Manitou Incline challenges fitness junkies

Oct. 30, 2019
women running up the manitou incline on a summer day.
Manitou Incline in Manitou Springs, Colorado, not only is a tourist attraction but also a workout attraction for locals. Source: Getty Image.

Many have tried and failed, but if you’re physically fit and ready for a challenge that doesn’t take you miles away, consider tackling the Manitou Incline.

Located in Manitou Springs, the Incline is an advanced hike, geared for the hearty hiker. Its 2,744 steps straight up Mount Manitou and a gain of nearly 2,000 feet of elevation in less than one mile. The grade ranges from 45 to 68 degrees. We’re talking steep. Going up is hard – coming down isn’t much easier.

Depending on your fitness level, it may take from 30 minutes to an hour or more to reach the summit. Going downhill on the Incline is frowned upon – it impedes those who are coming up. Hikers are asked to hike down by way of the Barr Trail, which connects near the top of the Incline.

Joy Maples is a regular visitor to the Incline.

As a home-schooling mom, she only has a few hours a week to herself, so she decided she needed something challenging for her solo workout. She chose the Incline.

“You accomplish a lot of cardio, rear end and leg strength, in a relatively short time. And because we were new to town (when she started), I didn’t know people so it was a hike that I felt comfortable doing alone since … there is always someone on it. Generally, I do it once a week.”

She has found a friend to join her in the workouts.

“I met a neighbor about three or four years ago. She is 72 right now. She is my current weekly partner. She has been doing it since the 90s. She is something else. Every once in a while, her grandkids will come with us. And we like that they think we are cool,” Maples said.

Her efforts have inspired Maples to try other things, too.

“I run with the Moms Who Run This Town group. The Springs MRTT group is very active. And I hike some of the 14ers. I just did the Pikes Peak Ultra 50k and my years of incline have been very helpful for these other pursuits.”

Bring plenty of water, slather on sunscreen and observe common courtesy when passing other hikers. Leave your pooch at home – dogs are not allowed on the trail.

snow covered view of the manitou incline from the top.
Manitou Incline in Manitou Springs, Colorado. Source: Getty Image.

The Incline was originally built as a cable car track designed to carry materials to build pipelines on Pikes Peak. After the pipelines were finished, it was turned into a tourist attraction to bring tourists to the top of the foothills for a spectacular view of Colorado Springs and the eastern plains. It’s a tough climb, but less daunting than climbing Pikes Peak itself.

A rock slide damaged a section of track in 1990, so the Incline was closed. The rails were removed, but the railroad ties remained, creating a massive staircase. Locals started using it for a challenging workout. Until February 2013, some of the Incline was private property and it was technically illegal to hike it.  Due to some cooperative efforts, hiking the Incline is now legal.

Parking at the Incline can be difficult, because it’s so popular. But Manitou Springs does provide a free shuttle from some parking areas in town.

The Incline is free. The only toll is the one it takes on your body.

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About the author

Linda DuVal is a freelance writer based in Colorado Springs and a regular contributor to UCHealth Today. She has written travel articles for major U.S. newspapers and national, regional and local magazines. She spent 32 years as an award-winning writer, reporter and editor for The Gazette in Colorado Springs.