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This trail climbs 7500 vertical feel in just under 13 miles to the top of Pikes Peak (6,600 to 14,100 ft). Since bikes are not allowed on the toll road, this is the only way to ride your bike to the top of Pikes Peak. Be prepared for fast changing weather and much colder conditions on top. The trail starts out with a few stairs and then enters a section of switchbacks called the incline. The incline climbs at an average grade of 11% for a couple of miles with it almost all being rideable. Once you pass through the rock arch, the grade levels out a bit, but it's still a continuous climb. You'll have a couple small flat sections between the top of the incline and Barr Camp. Barr Camp marks the mid-point of the ride in both distance and elevation gain. Up to this point, the trail has been 99% rideable, but beyond Barr Camp the trail gets much more difficult. Continue climbing up more switchbacks until you reach the bottom of the large cirque/treeline. To the left is a small green A-frame that can make a handy shelter in adverse weather conditions. a**s the weather before continuing on above the A-frame because there is no shelter from here to the top (still over 2,000 vertical feet above you). Once above treeline, the trail gets even tougher not only because of the lack of oxygen but also because of loose pea gravel and very large boulders. The trail switchbacks up and across the east face to the edge of the large chasm (~13,100 ft). You've still got another 1,000 vertical feet to go. The trail leaves the edge of the cirque back towards the middle of the east face to the start of the 16 Golden Stairs. The Golden Stairs are 16 pairs of switchbacks (32 switchbacks) that meander through the large boulders to the top. Most of the stairs are not rideable and it's so tight between some of the rocks that it's hard to carry the bike. Near the last switchback, you'll see the cog train at the top - You're almost there! Cross the tracks, get your obligatory summit photo, and grab a bite to eat in the cafe. Now reverse course and don't forget to use that thing you've got under the helmet. The ride down (especially above treeline) is a mental exercise in making good decisions. There is quite a bit rideable, but it takes good judgment to know when it's best to get off the bike rather than take a chance trying a technical section where you can't afford to make a mistake (You'll see what I mean when you get there). Once you're back to Barr Camp, take a breather and prepare for a screaming downhill back to your car. The forest service estimates that a round trip hiking will take approximately 16 hrs, but on a bike cut that in half (depending of physical condition and acclimatization), while the record for a round trip (by a trail runner) is a little over 3 hours!
added by JJonas
on September 13, 2005
Palmer Trail / Section 16
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