Pikes Peak Cog Railway is a historic cog rail line operating since 1891 only a few miles from the center of Colorado Springs. Named after a southwestern explorer, Pikes Peak was first discovered in early 1800, and has been ascended by many an avid climber scaling the mountain’s 14,000 foot peak. Pike’s Peak history also includes the Ute Indians who utilized the mountain for hunting and shelter during various seasons. Over the years, Pike’s Peak has attracted many tourists. The Pikes Peak Cog train is a great way to see the heights without having to climb yourself. Cog trains are uniquely designed to tackle extremely steep graduations and perform with a central rail that is cogged, and joined with tenons, to offer steadier traction.
The Pikes Peak cog train runs throughout the year with the exception of inclement weather and during the week in both January and February. It climbs more than 14,000 feet through streams that spill through the Colorado mountains, old growth forests of pine and aspen, and affords stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. The cog railroad to Pikes Peak also displays a wide variety of animal and plant life, and is home to four of a total of eight Colorado Life Zones.
The Pikes Peak Cog Railway Depot is located at over 6,700 feet up the mountain. Inside this Eastern Plains Zone, rich grasslands, vibrant wildflowers, and plenty of smaller sized wildlife are visible. At around 8,000 feet the zones change, and though the wildflowers and shrubbery still exist at these elevations, scores of Douglas fir and pine forests blanket the mountainside. Elk, buffalo, bears, and deer are commonly sighted while riding the Pikes Peak cog train.
Once the cog railroad to Pikes Peak hits the 10,000-foot mark and beyond, it becomes quite obvious that the conditions are much less gracious, but dense forests still survive as well as 2,000-year-old bristlecone pines. At roughly 12,000-feet, simple mosses and smaller flowers emerge from the tundra and lichen elk are some of the only hearty animals that live at these extreme elevations. Massive sheep herds of the Bighorn variety are often spotted by passengers riding the cog railroad to Pikes Peak.
The cog railway to Pikes Peak runs from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. for reservations only and daily during the summer with eight trains each day. During the mid-summer months, journeys begin at 7 a.m. and run through to 8 p.m. In the off-season, from September through May, two trains, and sometimes more, run several times each day. The Pikes Peak cog train even runs in January and February, but only on weekends and for special events. All tours are guided by professionals and snacks and drinks, as well as restrooms, are located onboard. Onsite parking for rental transportation is also available.
All around the mountainous area, Colorado hiking, biking, and bird watching are prime things to do. Wildlife viewing is another top endeavor and there are plenty of animals to see. Camping is another attractions for many who want more time to explore the extensive area. If you’re planning on heading to the Pikes Peak Cog Railway only for a train ride, facilities at the depot include rail maps, indoor activities, and concession stands. There are plenty of brochures with specifics on the Pikes Peak cog train.