6.8 miles to Barr Camp one way, 12.6 miles to summit of Pikes Peak one way
From Colorado Springs, head west on Colorado Ave, which changes to Manitou Ave. when you enter Manitou Springs. After you have traveled through most of downtown Manitou, turn left at Ruxton. Go past the Cog Railway Depot and its private parking lots, turning right when you see the sign for Barr Trail. This is the only legitimate parking lot for Barr Trail users; you may be towed for parking elsewhere.
Barr Trail is a very popular trail that takes you through a variety of vegetation zones as you make your way up Pikes Peak. Since the trail’s length to the summit is almost thirteen miles one way and the total elevation gain is over 7500 feet, many hikers opt to go only part way up the trail or to spend the night at Barr Camp and make it a two-day excursion. The scrub oak near the base of the trail transitions to pine and aspen forests, wildflower meadows, and finally the stunted, brave vegetation growing near treeline. The higher you are in altitude, the more likely you are to hear the chirp of marmots and the “squeak toy” noise of pikas.
Barr Camp is located roughly half way up the trail at 10,200 feet in elevation. Cabins, lean-to shelters, and tent sites are available by reservation, and the prices include breakfast. Guests should provide their own sleeping bags, water filter, and gear. Dinner is available by reservation. See the Barr Camp website for more information. Snacks available for purchase.
If you intend to summit:
An early start is a must because of afternoon thunderstorm patterns. Weather at the summit is unpredictable and much cooler than at the trailhead. What appears from the Springs to be small, scattered patches of snow above treeline can actually be massive snowfields several feet deep. Mid summer to early fall is generally the only viable time to attempt hiking to the summit unless you are an experienced mountaineer equipped with alpine gear. Whatever the season, bring warm clothing, plenty of food and water, and plan for an alternate way down just in case.
- Photographs in this article courtesy of Tabitha Carroll