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Taking the Kids: On a newly opened Cog Railway, one of only three in the U.S.

Eileen Ogintz, Tribune Content Agency on

Katherine Lee Bates wasn’t bargaining for such an exhausting adventure. “One day some of the other teachers and I decided to go on a trip to the 14,000-foot Pikes Peak,” the young English professor wrote. “We hired a prairie wagon. Near the top, we had to leave the wagon and go the rest of the way on mules. I was very tired. But when I saw the view, I felt great joy. … All the wonder of America seemed displayed there…”

That was in 1893 when Bates, a professor at Wellesley College in Massachusetts, was spending the summer teaching at Colorado College in Colorado Springs, Colorado, (the alma mater of two of my daughters and son-in-law). When she got back down the mountain, she hastily scribbled the poem that would become “America the Beautiful,” first published two years later. Samuel Ward had composed the music even before Bates wrote her poem, but it wasn’t until 1910 that the music and the poem were first published together and titled “America the Beautiful.”

On the clearest days, you can see five states (Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Kansas)!

Who cares, your kids might ask? You might suggest while traveling this summer that exploring the spectacular sites at our national parks might inspire them to appreciate nature in all its glory, especially at Pikes Peak, the highest summit of the southern Front Range of the Rocky Mountains and a top Colorado tourist destination.

It’s no wonder that the Broadmoor Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway, which has just reopened after a nearly four-year renovation with new tracks, new trains, a new depot, and new visitor center, is hugely popular taking 200 visitors at a time up what’s known as “America’s Mountain.” And just outside Colorado Springs in the small town of Manitou Springs there are plenty of quirky shops for souvenir browsing. (Get a great breakfast at Adam’s Café!)

This is the world’s highest and the world’s longest cog railroad, the highest railroad in the United States. In fact, it’s the highest and longest in the entire Northern Hemisphere. There is only one other railroad like this in the United States and it’s the Mount Washington Cog Railway in New Hampshire. Pikes Peak is a national historic landmark.

 

And just as Bates was inspired, so are visitors today. Annually, more than 750,000 people reach the summit via the Pikes Peak Highway, the Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway, or, for the more adventurous, the Barr or Crags hiking trails.

“The most exciting part was the view — and the train ride,” said Shreya Gupta, 10, visiting with her family from Atlanta, Georgia.

“I love the train and all the views of the mountains, it’s amazing” said Tim Provost, from Kentucky. His 13-year-old son Ryan not so much. “He’d rather be at the hotel playing Xbox,” Provost said ruefully.

Consider that before you plunk down more than $60 per ticket. (Some hike to the top. You can also bike or drive 19 miles to the top of Pikes Peak. If you drive, the winding toll road costs $40 per carload of five passengers, or $12 per adult and $4 for kids 6 to 15.

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