MANITOU TRAIL BACK IN SERVICE AFTER REPAIRS
The Manitou Incline, the heartpounding mile of steps near Colorado Springs, will reopen Friday after three months of repairs.
Hikers can return to the challenging workout that has made Manitou Springs a destination for local, national and international visitors, but now they can climb a trail that has been updated to fend off erosion.
“We get calls in this office a few times a week,” Trails and Open Space Coalition executive director Susan Davies said. “We’ve been getting them ever since it closed. ‘Is it open yet?’ ”
Davies said visitors will sometimes drive to Colorado just for the Incline and its challenging railroad-tie steps, but locals also are passionate about it.
“You talk to people, they need to do it once, twice or three times a week or they just don’t feel good about themselves,” she said. “Those are the people that really go through withdrawals when it closes periodically for these repairs.”
This is the second of three repair phases, said Sarah Bryarly, who led the repairs for the city of Colorado Springs. The first phase was completed in 2014. The city is unsure when the final phase will be completed because funding has yet to be de-
termined, she said.
Bryarly’s team added retaining walls, cable ties and culverts to move water off the path. The city also reseeded along the side of the path to control erosion.
Rocky Mountain Field Institute executive director Jennifer Peterson, whose organization repaired the Barr Trail, which connects to the Incline, said many hikers likely will attend the opening at 8:30 a.m. Friday.
Peterson said the Incline is a different beast from other trails: “It is by far the most intense workout you’ll ever have, and I think that in of itself is just the challenge of pushing your body to limits you didn’t think possible is just a draw.”
The new hiking path started as a cable tram that was completed in 1907 to move water down from the north slope of Pikes Peak to Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs. Soon after, the tram was converted into a tourist attraction.
“All of the pictures they exaggerated so when you see the old-time pictures of the tram, they tilted it a little more so it looks like you’re going down this roller coaster,” Bryarly said.
The attraction was closed in 1990 after rock slides and washouts crushed the tracks. But pieces from the line were left behind.
Although the area was technically closed, Bryarly said a small group of hikers that called themselves the Incline Club began to hike the trail illegally. Slowly, the path grew in popularity. Athletes began to include it in their training regimen.
By 2010, the trail’s three owners — Colorado Springs Utilities, Pikes Peak Cog Railway and the U.S. Forest Service — met to discuss what to do with it.
“It got to the point where there were too many people doing it for it not to be either legalized or completely closed,” Bryarly said. “It took an act of Congress literally to legalize it.”
President Barack Obama signed a bill that helped clarify the legal status of the Incline, which eventually became legal in 2013.
Colorado Springs has taken over management of the trail, which will be open for winter hours from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. On April 1, the summer hours will extend until 8 p.m. Bryarly said the city will cite hikers on the trail before 6 a.m.
The popular Manitou Incline trail features about 2,000 steps and 2,000 feet of elevation gain over just 1 mile at the foot of Pikes Peak.