Pikes Peak: 31st Highest Mountain in Colorado

Why Pikes Peak is America's Most Famous Mountain

Storm clouds wreath Pikes Peak, a Colorado Springs landmark and the 31st highest mountain in Colorado. Photograph copyright Stewart M. Green

Elevation: 14,115 feet (4,302 meters)

Prominence: 5,510 feet (1,679 meters)

Location: Front Range, Colorado

Coordinates: 38.83333 N /  -105.03333 W

Map: USGS topographic map 7.5 minute Pikes Peak

First Known Ascent: Dr. Edwin James and 2 others, July 14, 1820.

Ute Indian Name

The Tabeguache Band of the Ute Indians, who often camped in the valleys below the mountain, called it Tava or “Sun.” Tabeguache means “People of the Sun Mountain.” The Arapaho Indians from northern Colorado called the great peak heey-otoyoo’, which means "long mountain."

Named for Zebulon Pike

Pikes Peak is named for explorer Zebulon Pike, who described the mountain on an expedition in 1806 to determine the southern boundary of the newly acquired Louisiana Purchase. Pike, naming the mountain Grand Peak, attempted to climb it from the south but deep November snows thwarted his summit bid. The early Spanish explorers called it El Capitan or The Captain for its dominance of southern Colorado's landscape.

First Known Ascent in 1920

The first recorded ascent was by Dr. Edwin James, a botanist on Major Stephen H. Long’s expedition, along with two others on July 14, 1820. James’ party set a forest fire on the way down, scorching thousands of acres. Major Long named the peak for Dr. James, but trappers and mountain men continued to call it Pikes Peak.

First Woman to Climb in 1858

Julia Archibald Holmes was the first recorded woman to climb Pikes Peak with her ascent on August 5, 1858.

She was also the first woman to climb a Fourteener in Colorado. No other woman accomplished that feat for 23 years. Read Julia Archibald Holmes: First Woman to Climb Pikes Peak for the complete story about her landmark ascent.

Most Visited High Mountain in the USA

Pikes Peak is the most visited high mountain in the United States, with over 500,000 people reaching the summit by hiking, climbing, driving, or cog railway.

Most drive up the paved 19-mile-long Pikes Peak Highway, which starts from Cascade in Ute Pass and winds up to the peak's flat summit. The Pikes Peak Cog Railway finished in 1891, carries passengers 8.9 miles from Manitou Springs to the summit. 

Pikes Peak Marathon

The Pikes Peak Marathon, a grueling test of running endurance, ascends 26 miles up and down Barr Trail every August. The day before the round-trip event is a one-way 13-mile race to the summit.

"America the Beautiful" Song

In 1893 schoolteacher Katherine Lee Bates was so inspired by the view atop Pikes Peak that she wrote “America the Beautiful,” the unofficial hymn of the United States.

Pikes Peak or Bust!

”Pikes Peak or Bust” was the slogan of the 1858/1859 gold rush to the diggings west of today’s Denver near Central City. The slogan was painted on the sides of covered wagons. Yee-Haw!

Rises 7,800 Feet from Base to Summit

Pikes Peak rises 7,800 feet in 7.25 miles from the town of Manitou Springs at its eastern base. This is the greatest elevation rise from base to summit of any Colorado mountain.

Two Major Trails to Summit

Hikers ascend Pikes Peak by the historic 13-mile-long Barr Trail up its almost 8,000-foot eastern slope or via the 8-mile-long Devils Playground Trail, which begins at The Crags and runs up the northwest flank of Pikes Peak.

Granite Cliffs for Rock Climbing

Many granite cliffs, found on Pikes Peak above timberline, offer excellent rock climbing adventures. These cliffs include The Pericles, Bigger Bagger, and Corinthian Column.