If you have a fear of heights, then the Pikes Peak Cog Railway might not sound like all it's cracked up to be. However, if the desire to reach new heights takes the top-ranking spot on your bucket list, then it's exactly the kind of destination that should be on your mental road map. This railway has been in operation since 1891 which makes the fact that it's also the highest in the country an even more astonishing fact. Trains going out of the station head up Pikes Peak, which is one of the most well-recognized mountains in Colorado as well as in all of America.
With a striking height of just over 14,000 feet, to hike this mountain is no joke, let alone climbing in altitude to the top of it via a cog rail car. However, if it can be done in Sweden, then it can be done anywhere else - and it has with the construction of the Cog Railway that offers stunning views of this tremendous summit. The vistas that passengers will see during this incredible ride are humbling to even the most unimpressed train riders, and this is what it's like to soar above altitudes that most people never reach.
The Ascent To The Summit
The second that cog railway car pulls up, passengers know that they're in for a true one-of-a-kind experience. Even though there's nothing to do but board the train and get ready to take in the views, there are feelings of apprehension as you sit and stare in wonder at the mountain range in front of you.
There may even be a bit of curious wonder over how a train could possibly make it to the top of a 14,115-foot mountain summit. The answer will soon become clear as passengers realize the train has taken a steep slope upwards - with the oncoming mountain peaks slowly going past them at an unnatural angle.
However, it doesn't take long to realize that while the ascent is steep, the views are unbelievable. Mountains of this size are known for having their own ecosystems and environments that can vary greatly from those which surround the base of the mountain. Along the way, it's not surprising to see bighorn sheep or even a bear, high-flying predatory birds, and other wildlife that's distinct to the Alpine nature of Colorado's high-altitude 14,000'ers.
Throughout the ride, passengers will bear witness to various water reservoirs, snow-capped landscapes, and may even be riding through the clouds at certain points. Unique rock formations and features of the mountain's flora and fauna are constant reminders that the higher you get, the more drastically different the environment is. And, if this isn't a good enough reminder, then the fact that the oxygen levels at certain altitudes certainly will be. Everything will feel different, including the air.
The Summit Views
If this still doesn't sound like something that's extraordinary enough to put aside any height fears, then just wait - because the views at the top are more than breathtaking. There's something so gratifying when those nine miles are up and the cog railway car comes to a satisfying stop. There's something even more incredible that happens when passengers take that first step out onto the summit, as well. While the views are incredible from inside the railway car thanks to huge windows that line both sides, the views outside of it are even more humbling. Passengers are permitted to explore most of the summit peak where the railway car stops, allowing boundaries to go right up to the edge of the mountain, giving way to majestic vistas.
Down below, passengers can look on at the juniper bushes that line each crevice with pastel blue-colored berries, and aspen groves that seem to burst into colorful hues during the fall season. Along the way, you'll have seen various waterfalls that run through the cracks and valleys of the mountain thanks to snow runoff as the weather warms up, making for a sight that looks more like a Bob Ross painting. The mountains lush forests filled with evergreens and pine trees are nothing short of magical, with scenes that look like they popped out of a storybook.
When you're done exploring the peak, head back to the summit visitor's center to grab the only donuts in the world that are baked at an altitude of more than 14,000 feet (which is a feat, in itself). The things that passengers will learn at the top will humble them in more ways than one, all the while giving them an appreciation for this beautiful thing we're surrounded by called 'nature.' The cog railway officially re-opened in June of 2021, and you can get tickets here.