Posted by: vikingsinspace | December 19, 2011

I. Climb the Manitou Incline

Date Accomplished: Summer 2004

The Incline in 1969 - this would be the same car used in the '80s

The Manitou Incline is one of the more notorious hiking destinations in Colorado, primarily because it is illegal to climb it.  The Incline was once a railway which took tourists to the top of Mount Manitou in Manitou Springs.  I had taken this rail car to the top of the mountain many times when I was young – practically whenever family came into town to visit.  I remember it being a very slow and jerky ride (the car was essentially being pulled up the mountain on a cable – like a ski-lift but with the car on tracks on the ground).  The Incline eventually shut down after about 70 years in operation – at first because it was no longer making a profit, but a rock slide which destroyed a large portion of the tracks finally did it in.

What remains is a long scar up Mount Manitou where the rail-ties of the incline are still situated.  The property is still privately owned by the Cog Railway (which operated the train that takes tourists up to the top of Pikes Peak and is situated just across the street from where the old Incline used to be); hence why it is illegal to climb up the rail-ties to the summit of Mount Manitou.  Despite this, it has become a popular hiking destination because it is quite the work-out: a 2000 foot increase in elevation of the course of 3/4 of a mile, with a starting elevation around 6500 feet.  And trust me, you feel it when you get to the top.

A portion of the Incline - before the false Horizen

My first time climbing up the Incline was to try to train for a planned ascent up Pikes Peak.  A friend and I decided we wanted to hike up Pikes Peak (this would have been the second time for me, first for him), and decided the Incline would be a good “baby step.”  And only a native Coloradan would see the Incline as a baby step.  Some of those rail-ties actually require a real climb with your arms to get up, and not just a simple stair step, and attempting this climb in the middle of the day in summer is just begging for dehydration and heat stroke.  We discovered after a couple of climbs that it is actually best not to stop for breaks, but to keep pushing on through until we got to the top.  One of the devious aspects about it though is there is a false horizon about 3/4 of the way up – it looks like the top of the mountain is in sight, but then there is a lot more still left to climb.

The first time we reached the summit was probably one of the most incredible feelings in my life – even more so than when I reached the top of Pikes Peak for the first time.  My legs felt like a vat of Jello.  I could barely stand, yet the site of Manitou Springs and Colorado Springs below me, still covered in clouds from the early morning mist, kept me on my feet and enslaved my attention.  After just soaking in the view and my surroundings for a good half hour (its amazing how much of the top of the mountain looked familiar to me, even though I hand’t been there since the Incline shut down), we decided to make the hike down to get to our car (didn’t want to over-stay our parking limit).  There are some people who actually take the Incline back down as well as up – they’re crazy.  Best I can tell is this is done by simply running down the Incline, which I imagine is just asking for an injury.  We took the trail down, which was a little difficult to find at first, but it eventually hooks up with Barr Trail which services Pikes Peak.  Trying to do this on Jello legs is an experience I’m not sure I can describe.

I have not hiked the Incline since I moved to England (about five years ago from when I am writing this), and after writing this entry, I really feel the need to get back on it.  Maybe someday, but I need to get into better shape before I do that.  If nothing else, the Jello legs is  worth the price of admission in and of itself (really – it sounds weird, but it is actually one of the most satisfying feelings I have experienced).

The Photos here have been taken from and



  1. […] I. __ Climb Manitou Incline […]

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