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The Manitou Incline – Extreme Hike of the Year

[Colorado Springs, CO, July 7, 2018]

As I mentioned in my previous post, there are several mountain towns nestled in the foothills of the Pike’s Peak mountain. Manitou Springs is one of them, and it is home to a hike that ranks amongst the most difficult I’ve ever done – The Incline.

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This unique hike is actually a whole bunch of stairs – 2768 of them, to be exact. The incline was originally built so that a cable car can deliver materials for pipelines at Pike’s Peak. Once the pipelines were completed, the cable car became a way for tourists to reach the top of the hill and enjoy the views. A rock slide damaged to tracks in the early 1990s, and they were never repaired. The stairs are the only thing that remains of the tracks.

The distance is just under am mile, but you will be gaining 2000 ft of elevation in the process. This translates to an average grade of 45%, but some places are as steep as 68%. If that doesn’t sound scary enough, consider that you will be starting at an altitude of 6,000 ft (1828 m). At this altitude, most experience its side effects, which include shortness of breadth, elevated heart rate and dizziness. In addition, the forecast said it was a hot day ahead, so we set off really early to get to the trailhead by 6:30 am.  You can tell one of us was not too happy about this early start.

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At the trailhead, we found many warning signs meant to ward off those who came not knowing what they were getting into it. The sign below as especially poignant because we were all pretty much peer pressured by May to do this hike.

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The start seemed easy enough, what with the cooler temperatures and fresh legs and excitement.

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The first thousand stairs felt ok, as evidenced by me having the energy to take a selfie and a photo of the number of stairs reached. There was a “bailout” at this point – a side trail that allowed you to descend on the side of the stairs. It’s a good thing we didn’t know it existed. I thought it was just a little pull-out for photos and for people to rest.

And here is a shoefie from half-way up, at 1400 steps.

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The higher you go, the steeper it gets! Some sections were so steep you’d do better not to look back, and there were plenty of people on the trail climbing up on all fours.

Finally, about an hour and half after we started, I reached the top.

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We hiked down using the side trail rather than going back down the stairs, which is actually not recommended. That part of the hike was so nice!

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When we reached the bailout at 1000 stairs up, I finally recognized it for what it was! There were still many people coming up, and I didn’t envy them – the temperature and sun by then were pretty unforgiving!

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We were starving by the time we were done. We went to the Garden of the Gods cafe, which was nearby. We wanted to go to it the day before, but it was too out of the way. I was excited to try it! The food was great – I really enjoyed my mountain man hash!

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In the evening, we all gathered to celebrate May and Phil’s first wedding anniversary. We clean up well, what do you think?

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