We had previously taken the Cog Train to the Pike's Peak Summit, but today we decided to drive the Pike's Peak Highway to the top.
When we arrived at the highway entrance, we noticed black clouds rolling in around the top of Pike's Peak. It seems it can be a clear day everywhere else, but the clouds just seem to build around the peaks of the highest mountains.
Our plan was to drive straight up to the top, then make stops on the way back at the different pullouts along the road. We paid our admission and began the climb upwards.
The road was paved and in very good condition. After the gravel roads we drove on to kayak in Abiqui and the Phantom Canyon Road, this seemed much easier.
We came to Crystal Lake and saw Pike's Peak in the distance.
We continued to climb. The road is good, but as you near the top, you are on the edge of the mountain.
We went inside and had the high altitude donuts and hot chocolate.
As we were admiring the view, we thought it had begun hailing, but it was actually sleet!
It didn't last long. After we finished the donuts, we went back outside to hike around the top edge.
The nice things about driving instead of taking the cog train were it was not as crowded at the summit without the train there and you were not on the train schedule, you could take your time and stop when you wanted to stop.
We were at the summit about 45 minutes and decided it was time to leave, we didn't want to get too lightheaded. When we rode the cog train, we were told they only stay up at the top about 25 minutes because after that altitude sickness could set in. I sure didn't want to take a chance of Jim getting lightheaded as we were driving down the mountain!
We began our trek down in first gear. We were going around a hairpin turn and saw a car stopped along the edge of the highway. I was thinking that was a strange place to stop when I looked a little closer and saw bighorn sheep!
There was a pull out just passed them that we stopped to watch them for awhile.
We continued on, stopping at this overlook to get a view of one of the hairpin turns.
We continued on, the views seemed to be even more magnificent going downhill since we were facing them. That was another thing we like better than the cog train, we could see the full view from the front instead of the side.
Halfway down, we stopped at this park to eat our picnic lunch.
We were entertained by a family of chipmunks. We counted five different ones. They would come very close to us and then scurry off.
After lunch, we continued on. As we drove, Crystal Lake came back into view.
We stopped at Crystal Lake for awhile to admire the view and then made one last stop at the view looking out at Manitou Springs. This was Ute Pass and you could really see the burn scar from the fire. It was amazing how close the fire came and you get the true sense of how hard the firefighters worked to save the houses and town. That's Highway 24 at the bottom of the picture.
We had a great time and both riding the cog train and taking the highway are different and wonderful experiences!