Pike National Forest is quintessential high desert landscape—all ponderosa pine, rolling hills, and weathered granite stacks that glow pink at sunrise. It's a wonderland of rock and trail for a variety of activities including hiking, fly fishing, camping, rock climbing, trail running, and mountain biking. The national forest is also home to one of Colorado's more popular Fourteeners, the eponymous Pikes Peak, as well as several other summits above 14,000 feet in elevation
14,110-foot Pikes Peak is one of the national forest's main attractions. It's unique among Colorado Fourteeners in that a road leads straight to the top. That means you can drive or bike to the Summit House at the top. However, most hikers opt to ascend the opposite slope, gaining nearly 4,000 feet in elevation along the switchbacking Barr Trail. If you're feeling especially fit, consider entering the Pikes Peak Marathon, which is quite possibly the country's most grueling 26.2-mile race.
To get away from the crowds, head to the South Platte region (near Deckers, Colorado) for teeming trout streams and moderate hiking around stunning rock formations like Turkey Rocks and the Sheep's Nose. Another one of these formations, Devils Head, has a moderate trail to the topmost lookout, which offers great views of the surrounding forest and a good introductory trail.
The Colorado Trail also passes through Pikes National Forest. Use it to plan an out-and-back or a backpacking loop to extend your stay.
When to Go
The variation in altitude and sun exposure in Pikes National Forest means you can visit just about any time of year. Save any ascents of Pikes Peak for the summer when snow has melted out and high-altitude temperatures are more moderate. In the fall and spring, head to the lowlands. Campers, hikers, and rock climbers will encounter cold nights but warm daytime temperatures, especially on exposed south-facing slopes.