Splitting from U.S. Route 24 northwest of Colorado Springs, the Pikes Peak Highway carves a 19-mile route up the flank of Pikes Peak. Passing Crystal Creek Reservoir, it ascends a demanding grade through boulder fields and alpine wilderness to the summit of the highest peak in the Front Range at 14,110 feet, also the nineteenth-highest in the lower 48 states. At the Pikes Peak summit, unparalleled views of the southern Front Range and the area of Colorado Springs abound. The summit Observation Deck includes a monument, the America the Beautiful monument and commemorative plaques, in addition to the prerequisite binoculars that provide visitors with a closer look at the surroundings. The historic Summit House still stands here, and there are steep drop-offs to admire.
The scenic byway includes numerous visitor centers and pullouts. The North Pole amusement park precedes the Pikes Peak tollgate. An overlook at Camera Point provides views to Ute Pass. Picnic grounds at Crowe Gulch and Halfway straddle the Crystal Creek Visitor Center, where more beautiful viewpoints abound. Near the visitor center, a sign marks a bigfoot sighting in 2001. Historic sites remain at the Glen Cove Ski Area and the Glen Cove Inn. While the ski area closed more than 20 years ago, some in Colorado Springs seek to revive the sport on Pikes Peak. The Glen Cove Inn, settled by Frank Tweed in 1886 and evolving into a stop for travelers, now serves as a gift shop and restaurant. Although rebuilt, the cabin stands on the original foundation.
The road remained partially unpaved until 2011. In the late nineties, the Sierra Club filed litigation concerning the environmental impact of maintaining a gravel road at high altitude on Pikes Peak. The environmental advocates found that 150 million pounds of gravel washed off the road annually, necessitating the cost of replacement and covering ponds, wetlands, and forests below the right-of-way with two feet of gravel, on average. The City of Colorado Springs agreed in a settlement to pave the remainder of Pikes Peak Highway. The annual Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, or “The Race to the Clouds,” continues today, though racers initially fought the paving project.
Be on the lookout for wildlife at Pikes Peak, including yellow-bellied marmots and bighorn sheep.