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Manitou Springs Incline Is Colorado's Holy Grail Of Cardio

Cascade, Colorado

based on 1 reviews


Added by Jennifer Broome

-2,000' vertical elevation gain in a mile-Straight up over 2,700 steps-Bragging right to say you did The Incline-Heart pumping workout-68% grade in one section-Incredible view of Garden of the Gods and Colorado Springs from 8,550'

Is the Manitou Incline as tough as they say it is? Take it from someone who just did her first Incline climb. The answer is YES! As you start, you’ll think this isn’t so bad. But the gentle incline of the lower portion quickly turns into a quad burning, legs quivering, heart pounding intense workout with a 2,000 foot vertical elevation gain in a mile. The straight up trail of over 2,700 stairs looks like an endless stairway to heaven that’s a hell of workout.

The Manitou Incline is a former cable car railway. The rails were removed in 1990. The wooden ties were left to prevent erosion. The trail closed for several months last year for some much needed repairs to make it safer and more sustainable.

You start at an elevation of 6,530 feet. Getting to the top in under an hour is ambitious since the average grade is 41 percent. The grade is 68 percent in a super-steep section. The fastest times on record are in the 17-19 minutes range (unofficial record is under 17 minutes). Doesn’t matter how long it takes you. If you make it to the top of this vertically vicious climb, you get well-deserved bragging rights.

As you take breathers along the trail, enjoy the views. You get great views of Colorado Springs, Manitou Springs and Garden of the Gods. Chat it up with others either in cardio misery or cardio heaven with you. Don’t be surprised if you make a friend or two along the way. After all, if you are talking, you are breathing.

About 0.6 miles up, you reach a spot called Bailout point. If you don’t feel like you can make it to the top, you can jump on the Barr Trail and take it back down. If you continue up, you hit the steepest and most technical part of the Incline.

At about this point, you might find yourself counting the steps. May 100 at a time, then 50, then as you slow in the toughest part of the climb, you may be counting only 25, 20, or 10 steps at a time. In the glaring sun, your mind might start playing tricks on you. Don’t be surprised if you get a little wobbly or have a sense of vertigo as you climb higher.

Beware of the false summit. You see it from the bottom and then think you’re almost there at the Bailout point. Once you hit that false summit, there are still about 300 steps to go.

But the views from the top are definitely worth the effort it takes to get there. The top of the Incline is 8,550 feet high with incredible views.

Because of the Incline’s steepness (and crowds of people hiking up), it is best to come down on the Barr Trail. It’s longer, but easier on your knees. There is a spot on the Barr Trail where you can go left or right. Left will take you back on the Incline and right takes you down the switchbacks, twists, and turns of the Barr Trail. On the bottom four miles of the Barr Trail, you get the shade of the aspen, pine and spruce forest. If you take the Incline up and the Barr Trail all the way down then you log about a 5 mile hike.


Pace yourself. Start out slower, even at a pace that seems ridiculously slow to you. You don’t want to burn out too fast.

Take plenty of water. You will sweat on the Incline and in Colorado’s dry climate you can dehydrate quickly.

Wear sunscreen and sunglasses. There is no shade on the Incline.

Take a light jacket or long sleeve t-shirt. It gets windy at the top. After sweating your way to the top, avoid getting chilled while you soak in the view and savor the moment of your big accomplishment.

There is paid parking close to the trailhead near the Cog Railway parking lot off of Ruxton Avenue in Manitou Springs.

Incline is very popular and will be crowded on weekends. Either go very early or beat the crowds and hike the Incline on a weekday.

Dogs are allowed on the the trails that connect to the Incline, but dogs are NOT allowed on the 1-mile Incline Trail.

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Manitou Springs Incline Is Colorado's Holy Grail Of Cardio Reviews

Incline up and Barr trail down makes for a great loop while training for vert. If you're in average gym fitness it should take under an hour, I'm a trail runner and hike up in just over 30 minutes. The current record is under 18 minutes!

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