crystal reservoir

7 Most Beautiful Spots Along the Pikes Peak Highway in Colorado

Wondering how to end up submerged in All-American magnificence during the upcoming roadtrip season? Look no further; Pikes Peak Highway has you covered. With jaw-dropping twists and turns over endless valleys, this route has enchanted race enthusiasts, wilderness enthusiasts, and even the local community for well over a century. This is not the kind of spot worth skimming over, so tighten those laces and see just what the Pikes Peak Highway has to offer.

Crystal Reservoir Visitors Center 

Crystal Reservoir after a snow with Pikes Peak
Crystal Reservoir after a snow with Pikes Peak in the background in Colorado

A hidden beachfront rests underneath the shadow of Crystal Creek’s dam where visitors are permitted to fish, kayak, and recline. The center itself contains convenient restrooms as well as a gift shop and useful information, such as maps, of the area. A chainsaw carving of Sasquatch, reminiscent of Edvard Munch’s ‘The Scream,’ stands proudly in the vicinity. This far above sea level, it is shocking to see such a calming expanse of azure skies and waters, with clouds dangling just out of arms’ reach. Be brave inside the center, as life-size mountain lions greet you from their taxidermy posts. Overall, the reservoir provides a river scene with a mountain range backdrop that would translate well into a Bob Ross masterpiece. The farther-in that adventurers climb Pikes Peak, the more they will wonder if nature inspires art, or whether art inspires nature. 

Pikes Peak International Hill Climb

A photo from the Pikes Peak international hill climb, via

It is along the way up that travelers may notice spots of bare earth that seem prime for a spectator sport. Regular races occur from the beginning of the highway until the very peak. These professionals can reach the top in around ten minutes despite the typical drive, for an average guest, taking closer to three hours. Some of the dangers include decreased oxygen at 14 thousand feet above sea level, animals in the road, poor road conditions, 2000-foot cliff drop-offs, and 156 blind corners to memorize. Thankfully, the job of an attendee is one of relaxation and entertainment, with picnic areas and gathering grounds for racing enthusiasts. Despite the official nature of the course, however, the danger is always present with seven deaths occurring over 98 years. 

North Pole Colorado Santa's Workshop 

North Pole Santa’s Workshop rides in the Christmas themed amusement park, Colorado

Even Saint Nick knows the value of quality real estate, which is why the mythical workshop can now be found at the foot of Pike’s Peak. A fantastically amusing retreat from non-Christmas-themed seasons, the Workshop is an attraction that brings local families together with carnival rides, magic shows, and even a decorated locomotive that chugs around the property. The magic can be experienced most months of the year, from May to December. This quirky spot is geared towards kids under the age of 10 and provides a space for the community to experience Disney-like magic without a cross-country flight. Santa himself makes an appearance, and nobody can resist slipping him a few gift requests. So, if you are headed to the peak with the family, consider stopping by the North Pole first. 

Pike's Peak Rock Shop 

Glen Engle (man to the left) travels around the world to buy rocks and minerals for Pike's Peak Rock Shop, photo by Pat Hill via Pikes Peak Courier 

As Hank Schrader famously put it, “They’re minerals, Marie!” Among the purple and pearly glows, visitors to the Rock Shop are pleasantly surprised to remember their youthly love for geology, where crystals and fossils seem to leak a magical aura. Handmade jewelry and figurines sit beside dazzling collections of agate and pyrites, but the star of the show tends to be the cosmos-colored amethyst geode.

The mineral collections are on sale often, which is great luck when dealing with meteorites and petrified wood. Anyone would agree that fossils on display make great conversation starters, and the staff are equipped to share their knowledge of each piece’s origin and creation process. The shop is a terrific way to start a trip up Pike’s highway, where one begins to wonder how many literal hidden gems are laying right below the surface. 

A-Frame Barr Trail

A-Frame Barr Trail in Pike's Peak, Colorado, photo by Dobbs77 on Flickr

Tucked less than a mile away from the summit lies a small clearing that seems to ignore the passage of time. The typical ascent by foot is roughly 13 miles, and this wayside A-Frame shelter is a welcome sanctuary during weather that can turn fearsome without warning. Besides being a picturesque stop for those rugged enough to find it, the A-Frame represents a uniquely American touch on the outdoors. The iconic design came into play as recently as 1934, and this particular structure was added in 1964 by the Forest Service. One can only imagine the sentimental value that several generations of hikers have experienced at the site, bringing their offspring where their parents once took them. Do not feel left out - it is never too late to begin this kind of tradition.

Pikes Peak Summit Complex

Pikes Peak Vistor Center via

It is impossible to address a visit to Pikes Peak without doting on the overwhelming magnificence that coats the surrounding environment. After 19 miles, chill winds, and depleted oxygen levels, the reward matches the risk a hundredfold. The complex on the summit contains a gift shop, a food court, well-maintained bathrooms, a novel train ride, and a litany of informational plaques. The highest peak in the contiguous United States is only 200 feet higher than Pikes, but a cozy café with cinnamon donuts is unique to this spot. Many scientists have taken advantage of the accessible elevation to study the effects of altitude sickness, as well as the unique ecology. The ruins of an 1873 brick shelter are also open to exploring for those curious enough to visit the past. 

Cascade Observation Site 

Sunrise looking out over the Garden of The Gods and Pike's Peak in Colorado Springs, Colorado

Just after beginning the trek up the hill, pay close attention to the left side of the road. Here, a small rock wall (about waist-high) creates a space for vehicles to take a break. Stepping outside, visitors notice several tower viewers (the coin slot binoculars often seen on piers). The spare change is worth the look, however, as this southeastern vista provides the perfect observance of the town of Cascade and even Colorado Springs. A large informative plaque presents a black-and-white picture of the area a century ago, with text illustrating the importance of the Pikes Peak route. Be mindful of the traffic, some drivers navigate the road as if they believe they have nine lives. Regardless, the Cascade Observation Site is an ideal location for adventurers to size up the journey they are about to take.

From beginning to end, Pikes Peak aims to impress. A foundation for community pride, the Highway represents the best of Colorado splendor. From hosting charming attractions to being the site of treacherous motorsports, Pikes Peak Highway has a unique way of creating recurrent guests. Although, like all natural wonders of the world, the only way to truly witness the grandeur is by experiencing it yourself - so what are you waiting for?


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