I bet you love to hike. I mean, that’s the point of this blog, right? But sometimes, it’s nice to sit back, relax, and enjoy the scenery without added effort. That’s where the Cog Railway at Pikes Peak comes in.
You can make the 25-mile hike up Pikes Peak (you 100% get bragging rights if you do this). You can drive up Pikes Peak (keeping your eyes on the road, not the scenery). Or, you can ride a newly renovated train to the top.
Its official name is the Broadmoor Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway. I’ll call it the Pikes Peak Cog Railway for short. This post will cover everything you need to know about riding it.
We’ll go over the following:
- Frequently asked questions
- What you need to do before going
- How to get there/what the parking situation is like
- What the experience of riding the train is like
- Things to do at the top of Pikes Peak
- Fun things to do after the ride
Cog Railway at Pikes Peak FAQ
The Pikes Peak Cog Railway is in downtown Manitou Springs. It’s a 20-minute drive from downtown Colorado Springs.
It takes approximately 1.5 hours to get to the Pikes Peak Cog Railway from Denver. This can vary depending on traffic and where you’re at in Denver. Use Google maps to get a more accurate estimate depending on where you’re driving from.
The train ride to Pikes Peak takes around three hours round trip. It’s approximately an hour up and an hour down. You’ll get 40 minutes to an hour to explore the peak.
A good rule of thumb is to expect Pikes Peak to be around 30 degrees colder than the train station in Manitou Springs. The higher you travel in elevation, the colder it will get. Pikes Peak is known to get VERY windy. I highly recommend wearing a warm, wind-resistant jacket.
During the winter, the temperature on Pikes Peak can go well into the negatives and get very snowy. It can get up to around 50 degrees and sunny during the summer. For the most up-to-date information about the upcoming weather at Pikes Peak, visit this National Weather Service website page.
The Pikes Peak Summit is 14,115 feet. It’s not the tallest mountain, but it’s pretty close! The tallest mountain in Colorado is Mount Elbert, with a peak of 14,438 ft. Colorado has 58 mountain Peaks above 14,000 feet, with 54 lovingly known as “14ers”. To qualify as a 14er, the saddle between the peaks must be at least 300 feet lower than two adjacent peaks.
Yes! Pikes Peak is one of the two Colorado 14ers you can drive to the peak. The other is Mount Evans, which may soon be renamed Mount Blue Sky. The drive can be scary to some – it’s steep with tall, unguarded drop-offs. Riding the train is an excellent alternative so the driver can enjoy the views without the added anxiety.
The Pikes Peak Cog Railway was temporarily closed for a 100 million-dollar renovation project. It reopened as the Broadmoor Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway in Spring 2021, on their 130th anniversary. The renovation project included new tracks along the railway, new and refurbished train cars, and a beautifully updated train station.
The best time of the year to ride the Cog Railway depends on your personal preferences! It’s open year-round, even during heavy snow. In the summer, you’ll see abundant wildflowers and have a warmer experience at the peak. By “warm,” I mean possible 40-50 degree weather and sunshine. From September to October, you’ll see golden Aspens, among other fall foliage. During late Fall to mid-Spring, you may see fluffy blankets of white snow. Note that temperatures could get into the negatives during this time. The best time to see wildlife is from late Spring to early Fall.
What to Do Before You Go
Buy Tickets Online
Before riding the Broadmoor Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railroad, you must buy your tickets online. Tickets can sell out weeks in advance so try to get yours as early as possible.
As of November 2022, Cog Railway tickets start at $58.50 for most people. Children and large groups of 25 or more get a $10 discount. I recommend getting the Reserved Admission ticket for $68.50, so you can pick your seats and ensure your group gets to sit together.
When I rode it, a family didn’t get the Reserved Seating ticket. They were all split up, and the small child who had to sit alone in our area looked very uncomfortable despite efforts to help him feel welcome. The extra $10 to be able to sit with your friends and/or family and choose the seats you’d like is well worth the price.
You can view a complete list of their current rates and ticket information here.
Choose Your Seats
You can choose your seats online with a Reserved Seating Ticket. Getting a prime seat will make your experience sooo much better. IMO, the best spot is right next to the engineer. Yes, it will cost more. BUT you will get unobstructed views from the front of the train.
If you don’t get the engineers’ view seats, you’ll need to choose between the three or two-seat sides of the train. Keep in mind the train does not turn around at the top. You’ll have the same views going up as you will coming down. This means that whichever side you choose will impact your experience.
I prefer sitting by the window on the three-seat side. It sits further away from the mountain, but you’ll get the best views of the Continental Divide, Mount Baldy, the Black Forest, and the surrounding lakes. You’ll also see two waterfalls up close early on the ride. One of those is pictured here.
The two-seat side hugs the side of the mountain as you go up. You’re more likely to get better views of Big Horn Sheep and Yellow-Bellied Marmots on this side. You’re also likely to be seated next to a stranger if you’re in a group of two. Seating is tight on the train anyways, so expect to share the experience closely with others. You might meet some new friends on the ride too!
Getting to the Cog Railway Depot
Where is the Pikes Peak Cog Railway Depot?
The Broadmoor Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway Depot is in downtown Manitou Springs. It’s a cute and historic town at the base of Pikes Peak. It’s definitely worth a visit before or after riding the train.
The parking lot is right next to the Manitou incline. It’s about a 20-minute drive from downtown Colorado Springs and an hour and a half from downtown Denver.
How early should I get there?
Aim to get to the Cog Railway Depot about 30 minutes before departure. This will give you time to park and get situated. There aren’t any bathrooms on the train, so I recommend using the one at the depot before departure. Outside food and drinks aren’t allowed on the train either, so finish up whatever you have before getting on. You can check out the gift shop or take photos around the depot if you have extra time. It is so cute and aesthetically pleasing, with the red train and bright blue accents throughout the recently renovated depot.
What is the Cog Railway parking like?
All of the parking near the Cog Railway are paid lots. As of November 2022, parking is $10. There is a lot right across the street from the Cog Railway Depot and at the base of the Manitou Incline trail.
Parking can fill up fast. It’s best to get there early and plan ahead. There is additional parking available at Hiawatha Gardens in Manitou Springs. It’s about a mile from the depot, but a shuttle is available. This is one more reason why it’s essential to get there early.
Riding the Cog Railway
Now the real fun begins. When it’s time, you and your group will board a brand-new or recently refurbished train. Keep your eyes open and expect beautiful sights the entire way. On the way up, the conductor will point out significant landmarks and features, such as waterfalls and cabin ruins. They’ll tell you about the history of the railway, the surrounding area, and even the operations in progress today.
The train begins at the base of Pikes Peak and winds through Pike National Forest along Ruxton Creek in Englemann Canyon. Some of the Bristlecone Pinetree’s in this area are estimated to be over 2,000 years old. This makes them the oldest living thing in the area. Early on, you’ll pass by a series of waterfalls. The conductor will inform you when you’re getting close and will tell you where to look to see them.
Before passing the treeline, you’ll pass through Deer Park. You’ll have a high chance of seeing wildlife here, particularly elk and deer. You’re most likely to see wildlife in the late Spring, summer, and early Fall.
Once you’re above the treeline, you’ll get breathtaking views of the surrounding mountain ranges, front range, foothills, and Pikes Peak. You’ll pass by Mount Baldy, the Black Forest, Morraine Lake, and more. The continental divide lingers in the background the entire time. From Spring through Fall, you have a great chance of seeing Yellow-Bellied Marmots and BigHorn Sheep in this area.
Things to do at the Pikes Peak Summit
You’ll get about 40 minutes to an hour to explore the summit when you get to the top. That may sound like a long time to some, but it goes by FAST.
Take in the sights and take LOTS of Photos.
The one thing you absolutely HAVE to do is to take in the sights. The views from Pikes Peak are absolutely breathtaking. You’ll get 360-degree views of Colorado and the surrounding mountain ranges. On a clear day, you can see all the way to Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, and Kansas.
Obviously, you’ll want to take LOTS of photos! Make sure to get some of yourself and your friends and/or family too. Those are memories you will for sure happily look back on later on.
Visit the Pikes Peak Visitors Center
You can warm up, grab a snack, and use the restroom at the Pikes Peak Visitors Center. It’s newly renovated and features a cafe, gift shop, and museum.
Eat a famous Pikes Peak donut.
I strongly recommend grabbing a hot, fresh donut from the Pikes Peak Summit House in the Visitors Center. They are soooo good and a Colorado tradition when visiting Pikes peak.
My fiancé and I tried the Cinnamon Sugar donut, and let me tell you… it was one of the most delicious donuts I’ve ever had. Simple, but delicious. They also have other rotating flavors.
Grab a snack at the Pikes Peak Summit House
If you’re still feeling snackish, grab something else at the Pikes Peak Summit House. They offer light snacks to hot meals. However, I recommend spending most of your time exploring.
The Train Ride Down
On the train ride down, you’ll pass through the same places as before. Instead of the conductor telling stories and pointing out landmarks to everyone on the train, they will go around to take to people one-on-one and in small groups. This is the perfect time to ask any follow-up questions about anything you may be interested in about the area.
Other things to do near Pikes Peak
There is so much to do near Pikes Peak! You will have plenty of options for activities before or after your train ride. If you haven’t been to Garden of the Gods, you have to drive or hike through there before you leave. Walk, eat, or shop in downtown Manitou Springs, Colorado Springs, or Old Colorado City. If you’re up to a challenging workout, the Manitou incline is right next to the Cog Railway Depot. There are PLENTY of hikes and places to sightsee in the area.
If you’d like me to create a post about other things to do near Pikes Peak, Manitou Springs, and/or Colorado Springs, please let me know in the comments!