Adventures in Colorado: Pikes Peak, Crystal Reservoir, and How to Avoid Altitude Sickness
If you’re like me and you can’t get enough of a good scenic vista, Colorado should definitely be on your “must see” list. We have mountains at home, but admittedly, none are as unique as those of Colorado. From craggy cliff faces to lush, evergreen forests, everywhere you look there is a different kind of view! That was my favorite part of our whole trip.
We saw loads of beautiful places, but one of the best places we found to get some great panoramic views was Pike’s Peak (a.k.a. America’s Mountain.) It is said that this is the view that inspired Katharine Lee Bates to write “America the Beautiful.” I can certainly see how she was so moved.
From over 14,000 feet, you can see lakes, mountains, towns, and more. This is the kind of place for which the word "picturesque" was created. It's a truly breathtaking place (in more ways than one).
The altitude of Pikes Peak is in the “Very High” range, which means that altitude sickness is a risk for anyone trekking to the top. According to Mayo Clinic, some symptoms to look out for include headache, fatigue, nausea, and dizziness.
Unfortunately, even though I was forewarned and cautious, I ended up experiencing some of these symptoms on my trip. It wasn’t bad enough to ruin my day, but it was inconvenient.
Here are a few simple steps you can take to avoid altitude sickness:
- Get lots of rest before your trip.
- Give yourself time to acclimate. If you’re flying into Denver from a lower elevation, stick around town for your first day or two before heading into the mountains.
- Avoid strenuous activity for the first day.
- Stay hydrated. Drink lots of water and avoid caffeine and alcohol.
- Visit your doctor before your trip. They might suggest medications such as Diamox or supplements such as gingko biloba. These can be especially helpful if you’ll be arriving at a very high altitude without a chance for acclimation.
- Go slow! Take your time getting to the top of the mountain and allow yourself time for plenty of breaks.
If you do get to the top of the mountain and you start feeling sick, retreating to a lower elevation might help with your symptoms. Severe cases may require medical attention, so if something doesn’t feel right, do not ignore it!
It might sound scary, but don’t let a fear of altitude sickness stop you from visiting Pikes Peak. With the proper care and precautions, you're likely to have a problem-free trip.
You really don’t want to miss out on this Colorado gem.
Aside from the stunning perspective that you’ll find at the top of the mountain, you’ll also see some beautiful sights along the way. The switchback curves and steep drops along Pikes Peak Highway will make your heart flutter but they’ll also lend some spectacular views. Luckily, there are plenty of spots to pull off, park, and take it all in.
Who knows? Maybe you'll even catch a glimpse of Bigfoot along the way!
Once you've made your way back down the mountain, be sure to stop at Crystal Reservoir. You’ll find a visitor center, restrooms, potable water, and most importantly, a sparkling aquamarine lake set against the backdrop of majestic snow-capped mountains.
Our visit to Pikes Peak was one of the more expensive things that we did on this trip, but Josh and I both thought it was worth it. The cost to enter Pikes Peak highway is either $15 per adult and $5 per child between 6 and 15 years old, or $50 for a carload up to 5 people. Our friends Kate and Addison rode up with us and we split the cost of a carload, reducing the price to only $25 for both Josh and myself. Not too shabby!
We were there for about three hours total, but could have stayed much longer had we had the time. Personally, I would suggest making a day of it. Pack a picnic and a book, and after you’ve taken in all of the mountain top views that you can, set up on the shores of Crystal Reservoir while you catch your breath. Oh, and don’t forget to pack your camera!
Have you ever visited Pikes Peak? What are some other Colorado gems that I should check out in the future? Leave a comment below and let me know what you think!