Run the Famous Manitou Incline

The Incline

Tackle one of the great fitness challenges in the Rocky Mountain Region. Climbing this old cog railroad bed, gaining over 2,000 feet in less than a mile, will lead you to an 8,950 foot summit. You can use the Incline app to go for a speed record against local Olympic athletes, military members and fitness freaks.

If you're ready for a fitness challenge like no other, look no further than the Manitou Incline. The trail climbs the remnants of an old cog railway bed, gaining 2000 feet of elevation in less than a mile. Busy all year round, the popular trail is used by everyone from Army Rangers and Olympic hopefuls to local families and vacationing flatlanders looking for a Rocky Mountain workout.

From the parking lot, the trail climbs gradually on wooden railroad ties. It's virtually impossible to get lost...up is the only way to go! After about a third of a mile the grade steepens significantly until the gnarliest sections, which are between the halfway point and around the two-thirds mark. This section is very steep, with grades of almost 70% and some areas where users might feel more comfortable on all fours.

Around two-thirds of the way up there is a convenient "bailout" point where the Incline intersects with the Barr Trail and those not up to the task of summitting can easily shorten their ascent and return to the parking lot on a much more gradual trail.

Beware the dreaded false summit up ahead and know there are still a few hundred feet of climbing beyond it. But, those who persevere will top out at just under 9,000 feet, greeted with a birds-eye view of Manitou Springs and sweeping vistas of Colorado Springs and the plains to the east.

Rather than stumbling down the Incline, continue on to the newly-built Barr Trail connector for a longer, but easier-on-the-knees descent on the famous Barr Trail back to the trailhead. Just keep an ear out for for the "on your left" of trail runners who use this popular route as a hill workout. Returning via Barr makes a nice four-mile loop back to the car.

Parking Tips

Parking can be a challenge (read: impossible on weekends) in the tiny lot near the trailhead or along narrow Ruxton Avenue. Pay close attention to parking lot signs and meters - you will get a ticket (or worse) if you ignore them. Many locals park in downtown Manitou and extend their workout by jogging up Ruxton to the trailhead. Or better yet, use the free shuttle that runs from downtown to the trailhead every 20 minutes from 10:00am to 8:00pm during the summer months.

Pack List

  • Running or fitness clothing and footwear
  • Snack
  • Water
  • Camera to prove that you made it to the top
  • Microspikes or Yaktrax are very helpful in winter conditions
  • Money for parking fee ($5 in lot or use nearby meters)
Show More
RT Distance 3.7 Miles
Elevation Gain 2000 Feet
Activities Running, Fitness
Skill Level Intermediate
Season Year Round
Trail Type Loop
Features
Bathrooms
Family Friendly
Food Nearby
Forest
Groups
Scenic

Reviews

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Overall rating: 

Incredible

The Manitou Incline is an intense challenge, but upon finishing I felt looked worse than it is. That doesn't mean it is easy. Wouldn't recommend it for people just looking to get into shape. However, it's a good feeling of accomplishment the first time completing the massive staircase. The connector trail back down is gorgeous with views of Pike's Peak and other beautiful terrain. Great place to spend an afternoon. Don't forget to stop in Manitou Springs for a beer and a meal afterward!

Pure Will Power

This was by far the hardest incline I've ever seen. We came from Dallas, TX and tackled it the day after we arrived without acclimating. The climb took me 2 hours with a 50lb pack, but boy it was worth it. Great warm up for the rest of the climbs on the trip. The trails down are absolutely stunning and worth the climb all the way up. I do want to return soon.

Bucket List - Check

Finally completed this bucket list item. Even as a in shape adventurer I struggled breathing while making my way to the top. The altitude did impact my pace and I'd caution all who are visiting from lower altitude states to be aware of how your body is feeling. Others then that it was amazing! Worth every breathe.


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