It’s a mere 0.88 miles from base to summit, but it’s one of the most grueling nine-tenths of a mile that you’ll ever traverse. It’s the Manitou Incline Hike at Manitou Springs, Colorado, and it’s built over the remains of a former narrow gauge funicular railway, with an altitude gain of more than 2,000 feet and an average grade of 45 percent. And it will totally destroy your legs—and desire to exert yourself physically for the rest of the day.
I’ve been itching to do it since I moved here, and I finally scratched off the bucket list item this weekend. It took me a little over an hour to get from bottom to top. There’s an old saying that goes, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” Similarly, the hardest journeys on earth start with the first step. And then another. And another.
The incline, about six miles west of downtown Colorado Springs, Colorado, seems daunting when you’re viewing it from afar, and just as daunting when you stare up from the trailhead. But if you keep your feet moving, your arms swinging and your head down, you’ll eventually make it to the top. Reaching the peak—8,590 feet above sea level—is such sweet victory.
Getting down from the top is easy along the winding three-mile Barr Trail. Of course, the promise of rewarding yourself with smoked brisket (Rudy’s “Country Store” and Bar-B-Q, natch) gives the descent more urgency. But I’m already looking forward to doing the Incline again someday. As soon as my quads stop aching.