Hiking the Manitou Incline is not for the faint of heart. Those looking to tackle the Incline should start stretching now. The average grade for the .9 distance averages 41% and climbs to 68% in some areas. You don’t have to dust off your 8th-Grade Protractor to visualize the steepness of the Manitou Incline. Trail photos from past hikers paint a straight, shade-less path carved into the side of a mountain. You will strain your neck trying to see the top from the base of the trailhead, and at times you will doubt there is an end as you struggle to catch a full breath.
Proper planning before a hike is critical before taking the first step on any trail. There may be 2,768 steps to the top of the Incline, but the most important steps you will take are the five steps listed below.
1. Make a Reservation
All hikers must make a FREE online reservation to hike the Manitou Incline. Reservations are open 4-8 weeks in advance. To keep the trail from overcrowding during peak times of the day, a limited amount of reservations are available for each hour.
The hike is challenging enough without having to navigate around crowds of people. I visited the Incline during the off-season (a Saturday morning in March). However, the cold weather didn’t keep people away. All athletic abilities were attempting to conquer the Incline. You can tell which hikers are local and who’s bitten off more than they could chew. As some ran up the entirety of the trail without stopping, the staggering of the reservations left plenty of space for hikers to move at their own pace and to stop to rest without being in the way.
To book your spot, online reservations can be found HERE.
2. Where to Park
Hourly parking is available at Hiawatha Gardens; hikers can walk 1.3 miles to the trailhead or utilize the Ruxton Avenue bus service. During peak season, the bus runs every 15-20 minutes. More than one bus route uses this location as a stop. Pay attention to the lighted sign on the front of the bus to say Incline Shuttle. The hike to the Incline Trailhead is a beautiful walk through downtown Manitou. The buildings lining the streets have a Western flair with modern-day paint and trendy coffee shops.
Speaking of coffee, stop at Loft Expresso for a coffee and a breakfast sandwich before hitting the trail. The bagels and pastries are freshly made in-house. I had the Farmhouse sandwich with eggs, cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, and chipotle mayo on a jalapeno bagel. It was the perfect breakfast for a long day of hiking.
There is limited parking at the Iron Springs Chateau for $10.00. The roads are very narrow, with limited places to turn around the closer you get to the trailhead. Signs label for the Pikes Peak Cog Railway parking and employee parking are only for those going on the train to Pikes Peak; hikers will be turned away.
3. What to Wear
What to wear will depend on the time of year you visit Manitou Springs. I suggest dressing in layers. There isn’t shade or protection from the wind; you will be tempted to wear heavier than necessary clothing before you start your climb. However, within the first hundred steps, I regretted wearing insulated pants. I quickly stripped off my puffy jacket and pullover before reaching the 600th step. Other hikers were seemingly unphased by the cold air, wearing shorts and T-shirts. If you are cold-natured like me, prepare to be cold in the short term but use this as motivation to climb the stairs until you feel warm.
If you want my go-to hiking clothing for cold weather, read my post – Essential Yellowstone Packing List for Fall. I provided direct links to my clothing, camping gear, and an inclusive packing checklist.
4. What to Pack
The Manitou Incline is a strenuous hike. One bottle of water isn’t going to cut it. I always hike with my Osprey Daylite Daypack with the added 1.5-liter bladder. It’s small enough to fit snacks, a jacket, and a tripod (which isn’t necessary for most people, but it is essential for me when I solo travel).
One hiking essential I regret not bringing was my hiking poles. Fun Fact: hiking poles must be transported in checked luggage if you are flying to your destination. They are a TSA-restricted item. When my arm is significantly twisted, I will check a bag. However, I take great pride in traveling with only a carry-on, meaning my hiking poles were left behind for this trip.
5. How Much Time Will You Need to Complete the Hike?
This will vary from person to person. It took me over an hour to make it up the 2,768 steps. One man completed the Manitou Incline twice in the time it took me to finish it once. However, he was running only up and down the incline. For us mere mortals, the Incline is a one-way trip. Once hikers reach the top, they are to start their descent using the Barr Trail.
Not including the bus ride to and from the trailhead, the hike took me 3 ½ hours to complete the 4-mile loop. When I returned to my car, I drank every drop of water in my pack and was only left with the wrappers from my Larabars. I felt like I had climbed Mt. Olympus and lived to tell about it. The Manitou Incline is easily in my top three favorite hikes. Not just because of the difficulty but because everyone on the trail was encouraging and hyping each other to keep going. At the top, we all took turns snapping photos and sharing a set on the boulders as we relished in our conquest.
The information in this article was accurate when published but can change without notice. Please confirm rates and details when planning your trip by following the links in this article. If you find out-of-date or inaccurate information, I’d love to hear about it to update the article. Use the comments section below. Thanks!
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3 thoughts on “5 Tips For A Successful Manitou Incline Hike”
This is a great post.Let me see if i have the key take aways of your content:
This is a very informative and helpful article for anyone planning to hike the Manitou Incline. The five steps listed are very important to consider before embarking on this challenging hike. The author’s personal experience and tips are also valuable.
Thank you again