Pikes Peak

On July 4th, I got to do something I had always wanted to do for the longest time. And that is to climb Pikes Peak on Independence Day! While most people were fast asleep, Danielle and I were on our way to the trailhead around 3am that morning in order to get a good early start as well as a decent parking spot. Here’s some more info about the hike:

  • Date Hiked: July 4th, 2019
  • Miles Hiked: 14 Miles
  • Route: Northwest Slopes via the Crags Trail. Class 2
  • Total Elevation Change: 4,300 Feet
  • Summit Elevation: 14,115 Feet

Getting There

The shortest route up Pikes Peak is accessed from the Crags Trailhead located not too far from Divide, Colorado. While driving on US Route 24, you will want to keep an eye out for Colorado 67 as it does come up rather quickly.

After turning onto Colorado 67 and driving for about four miles, stay on it until after you pass Mueller State Park and you will see a dirt road on the left side that you will want to take. This dirt road is windy and will take you through the Rocky Mountain Mennonite Camp on the way to the trailhead parking lot about three miles later.

The Journey

Shortly after 5:30am, we began the journey to the summit. The trail starts out crossing the peaceful Fourmile Creek and it felt tranquil to walk through the forest as many birds were beginning to sing.

Fourmile Creek at the start of the trail.

After a couple miles, the trail begins to get noticeably steeper. It was also pretty cool to be up at the edge of treeline right as the sun was beginning to rise.

The sun beginning to rise on July 4th, 2019.
The view to the west a little later.

Pretty soon, we found ourselves above treeline. The views were starting to really open up now. More people were also starting to ascend the trail too. Slowly but steadily, we were making progress towards Devil’s Playground!

Danielle ascending through one of the steeper areas above treeline.
Pretty nice above treeline.
The trail as it zigzags through the terrain.

Hiking above treeline was a lot of fun throughout this hike. The scenery always seemed to be changing and it was just truly remarkable to finally be able to experience it.

The trail as it goes through some cool rock formations.

When we reached the Devil’s Playground, the trail began to get a lot more interesting. While staying parallel to the road to the summit, the trail starts to get much more rockier and the summit even comes into view too. Only one patch of snow was still on the trail, but it was pretty easy to hike through it.

Looking out towards the surrounding smaller peaks with the plains in the distance.
They call them the Rocky Mountains for a reason.
The route ahead.
The Pikes Peak road down below.

The final portion of the hike just below the summit definitely requires a lot of good concentration in order to stay on the trail. Although cairns lead the way, we made sure to take our time during this stretch.

Finally getting close!

And after what seemed like an eternity, we finally made it to the summit!

The Summit

The views at the top are just so incredible. To the east, Colorado Springs and endless views of the plains are visible. And to the west, the views of nothing but mountains greets you. Being at the summit of America’s mountain was truly a remarkable feeling and we were just so proud of ourselves for actually getting out and making it to the summit.

We stayed up on the summit for about an hour and went into the Pikes Peak Summit House to eat some Cheeseburgers before heading back outside to take some more photos.

Looking to the northeast.
We even made custom shirts for this remarkable occasion!

The Return Trip

We left the summit at a perfect time because a thunderstorm was beginning to develop directly over Colorado Springs. About 45 minutes after we had left the summit, the storm would continue to grow and eventually move up and over the top of the peak.

Luckily, we were far enough away when all of that happened!

Further down, we also saw a mountain goat hanging in a super steep area.

A mountain goat hanging out.
Love this photo!

The only thing I regret about this whole excursion was forgetting to bring sunscreen.

But aside from that, it was truly a July 4th I’ll never forget!

Mount Elbert

The highest point in Colorado just happens to also be my very first 14er that I’ve ever hiked. Rising up to 14,433 feet in the Sawatch Range, Mount Elbert is not only the highest point in Colorado, but is also the second highest point in elevation in the contiguous United States. This hike was truly an experience unlike any other. I completed this hike alongside my girlfriend back in July of 2018 while I was still working two jobs and not really sleeping a whole lot every night. With that being said, I fully recommend that you get a legitimate amount of sleep before you attempt a rigorous hike such as a 14er and properly hydrate yourself.

After driving for several hours from Denver to just outside of Leadville and Twin Lakes, we finally reached the parking lot for Mount Elbert which was already completely full around 7am. Something else worth mentioning is that the trailhead for nearby Mount Massive is in close proximity to the Mount Elbert trailhead as well. Furthermore, the starting elevation is located just above 10,000 feet and also has a bathroom area too. The trail to the summit is very well worn out and is easy to follow. Because their is no route finding involved, this is an easy class 1 hike that is family friendly as well. Before too long, we were on our way up the mountain via the North Mount Elbert Trail.

Beginning up the North Mount Elbert Trail.
Heading up the trail amongst the trees and basking in the morning sunshine!
At the junction of the North Mount Elbert Trail with my girlfriend, Danielle.

For the first several miles and up to the area around 12,000 feet, the hike is through heavily wooded areas and switchbacks that get relatively steep in certain spots. We took numerous breaks to not only take pictures but to also drink water and eat some foods with high amounts of protein. Once we reached the tree line, some excellent views of a false summit come straight into view. Looking back towards the east, we also noticed that the valley below was pretty hazy even around nine or ten in the morning. During the time that we did this hike, the 416 fire was burning out of control further to the southwest outside of Durango which we believe played a significant role in the hazy conditions in the area. As the morning continued on, the haze started to wear off leading to some incredible views of the surrounding mountain peaks and valleys.

At the edge of the treeline looking towards the false summit.
Looking east towards the hazy valley below and mountains further off to the east.

The further up we went, the views of the surrounding mountains became absolutely remarkable. The trail itself gets steep in certain areas and I would recommend taking trekking poles due to the fact that they really help you keep your balance. Another reason I strongly recommend them also involves the change in elevation. Specifically, for each mile the elevation goes up over 1000 feet for every mile you hike with the total elevation gain for this entire hike being around 4700 feet.

Looking towards the east from further up the trail.
Closer view of the false summit.
Another view of the surrounding mountains.
A steeper section of the trail with people in the distance.

Another hour of both taking pictures and several short rest breaks passed quickly by, and before long we had completed our goal and reached the summit of Mount Elbert. Although the views were incredible, it did not take long for us to realize that a thunderstorm was quickly building directly to the west of us. With that in mind, we briefly took some more photos at the summit and found the USGS marker that marks the summit. After about 10 to 15 minutes at the summit, we soon found ourselves descending as fast as we could but inevitably were not fast enough.

The USGS marker at the summit of Mount Elbert.
Storms beginning to build around noon.
The storm quickly approaching us that we later got caught in below treeline.

Our way down the mountain proved to be a true test. Shortly after descending, Danielle suffered a knee injury to the point that she could not extend it hardly at all. Although it slowed us on, I was still confident that we would be alright and make it back without further incident. However, that was simply not the case. Within five minutes after we reached the tree line, the thunderstorm that we witnessed at the summit finally caught up to us and it proved to be quite scary. In fact, the lightning strikes were so close to us that we only saw flashes of light directly in front of us and then heard the thunder a few short seconds later. With the rain pouring down endlessly coupled with the relentless lightning strikes nearby, we had both accepted the fact that we might indeed die that day. Slowly but surely, we made it back to the trail head and were so thankful to have made it in one peace!

So happy to have made it back to the trailhead safely!
The Mount Elbert experience was 2 thumbs up!

Overall, our hike up the North Mount Elbert Trail was both memorable and surely one that we will never forget. Despite being a strenuous workout, the views of the surrounding mountains and the lakes down below were worth all of the hard work. I would definitely recommend this hike and wouldn’t mind doing it again simply for the views of the endless mountain ranges at the summit.