Motorcycling is exhilarating in many ways, not the least being ascending mountain peaks along narrow twisting roads. Such rides are made more dramatic by nearly limitless views over mountain tops and across valleys to distant horizons, while only the slightest of shoulders separate roadway from steep hillside drop offs. This ride is for hardcore motorcycle junkies only – those who don’t know what too many twisties in a day means. Start at Estes Park and ride south or head out from Colorado Springs north then ride peak to peak summitting both Mount Evans and Pikes Peak in a single, albeit long, riding day.
The Route In Three Parts
There are three segments to this all day riding challenge – summit both Pikes Peak and Mount Evans and complete an equally exciting ride between them. With 260 miles to cover and an estimated 8 hours 30 minutes of riding time, the suggested route points to Colorado Springs and Estes Park as convenient towns to start and end the ride.
The route map linked below illustrates the complete ride. For purposes of discussion, the ride is described as going north from Colorado Springs to Estes Park. Feel free to ride either direction.
Here is a brief description of the three ride segments.
Part 1: Pikes Peak
Start with an ascent up world renowned Pikes Peak from the town of Cascade Colorado. Pikes Peak, which describes itself as America’s Mountain, is an experiential travel destination most famously known for the annual Pikes Peak Hill Climb race rather than its impressive elevation. Allow 2 hours for the roundtrip ride itself (about 20 miles each way) and then add more time to take in views and make other stops along the way.
Part 2: Between the Peaks
Regardless of which peak one picks to start the day, the middle of the day is spent riding from Cascade Colorado to the Mount Evans Welcome Station near Echo Lake. The 95 mile, roughly 2 hour and 30 minute ride runs through Pike-San Isabel National Forest and past a number of small towns any one of which makes for a tasty mid-day lunch stop.
Part 3: Mount Evans
End the day by riding from the Mount Evans Welcome Station entrance near Echo Lake to the summit of Mount Evans at 14,130 feet. Leave 2 hours in the day to make this 30 mile round trip, plus any extra time for sightseeing at the summit.
Plan For The Entire Day
It’s important to plan your ride to ensure access to the summit of both mountains.
Pikes Peak and Mount Evans each require an entrance fee and both use a timed entry reservation system. That means riders must purchase a two hour reservation window in advance to arrive and enter the park – reservations are not sold at the gate. These are popular summer destinations so book early. Schedule one peak as early in the day as possible and the other as late as possible. That allows plenty of time for picture stops while also avoiding the busiest parts of the day, and time for the ride between them.
The earliest one can ride Pikes Peak is 7:30am and the latest is 6pm; however, a more realistic late entry time is around 3pm. The Summer entrance fee is $15 per person. An additional (separate) timed entry reservation is also required and costs $2 per motorcycle. Visit the Colorado Springs Pikes Peak website for details and to make a reservation.
Mount Evans is part of the Mount Evans Wilderness area in the Arapaho National Forest. The summit and surrounding area are managed by the US Forest Service. Visitors are directed to the Recreation.gov website to purchase a timed entry reservation. Tickets cost $3.00 for a solo motorcyclist, $6 if riding two-up. Riders can enter the park as early as 8am and as late as 4pm. For the latest on riding Mount Evans read the article Mount Evans by Motorcycle.
Conquer Pikes Peak
The Pikes Peak segment of the day begins and ends in Cascade Colorado just off US-24. Watch for the turn onto Pikes Peak Highway North Pole (a Christmas-themed attraction at the foot of Pikes Peak). Check the latest weather forecast and road conditions on the Colorado Springs Pikes Peak website before heading for the summit.
Pikes Peak Highway is the second highest paved road in North America at 14,115 feet. Only the road to the summit of Mount Evans is higher and by a mere 15 feet at that. Find the highway entrance a half mile off US-24 marked by a simple overhead sign. Allow a good 2 hours, even 3, to complete the 20 mile round trip to the summit and back.
Once past North Pole and after the entrance toll stop, the road twists and turns for miles to the base of Pikes Peak where the real climb begins. The road is well paved but narrow, lined by aspens and pines, and with limited shoulder room in many areas. Mile markers along the way show the elevation. Mile marker 7 indicates the starting line for the famous Pikes Peak International Hill climb (PPIHC) which races to the summit every year in late June (check the PPHC website for race dates).
The Pikes Peak Mining Company lodge provides one last opportunity for a break before the final leg to the summit. From here the tree line falls away yielding to rocky patches of mountain grass and expansive views to the horizon. The switchbacks are sharp and steeply banked creating a bit of anxiety for less experienced riders.
After a few self-congratulatory selfies at the summit, head back down to Cascade and then onto US-24. Those riding north to south will want to stay on US-24 to end the day in Colorado Springs. Everyone else will continue to the Peak to Peak part of the day.
Ride From Peak to Peak
This interstitial part of the ride connects the two mountains having the highest paved roads in North America. Think of it as an interlude allowing time to reflect on the last ride to the summit and prepare for the next.
The ride runs through the Pike National Forest and into the San Isabel Forest between Mount Evans and Pikes Peak. Follow CO-67 and US-285 for the majority of the ride. Use CO-74 and CO-103 to link up with the Mount Evans segment of the ride. Follow the signs off US-24 to summit Pikes Peak.
These roads through forest and ranchland offer great scenery. The short stretch on CO-103 to the Mount Evans Welcome Station is a particularly twisty fun road.
Summit Mount Evans
The 15 mile ride to the summit of Mount Evans begins at the Mount Evans Welcome Station off CO-103. The road is reasonably well paved with narrow shoulders or none at all in many places. Mile by mile the turns tighten from gentle corners to the tightest switchbacks. Like Pikes Peak, the climb is steep and the switchbacks near the summit are intimidating.
Mount Evans does not have a visitor center or amenities of any kind at the summit. Echo Lake Lodge near the Welcome Station off CO-103 is the only place to stop for refreshments (and souvenirs) in the area.
After taking a few self-congratulatory selfies at the summit, head down and re-connect with CO-103 to continue on to Estes Park. There are a lot more miles of twisty road to ride before the day ends. Especially noteworthy is CO-72 also known as the Peak to Peak Scenic Byway. This scenic byway runs through the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forest past Nederland, Ward, and Allenspark before ending in Estes Park. These roads are all well paved and offer a mix of turns sure to end the day with a smile.
The town of Estes Park is well known as the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park. Head toward picturesque W. Elkhorn Avenue/E. Elkhorn Avenue between West Drive and Virginia Drive to experience local restaurants, bars, and shops.
Celebrate The Experience
Yes, it’s a long riding day. The miles are relatively low but many of the roads are technical demanding more attentive and careful riding.
Summitting North Americas two highest paved roads, reaching an elevation of over 14,000 feet twice in a single day on two different mountains is a lot for any rider. Whether ending the day in Colorado Springs or Estes Park, pick one of the many local pubs to celebrate a motorcycling accomplishment that relatively few others have achieved.
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