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Colorado Springs: Pikes Peak Mountain Sightseeing Bus Tour

I live in Houston and love writing reviews of the local restaurants and stores I visit with family and friends.

Flowers viewed going up Pikes Peak in Colorado Springs.

Flowers viewed going up Pikes Peak in Colorado Springs.

America the Beautiful

This towering mountain in Colorado Springs dominates the landscape. Naturally, when my mother and I were visiting Colorado Springs while on vacation one year, we wanted to see the top of this "purple mountain majesty" and did so by purchasing tickets on a Gray Line sightseeing bus tour.

Why was the term "purple mountain" used?

For those who might not know, the well-known anthem "America the Beautiful" was inspired when Katharine Lee Bates gazed at the wonder of Pikes Peak which is over 14,000 feet in elevation. She was a professor of English literature at Wellesley College who happened to ride to the top of this Pikes Peak in a wagon in the year 1893.

Purple Mountain Majesty

Purple Mountain Majesty

The words of the first verse of "America the Beautiful" are as follows:

"O beautiful, for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain. For purple mountain majesties, above the fruited plain! America! America! God shed His grace on thee and crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea."

It is such a beautiful song, and Pikes Peak is an appropriately beautiful sight!

Bierstadt painting of Pikes Peak

Bierstadt painting of Pikes Peak

Pikes Peak

Driving up to the summit of Pikes Peak would have been a daunting task for one who is used to the flat topography of Houston, Texas. My mother and I were leasing a car while on this Colorado vacation and decided to just be a passenger on a Gray Line tour of this mountainous climb of over 6,710 feet. It is riddled with turn after turn on a graded road with some sheer drop-offs.

Once we started the ascent we were even happier that we had made that decision!

Pikes Peak highway from about 13,000 feet

Pikes Peak highway from about 13,000 feet

Bus Tours

Often when on vacation we have taken advantage of bus tours when we are in new places. Not only do the bus drivers and tourism guides know the lay of the land but also impart information about what one is viewing.

The Gray Line tour that my mother and I chose to take to ascend Pikes Peak was well worth the money.

Crystal Reservoir

A stop was made partway up the mountain, at the mile six marker at the Crystal Reservoir visitor center. Stopping at this point in the ascent up Pikes Peak gives people a chance to see the beautiful Crystal Reservoir and walk around a bit to become more acclimatized to the altitude and purchase refreshments or use the restrooms if desired.

We took the time to ambulate, take photos, and generally enjoy the scenery. We spotted many columbine flowers in bloom. They are the Colorado state flower.

Activities at Pikes Peak Mountain

At Crystal Reservoir it was easy to see that mountain climbing classes were being held. We saw quite a few people making their ascent with the help of instructors.

Hiking, fishing and boating is also enjoyed at this high elevation mountain lake and locale.

Mountain climbing classes at Crystal Reservoir

Mountain climbing classes at Crystal Reservoir

Ascending Pikes Peak

Looking out the Gray Line bus windows towards the mountain as we were ascending Pikes Peak in July, we saw numerous blooming wildflowers amidst the rocks.

Scenery viewed from the bus windows going up Pikes Peak.

Scenery viewed from the bus windows going up Pikes Peak.

Pikes Peak International Hill Climb

There are adventurous auto racers that race this road on an annual basis some of which is not even paved but gravel.

Crazy! That is my sole opinion after traveling up this mountainous road with the relative assurance of having a seasoned bus driver escorting us. That was scary enough for me!

1916 was the date of the first Pikes Peak International Hill Climb race.

The course is over 12 miles long and consists of 156 turns and just about 5,000 feet of elevation gain. There are very few relatively straight stretches of highway, and in those rare instances, some of the winning cars have exceeded 130 miles per hour!

For race car drivers such as the ones who compete in the Indianapolis 500, this is just another test of their skills and competence in handling their souped-up race cars.

Looking at a car venturing up Pikes Peak.

Looking at a car venturing up Pikes Peak.

Pikes Peak Highway

Pikes Peak Highway

Pikes Peak Summit

The air is thin at the summit of Pikes Peak. From that vantage point if the day is clear one can see as far as Kansas and even New Mexico. There is a restaurant/souvenir shop at that location that actually offers an oxygen bar for those people who are having a bit of difficulty in breathing.

Naturally, most people wish to have their pictures taken at that landmark location and my mother and I exchanged cameras with other tourists and snapped photos so that we could each take home proof of our having been to the summit of Pikes Peak.

Monument to Olympic winners at the top of Pikes Peak.

Monument to Olympic winners at the top of Pikes Peak.

Pikes Peak Cog Railway

Climbing nine miles up with a vertical ascent of 7,539 feet one can choose to get to the top of Pikes Peak by riding the highest cog railroad in the United States instead of driving or hiking.

Yes, some adventurous and athletic types really do choose to hike up Pikes Peak!

Many people ride this cog railway and see mountain scenery from that perspective.

Zebulon Pike

He was an explorer and soldier who attempted climbing the mountain in 1806. Pikes Peak now bears his name even though he never made it to the top.

His mapping of the area was most important and furthered exploration of the west.

As you can probably see from these Colorado Springs vacation pictures, a sightseeing bus tour of Pikes Peak or a cog railroad trip to the top makes for a unique experience.

One is rewarded with spectacular scenery as one travels through five different life zones. On a clear day it almost seems as though the horizon from this top of the world perspective is limitless.

Pikes Peak Mountain


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2011 Peggy Woods