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Auto Road vs Cog Railway

Northern NJ
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82 posts
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Auto Road vs Cog Railway

Just looking for opinions; I think after reading the board and looking at the website the Auto Road Guided Tour is the best choice.

The con with the Railway is the short time at the summit.

The con with driving ourselves on the Auto Road is I couldn't make it up Pike's Peak and the descriptions of this road sound very similar.

Two things I'm looking for opinions / information:

Does using the guided tour van feel different than driving the road; does it feel safer or sturdier?

(I know that can really be a matter of person opinion but any observations are welcome)

Is it correct that if you take a van that leaves before 9:30am you can have a full hour on the summit instead of the usual 30 minutes? This, to me, would make the van more worthwhile since the regular trip only gives you 10 extra minutes over the railway.

Pitman, New Jersey
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for Rapid City, South Dakota
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1. Re: Auto Road vs Cog Railway

Hello fellow Jerseyan,

We did the guided van tour about 4-5 years ago and really enjoyed it. Like you, we wanted to be able to enjoy the scenery. Our main determining factor: the price of the van tour vs. the price of the cog. Our daughter was about 5 at the time, and we didn't see the point of buying her a $50 ticket. If we hadn't bought the ticket, she would have had to sit on our lap, and we didn't want her or us to be uncomfortable. If I remember correctly, the cog does offer limited time at the summit. We were up there when one pulled in.

Now, to answer your questions.. The van feels very safe. They are specially designed so that going down, the drivers don't burn up the brakes, etc. Our driver talked to us the entire time, telling us interesting stories about the mountain (history, names of the neighboring peaks, weather info, etc.) He was VERY informative, and I know we probably learned a lot more from him had we done it ourselves. Plus, we felt a lot safer and could really enjoy it so much more. Our driver had gone up & down so many times that we felt very comfortable. Seeing the road, I am so glad we didn't do it ourselves. I have been on some mountain roads, and this was the most hair raising by far! (gravel sections with shear drop offs)

As for time on the summit, I think we were up about a 1/2 hour, but we went up after 9:30. Maybe someone else would know more on this, or possibly you could call the tour company.

All in all, I would highly recommend the van tour. I think if a person has a great interest in trains, the cog is worth the price. If not, take the van. Have a great time!

Southern New...
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511 posts
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2. Re: Auto Road vs Cog Railway

Hi Dex... Have never taken the vans but have heard good things. I have been up top a few times and have done both The Cog vs driving and both have great merits. The Cog is a true original and something you should consider. You can stay at the top more than the 1/2 hours and take a later one back down. There are usually some open seats so taking a later one down shouldn't be an issue but don't suggest it late in the day. The Cog is on the opposite of the mountain from where the Auto Road is so the views are different. Driving on your own isn't so bad. Just need to remember to come down in low gear and keep off brakes as much as possible. Remember with driving on your own the time at top is as long as you want which is a BIG plus. On a nice day you would want the extra time. However you decide to go up just make sure that you do it. The experience is one of a kind in the eastern US. Remember to bring warm (as in winter warm) cloths with you as you will need them no matter how nice it is at the base.

Baltimore, Maryland
Destination Expert
for North Conway
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3. Re: Auto Road vs Cog Railway

It is true that if you get a van before 9:30 that you get an hour at the top. Call Glen Trails for info. I find taking the van at a later time to be too short. the 1/2 hour is barely time to take in the view and buy a souvenir. I haven't taken the railway and don't know if you have to take the same train back as you do up.

I would suggest self driving if you could.

Northern NJ
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82 posts
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4. Re: Auto Road vs Cog Railway

Thank you all - I love the great advice I get on here.

I know driving would be the best choice but having had something close to a panic attack driving up Pike's Peak and once while touring the Upper Corniche I refused to get out of the bus when we stopped at the edge of the road for photo's I have to admit my limits - it's not the height so much as the steep drop off that gets me (I ride the ski lift at Hunter Mountain in the summer but I have a death grip on the bar!).

I think the van ride would be a good compromise though. We're staying about 1/2 hour from the auto road and right now it's on the itinerary to visit first thing in the morning anyway. So knowing for sure that the early vans get an hour at the top and hearing that the driver talks and gives history etc. I'm pretty sure I can handle that and it seems like a good compromise; especially when the alternative is not going at all!

Thanks again!

Baltimore, Maryland
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for North Conway
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5. Re: Auto Road vs Cog Railway

My wife has that same fear of heights and has gone up twice (although she does sit in the middle of the 2nd row). It isn't as death defying as you might think. The ride follows the shoulder of the mountain as opposed to going up a sidewall so it is not extreme pitches. The key to Mt Wash is that the weather is incredibly changable. So instead of planning a specific day, be prepared to get up and go if you wake up and the weather is clear because it may not happen again.

Burton Upon Trent UK
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6. Re: Auto Road vs Cog Railway

Hi Dex, some good advice above, but I'll just add a couple of things. We drove ourselves up last fall, and boy was the weather perfect, this really must make a difference. Driving ourselves, as mentioned above gave us all the time in the world at the top, and as the weather was great we spent a good 2 hours up there, the views are just wonderful. One thing nobody did mention though was that if you drive yourself then you do get a CD to play during the drive which works well, and if you stick to the driving guidelines will give you a reasonable commentary relative to your position, both up and down. Personally we enjoyed it and did think the cog was a little pricey for what you get, but maybe the "I've done that" factor comes into play for some folks. Any way you decide to go will be fine, just make sure you go. JD:)

7. Re: Auto Road vs Cog Railway

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