Features: Fall Colors — River/Creek — Views
The first 2.5 miles can be very crowded with hikers and runners coming back down Barr Trail after climbing the Manitou Incline.
Barr Camp is about half-way up. There is a natural, untreated water source there. Snacks are available for purchase.
At the summit is the Pikes Peak Summit House. Here you can buy food or drink (I tear up the french fries before returning). You can also ride the COG train back down or have someone meet you at the top to drive you back down, if you are only looking to summit the peak.
The Barr Trail is the most popular way to climb Pikes Peak. It is a 12-mile trail with 7500 feet of elevation gain. It is not an easy 14er to summit, because of the length and the elevation gain on this trail. That being said, if you are up for the challenge, it is a splendid workout with several distinct topographies to run through, breaking up the run into manageable 3-mile sections.
The first section is known as the "W"s. This is from the fact that, on a map, the trail resembles a series of sideways Ws due to the constant switchbacks as it climbs Mount Manitou. Note that this stretch can be very busy due to its use by people after they have climbed the Manitou incline.
This initial climb is constant and unforgiving for about 3 miles, at an average 13% grade. This stretch is also fairly exposed to the sun and can get quite hot in the summer. Once past the Incline connector trail, the crowds are reduced to almost nothing.
The Ws end when you reach No-Name Creek, which is where the trail shifts from Mount Manitou to the base of Pikes Peak. The creek offers a consistent source of water for dogs and a refreshing face splash.
From No-Name Creek, the trail begins its next section as it begins its climb to Barr Camp. This stretch climbs at a much more gentle grade and there are even a couple glorious mild descents to give your quads a rest. During fall, this is a splendid stretch as Aspens become a more consistent component of the forest.
A steady, rocky climb takes you into Barr Camp, where there is water and a place to rest. Make sure to say "hi" to the wonderful caretakers.
From Barr Camp, it is a fairly steady climb up to treeline at A-frame, the last shelter on the way to the summit.
From A-frame, the trail heads above treeline and becomes steeper, again reaching an average grade of 13%. The lack of oxygen becomes much more apparent and you have as good a shot of getting snowed on as you do baking in the sun.
It is a rough last three miles to the summit from A-frame but, once there, you can recharge and refill for the return to the trailhead, or just enjoy the views, knowing you summited, and relax while you wait for some form of mechanical power to return you to the base of the mountain.
WARNING: There is typically daily lighting activity during the summer. Check the weather forecasts. Summiting before noon is recommended
Flora & Fauna
Once you get above the treeline ~12,000' and get into the rocky areas you can see marmot and pika. If you get up the trail very early, you may see mountain goats near the top.