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The Cog Railway- Riding to the Heavens of Pikes Peak in Colorado

                  Back in 2021, I had this scheduled on my road trip and never got there. When I had made my plans, the Cog wasn’t back in service yet, so I opted for a van tour up the Mountain instead. Later, of course, while I was traveling, I learned it was back in service, and I, not being the one comfortable with cancelling unless absolutely necessary, decided my fate would just be the van tour. Fast forward to the trip being cut short, had to cancel anyways, which leads me to FINALLY getting to the top of Pikes Peak this past September with husband in tow and a whopping heart full of happy. Located in Manitou Springs, Colorado, we decided to stay a few nights in this area first (celebrating our 29th Wedding Anniversary) to take this tour and see the surrounding sites before moving on to other areas in the State. (More to come on the blog, stay tuned!)

               First, we needed to pick a date that we were interested in heading up. Now, it’s like Disney, or pretty much anything these days, you need to make a reservation ahead of time to secure yourself a seat. I would highly recommend these days to call, book, whatever ahead on ANYTHING you want to do, as it seems we live in a world of “Hold my spot” which isn’t all bad, but it diverts from the fun days of just showing up somewhere to try something out.  Doesn’t mean you can’t, you’re just playing the odds if anything will be available.  It can make or break a trip, trust me on this. Choosing your seat is the next step and I am here to save you some grief from being on the WRONG side of the train. Choose a seat in the 6 pod side, not the 4 pod side. The Railway DOES NOT turn around at the top, what you see going up is what you will see going down. We were seated on the 4 pod side, facing two other people, which was odd and uncomfortable. Our view was trees for a bit, but once we started climbing, we were on the side that hugged the Mountain. So rocks, some more rocks, oh someone died and was buried right there (true story) OH and some more rocks. The other side??  Heaven, the views were something you would normally see flying over on a Banshee. (Give me a break, I just saw Avatar 2- ITS AMAZING!). Anyways, sit on THAT side. Side note, we were booked for other seats, and last minute they DID change them to another train. So, they have the right to move you around, be aware of this.

               We had our tickets, booked online at cograilway.com, for September 12th for their earliest, round-trip tour. We chose the “Reserved Admission Ticket” at $68.5o per person. Choosing this option gives you the choice to choose your seat (even though we still had our seats changed- different train) so there is that slight chance but hopefully not for others. For $10 less, you can choose the “Standard Admission Ticket” which is assigned to you and your party, and zero guarantees of sitting together. Let me be clear, you sit very CLOSE to others, and in FRONT of others who are turned looking at you, this isn’t like a school bus seating. Keep that in mind if you want to be in close proximity with strangers on all sides or sit with your party and just smell their own nasty bad breath instead. Kidding not kidding. They have another ticket experience which is to literally sit in the front with the engineer, but these sell out fast and we didn’t bother to try for it. Once you pick your rate, they send you to the pick your train car and seat, if that was the ticket you chose, here is where you choose the three seats (SEAT A, B, or C), or usually six in total, side of the train. (Again, SEAT D and E side is right against the Mountain for most of it). With tax, it came to be about $145 total for the two of us.  Check out all of the options on their website cograilway.com.

               As suggested, we arrived 30 minutes prior to our departure. The PARKING HERE IS INSANE- YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!!!  They have a parking lot directly across from the depot, then limited spots on the actual road (because of course THESE are the free ones), then another parking lot on the lower ground area on the left of the Depot. Why is it insane you ask? Oh, finding it is easy, you park, pay when you head out, all in good fun. What ISN’T marked well, is that you MUST drive LEFT out of the parking lots, back the way you came, watching for the fork in the road that is very confusing with a “Wrong Way” sign. We saw this, and thought we can’t go that way, when it was only one side of the fork, very confusing. Take my advice, don’t go right either because you wind up in a local neighborhood with tiny roads and nowhere to turn around without a full on panic attack. There, you have been warned. I think it was $15 to park. It’s automated as you exit, so keep that in mind when paying.

               So, finally, we are at the train! You mosey on down the steps, line up with what your ticket says on your phone, they give a brief speech before you board about there being NO BATHROOMS on the train, no outside beverages allowed unless bottled water, and the ride up and down is one full hour each way. With the 40 minutes they allow you at the top, that is a total of about 3 hours for this attraction with parking and getting there time included. 

               Like I said, we were seated across from two women, nobody looked or talked to each other, so it was like an awkward elevator ride for an hour lol. Craig and I talked about the views, recorded, and took pictures, as we climbed to the 14, 115 summit. The view as you got higher was just breathtaking, and they didn’t mind if you stood to see the better view on the other side. If you don’t like heights, choose the seats in D and E.  The engineers did a great job of narrating what we were looking at, but I had to giggle as it was like being on Disney’s Jungle Cruise. “See that clump of trees? Those are …. “ Me: “Sir, I see many, many clumps of trees.” My favorite joke is “Let me point out to you some of my favorite plants… that one, that one, that one.” (My Disney people get it).

               By the time you summit, you are so excited and incredibly nervous. Why? Let’s talk about altitude sickness. Yes, this is a VERY real thing, and you don’t want it on this incredible adventure. We were warned at the bottom, and before exiting the train, to TAKE IT EASY. Now, I got off the train just fine, giddy as a schoolgirl to take pics and explore. Craig on the other hand needed to find a railing fast, and just acclimate his body and his breathing to the extreme heights. I think you either find yourself in one camp or the other.  I was a bit dizzy at times, I would just slow down my breathing, drink LOTS of water, and just slow down.  Craig eventually felt better to move, explore, and hey we had to go check out that gift shop. I mean, Disney would be proud, they put a freaking GIFT SHOP at the top of a Mountain LOL.  We grabbed sweatshirts, magnets, I think a bag, checked out their famous donuts and opted out, used the restrooms, drank more water, and then took lots of pics outside.  We even explored separately for a while, or one of us wandered off, fell and broke her cell phone catching herself on a rock, but we don’t need to harp on such minute details. Yeah, lucky me, souvenir I carry with me every day from Pikes Peak.  They only give you 40 minutes at the top, and they are VERY serious about everyone getting back on with the first train whistle. These are packed, so they don’t have an available seat for Grandma who needed to shop longer. I am sure they have vans to come get you if push came to shove, but they are strict on boarding at that time. On top of the schedule, they are trying to keep with the next group coming up. 

Spot where I fell and caught myself with my cell phone…..only me lol

               I thought the store was reasonably priced, but I am used to $60 sweatshirts at WDW. You definitely want to check out that building, even if you don’t want to buy anything, they have a great exhibit in there talking about the Mountain, and it has tons of benches which I saw the most 65 and over crowd using. Make sure to explore the other side of the parking lot that the train is not parked on, as it has the Pikes Peak official sign which is GREAT for photo opps!! Our train was filled with every age group, so I think it can be done with kids, but keep in mind, no bathrooms for an hour up or down, and kids may have a hard time voicing their symptoms to altitude sickness. They sell these “Oxygen cans” in town to carry with you up there, EVERY LOCAL we spoke too said they were a scam and useless so don’t bother. Oh, they also have a gift shop at the Depot where you board for magnets, clothing, and postcards of the Cog Railway. We could barely walk in there it’s so small and closed in, so don’t bother with a stroller in here.

               The experience was a once in a lifetime for me, and I will never forget the utter joy I felt at the summit. You can’t even put into words what it feels like, to look across Colorado, that high, and not feel some sort of spiritual experience. Standing there, so small yet so big, it wasn’t magic, it was a different kind of euphoria. Or it was altitude sickness, and I was delirious, either way, it WAS AMAZING!! Go check it out for yourself, Craig and I lived to tell the tale and we highly suggest you check it out!

****Side note, thanks to EVERYONE who have donated to my hard work. This is what I do for a living, and it is a passion for me, so tossing me a couple bucks below helps me SO MUCH with everything needed. If you can’t, please consider subscribing to the blog, LIKING the blog post, and sharing any content you enjoy– it helps me out SOOOO much! I love being able to bring you all these amazing places so that YOU can do them as well. I work mostly on donations so thanks again.

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