Ever wondered about climbing Pikes Peak in an RV? It can be done! But it's not for the faint-hearted.
Yup. You can do mountain climbing in your RV!
We drove our RV to the top of Pikes Peak, some 14,114 feet high. And then we drove down.
In this article, we'll take you with us and tell you what the experience is like.
Before you try this though, understand that you wouldn't want to try this in a Class A. Or a big fifth wheel. Or even a travel trailer towed behind a vehicle.
Climbing Pikes Peak in an RV should be done only with small motorhomes like a Class B RV or maybe a B+.
I would not recommend trying it with anything bigger than 25 feet in length.
Is it Safe to be climbing Pikes Peak in an RV?
Yes. As long as you don't try driving to the top in a large RV, you will be fine.
We would not hesitate to do it again. It was one of the most favorite things we have ever done in our RV.
That said, there are some things you need to know about driving to the top of Pikes Peak in an RV, or even a regular passenger vehicle for that matter.
If you are afraid of heights, stay down below. If sheer drop-offs just a couple feet off to the side of your vehicle as you navigate hairpin turns with other vehicles going the other direction freaks you out… don't even try.
But if you are confident driving your RV in all conditions and it is in good mechanical condition, go for it!
How to Drive to the Top of Pikes Peak in an RV
It's a long haul up and when we entered the road that would take us to the top off Highway 24 west of Colorado Springs, we had to have the ranger help us drive around a barrier meant to keep larger vehicles from attempting the climb. At first, they tried to wave us off. Then they saw that our Class B RV was on the Mercedes Sprinter chassis.
“No problem,” the ranger said, motioning us around. “You can handle it in this. Just watch the brakes on the way down. They will heat up.”
Climbing Pikes Peak in an RV is very weather dependent
The Pikes Peak Highway is 19 miles long, a 38-mile round trip. The trip up works the engine hard. It burns fuel like crazy. Coming down, not so much. But if you decide to go, make sure you have enough fuel.
On previous visits, I twice tried to get to the summit. It is not always accessible because of weather
The first time was during a business trip a few years ago in a rented Kia. On a cold January day, we made it to 11 and a half miles up. But a sudden snowstorm shut down the rest of the drive.
We white-knuckled the way back down behind a snowplow. By the time we reached the bottom the entire road was closed.
On another visit, we boarded the cog railroad that runs to the summit. It, too, had to turn back because of blowing snow and heavy winds.
Our successful climb with the RV was during August a few years back. We showed up in our Class B Roadtrek eTrek (our RV at the time) and were very optimistic about good weather.
At least it wasn't snowing. But it could have. Snow falls at the higher elevations at all times of the year.
It was 87 degrees when we set off at the base of the mountain. By the time we reached the summit, it was 46 degrees.
Climbing Pikes Peak in an RV takes a long time!
It took about an hour and a half to drive to the summit.
There are lots of twists and turns and we frequently stopped at some of the pull-offs for photos as we climbed through the various regions, from the rock-strewn glacial moraines at the bottom on through the alpine and sub-alpine areas.
We found nothing particularly scary about the drive up. But we were too busy oohing and ahhing at the incredible scenery. The Class B Sprinter RV handled the constant climbing with plenty of power.
At Glen Cove, between miles 11 and 12, there is a place that sells souvenirs and has a limited-service restaurant.
But after that, it's almost straight up as you pass the tree line where conditions make it impossible for any upright plant to grow.
At Mile Marker 16 you'll pass Devil's Playground, so named because of the way lightning jumps from rock to rock up there during storms.
The summit itself is basically a parking lot. There's a small weather station up there, an observation deck, and, of course, a souvenir shop.
We were the only RV up there at the time, though I've had other RVing friends say they drove their Class Bs up there, too. I suppose a C might also make it. But, again I think it would be a tough haul for anything bigger.
What's at the top at Pikes Peak?
Jennifer and I brought our son, Jeff, and his wife, Aimee, up to the summit in our RV, as well as our dog at the time, Tai, and their dog, Sequoia.
Up top, we wandered around for a bit, a little dizzy at times from the altitude.
The dogs seemed refreshed in the thin, cool air.
We shivered in the wind and, took the obligatory “we were here” photos, and started back down.
The drive down Pikes Peak in an RV is white knuckles!
I could describe it. But before I explain more, I think a 30-second snippet of the video we took out the window shows just how breathtaking that drive down Pikes Peak can be.
(I couldn't resist adding the dramatic music)
Here's a very short video.
The drive down Pikes Peak with our RV was much more challenging.
The hard part was not letting the momentum build up too much speed.
I downshifted pretty much the whole way down to use the engine to help me slow, but when we stopped for the mandatory brake check at Glen Cove, we had to pull over and wait a half-hour or so for the brakes to cool down.
Safety inspectors measure how hot your brakes are and won't let you keep going down until they cool down. There is a real danger your brakes would burb up and, trust me, driving down Pikes Peak with no breaks would not be a good thing.
We weren't alone in having to stop. About every other automobile and every truck had to pull over, too, many of them so hot their brakes were smoking.
There's no way to avoid using the brakes as you head down.
The secret to keeping them from burning up, we found, is to apply sharp and firm pressure to reduce speed and then release the brakes, instead of riding them with steady pressure.
Engine downshifting is the best way to go, just watch the RPMs to keep it from redlining.
I used the time we had to wait as the brakes cooled to take the dog for a walk.
Just down a service road off the Glen Cove parking lot, we jumped a couple of big mule deer. Tai felt pretty smug as he watched them runoff.
Finally, as we were heading down the mountain and rounding those hairpin turns with the awesome scenery, I stuck the GoPro out the window and shot a few seconds of video the drive down.
Pretty awesome, huh?
Climbing Pikes Peak in an RV is a great adventure
Pikes Peak. Been there done that.
In our RV.
Total time from start to finish and our exploration at the summit was about three and a half hours.
It's one of our favorite memories.
Next time, I'm going to stop and explore more on both the ascent and the descent. I'll make an entire day of it.
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