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Manitou Incline

Cascade, Colorado

based on 15 reviews



3.8 miles

Elevation Gain

1949 ft

Route Type



Added by Brian Lewis

Tackle one of the great fitness challenges in the Rocky Mountain Region, the famous Manitou Incline. 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.

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Manitou Incline Reviews

Not for the faint of heart, caution to those not living at altitude or are visiting for a few days, altitude spikes such as this climb can make you wheezy and wobbly. Worth the views and to say you did it it if you can make it! Can go back down the stairs (major soreness to come) or down Barr trail, I like to jog down nice east decline but watch the roots. Also try to go weekdays early or late if you can snag a reservation it’s way less crowded!

I conquered the Incline! A few things to mention about this hike; it requires a free permit, the most-likely parking is paid parking in downtown Manitou, there's a free shuttle from the parking area to the Cog Railway and from there you'll walk to the start of the Incline. I came back down the Barr trail but you can come down the Incline too. Or, the Barr trail meets the Incline about 2/3 of the way up so you can mix and match your return. Beautiful views from both. I would recommend at least 2L of water if it's a warm sunny day.

This can be a great workout if done on the off season, early morning or evening. I use this as a workout before alpine season, but during the summer it gets very hot and very crowded. Going down the Barr trail can be a savior on the knees but please yield to those going uphill - especially those with overnight packs.

I did this trail twice. It’s an very nice, hard en rewarding workout. Please don’t go back down the manitou incline. This is dangerous, annoying for the people coming up and very hard on you knees. Use the bare trail instead (much easier and also an nice trail)

A challenging hike especially since I opted to go back down the incline which was hard on the knees! Be prepared for a challenge and bring lots of water!

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!

Leave No Trace

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!


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