The Manitou Incline | Pike National Forest
Manitou Springs, CO | 01/09/21 | 4.46 miles | 2,087′ gain
After being on our bucket lists for years, Allie and I finally got around to climbing The Manitou Incline (aka The Incline). The Incline is a steep – and I do mean steep – hike that follows an old funicular railroad grade up the side of Pikes Peak. It ascends over 2,000′ in just under a mile on 2,744 steps. While this would normally sound like torture to me, I was super excited to experience such an iconic Colorado hike.
We booked our free reservations and parked at the Iron Springs Chateau ($10). The Incline workers checked that we had our reservations and our parking permit before we could begin. Just 2,744 steps to go!
My body isn’t built for stairs so I was slow, slow, slow. We took our time, chatting and trying to enjoy ourselves so it didn’t feel like a chore. We certainly weren’t setting any time records (except for maybe the slowest) but we had all day and it just didn’t matter.
One great thing about doing The Incline in January is that it was nice and cool outside. It can get insanely hot here in the summer and I was glad to avoid that! There was snow on the steps but it wasn’t too slippery, though we did have our microspikes just in case.
The visibility wasn’t great. Normally you can see nearly all the way to the top (and the bottom) but we were in a cloud and it was lightly snowing. Maybe it was a good thing we couldn’t see how far we had left to go.
There were markers every hundred or few hundred steps saying how many steps we’d climbed so far. At the beginning, we could easily climb a few hundred steps before needing a break, but towards the top we had to force ourselves to go 100 steps before stopping. Some of the steps were much taller than the others and I struggled on these a bit. My noodly legs didn’t want to cooperate.
Eventually we hit step #2,700 and we knew we were almost there. In a last burst of energy, we sped up the last steps, taking the 2,744th step together. This is the most steps I have ever (or will likely ever again) climb in a day.
Under normal conditions (pre-Covid) many would go right back down the steps but this was discouraged so we took the long route down the Barr Trail. (A few people were descending the steps anyways, but most followed the rules.)
The Barr Trail makes a slow, switchbacking descent back to the parking lot. It was beautiful but we were so tired that the 3.5 miles felt like it took forever. I spent this time reflecting on accomplishing a bucket list item, and used that excitement to propel myself down the trail.
I will likely never climb The Incline again, but I’m so glad that I was able to complete it. Bucket list item – check!