A step-by-step guide to conquering the 2,744 step hike
A free online reservation is required and must be shown to the onsite attendant before hiking. The reservations are to help spread out traffic on this very popular hike.
Park at the Iron Springs Chateau
For a closer start to the trail, you can park at Iron Springs Melodrama for just $15. No reservations required. 444 Ruxton Ave, Manitou Springs, CO 80829
The Manitou Incline has been hailed as the holy grail of cardio for locals and athletes, alike. The once railroad track now consists of approximately 2,744 steps made entirely of railroad ties! Although it’s only one mile in length, the ascension averages a 41% incline (68% at its highest) and a 2,000 foot climb in elevation! Phew! That’s a lot of stairs! That’s even more than the Empire State Building! Needless to say, this hike isn’t for the faint of heart or heights. The Manitou Incline is considered one of the highest sets of stairs in the world! This trail is rated Extreme. So, if you think you have what it takes to conquer it, here are a few tips to surviving the Manitou Incline.
Slow and steady is the name of the game. Start at a pace that feels almost silly, it’s so slow. You’ll see others sprinting ahead of you but don’t be discouraged! Remember the tortoise and the hare? Keeping a slow pace will keep you from burning out too fast.
Hydrate & Breathe
You’ll be sweating…a lot. It’s important to stay hydrated while on the Manitou Incline. You must have water with you. Pace your drinking and try to make it last the entire hike. You’re ascending a mountain, climbing 2,000 feet in elevation and exerting yourself on an expert level. Monitor your breathing the entire time. Not only will this keep your oxygen intake regulated, it’ll help keep a rhythm and distract you from the fact that your legs could give out at any moment.
Bail out points
This trail is no joke and the elevation affects everyone differently. Listen to your body and if the trail is too much, don’t be afraid to head back down. Two new return trails have just been added to the incline. At railroad tie number 395, you can connect to Ute Pass trail for a quick 1/3 of mile back to the trailhead. At railroad tie 1300, the approximate halfway point of the incline, you can again connect to the Ute Pass trail for a 1.5 mile hike back to the base. About 500 steps above that is the original bail out point that connects to Barr Trail.
Take a break...or two...or six
Don’t be afraid to stop and catch your breath every once in awhile! The majority of climbers stop a couple of times on their way up. When stopping, try not to sit all the way down. Lean if you have to. This way, you can make sure your heart rate doesn’t go back to resting. You want to be able to catch your breath without completely losing your momentum. While you’re resting, don’t forget to turn around and enjoy the view!
Beware the false summit
There will come a point when you near the top… well, what looks like the top. From the bottom of the trail, the highest point you can see is referred to as “the false summit”. Unfortunately, you still have about 300 steps to go after this point. The good news is you’re very very close to the end and once you’ve reached this summit, the most challenging and dangerous stretch is over!
Take the Barr Trail back down
You’ve finally done it! Take a moment to soak in all the awesomeness that is your grand accomplishment! You just tackled a mountain, after all! Take photos, enjoy the view, even sit for a minute.
Now it’s time to get down. Do NOT go back down the way you came. The path down is peppered with spikes, uneven steps and wobbly and loose blocks. Not only that, but it is much harder on your body, especially your knees, to go down at the angle.
Instead, take the Barr Trail down. This beautiful trail will feel like a piece of cake after what you just accomplished. Plus, after about half an hour down the trail, the downhill slope will be challenging enough on your legs.
Here are a number of questions we get asked all the time, but if you don’t see the answers you’re looking for, click on the chat bar in the bottom right corner of your screen. We’re here Monday through Friday to answer your questions and help you out!
- For the closest parking, we recommend the Iron Springs Chateau Melodrama for $15. Online Reservations available here. 444 Ruxton Ave, Manitou Springs, CO 80829
- For only $1.75-2.50/hour, park and take the shuttle at Hiawatha Gardens Parking Lot located at 10 Old Man’s Trail
Sturdy shoes and breathable athletic wear. Make sure to wear sunscreen and pack plenty of water!
It takes the average person 2 hours to hike up the Incline.
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