Pikes Peak International Hill Climb Reference Guide

June 21, 2017

It’s finally here, the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, an epic, thrilling and dangerous race to the summit of Pikes Peak featuring some of today’s most elite auto and motorcycle racers. If you’ve never made the drive up America’s Mountain, you may not realize just how stunning this race is.
Drivers must battle tight curves and switchbacks (the course boasts 156 turns in 12.42 miles), lengths with no guardrails and huge drop-offs, an ascension of 4,725 feet in elevation and, to complete the challenge, a reduction in oxygen that impacts both driver and combustion vehicles the higher they climb (electric vehicles are not impacted by the thin air, but have their own special challenges). It’s the second oldest race in the country and a special favorite of locals and visitors that everyone should attend at least once.

We’re breaking down the basics to ensure you have a blast and stay safe during Colorado’s “Race to the Clouds.”

Pikes Peak International Hill Climb

Photo by Al Wheeler

Pikes Peak International Hill Climb Tickets

You can make it a week of Hill Climb race fever, catching practice races (held early in the morning, gates close at 4:45 a.m.) for about $25 + fees on June 20-22 (June 23 was sold out at the time of publication). The gates for practice viewings open at 4 a.m. and close promptly at 4:45 a.m. There are no exceptions, no getting in after they close and no refunds, so be early. This is a cool way to check out the awesome feats of racers before they hit the track on race day.

Race day tickets cost $60 + fees until June 24, with discounts for buying in packs of two or more. There are no tickets sold at the Gateway, so you must buy them online or in advance at specific locations found here. You can get tickets on race day, but only online. Cool fact: Motorcycles also have a discounted price of $30 + fees, with double riders running about $35. You’ll note the “more the merrier” in terms of discounts, as you’re being charged by the number of people in your vehicle (this helps with increasing parking availability). Kids 10+ must have a ticket. And, as a final note, don’t try to cram 8 people in a 5-seater car; there must be one seatbelt per attendee in your vehicle.

Pikes Peak Camping Permits

Pikes Peak International Hill Climb

Photo by Al Wheeler

You can camp in several different areas on Pikes Peak during the Hill Climb depending upon your needs. It’s a great way to eliminate parking hassles, hang with fellow race fanatics all night long, sleep a little later and wake up with a pretty stellar selection of viewing spots. A permit is absolutely required and you’ll find restrictions in each campsite. Your permit fee does not include your ticket price and must be purchased by June 23. However, one permit will cover your vehicle or motorcycle (no need to drop $150 a person). As of publication, there are two sites that still have permits available.

9-Mile Campground

Cost is $150 + fee and check in runs from noon-6 p.m. on June 24. This site is tent camping only and the sites are first come, first served. No RVs, campers or pop-ups. No vehicles with more than 6 seats.

Halfway Picnic Grounds

Cost is $150 + fee and check in runs from noon-6 p.m. on June 24. Sites are first come, first served. If you have a vehicle over 10’, you must enter through Gate 3. Your camper can’t be longer than 24’; 5th wheels cannot exceed 26 feet (not including tow vehicle).

For all campsites, there are no campfires allowed (propane/gas with shut-offs are permitted unless fire restrictions change). There are no off-road vehicles allowed, period. There is no disposal of gray water/sewage anywhere on the mountain. You must dispose of your waste off the mountain. No pets are allowed.

Pikes Peak International Hill Climb Race Day Must-Knows

All spectators are required to review the “Spectator Guide”. When you buy your ticket, you’re agreeing that you did so and, unlike your iTunes or Google terms and conditions, it’s probably a good idea not to just pretend you did. You need the information they provide if you want to have a good time. Let’s take a look at the basics:

Safety

Pikes Peak International Hill Climb

Photo by Al Wheeler

The race itself is not just dangerous for drivers, it’s also dangerous for spectators. It’s imperative you stay in the spectator areas and follow the rules to keep you and your fellow attendees safe. Highlights: The race safety crew recommends that you stay far back from the course, even in designated areas. Always stay behind the fences while viewing and keep in mind that chain link is not magic armor. You’re still vulnerable if something goes wrong, so enjoy your time while still being vigilant.

Orange means higher danger. If you see orange fencing, you are not to stand behind it. No matter where you stand, even in designated areas, you should always have some sort of barrier between you and the course. Trees, rocks, vehicles or higher ground are great options for adding a layer of protection between you and a runaway/crashing vehicle or vehicle parts. If those are not available, give yourself the space and ability to move fast.

Parking

This is honestly the most difficult part of the Hill Climb and you really want to plan well for this. Here’s why:
– If you park above the Start Line, you are stuck on the mountain until after 4 p.m.
– The road is one-way-only in the morning, so you can’t go back down for any reason. Saw a good parking area, but passed it? You can’t go back. Make sure you know where you want to be before you start up.
– Parking starts to shut down in segments based on time of morning and lots filling up. You have to be parked by 8 a.m. (start time).
– You will be towed if you are not in a designated area. They have trucks on the ready.
Parking is not guaranteed.

Basically, arrive as early as possible and plan your chosen spot based upon your schedule. Or camp the night before and eliminate the stress.

Timing

The gates open on race day at 3 a.m. Again, you’re only allowed to go one way, so plan accordingly. You’re not going to be able to run back home for anything you’ve forgotten once you’re admitted. You can pick up Will Call tickets until 10 a.m. After 7 a.m., no vehicles will be allowed past the starting line (which is probably for the best if you are not planning to stay the whole time). At noon, the Gateway closes to uphill traffic and no one will be allowed in, not even if you have a ticket.

Leave it How You Found It

Follow the Girl Scout Law when hanging out on Pikes Peak and leave the area as pristine as possible. It’s still one of our most beautiful scenic locations and we all want to keep it that way. Pack out your trash or dispose of it in designated areas. Try to be careful not to destroy plant life or disturb local wildlife. Don’t dig trenches, set up tree stands or rearrange rocks/logs to create viewing areas. Keep your pets, fireworks, drones, firearms and other potential disturbances at home.

Mountain and Altitude Safety

Bring lots of water and plan for the weather to rotate from burning hot to freezing cold. Pack ample snacks and try to avoid consuming a ton of alcohol, which will only exacerbate issues with altitude sickness and dehydration. The higher you get, the less you should exert yourself for long periods of time, especially if you are not used to higher altitudes (even Springs residents should be careful above 9,000 feet). Did we forget to mention water? Because seriously. Drink water.

This may seem like a whole lot of rules, but it’s mostly common sense with a few special details thrown in. The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is probably one of the coolest and most unique auto/motorcycle races in the world. With good planning (and a thorough review of your spectator guide), you are virtually guaranteed to have a memorable experience you and your friends and family will talk about for years to come.

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