April 12, 2024 | Allison Robertson

The Manitou Incline, Colorado


Manitou Incline, Colorado

The Manitou Incline—known as one of the most dangerous hikes in America—climbs over 2,000 vertical feet in less than a mile and has sections as steep as 68% grade.

With over 2,000 steps, this hike is not for the faint at heart. Although a handful of people have created world records here, even more people have lost their lives attempting the climb.

manitou incline split image

Location

The Manitou Incline is a popular hiking trail rising above Manitou Springs, Colorado, near Colorado Springs. The Incline ascends on the east slope of Rocky Mountain which is itself on the eastern flank of Pikes Peak.

the manitou incline, coloradoMichael Vi, Shutterstock

Quick History

The trail is the remains of a former 3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge funicular railway whose tracks washed out during a rock slide in 1990.

Manitou incline in Manitou Springs, ColoradoWesam Taleb, Shutterstock

Annual Visitors

The Manitou Incline is extremely popular, seeing an estimated 70,000 annual visitors ranging from 7-70 years old.

the manitou inclineArina P Habich, Shutterstock

About the Incline

The Manitou Incline is referred to by locals as “the incline”, and it is a strenuous hike tailors to experienced hikers only.

the manitou incline, coloradojr.valdezg, Shutterstock

Difficulty Level

There are a total of 2,744 stairs that climb 2,000 vertical feet to the summit. It is physically strenuous (extremely) and visitors are strongly urged to reconsider if they don’t feel up to the challenge.

the manitou incline, coloradoArina P Habich, Shutterstock

No Downhill Climbing

The incline is so extreme that downhill use is strongly discouraged. There is a separate trail used for going back down, called Barr Trail.

Barr Trail. Colorado Springsmark byzewski, Flickr

Use Caution

Weather conditions make the Incline even more dangerous—particularly during thunderstorms.

Colorado ties for 4th place in the number of lightning-related fatalities, so it is strongly encouraged to start early and get off the mountain as soon as storms start looming.

the manitou incline, coloradoGary Reinwald, Shutterstock

The Bailout

The Bailout is a false summit about two-thirds of the way to the top, and it is the closest some come to tackling the Incline.

This is where the Incline meets up with Barr Trail.

the manitou incline, coloradomelissamn, Shutterstock

Barr Trail

Barr Trail was starts at this spot specifically for hikers who need to “bail” on the hike due to exhaustion. It is the safest way back down the mountain. However, the Barr Trail still has 1300-1800 steps.

Barr Trail infobrian gautreau, Flickr

Average Time to Complete

According to Manitou Springs’ website, “seasoned Incliners and Olympic athletes may summit in under 30 minutes, but most hikers complete the Incline in 1 hour or longer.”

the manitou incline, coloradoJeremy Hudson, Shutterstock

Length of Trail

The Manitou Incline is about .9 mile (1.4km) – plus nearly 3 miles (4.8km) down Barr Trail to get back to the bottom.

the manitou incline, coloradoMichael Vi, Shutterstock

Elevation & Grade

Elevation Gain: 2,020 feet (615m)
Base Elevation: 6,530 ft (2,012m)
Summit Elevation: 8,550 ft (2,606m)

Steepest Grade: 68%
Average Grade: 41%

the manitou incline, coloradoArina P Habich, Shutterstock

Record Breakers: Fastest Person to Complete

On September 12, 2023, Swiss mountain runner Remi Bonnet, set a verifiable satellite-tracked record of 17 minutes and 16 seconds, breaking his own record of 17 minutes and 25 seconds a year earlier.

Rémi Bonnet at Sierre-Zinal 2022Johann Conus, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Record Breakers: Fastest Woman to Complete

On July 29, 2010, Allie McLaughlin recorded the fastest known time on the Incline for a woman, with a time of 20 minutes and 7 seconds.

Allie McLaughlinGianina Lindsey, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

Record Breakers: Consecutive Trips on the Incline

In 2012, local resident Ed Baxter, 58, became the first person to complete the "Inclinathon", 13 consecutive trips up and down the Incline in one day. He completed it in just over 13 hours.

the manitou incline, coloradoYobab, Shutterstock

Record Breakers: Inclinathon

That same year, Brandon Stapanowich broke the speed record for an Inclinathon at 11 hours 46 minutes.

And in 2014, Brandon completed the first ever Ultra-Inclinathon, completing 22 laps of the Incline in 24 hours, the most ever completed in a day.

the manitou incline, coloradoSMDC, Flickr

Record Breakers: Multiple Times in One Year

In 2011, Greg Cummings (a local resident with Type-I Diabetes) became the first person to hike the Incline more than 500 times in one year.

He went on to break the record a few more times in the coming years, adding his name to the World Record books many times.

the manitou incline, coloradoreivax, Flickr

Record Breakers: Woman Record Holders

In 2022, Rachel Jones of Colorado became the first woman to climb the Incline 1,000 times in a year.

And on February 5, 2023 Chasidey Geissler broke the female world record with 1,004 laps in 311 days. She finished her 365-day year on March 31, 2023 with 1,222.

the manitou incline, coloradomelissamn, Shutterstock

Record Breakers: First Quadriplegic

In 2022, Patrick Rummerfield climbed the Manitou Incline unassisted. He is the first fully functioning quadriplegic man to summit, with a time of 6 hours, 1 minute and 23 seconds.

the manitou incline, coloradobrian gautreau, Flickr

Record Breakers: Oldest Known Climber

In September 2023, Jim Strub of Colorado Springs became the oldest known person to have climbed the Incline at 94 years old, alongside his son Jordon and friend John.

the manitou incline, coloradoBen Schmitt, Flickr

Dangers

Although the Manitou Incline holds many names of brave souls who have conquered the summit in record times, the steep staircase holds various dangers that have cost numerous people their lives. There is a need for constant rescue efforts, many of which end in tragedy.

the manitou incline, coloradoBen Schmitt, Flickr

Emergencies

Every week, and sometimes even daily, firefighters have to trek up the thousands of stairs to rescue ill-prepared hikers. 

It can take 3-4 hours for first responders to reach you in the event of a medical emergency, which is why it cannot be stressed enough that you only attempt this hike if you are confident in your abilities.

the manitou incline, coloradoBen Schmitt, Flickr

Fatalities and Rescues

Unfortunately, fatalities and rescues are not uncommon on the Manitou Incline. Hikers are warned about the potential dangers numerous times, on the website, during booking, upon arrival, and even via signs along the hike.

the manitou incline, coloradobrian gautreau, Flickr

Additional Bailouts

Additional bailouts have been considered at lower elevations and including easier inclines, but funding remains a concern.

The Manitou Springs Incline From Barr Trail BailoutIxbrian, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

2009 Fatality

In June of 2009, a 61-year-old man—and a respected litigator in Colorado Springs—suffered a heart attack moments after reaching the summit. Other hikers administered CPR, but he had passed before search and rescue reached him.

He was an avid hiker, in excellent shape, and had already climbed the Manitou Incline before, along with many other massive mountain hikes.

the manitou incline, coloradoU.S. Air Force, Wikimedia Commons

2012 Fatality

In 2012, a 58-year-old woman experienced cardiac arrest while hiking the Manitou Incline. Despite revival efforts by an off-duty paramedic who happened to be climbing the stairs at the same time, the woman didn’t make it.

The woman had been a physical education teacher and a two-time finished of the Pikes Peak Ascent—a grueling 13.3 mile race to the 14,115 foot summit of Pikes Peak.

Pikes Peak SignCharles Williams, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

Another 2012 Incident

In May of 2012, search and rescue responded to a call for a hiker on lower Barr Trail who was experiencing chest pains and had a cardiac arrest after they reached him.

Fortunately, they were able to successfully defibrillate him.

Manitou Incline Barr Trail BailoutIxbrian, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

2015 Fatality

Similar to the other incidents, a 63-year-old man also experienced cardiac arrest more than halfway up the stairs and passed before first responders to get to him.

the manitou incline, coloradomelissamn, Shutterstock

2019 Fatality

In 2019, another 63-year-old man perished after having an apparent heart attack while hiking the Incline. First responders were able to reach the man, but despite CPR efforts from both civilians and medics, the man didn’t make it.

the manitou incline, coloradoMary Spickelmier, Shutterstock

Pets

Pets are not allowed on the trail. This is due to the dangerous and strenuous conditions of the trail. In order to protect yourself, other visitors, and of course your pet, the no pet rule is strictly enforced.

No pets allowed signBLUR LIFE 1975, Shutterstock

Preparation

It is imperative that you come prepared to tackle the Incline. Bring plenty of water, wear proper footwear (no sandals), and use caution in unpredictable weather—especially precipitation of any kind.

the manitou incline, coloradoGary Reinwald, Shutterstock

Reservations

All visitors are required to make a reservation online before their hike. Reservations are available 6am-6pm daily.

You can reserve more than one slot at a time, and you may also reserve time slots for others, including group reservations that include four or more hikers.

the manitou incline, coloradomelissamn, Shutterstock

Capacity

The number of visitors on the Incline is monitored and scheduled, to ensure safety of everyone.
Current capacity includes:

  • 6 a.m. – 10 a.m.: 65 people every 30 minutes
  • 10:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.: 45 people every 30 minutes
  • 2 p.m. – 6 p.m.: 25 people every 30 minutes

the manitou incline, coloradoGary Reinwald, Shutterstock

Pricing

This incredible hike is free to use, but please consider making a donation to Incline Friends to help keep the Incline in good condition for years to come.

Manitou InclineMike Fox Photo, Shutterstock

Parking

Parking at the base of the Incline is not free, however there is a free shuttle that runs from downtown Manitou Springs to the base of the trail.

The Manitou Incline Rising Above Manitou Springs, Co May 2013Ahodges7, CC BY-SA 3.0 , Wikimedia Commons

Other Hikes

The difficult of the Incline is not for everyone. There are a number of mountain trails that are better suited for casual hikers, such as: Red Rock Canyon Open Space, The Intemann Trail, and Columbine Trail.

Red Rock Canyon Open SpaceGranger Meador, Flickr

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4


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