Hiking Barr Trail to the Top of Pikes Peak in Colorado
April 30, 2020
Barr trail starts in the town of Manitou Springs, which is located just outside of Colorado Springs, and quickly ascends into the Pike National Forest. Many people will hike or jog up the “Incline”, which is a steep trail that connects to Barr trail, so for the initial part of the hike, you will likely have many people running down as you hike up. The runners aren’t always in complete control of themselves, so you will find yourself stepping out of their way quite often. We have hiked the lower portion of Barr trail many times, but we only hiked the full trail that ends at the summit of Pikes Peak once. It was definitely one of the most difficult hikes that we’ve ever done due to both the length of the hike as well as the elevation gain.
Early in the Hike
The entire hike is over twelve miles and has an elevation gain of over 7,000 feet (2,100 meters) to the peak, which is at 14,114 (4,301 meters). It certainly is not a hike for novices and was very much a challenge for us and we hike on a routine basis. Even if you are an experienced hiker, it is important to acclimate to the altitude of Colorado Springs for at least a couple of days before attempting to do the hike. Choosing the time of year to do the hike is important because even in the middle of summer it can snow on the top of Pikes Peak, so we hiked in August on a day when we knew that the temperatures would be fine at the base as well as the summit. Depending on the day, you may find yourself starting out in light weight clothing at the base and then layering up as you near the summit. It is also extremely important to be sure to stay hydrated with a combination of plain water and sports drinks.
The hardest part of the trail was when we reached the tree line at 11,000 feet (3,350 meters) and the air thins out. The Summit House sits on top of Pikes Peak and is a restaurant and souvenir shop, which is visible from the base on a clear day. Once you reach the tree line, the point where the air is too thin for plants to grow, the Summit House seems like it should be close, but it is still a couple of hours away. Although we originally intended to hike up and then back down, it took longer to reach the summit that we anticipated, so we took the Cog Railway back down. The total hike to the summit took us about 8 hours, although we took our time and paced ourselves.