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Take advantage of reduced Pikes Peak Highway fee 

click to enlarge BOB FALCONE
  • Bob Falcone
With the Manitou Incline closing for the next several months following this weekend's Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon, and the Pikes Peak Highway offering reduced tolls to Colorado residents, it's still a good time to check out trails on Pikes Peak.

From August 22nd to September 1st, each Colorado resident who shows ID at the Pikes Peak Highway toll gate will get $2 off the usual $15 entry fee. And there are a number of hiking trails on Pikes Peak to enjoy not named the Incline.

The most obvious and popular is the Barr Trail, the 12.6-mile trail from Manitou Springs to the summit of America's Mountain.

Starting just a couple of miles from the toll gate, the Crow Gulch picnic area serves as a starting point for the Mt. Esther trail. From the parking lot, follow the obvious trail to the left of the picnic area. The trail meets the Mt Esther trail in less than a mile, where it climbs up from Chipita Park. Bear to the left at this intersection. Part of the Ring the Peak Trails system, Mt. Esther trail winds through open meadows and aspen groves before meeting and following a power line access road. You can follow the trail for many miles — it continues past Mt. Esther and works its way past the reservoirs on the north slope of Pikes Peak, too.

click to enlarge BOB FALCONE
  • Bob Falcone
Further up the Pikes Peak Highway, just past Glen Cove, is the Elk Park Trail — which eventually makes its way to the Barr Trail at Barr Camp. Watch for a sign indicating 12,000' elevation on the right side of the road after Glen Cove and a series of switchbacks. Directly opposite the sign, on the downhill side of the road, is a gate; turn left through the gate and follow the dirt road to the obvious parking area and trailhead a short distance ahead. The Elk Park trail (Forest Service Trail 652) starts at the parking area, hugging the side of the hill side for a short distance, before gradually dropping down below treeline. It's a pretty easy hike with a couple of uphill sections, the steepest of which is within a mile or so of the trailhead. You can do this as an out-and-back to Barr Camp for about 11 miles, or have someone drop you off at Elk Park so you can hike the 6.5 miles to Barr Camp, and then down the Barr trail another 6 miles or so to the trailhead in Manitou Springs.

The Devils Playground trail, which starts on the popular Crags Trail on the west side of Pikes Peak, is another route to the summit of the peak. If you want to experience high elevation hiking, but don't want to make the entire trek from the trailhead to the summit, have someone drop you off where the trail crosses the Pikes Peak Highway — marked with signs — and then pick you up at the summit. From this point the trail parallels the highway — roughly — and works its way a little more than two miles to the summit. Two miles may sound like a short distance, but the air is thin and the trail is strenuous this high above treeline. If you're feeling ambitious, hike the 12.6 miles down the Barr Trail to Manitou Springs.

The reduced toll on the Pikes Peak Highway is for a very limited time, so make your plans to take advantage of it soon.

Reminder:
August 25th is the National Park Service Anniversary, and entry fees to all National Park Service sites, such as the nearby Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument and Great Sand Dunes and Rocky Mountain National Parks, is waived for that day.

Happy Trails!

Bob Falcone is a retired firefighter, photographer, hiker, college instructor, business owner and author of Hiking Bob's Tips, Tricks and Trails, available via his website. He has lived in Colorado Springs for 25 years. Follow him on Twitter (@hikingbob), Facebook (Hiking Bob), Instagram (@HikingBob_CO) or visit his website (Hikingbob.com). E-mail questions, comments, suggestions, etc to Bob: info@hikingbob.com.

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