The Incline is Closed. Now What?

September 1, 2017

Manitou Incline Alternatives:
Hike the Rest of the Pikes Peak Region

We know it’s a huge bummer that the Incline is closed for repairs. And, while we can’t offer you an experience that’s got the exact same stairway-to-forever burn, there is — quite literally — an entire mountain range and forest beyond that narrow climb. Based on our own hiking adventures and the recommendations of others, we’ve pulled together a few trails that will give you some solace as you await the reopening of the Manitou Incline. Let’s check out a few of these Incline alternatives, what do you say?

Devil’s Head Lookout
(2.8 Miles)

Now, fair warning, this hike isn’t quite as close to home as the Manitou Springs Incline. It’s located over an hour northwest of Colorado Springs via multiple routes we’ll list below. However, it’s definitely one that shouldn’t be missed and it can do a lot to soothe your longing.

This out-and-back, 2.8-mile hike gains almost 1,000 feet in elevation with scenery that goes from grassy hills to thick pine. But the best part of this trail might just be the fire lookout. Built into the rocks with rugged walkways and rails, the lookout is a 143-step climb to unbeatable views of the entire countryside that stretch all the way to the distant mountains. DO NOT forget your camera! You will be super bummed if you can’t capture the panoramic splendor of the Rockies in all their glory. So, trails, stairs, views … Not too shabby of a substitute, right?
Now, how to get there … There’s not an address for this trailhead, so you’ll have to rely on your GPS or pre-plan the route using trail maps. The GPS coordinates to punch into the Google machine are: 39.2699770, -105.1048870. These will take you to the trailhead, with multiple main routes:

  • Take I-25 and jump off between Larkspur and Castle Rock at Tomah Road
  • Take 105 north through Palmer Lake
  • Go up through Woodland Park and take Rampart Range Rd. (Rampart Range Rd. is unpaved for the entire drive. Don’t take this route unless your car can handle washboard and other dirt road challenges that may occur).

Red Mountain Trail in Manitou Springs
(2.7 Miles)

Maybe you’re not all that stoked to drive out of town for a hike. That’s ok! Did you know that there are other trails right next to Manitou Springs? The Incline gets a lot of love for its challenging stairs, but there are other adventures to be had right in the hills overlooking the city. Red Mountain Trail is a particular favorite for its very steep climb in the final phase of the hike.

There are several ways to connect to the Red Mountain Trail, but we’ve picked the most direct so we don’t get you lost. As is always the case in Manitou Springs, parking is important. If you park on the downtown streets, it’s an hourly rate and missing your meter is a big ticket. Stay out of residential areas as well, those limited spots are for people who live in the neighborhood and you’ll be fined for taking them. Here’s the best way to go:

  • Park in the free lot and take the Incline Shuttle to the drop-off area by the Barr Trail/Incline trailheads.
  • Walk down Ruxton Ave. a bit and pick up the Intemann Trail (you can catch it on Spring St.).
  • Follow the Intemann Trail until you hit Red Mountain Trail, then journey upward.

On Red Mountain, you’ll get about a 2.7-mile hike with an elevation gain of 1000+ feet. It once had its own “incline”, and you can see bits of that on your journey.

Barr Trail to Barr Camp
(6.5 Miles)

If you’re a fan of the Incline, you’ve probably enjoyed this bad boy as a downhill reward for climbing all those stairs. But Barr Trail is so much more than a hop-off point for getting home. With the Incline closed, it might be time to give this challenging hike a try—uphill. It is, after all, the gateway to conquering one of Colorado’s favorite 14ers, Pikes Peak. For now, let’s just look at the route to Barr Camp.

Getting to Barr Trail is easy—park in the free lot in Manitou Springs and take the Incline shuttle to the trailhead. Hiking Barr Trail, however, is not so easy, especially if you’re not a regular hiker. What makes this trail hard is a variety of factors including terrain, altitude, and distance.

For inexperienced hikers, we recommend conquering it in sections and building your stamina until you can do the full 6.5 miles it takes to reach Barr Camp—and still come back down again. Just that section alone will take you up an additional 3,800 feet in elevation (and halfway up Pikes Peak) on steep climbs and switchbacks. The first 3 miles of the trail are the steepest, which is why you won’t want to just hop on and go all the way unless you do this a lot. You can find out more about this trail here.

Final Thoughts on Incline Alternatives

When hiking these trails, you won’t have nearly the company you’ve had on the Incline—which sounds great until you get hurt, become dehydrated, etc. There aren’t 200 other people to call for help in the event of an emergency. So, make sure you tell someone where you are headed, your route and your estimated time back. Bring your phone even if you have no service and leave it turned on. It has the potential to help you be found by emergency services. Bring plenty of water, not just a tiny bottle. We’re talking Camelbacks, extra bottles, or a filtrations system (Barr Trail). Use sun protection including sunscreen and a hat. Bring high-energy snacks. Bear spray is also a tool that you never think you’ll need—until you need it. Finally, pack layers because the higher up you go, the colder it gets. You can go from wilting from heatstroke to freezing pretty quickly.

Be sure to be kind to the environment. Pack out your trash, be respectful on trails that pass by residents (Manitou), don’t cut new trails or mess with the flora and fauna.

Spend the next few months exploring the rest of what the Pikes Peak region has to offer. By the time the Incline is repaired, you’ll have a whole new list of accomplishments under your belt and still be fit enough to traverse those famous railroad ties to the top.

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