What does grow is Alpine tundra; a mixture of mosses, grasses and wildflowers which have all adapted to the extremely short growing season..
Here passengers frequently see yellow-bellied marmots and Bighorn sheep. The yellow-bellied marmot is the most populous animal on Pikes Peak. Playful creatures, the marmots like to sun themselves on rocks. They are noted for their piercing whistle which alerts others of danger. They are also known as whistling marmots. (And some folks call 'em "whistle pigs".) They hibernate during the winters.
Pikes Peak is home to one of the largest herds of Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep in Colorado.
Please see the section
About Pikes Peak for more information on the life zones found on Pikes Peak.
The last 3 miles are all above timberline. To the east stretch the Great Plains out beyond the border of Colorado and Kansas. To the south, the Sangre de Christo (Blood of Christ) Range stretches south to New Mexico. On the western horizon, just slightly to the southwest, lies the Collegiate Range.
To the southwest at the base of Pikes Peak, sit the old mining towns of Cripple Creek and Victor. Once upon the summit, if the weather is clear (and there's not much Denver smog), you can see the skyscrapers of downtown Denver.
You are allowed 30 to 40 minutes on the top of Pikes Peak. The reason for this is that most people begin to feel the effects of high altitude (slight nausea, headache) after about this amount of time. We recommend that you budget your time accordingly. In the high season, the summit house serves thousands of people daily. The staff of ARAMARK (the concessionaire of the Summit House, which is owned by the City of Colorado Springs) does an admirable job with a facility that was built in the 1960's and was never intended to serve the numbers it does today. Consequently, long lines are quite common especially in the food service area. The lines are generally longest at food service right after the train arrives. You can bring food and beverages aboard the train (those purchased from the Cog Railway Cafe; sorry, no outside food or beverages are allowed), but due to the limited seating, you cannot bring outside food or beverages into the Summit House.
What we recommend: FOR THE BUSY SEASON; First, walk around outside and enjoy the view and take pictures. The north side of the summit is most dramatic with a breath-taking drop-off into what is known as the Bottomless Pit. BE CAREFUL! ESPECIALLY WITH SMALL CHILDREN! Then walk over to the far side of the summit near the High Altitude Research Station. This view of the Continental Divide is really nice. After that, go inside and warm up, check the lines at the snack/gift area (try to eat before or bring something on the train), use the restroom and then head outside to the viewing platform on the south side. (In November, December, January, February, March and most of April, you should purchase food at the depot and take it with you on the train as food service is VERY LIMITED. In April and early May, you should get any food or beverage AS SOON AS YOU ARRIVE ON THE SUMMIT, as the food service up there closes after about 20 minutes). The train crew will blow a long blast on the horn 10 minutes before the train leaves. Remember, you must return on the same train, and the train leaves ON TIME! You get 30 to 40 minutes on the summit... It's a long walk down!