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The Mountain

Pikes Peak – America’s Mountain


James Peak in Rain V3

Pikes Peak is the most visited mountain in North America and the second most visited mountain in the world behind Japan’s Mount Fuji. At an altitude of 14,115 feet above sea level, Pikes Peak is the 31st highest peak out of 54 Colorado peaks.  Among the ‘big peaks’ of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, Pikes is the farthest east, which contributed to its early fame among early American explorers starting with Zebulon Pike in 1806.  It was Edwin James, 14 years later, who would first stand upon Pikes summit.

“Dr. James, having accomplished this difficult task, I have thought proper to call the Peak after his name… Pike has indeed given us notice that there is such a Peak, but only saw it at a distance.”

On maps produced at the conclusion of the Long Expedition, Pikes was officially designated as James Peak.  However, after a period of years, with some cartographers identifying the mountain as ‘Pikes’ and others calling it ‘James’, it was finally agreed to let it rest as Pikes Peak.


Longs Map 1822 HIghlighted

Pikes Peak is a BIG mountain in the sense it is very expansive from the base.  Ute Indians, known as the Blue Sky People, called the mountain, Ta-Wa-ah-Gath, meaning, Sun Mountain Sitting Big.  It was believed that the Great Spirit made the mountain by pouring ice and snow through a hole in the sky.

Another anecdote of history regarding Pikes Peak is that the anthem, America the Beautiful, was penned by a professor, Katherine Lee Bates.  Having traveled from the east by train and gaining the summit in 1893, Bates observed the view:  “It was then and there, as I was looking out over the… feretile country spreading away so far under those ample skies, that the opening lines of the hymn floated into mind.”

                                                                                                 ‘O beautiful, for halcyon skies,
                                                                                                  For amber waves of grain
                                                                                                  For purple mountain’s majesties
                                                                                                  Above the enameled plain

The trials and hardships of climbing the mountain, the successes and triumphs, the taming of the geography, and the almost 200 years of settlement is long and compelling.  Early wagons were often emblazoned with “Pikes Peak or Bust.”  Such is the popularity of Pikes Peak, known as America;s Mountain.