Colorado Hiking – The Manitou Incline
The warm weather lately has me excited about hiking this year. Since Colorado is full of outdoorsy, adventure-seeking families, I thought I’d start highlighting some of our team’s favorite hikes throughout the state. With many of the mountains still covered in snow, I’m starting with hikes along the front range. This post features the Manitou Incline.
The Manitou Incline is a decommissioned narrow gauge funicular railway located in the charming town of Manitou Springs about 1 hour and 15 minutes south of Denver. The tracks washed out during a rock slide in 1990 and it has since become a popular hiking spot and fitness challenge. Since it’s a bit of a drive, it can be fun to make it a full day excursion. Walk the town of Manitou Springs, grab lunch or ice cream at a local restaurant, take a ride on the Cog Railway (purchase tickets in advance), and visit nearby Garden of the Gods or Cave of the Winds afterward (for more on Cave of the Winds, check out this post).
The hike itself is fairly difficult because it’s 2,768 uneven steps straight up. According to coloradosprings.gov, “This is a vigorous and intense hike, complete with a false summit! The trail is recommended for physically active people and those adjusted to the elevation. Although the trail is just one mile in length, it is a 2,000 ft elevation gain straight up a steep, uneven staircase!” While there are speed records reported on the Wikipedia page and the Official Manitou Incline Page on Facebook, there is no time limit, so you can take as many breaks as you need. Find a place to sit or stand off to the side, have a snack and some water, enjoy the views, and then continue when you’re ready. Once you summit, enjoy a leisurely hike back down the beautiful winding Barr Trail. If you decide you’d rather not continue to the summit, there’s a ”bailout” to the Barr Trail roughly 2/3 of the way up. Two new “bailouts” to the Ute Pass trail were added in 2020 as well. Still not sure you want to do it? Take a look at this virtual tour of the trail.
Who is it suitable for?
This hike may not be suitable everyone. Those who aren’t physically fit, have certain medical conditions, or aren’t acclimated to the altitude should check with their doctor. It also may not be suitable for young kids. If your child has a medical condition, check with their pediatrician first. You know your child best. If they enjoy the outdoors and a physical challenge, this could be a really fun family outing. If your child doesn’t like heights, getting their hands dirty (some steep sections may require use of their hands), or hiking in general, this may not be for them. Our son did the incline at age 6 but our daughter wasn’t ready until age 8. We met a family on the incline a couple weeks ago whose 4 old made it to the top with energy to spare. Let your kids’ personalities and interests determine if/when the incline is right for your family.
Some Additional Info:
- Make your free reservation online ahead of time
- Leave your 4-legged family members at home
- Bring plenty of water, snacks, sunscreen and proper footwear/attire
- Leave no trace – always take wrappers and garbage with you – including gum!
- Stay on the trail at all times
- Don’t feed the chipmunks
- Leave what you find – your souvenirs should be photos and memories
- Arrive early if you want to park at the base of the incline in the Iron Springs Chateau Parking Lot (444 Ruxton Ave) for $10
- Do not park in the Cog Railway/Barr Lots
- Do not park along Ruxton Ave or Winter St where residential parking permits are required
- Additional parking is available about 1.3 miles down the road in the Hiawatha Gardens lot (10 Old Mans Trail). The fees are based on the duration of your stay. The free town shuttle runs every 20 minutes from 6am-6pm and will bring you to the base of the incline by the Pikes Peak Cog Railway
If you decide to tackle the Manitou Incline, we’d love to see your photos and hear your thoughts in the comments. Have hikes you’d like us to highlight? Send a text to (720) 633-6282 or email email@example.com. Wishing you fun and safe hiking this year!