Pikes Peak (originally Pike's Peak) is a mountain in the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains within Pike National Forest, 10 mi (16 km) west of Colorado Springs, Colorado, in El Paso County in the United States of America. Originally called "El Capitán" by Spanish settlers, the mountain was renamed Pike's Peak after Zebulon Pike, Jr., an explorer who led an expedition to the southern Colorado area in 1806. The Arapaho name is heey-otoyoo’ ("long mountain").
Geography and geology
Pikes Peak is the easternmost fourteen thousand foot peak in the United States, located 10 miles (16 km) west of the city of Colorado Springs. Pikes Peak is composed of a characteristic pink Granite called Pikes Peak granite. The color is due to a large amount of potassium feldspar. It is thought that the granite was once magma that crystallized at least 20 miles (32 km) beneath the Earth's surface, formed by an igneous intrusion during the Precambrian, approximately 1.05 billion years ago, during the Grenville orogeny. Through the process of uplifting, the hardened rock pushed through the Earth's crust and created a dome-like mountain, covered with less resistant rock. Years of erosion and weathering removed the soil and rock leaving the exposed mountain.
The first European-American to climb the peak came 14 years after Pike in the summer of 1820. Edwin James, a young student who had just graduated from Middlebury College in Vermont, signed on as the relief botanist for the Long Expedition after the first botanist had died. The expedition explored the South Platte River up as far as present-day Denver, then turned south and passed close to what James called "Pike's highest peak." James and two other men left the expedition, camped on the plains, and climbed the peak in two days, encountering little difficulty. Along the way, he was the first to describe the blue columbine, Colorado's state flower.
Pikes Peak today
There are several visitor centers on Pikes Peak, some with a gift shop and restaurant. These centers are located at the 6 mile , 12-mile (19 km) and the summit itself, and there are several ways to ascend the mountain. The Manitou And Pike's Peak Railway is a cog railroad operating from Manitou Springs to the summit year-round, conditions permitting. Automobiles can be driven to the summit via the Pikes Peak Highway, a 19 mi (31 km) road that starts a few miles up Ute Pass at Cascade. This road, which until October 2011 was unpaved after the halfway point, was made famous worldwide by the short film Climb Dance featuring Ari Vatanen racing his Peugeot automobile up the steep, twisty slopes as part of the annual Pikes Peak International Hill Climb race. The road has a series of switchbacks, treacherous at high speed, called "The W's" for their shape on the side of the mountain. The road is maintained by the city of Colorado Springs as a toll road.