The Pikes Peak Cog Railway is one of the best ways to see Pikes Peak, one of Colorado's number one attractions. The railway is nearly 9 miles in length and the ride takes a little over 3 hours. You begin at the historic depot at the base of Pikes Peak, which is at an elevation of 6,571. The rail travels down the Ruxton Creek in Englemann Canyon, a steep part of the ride that offers views of Englemann spruce and Colorado blue spruce trees, as well as Ponderosa pine. Your rail conductor will point out features as you move down the track.
At the point where reverse train trips pass the outgoing train trips is Minnehaha switch, location of Minnehaha Falls. About two-thirds of the way through your ride you will pass the Ruxton Park settlement and Hell Gate. This is a natural gateway to the mountains. The train then passes Deer Park where there are frequently grazing mule deer, which will delight riders young and old. The train then passes over the Four Mile Siding which offers the first glimpses of Pikes Peak. The final third of the trip features scenic views of area lakes and mountains, as well as Bighorn sheep and yellow-bellied marmots. The sheep are the largest flock in Colorado, and the marmot is the most plentiful animal in the area, amusing visitors with their play and piercing whistle.
The southwest view of the ride offers a chance to look out over the towns of Cripple Creek and Victor, Colorado. From this view, it is sometimes possible to see the top of the Denver skyline. Once you reach the top of Pikes Peak, riders are permitted to exit the train and stroll around the grounds for about half an hour. The time is short because it does not take long for people to feel the effects of the altitude. Guests are encouraged to drink plenty of water and move slowly. There are facilities at the top of the mountain in the summit house, but do to the time limits and the long lines, guests are encouraged to bring along snacks and drinks when boarding the train at the peak's base. If you are concerned about long lines, purchase snacks and drinks at the Cog Railway cafy that can be brought aboard the train. No other outside food is allowed with you on your ride. Outside food cannot be brought into the summit house, so find a quiet space outdoors to dine on the peak, or eat on the ride up.
Because the peak is often busy during the warmer weather, the railway has designed tour suggestions for the best way to see the best features of the summit. Make sure you see the north side summit's dramatic views, the Bottomless Pit, the High Altitude Research Station, the view of the Continental Divide, and the gift shop. The train whistle will blow 10 minutes before departure, so be sure to get back in time. You must board the train you arrived on or you will be stuck walking back to the base. The Pikes Peak Cog Railway is a great way to enjoy Pikes Peak.