Pikes Peak’s New Visitor Center: 7 fun insider tips for families
posted by: Mile High Mamas
There’s a new addition at the top of Pikes Peak and it isn’t another mountain goat!
The new 38,000-square-foot Pikes Peak Summit Complex opened to the public on June 24, 2021 after three years of construction. It is an extraordinary place to visit -almost the only place in the
world where people of all ages and abilities can experience the summit of this 14,115-foot peak. The facility’s careful placement and sensitive design put the focus on the stunning landscape, allowing boundless sky and views to take center stage.
No matter how visitors get to the top – by car, rail, foot, bike or bus- the reinvigorated summit experiences offer the chance to learn about the past, present and future of America’s Mountain.
The complex is comprised of three facilities: The Pikes Peak Summit Visitor Center, the Colorado Springs Utilities Communications Facility and the U.S. Army’s High Altitude Research Laboratory.
Here are a few fun things about the new Pikes Peak Summit Complex:
- New interpretive exhibits share facts on the mountain’s history, climate, geography, recreational opportunities, conservation initiatives and more. The indoor exhibit gallery includes interactive, digital features that allow visitors to weave their own personal experience into the mountain’s story.
- Outside, interpretive rails around the summit describe the environment and the vies, identify key landscape features and share interesting stories.
- The Pikes Peak Donut Lives On. A visit to the summit of Pikes Peak would not be complete without a world-famous Pikes Peak donut, always made fresh daily. The same high-altitude recipe that has been passed down since 1916 will be used, but for the first time, guests can add various seasonings, including sugar, cocoa, cinnamon, cardamom, coriander or nutmeg to the summit’s signature baked good.
- A revamped food court will offer a variety of new, fresh food options and beverages, including a Pikes Peak Melt sandwich that uses locally-sourced artisan breads and gluten-free options, plus a new Trail Mix bar that allows guests to customize their snack mix.
- New Tracks, New Ride. The Broadmoor reopened The Broadmoor Manitou & Pikes Peak Railway, one of Colorado’s top attractions, this May. Originally built in 1891, the Pikes Peak Cog Railway is the highest-altitude railway in America, and the world’s highest cog train. Starting in March 2019, it underwent a $100 million renovation of its tracks, railcars, and depot to totally reimagine the scenic 9-mile journey to the summit of Pikes Peak. Its new platform connects directly to the new outdoor walkway, leading to the Summit Visitor Center.
- It’s sustainability in action. The projective is striving to become the first Living Building Challenge certified project in Colorado with sustainable design aspects focused on energy, building materials, resilience, site waste and wastewater. It also aims to achieve net-zero energy, net-zero waste and net-zero water consumption. Fun fact: It is designed to save more than 350,000 gallons of water per year over the current system!
- The 1964 Summit House has been demolished and removed. The decorative plaque previously located in the former overlook areas in honor of Katharine Lee Bates’ poem “American the Beautiful” is now located on the new eastern overlook.
One of the reasons for building the new visitor center is a decades-long trend of increased visitation. Annually, the summit welcomes nearly one million visitors a year and those numbers are expected to rise. Despite the pandemic, the Pikes Peak highway alone (not including hikers or Cog Railway passengers) welcomed 527,418 visitors in 2020.
And with the new-and-improved Pikes Peak Summit Complex, we can’t wait to visit.
Disclaimer: Acute altitude sickness occurs in up to 50% of those living in the lowlands who ascend to a level of 14,000 feet. Be cautious when ascending Pikes Peak, particularly with young children or the elderly.