The Pikes Peak Cog Railway departs year-round from Manitou Springs. It passes through a variety of beautiful alpine landscapes before making it to the 14,115-foot summit. Visitors will spend 30 minutes at the top of Pikes Peak before returning to the depot where they can browse souvenirs or head into town to explore.
The Pikes Peak Summit Visitor Center has a gift store, cafeteria, and restroom facilities, as well as plenty of interpretive displays and exhibits for learning the mountain’s history. The smell of the “World Famous” donuts is hard to resist, be sure to grab a few and see for yourself why they’re so popular.
Year-round train rides up Pikes Peak
As the highest peak on the Front Range, Pikes Peak is a staple part of any trip to Colorado. Although there are several ways to reach the summit, the Pikes Peak Cog Railway is one of the most unique. Chug along the 9 miles of railroad tracks that wind through Engelmann Canyon, past a gorgeous waterfall, and above the treeline to reach the 14,115-foot summit.
The train cars are brand new and were shipped over from Switzerland in 2019 as part of a multi-million dollar renovation. Inside each car, there are rows of 2 and 3 seats facing one another that are ideal for families to sit together. The interiors are kept at a constant temperature of 73°F no matter the season with new heaters and air conditioning units.
Either side of the train offers spectacular vistas and on a clear day, you can see all the way to Kansas! If you want unobstructed sightseeing during the ride, they offer a special “Engineer’s View” ticket for both uphill and downhill rides. Enjoy this front-row experience while you sit right up with the train engineer.
Each ride departs from the cog depot in eclectic Manitou Springs. The trip is 8.9 miles to the top and takes one hour and 40 minutes each way, for a roundtrip total of just over 3 hours (plus however long you want to stay at the top). Another way to reach the top is by automobile on the Pikes Peak Highway, by a long hike, or you can even go by bike. If you choose the latter two, the railway offers single-way tickets to get back down.
It all started with a mule ride and the founder of Simmons Beautyrest Mattress Company. Zalmon Simmons took the two-day mule trek to the summit of Pikes Peak to check up on an insulated telegraph wire he created. He realized the views were beautiful and wanted to make them more accessible to the public.
The Manitou and Pikes Peak Railway Company was founded and construction on the tracks began in 1889. 6 steam-powered locomotives were used in the early days, and 3 of them are now proudly displayed around Colorado Springs. Only 2 years after construction began, a church choir group boarded the railcars and became the first guests to summit Pikes Peak via the passenger train.
The Broadmoor acquired the railway in 1925. Over the next few decades, many of the cars were shifted from steam power to diesel to make summiting more efficient. Swiss engineers played a huge role in planning and producing larger and faster cars throughout the 20th century, contributing to the smooth summiting experience that’s still around today.
You’ll never be far from delicious snacks during the 3-hour roundtrip to the summit. Grab some locally roasted nuts, ice cream, frozen fruit bars, or trail mixes at the Manitou Depot before boarding the train. Unfortunately, outside food and beverage are not allowed aboard the train.
Once you reach the summit, you can’t miss the World Famous Summit Donuts, a cross between a cake and yeast doughnut that has been loved for years. There are also a variety of salads with locally sourced greens and toppings, sandwiches, soups, and burgers. A grab-n-go station has similar snacks to the depot as well if you’re just looking for a light bite.
Although there is a large summit gift shop on Pikes Peak for all of your high-altitude souvenirs, you’ll find memorabilia for the cog railway down at the Manitou Depot. Grab a t-shirt for yourself or as a gift to a friend, or browse their other logoed mugs and magnets. It can be really chilly at the top of the mountain even on a summer’s day, so if you forgot a sweatshirt, gloves, or a hat, the store also has plenty of those.
The train depot is located right off the main street of downtown Manitou Springs, a colorful mountain town with plenty to eat, see, and explore. If you’re feeling inspired by nature after your ride and want to take a hike, there are a few local trails to check out, most notably the Incline. Manitou is also known for its natural mineral water that’s free for all, so bring a water bottle and fill it up at one of the many fountains around town.
From Denver, take 1-25 for about 70 miles south to Exit 141 towards Cimmaron Street on US-24. Continue on US-24 for 5 miles before making a left-hand turn onto Serpentine Drive, which quickly becomes Manitou Avenue. Take the first exit at the first roundabout onto Ruxton Avenue, and the cog railway depot will be on your left.
There is no free parking at the depot or along the surrounding roads, you must pay $5 to park in the Cog Railway’s lot or find metered parking. If you do not want to pay for parking, there is a free shuttle that runs from the Hiawatha Gardens lot to the depot every 20 minutes. Look for the free shuttle signs near the lot and board a bus on Route 33.
Address: 515 Ruxton Ave, Manitou Springs, CO 80829
Hours: 8 am – 5 pm
Length: 8.9 miles