The first recorded name of the mountain was “El Capitan” – which means “leader” in Spanish. In 1806, American explorer Zebulon Pike named it “Pike’s Highest Peak.” Another name was “James Peak,” after the first person to reach the summit, Edwin James. It wasn’t until the 1859 gold rush that it was shortened to “Pike’s Peak” by the United States Board on Geographic Names.
After a century of being a dirt road, the road was paved in 1915. In fact, 70,000 tons of gravel washed off the road in that time. The change negatively impacted the ecology of the forests and mountains, so race organizers feared the move would ruin the event. In 1989-99, the Sierra Club filed suit, but they were eventually settled out of court. Despite the lawsuit, Pikes Peak’s scenic highway is still thriving.
If you want to experience the Colorado Rocky Mountains without walking, you can also take a cog railway to the summit. While the Pikes Peak Incline and Ascent are two of the most popular running events, the Cog railway is an alternative, less strenuous option. It’s the highest railway in the US and is one of only two cog trains in existence. The Cog railway has been operating since 1891.
The Pikes Peak highway is a toll road, as is the Mount Evans Byway. While driving up the mountain, make sure you park the car properly. You can get fresh donuts and souvenirs from the Pikes Peak Summit Complex. The highway is about 19 miles long, and it’s recommended to allow 1.5 hours to complete the drive. Taking breaks is an important part of the journey, as it will help you adjust to the altitude.