The Manitou Incline

To the west of Colorado Springs, Colorado is a small town that was once a mining town. Manitou Springs, Colorado is filled with charm and a main street lined with cool little shops. Over the last couple of years, this cool little town has been destroyed three times. Twice by wild fires and, most recently, by a devastating flood that nearly wiped out the whole town. The community came together and has done a good job of rebuilding, however, it’s not the same as it used to be and probably never will be. Luckily, Manitou Springs is home to one of the best kept fitness secrets in Colorado. The Manitou Incline is one of the best and most scenic workouts I’ve ever tried to conquer.

The Incline was constructed in 1907 as a railway to provide access to water tanks at the top of the mountain. These tanks provided gravity fed water pressure to the citizens of Manitou Springs. Over the years, the railway became less needed as the community replaced its water system. In later years, the incline was a tourist attraction as passengers were able to ride the railway to the top of the mountain. In 1990, a rock slide destroyed the railway and the railway was not rebuilt. It then became a popular hiking and fitness destination, although it was illegal to hike the incline until 2011 when it became legal after a dispute over parking rights was finally resolved.

The base of the Incline sits at 6,000 feet above sea level and climbs 2,000 feet in just over ¾ of a mile and parts of the incline feature a 68% grade, which is really steep! The most frustrating aspect of the Incline is the false summit. Just when you think you reach the summit, you take a look up and realize you’re only halfway up…more on that later.

It’s not easy to find days in April in Colorado to partake in non-snow events, but I carefully checked the forecast and found that April 11th was going to be a perfect day. I had to take the day off work (bummer right?) but it was well worth it. I loaded my wife and son into the car and made the hour and a half drive to the Incline. I also packed plenty of Propel and hydrated the entire drive as I knew that I was going to need to be ready for an intense cardio workout.  My wife and son dropped me off and they headed to main street to enjoy the day while I was about to punish myself and conquer the Incline. I lucked out and my sister-in-law joined me so I didn’t have to suffer this alone.

The Manitou Incline

As we sat at the base/trailhead and got our gear together, I took a look up the Incline and didn’t think that hiking this beast was going to be such a big deal. From the trailhead, it looked “easy”. Honestly, that was probably the dumbest thought I’ve had…ever! The beast had different plans. Let me rephrase that before I scare anyone out of doing this; it isn’t hard, but it is a challenge from start to finish. I love challenges.

The beginning of the ascent is fairly flat and tricks you into thinking this is going to be a walk in the park. Before I knew it, I was looking straight up and my heart was pounding at 174bmp. I literally thought my heart was going to beat out of my chest.  As you’ll see in the video below, we stopped several times to catch our breath, enjoy the view and take an opportunity to drink Propel to stay hydrated. Drinking Propel to stay hydrated is a very important part of conquering the Incline. It’s at high elevation which means oxygen deprivation and the sun was hammering down. There were two climbers sitting down, wiped out as they were out of water. Knowing this was going to be important, I packed extra Propel and was able to share with them so they could continue on.

As we climbed on, the Incline became more and more steep. Legs burning, lungs going nuts, heart pumping…it was awesome! After 40 mintues, we could see the summit. I was so excited that we were going to finish in about 45 minutes. As I was about the reach the summit, I quickly realized that this wasn’t a summit at all. I’ve been duped by the Incline. The false summit I mentioned quickly took the excitement away and forced me to refocus on conquering this beast. We took another opportunity to catch our breath, drink some Propel and prepare to climb the steepest section of the Incline on the way to the real summit.

After another 25 minutes of heart pounding cardio, we finally reached the top! We checked our watches and saw that it took us 1 hour 11 minutes and 44 seconds to reach the summit. The view from the top is awesome. You can see the whole town of Manitou Springs and the sight is worth taking it all in. You can also see the remnants and scars from the wildfires that destroyed much of the surrounding forest. While enjoying the view, we ate sandwiches that we packed and congratulated others that summited after us. The conversation eventually lead to the conversation of how we were going to get back down.

Conquering the Incline

We decided not to climb back down the Incline, but to take the 3.4 mile Barr Trail back down. This trail is a long, traversing trail that is easier on the knees than going down the Incline. We were feeling really good and surprisingly energized so we discussed running/jogging down the trail instead of walking. If I was going to make this day an awesome workout, I was going to go big! We found the trail and began our run. There was a lot of people on the trail, some going down some coming up. Everyone was super cool and stepped aside to let us jog past. About halfway down, I got a pebble in my shoe which is miserable when running. This was also an opportunity to switch who was wearing the camera. Towards the end of the video, you will see me running down the trail until we reach the parking lot. It took us 32 minutes and 40 seconds to run the 3.4 mile trail which dumped us into the parking lot that we started at. I downed an entire bottle of Propel while we waited for my wife and son to pick us up. Propel is a perfect post workout recovery drink as its enhanced with essential vitamins that you lose while sweating, which I did a lot of during the day.

I had an amazing day conquering this amazing challenge. If you are Colorado, I highly recommend accepting the challenge of the Manitou Incline. If you go, please contact me and I will happily join you! I can’t wait to do the Incline again. It’s a great workout that is fun for everyone.  I had fun creating and editing the video below. Please take a minute to watch it and enjoy the awesome views that the Incline presents.

Have you ever attempted the incline? If so, did you love it? If not, is this something you would do?

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