Manitou Incline – Manitou Springs, Colorado

I had never heard of the Manitou Incline until I was browsing the Colorado Springs Visitors Bureau website. See, those things do have a purpose!

After this past weekend’s grand spectating experience where I watched a bunch of runners hurting after climbing up the side of a mountain I was feeling a wee bit guilty. Or out of shape. So I jumped all over the opportunity to do my own bit of hill climbing. And by bit I mean straight up the side of a mountain. Literally.

The Manitou Incline is a hiking trail over what used to be a narrow gauge cable railway that was built in 1907 to service the water pipes and tanks at the top of the mountain which supplied the cities below with agua. Then it ran as a tourist train until the tracks were damaged by a rockslide in 1990. Hikers took over at that point. After all it is much more comfortable to hike up a mountain than to take a train, right?

The incline literally goes up the side of a mountain. No switchbacks. No elevator. Just a bunch of sweat and gasping for breath. Starting at 6,500 feet above sea level, you gain just over 2,000 feet in elevation over a .88 mile period. Maximum incline is either 50% or 68% (I have seen both referenced), but either way it is damn steep in places. Like most of the way. So up I went. To the very top. Fortunately I was smart enough to take advantage of the overcast weather that afternoon as I can’t imagine doing that climb in full sun.

Having referenced my dislike for heights in past blog posts you might wonder what the hell I was thinking. Fortunately the fear has subsided a bit in recent years, otherwise this would have totally freaked me out. There wasn’t anything stopping you from tumbling down the mountain except wobbly legs and the foresight to place your feet in the right place, which made the trip down rather interesting. There is actually a 4 mile trail you can take from the top to the bottom. But my mother raised no fool and I know that .88 miles is considerably less than 4 miles, so I went straight back down the hill. Fortunately this was much easier than going up. Except the whole careful to not slip thing. It’s all in the details.

But I didn’t head down to the bottom immediately. Instead I poked around at the top for a bit. This had nothing to do with catching my breath. Really. I wanted to see the remains of the old buildings that are scattered about at the top. And maybe psych myself up for the hike down. Maybe.

There are locals that do this hike (is that what this is, or is it just an act of insanity?) on a regular basis. Good for them. I would definitely do it again, but it is not something I would tackle on a regular basis. My knees and I are on pretty good terms right now, and that might not be the case if I did this act of insanity frequently. However I am extremely happy that I did this once.

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