If you’ve learned anything about me from my posts, you might noticed I like to do things, just to try it, at least once, for the challenge. The Manitou Incline is no different. Except, I may do it again and again and again…
First, let me explain what this Manitou Incline is….
The Incline was originally a one mile cog railway tram that was build in 1907 to get workers up the “hill” to build a hydroelectric plant. The plant was never build and a guy named Dr. Brumbach turned the tram into a tourist attraction to bring visitors up to see the views and hike in Mt. Manitou Park.
The railway tourist attraction was rebought by a man name Spencer Penrose in 1923 seeking to increase traffic, he upgraded the cars.
It was very popular and constant upgrades were made over the years to both the top and the base to attract new and willing to pay customers.
The incline and it’s attractions finally closed in 1990 due to a rock slide. They decided to discontinue any repairs to focus on the development of the Cog Railway which takes people up to the top of Pikes Peak, a notable mountain above 14,000 feet. As a kid, I have taken the Cog Railway to the top with my Mom. It was really fun and has great views along the steep train ride and at the top.
Since the closure of the Manitou Incline, the short, steep and challenging route brings runners, hikers and joggers from around the state. It used to be private property and technically illegal to hike, but people did it anyway.
Actually, February of this year made it officially LEGAL to hike. I have no idea what the battle was to make it legal, but I’m guessing the owner of the land was reluctant to give up his property.
Now that you’ve had your history lesson…
The Manitou Incline now is a trail/challenge that attracts many people. Here in Colorado, it’s well known and talked about. When you complete it, others will congratulate you and ask what your time was.
Being nestled just next to Colorado Springs (and thus near the Olympic Training Center) it has offered many olympic athletes an intense addition to their training; taking them less than 30 minutes to reach the top. Even soldiers from the local military bases (Fort Carson the Army base and the Air Force base are both in Colorado Springs) will use the incline to build endurance and train throughout the year. I know for fact that a few guys in my boyfriend’s unit go up it at least once a week.
As nature’s stairclimber, the trail is a made out of the old railway wooden ties that once held up the tracks for the cog rail cars. In less than a mile, you will climb 2,000 feet!
At it’s steepest point, the trail is at a 50% incline. Standing at the bottom, it’s quite overwhelming, and for any future attempt-ers, beware, you are looking at a false summit. Beyond what you can see, there is still 200 feet left of the trail.
Once at the top, you can see spectacular views of city below and look down on the trail that you just accomplished. There is no way that you wont feel powerful standing at the top.
At this point, you can continue on a little bit along the extended route. This will take you a little bit higher (at less of an incline) and meet up with the Barr trail which will give you access to the base again or for those crazy enough, lead you to the trail up to the top of Pike’s Peak. This way (without climbing the 14er) is 4.5 miles.
The normal route has you just drop right off onto the Barr Trail. If you take this route your total travel is 3.7 miles. This is what most people do as well as ourselves. I climbed the manitou incline with the boyfriend. After reaching the top, we went off to the south to hop on the Barr Trail. It is quite steep at the beginning, going down, and I advise those who do this to be careful because I did indeed fall on the slippery, sandy trail.
I got up, brushed myself off (with only minor scrapes) and we continued on down. The path doesn’t stay so steep, and leads into a gradual decline…Perfect for trail running! Joe and I elected to amp it up and run the rest of the way back, enjoying the freedom of the decline and the fun of a trail run; one of my favorite things to do. We jumped over rocks, branches and the natural curves of the trail until we reached the parking lot.
There’s a third route as well: The Bailout. It’s only a half mile up the incline but still covers an elevation gain of 1000 feet. The Barr trail comes right up to the stairs as an easy escape for those not tough enough to make it to the top.
I do highly recommend coming down by way of the Barr Trail. I would not attempt to hike DOWN the incline. It is a very steep trail, as you can see, and it would be really dangerous to hike down it. Signs posted around advise the same thing.
It took us about an hour to get to the top and 30 minutes to run to the bottom (including the time it took to recover from my fall). It was a very challenging hike! But I highly recommend to the hiking enthusiast, the challenge seeker and the every day runner as an addition to their weekly workouts.
Below the Incline is the actual city of Manitou Springs. I love this place! On a separate day, Joe and I had spent the the day exploring the area. It’s a super cute town with lots of shops from the local homemade candy store (with freshly made fudge…that I ate…a lot of) to local artists selling their work. There’s plenty of delicious restaurants to choose from and even an haunted building or two!
One of my favorite parts of this town is the Penny Arcade. Featuring a ton of modern arcade games for the children, nestled in between the guitar heros and skee ball, you’ll find old, antique penny arcade games that still work. There’s the old, creepy fortune tellers (like in the movie Big) and old shooter games where you have to move the entire game up and down to aim. There’s also the old “peeping tom” that costs one penny and you “get” to a flip card series of scantily clad women. Weird, huh?
My favorite was the old games like, “What’s your future career” or “what’s your love sytle.” By the way, my career is Hot Air Artist. If anyone knows that that entails, please let me know so I can get started right away.
The city now recovers from recent floods and the penny arcade took lot of damage. We visited a little over a month ago (as tourists) and two weeks ago (hikers) and the city was flooded from rain storms last week. I just hope there’s not too much damage. This is a great place to spend a weekend or even just a day!
An ESPN article about the Olympic athletes using the incline from 2012
The Manitou Incline Website – includes the history of it, photos, and trail information.