21. A gravel road allowed tourists to drive to the top of Pikes Peak
The first ascent by automobile up Colorado’s Pikes Peak took place in 1913. The driver, William Wayne Brown, used an old carriage road to make the climb, which took 5 hours and 28 minutes to complete. Two years later a wealthy American miner and entrepreneur named Spencer Penrose constructed the Pikes Peak Highway to the summit. Largely paved with gravel, it allowed intrepid motorists to drive to the summit for a fee. Motoring up Pikes Peak became a popular challenge to tourists, despite the difficulties encountered. A round trip up and down the mountain took several hours. The drive provided challenges to the cars and drivers. Multiple stops along the way were required to allow overheating engines and brakes to cool.
By 1921 the views afforded from the mountain’s summit and the bragging rights obtained by having driven to the top proved irresistible to thousands of motorists. Many found the descent more challenging than the climb. The limits of 1921 automobile technology taxed some cars severely. No gasoline or services were available along the nearly 20-mile route. Drivers had to rely on their own resourcefulness to successfully complete the trip. Ascending the mountain, as well as other summits across the United States, became a popular tourist activity, and remains one today. Penrose’s highway is still the motorist’s route up Pikes Peak in the 21st century, though maintained and operated by the City of Colorado Springs.