When was the last time you took a train ride?
Imagine taking a historic trip to the top of a 14,115-foot summit. The cog train will take you on a journey to the top of the mountain that inspired “America the Beautiful.”
Last fall, I booked a trip on the newly reopened Cog railroad for my husband’s birthday. In fact, we were excited to go on this journey. There is so much history and beautiful scenery that we couldn’t wait to experience it.
The journey begins in a charming town with sacred mineral spring water.
Manitou Springs, Colorado
We decided to arrive early and walk around Manitou Springs.
The historic downtown has numerous boutique shops, art galleries with works from local artists, and plenty of places to eat. The thing that caught our attention was the “water fountains.”
Initially, we had no idea the town was ripe with eight unique mineral springs. In fact, each spring has different healing minerals: Native Americans drank and soaked in the various springs to heal and replenish.
The Cog Train
The Pikes Peak Cog Railway uses a rare system to drive up the mountain. Normal rails would slide on the steep slopes. Thus, the system needed is a toothed double rail in the center of the track. Apparently, the system pulls the trail up the mountain and keeps it from barreling down the mountain on the way back.
The temperature was 95 degrees in Manitou Springs and the train does not have AC. Thankfully, the windows were all open on the train but still felt like an oven.
The train seating is set up is like booths; two sets of benches facing each other and six people to a booth. It is tight seating so be prepared to get to know your neighbors. To be honest, it was awkward initially; trying not to touch knees with the person across from me and keeping my butt from touching other people’s butts next to me.
It is a 3.5-hour round trip journey. Fortunately, our seat mates were all friendly and shared interesting stores about their lives.
During the trek up the mountain our conductor was informative and told a lot of Dad-type-jokes. For example, “A duck, a skunk and a deer went out for dinner one night. When it came time to pay, the skunk didn’t have a scent, the deer didn’t have a buck”… I’m sure I did a lot of eye-rolling.
Our conductor also shared the history of our 9-mile journey, silly factoids and all the fascinating wildlife that should expect to see. Besides the elk and the deer, we also saw several “yellow-bellied marmots”. The yellow-bellied marmots were hard to see as they blended in with the rocky terrain. The marmots are cat size and part of the ground squirrel species. However, they looked like beavers without a flat tail.
The Cog Train Website said to expect a 10-20 temperature change at the top. We were prepared and brought layers of clothing as we have read to expect a 10–20-degree change at the top. Unfortunately, the temperature was 30-40 degrees colder and has very high winds.
We were surprised that the top of the summit was pretty baren. Only large rocks and dirt. We were surprised that the top of the summit was pretty baren—only large rocks and dirt. The elevation is 14,115-foot, and over the years; as a result, erosion has taken anything living with it.
You only have 30-40 minutes at the top of the summit. Initially, I was sad to hear we had limited time up there. Once you are up there the cold, wind and altitude all starts yelling at you to go back down.
Overall, the journey to the top of Pikes Peak is definitely one for the bucket list. In fact, if you are interested in travel check out our trip to Denver, Colorado.