pikes peak colorado

Snow-covered Pikes Peak as seen from Garden of the Gods, a city park west of downtown Colorado Springs.

My District: Is Home to Colorado’s Pikes Peak

By Joe Rassenfoss | Nov. 15, 2022 | State Legislatures News | Print

dennis hisey colorado
Hisey
terri carver colorado
Carver

It’s no surprise that Coloradans have an attitude about altitude. After all, the Continental Divide cuts a vertigo-inducing path through the state that provides a dizzying playground for hikers, skiers, bikers and campers.

The state’s crown jewels are its 14ers—the 54 peaks that soar more than 14,000 feet above sea level. There are challenging mountains with lower summits—stunning Mount Sopris, at 12,965 feet, is an example—but the 14ers are the heights that Coloradans seek to climb, many attempting to summit them all.

There is no better-known 14er than Pikes Peak, which towers over the city of Colorado Springs from the west at an elevation of 14,115. Even though it is the 31st tallest of the state’s 14ers, it is the highest summit of the southern Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, making it visible from as far away as Denver, 70 miles to the north.

Visitors can hike, drive or take a cog railway to the top of Pikes Peak 365 days a year—weather permitting.

Named for Zebulon Pike, who encountered the peak in 1806 but never summited, the mountain has since become the state’s most accessible 14er. Visitors can hike, drive or take a cog railway to the top 365 days a year—weather permitting. Once on the top, you can take in the amazing 360-degree view and check out the new Summit Visitor Center to learn more about the mountain and grab a snack.

People from around the world come to experience Pikes Peak, in turn boosting tourism in Colorado Springs and the surrounding region. We caught up with Sen. Dennis Hisey (R) and Rep. Terri Carver (R) to talk about the famous peak and other attractions of merit in their districts in El Paso County.

What are your earliest memories of Pikes Peak?

Hisey: When I was in high school, our Future Farmers of America chapter (in Oregon) traveled to Kansas City via train for the national convention. We stopped in Cheyenne, Wyo., and then traveled to the Air Force Academy (just north of Colorado Springs) by bus. That was the first time I saw Pikes Peak.

Do you remember the first time you went to the top? 

Hisey: After our family moved to Colorado Springs, we took the kids out of school for the day and drove to the top, playing the part of any tourist. This was prior to the new Visitor Center … with its expanded indoor viewing areas. People seem to stay and enjoy the experience longer when they can be warm. I decided the next time I went to the top of Pikes Peak, I would hike. It hasn’t happened yet.

Carver: We have visited Pikes Peak several times, traveling up the mountain by car and by the Pikes Peak Cog Railway.

How would you explain the experience to someone who has never been on top of a Colorado 14er?

Hisey: The view was spectacular and then the clouds came in; looking down on the clouds was kind of surreal. Later, I did hike to the top of Mount Elbert, the tallest (14,440 feet) mountain in Colorado, and the view was what you get when you fly over the mountains on a clear day, only closer. You realize just how many peaks there are and how rugged the Rocky Mountains are.

Reports in recent years have shown that Pikes Peak visitation has an economic impact of more than $30 million annually on Colorado Springs. Can you quantify that impact beyond dollars and cents?

Hisey: Pikes Peak has helped solidify the region as an outdoor recreational area for all levels of hikers, off-road (vehicle) and trail bicycle enthusiasts, with thousands of miles of trails in and around the peak.

Where else would you suggest people go in the Pikes Peak Region?

Carver: First, they should know that Pikes Peak is the base of many local events, including the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, one of the oldest races in America that celebrated its 100th running in June of 2022. (The Pikes Peak Marathon is the oldest continually held marathon in the United States.) Colorado Springs also is the location for the nonprofit Space Foundation and the world-renowned Space Symposium, which will draw experts from around the world to Colorado Springs April 17-20, 2023.

Hisey: The chapel at the Air Force Academy, the state’s No. 1 man-made tourist attraction, is closed because it is under restoration; but you will want to visit the academy. The Olympic Training Center gives tours, and the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Museum, celebrating past and current athletes and para-athletes, is a great a recent addition to downtown. The Pikes Peak region encompasses several counties that offer world-class rafting, the Royal Gorge Bridge and Railroad, Cave of the Winds, tours of underground gold mines and much more.

Joe Rassenfoss is a Denver-based freelance writer.

The responses have been edited for length and clarity.

“My District” gives NCSL members a chance to talk about life in the places they represent, from high-profile events and destinations to the fun facts only the locals know.

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