Our plan for the first full day in Colorado was to drive to the top of Pike’s Peak. Unfortunately Mother Nature had other plans, and the mountain received about 8 inches of snow the night before our visit. It was interesting because it poured rain in Manitou Springs the previous afternoon, and when the skies cleared it was clear everywhere except the top of Pikes Peak, which was still shrouded in clouds.
When we got to the entrance that morning the ranger warned us that the road was not open to the top and offered us the chance to change our minds But we were there and wanted to see what we could see, so decided to take our chances.
The entrance part of the road is at an elevation of 7,800 feet – 1,000 feet above Mount Mitchell, the highest point in North Carolina! The lower part of the road is just like driving any mountain road – winding and steep in spots with a few nice viewpoints. Beautiful views, for sure!
We spent some time at Crystal Reservoir Visitor Center at Mile 6, which is at 9,160 feet. That was our first view of where Pikes Peak was, although we couldn’t see it, as it was still buried in clouds. The ranger there said that the road had been opened a little farther up, but that they still didn’t know if they would be able to open it to the top. We decided to press on and take our chances.
The higher elevations are where things get interesting. There are very few places to pull off, and on the day we visited most of the pulloffs were socked in with clouds. We made it to the overlook at Mile 18 – known as Sheep Sign because there is a sign there about Bighorn Sheep – where they had the road blocked. The ranger there said it was still snowing above and not safe to drive, so that was as far as we could go. It was snowing on us as we talked to him!
We had a little bit of vertigo and dizziness at the higher elevations. This is normal, and wasn’t helped by the fact that we couldn’t see anything to orient ourselves! This feeling subsided as we returned back below 10,000 feet, and we never had another problem with elevation the entire rest of the vacation. For that we were very thankful.
I did manage to get a few photos to document our visit. We’ll have to plan and visit again sometime when there is less of a chance of snow. We thought June was late enough, but maybe it will need to be July or August next time!