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This week in Happy Trails, finally, the Manitou Incline
For more than 17 years, we’ve been bringing you Happy Trails.
And yet what has become the region’s most popular trail, the Manitou Incline, never has appeared in our weekly trail guide. For good reason. It was illegal to hike the former railroad line, but that didn’t stop hundreds of thousands from trespassing each year.
All that changed Feb. 1, when the Incline officially opened to the public, under a management plan between Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs. So the glaring omission ends today, and we present the Manitou Incline — the incredibly steep and brutal climb that will have your quads burning and your lungs gasping for air.
Hike if you dare.
Photo gallery from opening day on the Incline.
To get there
In Manitou Springs, take Ruxton Avenue and begin to look for a parking space. You also can pay to park in the Barr Trail lot, which can be reached via a steep driveway just past the Cog Railway, or in the Iron Springs Chateau lot. If it’s a weekend, you might have to park farther down Ruxton and walk. Don’t get frustrated. Just think of it as a warm-up for the rigors ahead.
Walk up Ruxton and turn right at the driveway across from the Iron Springs Chateau into the Cog’s parking lot. Go around to the back of a white building that is the old train station, pass through a fence and begin the ascent. You can see what looks like the summit above. You’ll find out later you’re wrong.
It starts gently enough, but don’t get too excited if you are making great time. The grade steepens, and first-timers or those struggling might want to take the bail-out after 0.6 miles, which joins Barr Trail a short distance away.
Now begins the steepest part of the climb, and you might find yourself on all fours. Don’t focus on what looks like the top, as you’ll be disappointed to discover it’s only a false summit. Huff and puff the final few hundred feet to the top.
Enjoy the view, catch your breath and turn left to link up with Barr Trail and return to Manitou Springs.
Don’t park in the Cog parking lot. Enjoy the free on-street parking now, because pay-to-park kiosks are on the way on Ruxton. No dogs allowed. No hiking between dusk and dawn. Hiking down the Incline is not allowed.
The route is sun-exposed and usually dry, though icy patches can linger in winter. Visit the Incline Friends page for current conditions at Facebook.com/Mani touSpringsIncline. There is no fee to hike, but why not support the Friends by dropping a couple of bucks in the donation box at the bottom?
A scale of one to four boots. One is more gentle, with little elevation gain at a reasonable altitude. Four is most difficult, with severe elevation gain, difficult terrain or extreme distance or altitude.