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Pikes Peak Barr Trail Advice


My father and I are potentially looking into hiking Pikes Peak.

We are from Florida and are planning on taking a bit of time to do it, we want to camp a couple nights. Possibly up and down. 

Is it plausible for people not used to the altitude to do the hike in two days, taking our time? then turning around and going back down ?

I want to go in the beginning of May to get a feel for the cold conditions and snow but not get completely iced in. I have a mountain hardware lightpath 2 3 season tent, and northface down jacket and fleeces.

Will we need real heavy jackets with hoods like ski wear? or will normal layering work?

will we need any crampons or ice climbing gear?

we wanted a challenging hike with great views and a taste of what its like to hike in winterlike conditions, without all the mountaineering skills which we obviously dont have in Fla.

thanks yall!

May is too early to go high most years. The altitude is going to kick your butt. 

You will need warm clothes for when you stop.  Don't plan on hiking mountains if you don't have moutaineering skills. 

Not sure if you are aware its a complete walk up trail. No climbing involved.

Most people do it in I think 5-8 hrs. So its not technical. Its rated as a easy hike as far as skill, but difficult physically. 

May there is still snow, but its not supposed to be near as bad. People hike it year round on foot. 


This is the long hand version of Ppine's cautionary advice about mountaineering skills:

The problem, Robert, is if there is snow the trail will be under snow.  Even following the road can sometimes be difficult as drifting snow can completely cover any trace of the grade.  And snow on the ground is all but certain in early May.  Unless the trail-on-snow is well worn, you can easily get lost unless you know how to use map and compass.  Snow in big mountains often means icy conditions, too, so an ice axe and crampons and training on how to use them are assumed necessary for safety.  The snow doesn't have to be deep to be hazardous, a foot of hard pack snow on a steep pitch is very dangerous if you slip and don't have the skills/means to arrest your slide.  And since the snow may be soft you may also require snow shoes. 

The problem with a three season tent is if high winds occur, because most three season tents don't fare well in winds above 45 mph. This link will provide more weather info about what you can expect that time of year.  Keep in mind the most deadly mountain weather is rain in above freezing temperatures - you will need effective rain/wind shell pants and jacket, else risk hypothermia.

If these cautionary notes don't dissuade you, maybe the real possibility of triggering a wet snow avalanche will! 

All of these considerations can be managed if one has the skills and proper kit, but alas, it appears you don't.  If you still insist on this trip in that season, seriously consider hiring a guide, they will get you up and back in a safe manner, supply gear you don't have, and teach you some skills to boot. 


I have done a day hike partway up from the base at Manatou Springs a few years ago.  I believe the whole thing is 20+ miles roundtrip.  The 5-8 hours mentioned is just one way (and seems optimistic to me.)  I think I went no more than a 1/3 of the way up, roundtrip, in 5 or 6 hours.  The altitude at the base, where you start, is already 7 or 8,000 feet so that is pretty high and the air is fairly thin. I remember wondering why I seemed to be so out of shape and then realizing, oh yeah, the altitude. 

There is the cog railway up to the top - you could just ride it up, and then walk down.  I think you could ride it partway up, and then hike the rest of the way, too.  

++to what ppine and whomeworry say:

Altitude will be a big issue. Spend some time in Colo Springs, maybe so some climbing training down low.  You will be in completely different conditions than you apparently have ever experienced, so a guide, or a knowledgeable companion will be a good idea.

Eons ago, I was stationed at Ft. Carson, keeping them commies away in a very soft job.  I could grab my pass about 2 PM and hike up Pikes Peak in plenty of time to watch the sunset (starting from halfway up).  Also did it a few times from Manitou Springs.  It is just a long walk, having very little,other than altitude, to do with mountaineering.

Climbing is a complex of various skills, best learned gradually over time.  Read the latest edition of FOTH, and then get some instruction, acquiring appropriate gear as you progress.  Don't be in a hurry.  It should take decades....


I commend your interest in the outdoors.  When you said you are from Florida and want to climb Pike's Peak in the spring alarm bells went off.  The altitude alone will be a serious problem unless you spend 7-10 days in Colorado first.  The weather can be terrible.  It will be iced up.

I remember the time I decided to climb Long's Peak in July.  It is simple walk too, but the 75 mph winds and lighning caused me to turn around way before the top.  When I first moved to CO, I planned a Memorial Day camping trip to Grand Lake which is around 6,800 feet.  I remember coming over a rise and getting the first glimpse of the largest natural lake in the state.  It was frozen solid on May 28.

Thanks for the tips. A few things:

I have extensive experience in the outdoors in Florida, backpacking in thigh deep water in the everglades and other general backpacking and navigation skills.

I own mountain hardware shells, fleece, down shells, goretex outer pants, shell, boots, gloves. ive done some skiing and have gear that keeps me comfortable in 7-10 degrees.

My down doesnt have a hood, and thought maybe I should get one so the only hood i have isnt just the goretex. 

I can also get a better tent, but under no circumstances would I camp above tree line. 

I realize that the snow and ice will be there, and it could affect the normal walk up style that the trail seems to be. 

Hiking in water over limestone, while different, is tricky and very eäsy to lose the trail. 

I wanted to attempt this over two days due to my inexperience, and not overy push the envelope, and I am also completely willing to turn around if conditions warrant or if I cannot handle it. I have been through hurricanes with strong winds, stuck at sea during very serious weather, struck by lightning, and am very familiar with rough weather and when to turn back!

If you guys think that attempting this, slowly and with full knowlege that I would turn back if it looked to hairy, is a bad idea I may  do something else. 

Im thinking about Mount Washington as well, eventhough the weather is much worse, the hike is easier and not far, and one can get well into treeline much faster and the altitude is much much lower. 

Im just looking to do some hiking in a winter environment where I can learn some new skill and test my self a bit. I dont necessarily have to scale a peak. 

I love ski touring/mountaineering in the Sierra.  Done some in the Rockies, too.  Early May often is still snowy higher up but other times it is near the tail end of the season for that sport.  It is loads of fun when you know how to work with the snow, mountain and weather, and I often solo these trips.  But I would not recommend entering into this environment for the first time without someone who has experience managing these conditions.  It is a specialized activity, like desert trekking and swamp exploration, in that it can be fun if you know what you are doing, but miserable if you are learning by trial and error, and dangerous if you end up blundering into certain situations. 

There are outfits that host snow outings specifically to teach snow skills to small groups;  I'd recommend that option, you'll get out into the wilds in a safe arrangement.  Another great option are operators that have yurts in the back country you can use as a base camp, and XC ski or snowshoe during the day.  But if you insist on doing this trip with just you and dad, I would suggest a car camp or even moteling it, and do hiking trips that keep you within two miles of the car or a known shelter.


The great unknown is altitude.  People react in a wide variety of ways when going high, so be cautious.  Climb high and sleep low should be your mantra, and take your time.

Years ago, with many years of experience in western mountaiineering, technical SAR, EMT, etc.  i was doing a training gig in Georgia and had a chance to visit Okeechobee (sp?)  swamp  I realized I was completely out of my element and that the tables were turned.

Instead of scarce water and plenty of arid land, there was lots of water and dry land was scarce.  Alligators were everywhere.  my existing skills would have been of some value, but I had a lot to learn in this new environment.  You are facing a very similar challenge.

I am thankful for the responses. I may look into a course , or try either a lower peak or easier less technical hiking.

If you are not willing to camp above treeline, you probably have no business going that high.  What are you going to do if the weather really goes to Hell and you cannot see anything in a raging blizzard?

I like hikermor's comments about what it felt like for him in the Great O Swamp. Don't take risks when you don't know the country.

October 1, 2020
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