Climbing Pikes Peak (14,115‘) is a big day no matter which trail you take. Most people do the classic Barr Trail route from Manitou Springs (about 26 miles roundtrip), or the shorter Crags route from Divide (about 13 miles).
I’ve done it both ways (once on Barr and six times via the Crags), and also hiked it from Gillet on the old Gillet Trail (shorter than Barr Trail and less steep than the Crags route). In 2006, as part of the Zebulon Pike Bicentennial Climb, I did it over three days and 26 miles one way, starting in southeast Colorado Springs and climbing over several other mountains along the way, presumably following Pike’s 1806 path.
If you want to skip the long hike up America’s Mountain, you can drive to the top on the paved Pikes Peak Highway. The new summit house is open, complete with gift shop, cafe, and exhibits, and the wraparound viewing decks are complete. All you need from late-May through the end of September is a permit. A few miles up the road, you’ll hit the entrance station, where you have to pay another $15 per adult, less for kids.
Last week, I decided to take the easy route up Pikes Peak. I drove. To make the most of my day (and my money), I added a few easy hikes to the trip: four unranked summits off the highway on the west side of the peak. I’d done two of them before, but two others were new to me. I’d discovered them in Stewart M. Green’s book Climbing Pikes Peak: A Hiker’s Guide to the Peak.
I’ll give you a summary of the directions. If you want more details, pick up the book. It has other hikes including more summit hikes too, plus a bunch of route descriptions to the top of Pikes Peak.
Spencer’s Rest (12,939′) and Bob Ormes Points (13,119′) Unranked
This hike starts on the north side of the Pikes Peak Highway between mile markers 17 and 18. If you’re driving up the road, it’s the pullout on the left just below “Little Pikes Peak.” After you cross the road, look for the faint Gillett Trail. I’d been on the trail a couple of times: in 2005, when I hiked to the summit of Pikes from Gillett, and in 2013, to climb “McReynolds Peak.” Seldom used except by peakbaggers trying to finish all the ranked summits in Teller County (McReynolds), the trail is overgrown but it’s there. If you lose it, step on rocks and slabs to avoid damaging mountain tundra until you locate it again. Spencer’s Rest is west-southwest of the pullout.
Next, descend the peak and hike east to the northernmost highpoint of a long ridge of summits, Bob Ormes Points. Alternatively, you can start at the southernmost point and hike the ridge to the highest point.
The whole hike is short, less than three miles, and with less than 1,000 feet of elevation gain you can do both Spencer’s Rest and Bob Ormes Points and be back to you car in an hour. You’ll want to linger on the summits, though – the views are stupendous!
“Little Pikes Peak” (13,363′) Unranked
Back at your car, you can either do “Little Pikes Peak,” located near the pullout, or drive to the summit for doughnuts and more views, like I did. On the way back down the highway, park at the same pullout (between mile markers 17 and 18, this time on the right side of the road). “Little Pikes Peak” is the obvious rocky summit west of the pullout. I hadn’t done this hike since 2008 and it hadn’t changed: still short, still steep, and still bouldery on top. Again, avoid the tundra and look for rocks and slabs for your footing.
Next, continue driving down the road for another 1.6 miles to the Devils Playground parking lot on the left side of the road.
“Devils Playground Peak” (13,070′) Unranked
If you’ve ever climbed Pikes Peak from the Crags Trailhead in Divide, you know that the Devils Playground parking lot is where you leave the trail and cross the Pikes Peak Highway for the final 2.6 miles to the summit. County highpointers know it as where to park to get the highpoint of Teller County, “Devils Playground Peak.” This little summit used to be a bit of a scramble, but now there’s a trail. I’ve done it three times – in 2008, 2012, and last week – and for some reason, I failed to take a photo on any of those hikes. The peak is hard to miss – it’s the obvious bump on the west edge of the lot. There’s a trail.
There you have it. Four easy summits and a lovely drive to the top of America’s Mountain. Not a bad day!