The Mountains of Colorado •
Pikes Peak & Devil's Playground • Highpoint: El Paso County (Pikes)
• Highpoint: Teller County (Devils)
• Highpoint: Rampart Range
• Pike National Forest

Pikes Peak from below

Pikes Peak from
Devil's Playground

Devil's Playground

Date: June 1, 2002 • Elevation: 14,110 feet (P), 13,060 feet (D) • Prominence: 5,510 feet (P), 120 feet (D) • Distance: 2 miles (P), 0.5 mile (D) • Time: 1 hour (hiking), half a day (whole journey) • Gain: 900 feet (P), 100 feet (D) • Conditions: Stunning scenery


Yesterday, I climbed two peaks down by Pueblo, then motored north to situate myself in the Colorado Springs area. My plans were to spend half a day exploring Pikes Peak, then visit the county highpoints in and around Denver.

Pikes Peak is famous for being such an accessible 14,000-foot mountain. One can hike it, drive a road to the top, or take a railway. The massive peak rises relatively close to Colorado Springs, with few foothills to block its gigantic rise above the high plains --- nearly 10,000 feet of unobstructed vertical relief. It was discovered by Zebulon Pike, perhaps the easiest discovery ever made in the history of discovering.

I did not have a whole day for a hike, but I did have my truck, so I opted to drive the road to the top. This would be an experience unto itself, I figured. Besides, I was taking a rest day before I would properly hike another 14er, Grays Peak, tomorrow.

I followed highway CO-24 east into the low hills, then turned onto the toll road to the top (the fee was $10). The first seven miles was paved and easy to drive. A lot of people come here, so the traffic on the road could be heavy at times. Most people, like me, crept up at about a 25 m.p.h. clip.

At one point I got behind a line of cars, all going about about 5 miles an hour, essentially idling speed. The culprit up ahead was a boxy minivan. I was having difficulty managing this slow speed as I had to ride my clutch a lot. I had no desire to stay behind this person so when a chance opened up, I passed the line, about 4 cars long, to get ahead of the slowpoke.

After the pavement ends, the road is graded dirt and very wide, but steep, with grades around 15% (and no guard rails). Here, I went in first gear, the traffic light at the moment. At mile 16, I came to a small rock nubbin called the Devil's Playground, which happens to be the Teller county highpoint.

I parked in the open dirt area and walked a few hundred yards to the top of the boulders. I could feel the effects of suddenly being at 13,000 feet without time to acclimate. The hike was short and I was back to my truck in about 15 minutes.

Three miles later, I pulled into the large parking area atop Pikes Peak. The summit is so broad that a football field could be put in up here. The highest point is a small rock outcrop roughly centered in the parking area. I tagged them, then walked to the viewing platforms and visitor's center, where the real fun was at.

Most people are not prepared to suddenly be at 14,000 feet elevation. As long as one moves slowly and watches their breathing, they can manage decently for the hour or so they're up here. Many wear just tank tops and flip flops, fine for the 90-degree weather down below, not for the 45-degree weather up top. One woman collapsed on the spot, probably syncope (fainting), so the EMTs got to her. They have full rescue units up here for this sort of thing.

I walked to the viewing platform overlooking Colorado Springs, two miles below us. From up this high, it was difficult to make out any detail, everything mushing into a blue haze color. One poor kid, about age 16, froze in place about 30 feet from the retaining wall, too scared to move. There was no chance of a fall as the slope beyond the wall gave way very slowly. But it was too much for him and no amount of coaxing from his family would get him to budge.

I went into the visitor's center and shop, which was crowded with people. One young woman working at a register was the most gorgeous woman I had seen up to that point in my life. She was tall with a beautiful figure, long blond hair and a killer smile. I bought some things just to have her ring them up for me. I stuck around for about an hour up here, just enjoying the scenery, both outside and inside the shop.

I started to drive back down. I get about a mile down the road when who shows up --- that cursed boxy minivan that I had passed down below. The damn thing was still puttering along at 5 m.p.h., by now the line behind it about 30 cars. I am pretty sure there were at least 30 very annoyed people at that very moment. I got down about another mile, and I felt a little guilt.

I felt I should at least make some sporting hike of this peak, even if it's just a few hundred feet. I found a pullout, parked, grabbed my pack and hiked a trail to the top, covering a mile each way with 800 feet of gain. The round trip took an hour and went fast. On my way down, I met a hiker coming up --- another drop-dead beautiful young woman. Holy smokes. This was too much for a mere mortal like myself. We chatted briefly.

I continued my drive down, stopping about half way where they check your brakes for wear. If they register too hot, you have to wait an hour to let them cool. I was descending in 4-wheel drive low gear so did not use my brakes much, so they let me go with no delay. I was back in Colorado Springs my mid afternoon.

From here, I drove into Denver and visited the three county highpoints close to Denver, that of Adams County, Arapahoe County and Denver City-County. The last one was along a residential road near a phone switch box, nearby a Del Taco. This all took about 90 minutes. I then drove into the mountains and stayed in Georgetown, preparing for tomorrow's hike up Grays Peak.

(c) 2002-2020 Scott Surgent. For entertainment purposes only. This report is not meant to replace maps, compass, gps and other common sense hiking/navigation items. Neither I nor the webhost can be held responsible for unfortunate situations that may arise based on these trip reports. Conditions (physical and legal) change over time! Some of these hikes are major mountaineering or backpacking endeavors that require skill, proper gear, proper fitness and general experience.