The Pikes Peak Cog Railway is one of the easiest and most relaxing ways to summit a Colorado 14er.
This train line was the idea of Zalmon G. Simmons, who, after a miserable two-day trip in 1888 on the back of a mule, decided there needed to be a better, more civilized way up the mountain. Rail operations began in 1890, but a train did not summit Pikes Peak until June of 1891. Over 100 years later, The Broadmoor Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway runs daily, taking people to the top of America’s Mountain.
Recently we have started to develop an interest in trains, so we thought after 20 plus years of living in Colorado, it was time to check out if The Pikes Peak Cog Railway was worth it.
Our trip to Manitou Springs was in late October, but the train was still full. We bought our tickets well in advance, and we could reserve our seats for an added fee. Paying extra to sit together was super annoying, but it ensured that we got a window seat on the three-seat side which we feel is the best side.
The train left on time, and the ride up was pleasant though the seats are small and a bit cramped feeling. During the trip up, a conductor keeps everyone informed on the railway’s scenery, landmarks, and history. With so much to look at and learn about, you are at the top of Pikes Peak before you know it.
There is a brand new Pikes Peak Visitor Center waiting on the summit with clean bathrooms and hot donuts. We headed straight to the donuts because we read that sometimes they sell out quickly, but there was plenty for everybody that morning. There is also coffee, hot chocolate, hot dogs, and other snacks available and a gift shop, of course.
Please pay attention to the departure time because the train will leave the summit without you, as we witnessed that day. As the train began to move, frantic tourists ran on the platform, beating on the glass as the train just kept rolling. We were told they would need to wait until the next train to get down the mountain.
Overall, we feel The Pikes Peak Cog Railway was a worthwhile experience. It was a relaxing way to spend an autumn Colorado morning.
Here are some other notes we wanted to share:
- Parking can be a challenge in Manitou Springs. We left our car at our hotel and walked to the train but expect to pay when you drive to the station.
- It is possible to hike up Pikes Peak and take the train down, but there is not a guarantee the train will have room for you, so don’t count on it. It would be best to contact The Broadmoor Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway before your hike if that is your plan.
- Altitude can be an issue even for a brief stay on top of the mountain. So drink plenty of water leading up to your train trip to prepare for this. (Check out this article on preparing for a mountain vacation.)