Colorado’s Pikes Peak is one of the North American ‘fourteeners’, a series of mountains that stand high above the Colorado plains. It’s also one of the most visited mountains in all of North America, with more than half a million visitors traveling to this destination each year. This popularity can be attributed to both the mountain’s proximity to Colorado Springs and its breathtaking views.
While climbing to the top of the mountain is probably your primary goal, summiting the peak shouldn’t be the only thing you do in the area. There are a ton of awesome locations for you to visit and activities to partake in while visiting the Pikes Peak area.
Take a Drive Up Pikes Peak Highway
If you’d like to take in every view Pikes Peak has to offer, driving up the picturesque Pikes Peak highway is a great way to do it. This drive can take anywhere between one and a half to three hours, depending on the number of stops you make on the way.
The winding highway is 19 miles long and climbs all the way up to the mountain’s peak height of 14,115 feet. The length and height of this drive may make it difficult for some to stomach though. If you’re scared of heights ‒ or you close the tab when a video says “not for the faint hearted” ‒ you’re probably better off taking the train.
You also don’t have to wait for warm weather to take the Pikes Peak Highway. This thrilling drive is usually completely accessible in the spring, summer, and fall. In winter, you can safely drive up to certain points, though excessive snowfall at higher elevations can make the latter portions of the road impassable.
The toll rate on Pikes Peak Highway is typically around $5 per child and $10 per adult. However, the cost does vary by season, and can go as high as $50 per car in the winter months. There are also discounts for additional passengers, so try to carpool if you’re in a larger group.
The highway also hosts annual automobile and bike racing competitions. If you enjoy watching these kinds of competitive sports, check the official Pikes Peak website to see if any races will be happening while you’re there.
Visit the Broadmoor Seven Falls Area
The Broadmoor Seven Falls area is a contained area near Pikes Peak with a ton of stuff to do.
Visit the Broadmoor Seven Falls
As the name suggests, the Broadmoor Seven Falls is a series of seven consecutive waterfalls. These majestic cascades are located at the top of an epic 1,400 foot tall box canyon.
After a short hike to get to the waterfalls, you can rest while listening to the soothing sound of the torrenting water. If you go at night, you’ll be able to enjoy a packed dinner while enjoying the sight of the beautiful waterfalls lit up by white, eco-friendly lights. No matter when you visit or what you do when you get there, it’s a view you’ll never forget.
Visit Restaurant 1858
While the falls are beautiful, they aren’t the only reason to visit the Broadmoor Seven Falls area. Right next to the falls is the locally famous Restaurant 1858 ‒ a pinnacle of Colorado cuisine that offers food prepared by the award-winning chefs of the Broadmoor Hotel. Enjoy the aroma of wood-grilled steak and trout fish on the patio while listening to the falls in the distance.
Visit the 1858 Food Truck
Don’t have time for a fine dining experience? Head on over to the 1858 food truck, which has a mouth-watering menu that changes depending on the seasons. The high-quality, easy-to-eat meals from the food truck will more than fill you up for a fun-filled day of hiking and exploring.
Visit Eagles Nest
Once you’ve eaten your fill at the restaurant or food truck, you can walk up the 224 steps to catch a glimpse of heaven on earth at the Eagles Nest lookout. If you’re not up for the walk, an in-mountain elevator offers easy access to the breathtaking views.
If you like collecting souvenirs from the places you’ve traveled, the Eagles Nest gift shop is a great place to find Seven Falls memorabilia. And if you prefer ancient rocks over location-themed items, the gemologists at Rockhounds sell fossils and minerals collected from dig sites all around the world.
Visit Seven Falls Park
Seven Falls Park is a dog-friendly walking park with a terrific view of the surrounding mountains.
If you enjoy bringing your dog on vacation, this is an excellent place to let them run around and enjoy the fresh Colorado air. The Broadmoor Hotel also offers complimentary parking, as well as a shuttle service that drops you at the gate of Seven Falls Park.
Hike some of the trails near Seven Falls
If you enjoy hiking, the top of Seven Falls offers access to two pristine trails that will let you explore the surrounding forest on foot. Both trails are open for hikers from May until October, and are open to the public until 7 p.m.
The first trail is called the Inspiration Point Trail. At only a mile long, it typically takes just under an hour for a round trip. For the poetry fans out there, Inspiration Point is the spot that inspired Helen Hunt Jackson to write some of her best poems. She was also buried on the point, so you can even visit her grave if you want to.
The second trail is a bit longer, with a round trip typically taking just over two hours. Both trails offer expansive views of the Seven Falls, the city of Colorado Springs, and the plains surrounding Pikes Peak.
Join the Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb
Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is one of the most popular events in the Pikes Peak area. Also known as the ‘Race to the Clouds’, talented car racers and motorbike riders take part in this yearly 13-mile race to the summit of Pikes Peak.
This event takes place on the last Sunday of June, so make time for it if you’ve got a late June vacation planned. If you won’t be in the Pikes Peak area in late June, you can still catch a glimpse of the thrilling event on Youtube.
Visit at Cave of the Winds Mountain Park
Cave of the Winds Mountain Park is the outdoor version of a thrilling amusement park experience. You can go on guided cave tours, ride on thrilling zip lines, or test your rock climbing skills. Adventurous souls of all ages will enjoy spending a day here.
Take the Discovery Tour
This 45 to 60 minutes long guided tour through half a mile of concrete walkways is the most popular activity for families at the park. The guides walk you through the well-lit portion of the cave, offering a glimpse into geological history that is hard to come by in other locations. The tour covers 15 rooms filled with spectacular formations.
If you want to go on this tour, here’s some information you should be aware of:
- If you have infants or toddlers with you, you need to bring a baby carrier ‒ strollers aren’t allowed. The cave is not suitable for strollers due to the narrow rugged paths and low ceilings. Even carrying your baby in your arms is a better option than bringing a stroller.
- The ticket price for children aged 0 to 5 years is free.
- The ticket price for children aged 6 to 12 years is $16.
- The ticket price for everyone 13 years or older is $22.
- The park offers a 10% military discount on ticket fees.
Take the Lantern Tour
If you decide to go on the Lantern tour, get ready for a spooky and educational experience. The passages on this 90 minute guided tour are lit completely by candlelight. During this mile-long walk, you’ll pass through narrow passages, rooms with muddy floors, and up some uneven stairs. You’ll also get to explore the history of Cave of the Winds and listen to frightening folklore from the guides as you walk.
If you want to go on this tour, here’s some information you should be aware of:
- Children under the age of 6 are not allowed on this tour.
- Visitors from 6 to 12 years of age must pay $20 to go on this tour.
- Visitors 13 years and older must pay $32 to go on this tour.
- The Lantern Tour also offers a 10% military discount.
- This tour is not recommended for visitors with knee or back pain, as it includes a 250 foot long passage which is at most 48 inches tall.
- If relative darkness or ghost stories scare you or your children, you might want to stay with the camping tents and food baskets situated outside.
Take the Caving 101 Tour
The Caving 101 Tour is the most thrilling of all the tours offered. You will explore the undeveloped and wilder portions of the cave system on a two and a half hour guided tour. Your guides will teach you basic spelunking skills as they talk about the history and geology of the cave.
If you want to go on this tour, here’s some information you should be aware of:
- This tour is not open for children under the age of 13.
- This tour is not recommended for visitors with a history of back or joint pain.
- Visitors above 13 years of age must pay $49 to go on the tour.
- You need to register online at least 48 hours before the tour starts.
Go White Water Rafting
From scenic floats to challenging multi-day trips, the rivers around Pikes Peak are home to an exciting whitewater rafting experience. Enjoy leisurely or intense floating under the supervision of guides trained to make sure you and your family stay safe.
Where to go rafting?
The Colorado Springs area has rivers suitable for rafters of all ages and expertise. From beginners going rafting for the first time to expert seeking the ultimate thrill, the rivers around Pikes Peak .
If you want a family-friendly spot for rafting, I recommend the Arkansas River. It’s the most popular river for whitewater rafting in the United States, and the current is tame enough to make most rafting trips leisurely and easy.
If you’re looking for a more difficult whitewater rafting experience, consider the marvelous Royal Gorge. If you want a calm trip down the river, the Bighorn Sheep Canyon is your best bet.
When to go rafting?
Rafting is open from May until September of each year.
You should know that the intensity of the currents varies from season to season due to melting snow from nearby mountains. May and June offer the most thrilling rafting experiences, as the rivers run faster when snowmelt is at its peak.
If you’re looking for a milder experience, I recommend going in August and September. The snowmelt is at its lowest point during these months, and most of the rivers will be relatively calm.
To be safe, you should plan your visit according to the levels of expertise and the ages of the members in your group. All planning guidelines and other relevant information are available on the Colorado Springs Website.
Explore the Garden of the Gods Visitor Center
The Garden of the Gods Visitor Center is a great location for all sorts of activities and events:
- Rock climbing
- Storytelling presented by Pikes Peak Library District.
- And much more.
The park also offers some interesting educational programs for kids. Whether you’re planning a school field trip or taking your kids on the educational visit yourself, the Garden of Gods will definitely make the visit worthwhile.
Here’s a more detailed list of things to do at the Garden of the Gods Visitor Center:
Rock climbing at the Garden of the Gods visitor center is one of the primary attractions. There are a variety of natural climbing walls available for beginners and experts alike.
If you have a climbing permit, you can go bouldering inside the park without supervision from the park staff. If you don’t have one, you can still line up for the Front Range Climbing trips, which depart from the center every 30 minutes. You’ll have to wait a bit longer to climb, as the guides will need to help everyone in the group. However, the climb is still worth the wait, as the views from the tops of some of the climbing rocks are spectacular.
Note: Make sure you have a permit if you aren’t going with a guide ‒ there’s a steep fine if you decide to climb without guides or a permit, as it’s extremely dangerous and the park wants to dissuade that kind of risky behavior.
Biking is another fun activity you can do at the Garden of the Gods. Numerous bike-friendly trails wind their way around the area, allowing you to explore the entire park at a relatively quick pace.
If you like riding under the stars, you can register for the Starlight Spectacular Nighttime bike ride for a tour of the 1367 acre area. The lack of light pollution near Pikes Peak will allow for some amazingly clear views of the stars in the night sky.
And if you don’t have your own, you can rent all kinds of bikes from the local shop ‒ this includes standard bikes, mountain bikes, and even electric bikes.
The center also features horse rides on some of the smoother and more horse-friendly trails. You can rent a ride through the trails of the Garden of the Gods for a horseback ride like never before.
The Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site
Experience some of America’s richest living history at Rock Ledge Historic Site. With tickets starting from as low as $8 for adults, you can experience exciting events year-round for an extremely affordable price.
The Grand Prix of Running holds an annual 5K/5M run at the center, and there’s the Garden of the Gods 10-Mile Run. If you’re an avid runner, check the center’s website to see if any races are going on.
Plan a Picnic at the Crystal Reservoir
The Crystal Reservoir is an excellent place to take jaw-dropping pictures. This location is also an excellent picnic spot, making it a great place to spend a relaxing day near a beautiful body of water.
This scenic reservoir is located at the foot of Pikes Peak in Colorado Springs. Situated on the northeastern side of Pikes Peak, the reservoir displays an unforgettable view of the mountains of America. This reservoir is part of the North Slope Recreation Area.
Picnicking at Crystal Reservoir
Bring your picnic baskets along to spend a lovely afternoon at the Crystal Reservoir. There is ample parking space, so don’t worry about getting there early to grab a spot. If you don’t bring enough food, there’s a small shop near the lake where you can get snacks and drinks from.
If you prefer fishing on top of your lounging and eating, you can also grab fishing supplies from the small shops nearby. The lake is filled with a variety of freshwater fish, making it an excellent place to cast a line.
The lake also has a gift shop if you want to buy souvenirs to remember your day at the reservoir with.
The scenic reservoir is not only a great place for camping and photography but also offers a variety of exciting activities. At the Crystal Reservoir, you can fish, hike, picnic and take a serene ride across the reservoir on a boat.
The Crystal Reservoir offers easy access to a variety of trout fish including rainbow, cutthroat and brook trout. If you somehow manage to bring along a motorless boat, you can enjoy off-shore access to brown trout.
Walk Through Devil’s Playground
The Devil’s Playground is the second primary hiking trail that leads to the summit. It is less crowded and shorter than the Barr Trail, so visitors looking for a quieter visit should consider this hike instead. This trail also offers stunning views of the western mountains ranges.
Also known as the Crags Trail ‒ an appropriate name considering the difficulty level ‒ this 8.6 mile trail gets especially hard to travel on when it gets icy in the wintertime.
The Devil’s Playground starts from a 4,300 foot high trailhead located near the Crags Campground, and ends at an elevation of 14,115 feet ‒ right at the summit of Pikes Peak. The trail leads through the Pike National Forest, one of the most picturesque forests in the state of Colorado.
If you want to reach the summit via the Devil’s Playground, you have to start early. This rocky paradise gets vicious afternoon storms in the summertime ‒ so the earlier you set out for the hike, the better it is. You can also consider booking a nighttime camping spot at the Crags Campground, which is at nearly 10,000 feet in elevation.
Experience Colorado’s Fishing Season
Fishing is a time-honored pastime in Colorado’s more forested regions. However, there are some rules you need to follow when partaking in this relaxing activity.
Here is a quick overview of rules to follow when you fish in the Pikes Peak region:
- You need a fishing license to legally fish in most Colorado lakes.
- If you are bringing along kids under 16 years of age, they can fish for free without a license.
- Residents above the age of 16 can buy a one-year license for $34.75.
- Seniors older than 65 years can get a one-year license for $9.75.
- If you are a non-resident, you can buy a five-day pass for $21.
- If you have just a day to fish, you can get a one-day license for $13.75
Best places to fish in the Pikes Peak area
The Pikes Peak area has tons of scenic reservoirs and lakes that offer some fantastic boat fishing opportunities. Here are four of the most popular spots:
- Home to both the Crystal Creek and South Catamount Reservoirs.
- You have to pay a $5 per person entrance fee at the Pikes Peaks Highway gate.
- Motorless boats are available for water expeditions.
- Fishing with bait is allowed at both sites. However, artificial flies and lures are only allowed on the North Catamount Reservoir.
- Home to both the McReynolds and Mason reservoirs.
- This area is operational beginning in late May.
- Allows for permit-based access from 7:30 AM till 2:30 PM from Thursday until Sunday.
- There is a catch limit at Mason Reservoir: one fish of 16 inches or smaller per person.
- There is an unlimited ‘catch-and-release’ policy for fishing at Mason Reservoir.
- If you want to catch limitlessly, then head to the Skaguay Reservoir.
- There is no fishing limit on Northern Pike.
- However, you can catch up to 4 trout fish.
- If you plan to keep your dog along, this might not be the best fishing spot for you.
- There is no boating facility available at Rosemont Reservoir .
- You can use artificial flies and lures only for bait in this area
Go Wildlife Watching
Pikes Peak is divided into five zones classified based on altitude. Each zone has different types of plants and is home to different wild animals ‒ many of which can be spotted with a bit of patience.
Eastern Plains Zone
- Extends up to 6000 feet of elevation.
- Contains wildflowers and grasses.
- Home to many small animals, mainly rabbits and prairie dogs.
- Ranges from 6000 feet to 8000 feet.
- Contains small bushes and trees ‒ juniper, scrub oak, pinyon pine, and sage bush are the most common types.
- Home to deer, raccoons, skunks and various kinds of squirrels.
- Ranges from 8000 feet to 10000 feet.
- Contains forests of Douglas firs, pines, and colorful aspen trees.
- Home to bears, elk, and mountain lions.
- Ranges from 10,000 feet to 11,500 feet. It is the least hospitable of all Pikes Peak zones.
- Contains dense forests of bristlecone pine, Douglas fir, and Engelmann spruce. Some bristlecone pine trees in Pikes Peak are as old as 200 years.
- Relative lack of wildlife ‒ most life in this region is plant-based.
- 11,500 feet and up.
- Not much plant life at this elevation.
- Home to the yellow-bellied marmot and bighorn sheep. The sheep usually migrate towards lower regions in winter.
From thrilling hikes to exciting whitewater rafting to peaceful trout fishing, Pikes Peak is a terrific vacation destination for outdoors-loving families.
This destination is not only close to the city but is also quite developed. It provides visitors with maintained parking lots, eateries, fishing supply shops, a train service to the top of the mountain, and even allows leashed dogs at most points.
No matter what kind of traveler you are, you’ll find something enjoyable in the Pikes Peak area.