Manitou Incline: Info and Tips

Last updated: November 2nd, 2023 | Originally published: October 17, 2023
Manitou Incline Tips

That girl in the photo above looks a little bit tired. That’s because she just two-stepped the Manitou Incline: An exhausting, mile-long staircase straight up a mountain.

Now one might ask, “Why would anyone want to take 2768 steps straight up a mountain?”

Since you’re reading this article, we assume you’ve already concluded, “Because it is there and it looks hard.” Which is a perfectly deranged and reasonable way to view it.

We don’t want to waste your time, so let’s get right into the important stuff. If you’re going to hike the Manitou Incline you will need to know just a handful of things ahead of time.

We hope you enjoy!

Manitou Incline Tips
That’s a lotta stairs — Manitou Incline

What is the Manitou Incline?

The Manitou Incline is a man-made staircase that gains 2,000′ of elevation in one mile. It is located in the town of Manitou Springs, an earthy little hamlet outside of Colorado Springs.

There is no cost to climb the Manitou Incline… unless you count the lives of those that have died.

Ba-dum-bum. It’s true. They have a sign and everything. The problem is, if you have significant cardiac problems up on the mountain medical help will take hours to arrive. So be sure you are in good health before attempting the Manitou Incline.

Manitou Incline Tips
Still smiling? She must be in the first half.

Parking and Reservations for the Manitou Incline?

The two most popular places to park are:

1. Manitou Hiawatha Gardens Parking Lot. The shuttle runs back and forth from the parking lot to the Manitou Incline. It takes about ten minutes. Parking costs about $6. (MAP).

2. At the Base of the Manitou Incline. The incline shares space with the Pike’s Peak Cog Railway and there are a few parking lots nearby. Parking costs $20. (MAP)

You MUST MAKE A RESERVATION to climb the Manitou Incline. Reservations are free. Click this link, scroll to the bottom of the web page, click ADD TO CART, and the rest is easy.

Manitou Incline Tips
One step at a time — Manitou Incline

What to Bring?

We could use this space to list the obligatory hiking supplies: Water, sunscreen, sweat rag, camera, hiking boots, etc. But you already know all that. In addition to the basics, we recommend bringing:

Manitou Incline Tips
This is how I measure stupidity — Manitou Incline

How Hard is the Manitou Incline?

It’s friggin’ hard! Never mind the Air Force Academy 20-year-olds who run up the damn hill grinning. Most folks suffer with exhaustion and drag themselves up over the final six-inch step.

It took us 1.5 hours. Felt like six years. The final 1/3 we stopped talking, each of us retreating too deep into our miseries to make any sound except gasping for life.

At no point did we consider quitting, but we saw others give up.

The secret is, one-step-at-a-time, y’all.

Manitou Incline Tips
YOLO — Manitou Incline

You Don’t Hike Back Down Manitou Incline

We didn’t know this when we started the climb. It wasn’t until about halfway up that we recognized people weren’t coming back down. Before that we just imagined everyone passed out in the dirt up top.

From the top of the stairs head directly to your left and the trail is easy to find.

And furthermore, this is a very good thing. Going back down those incredibly steep stairs would have been friggin’ fatal.

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Manitou Incline Tips
Get Bucks or Die Trying — Manitou Incline

You Won’t Make Money, But You Might Get Bucks!

When we finally reached the top, the small crowd was incredibly quiet. It was like being the last to finish a marathon, only to find the crowd had gone home to root for more important things.

After cluelessly taking photos and a disgusting wet hug, we realized the quiet crowd was admiring three bucks grazing 10 yards away. Someone mentioned there were eight of them just moments earlier.

Manitou Incline Tips
That buck is looking suss

Are the Top of the Stairs the Peak?

Actually, no. The peak of the mountain is much further up the hill than the top of the stairs. We didn’t know this going in, and we clumbsily made our way further into the hinterlands in search of the true peak. That stupid crap was shut down about fifteen minutes later.

FWIW: If you want to enjoy a picnic with a pleasant view, keep going up the hill past the top of the stairs. There is a road-like path that pushes onward (as if you were continuing straight ahead in line with the stairs). We stopped hiking about 15 minutes later when we saw some large boulders on the left. After scaling the boulders we had a fantastic lookout for lunch.

What’s This I Hear About a False Summit?

All this means is what appears to be the top (when viewing the Manitou Incline from the bottom), is not the actual top of the hike.

Anyway, while you’re hiking there’s no deluding yourself with hope of a false summit. Just keep hyperventilating until you run out of stairs.

An Honest Conclusion for Hiking the Manitou Incline

Pike’s Peak Foothills — Manitou Incline

Seven years ago we hiked the Koko Crater Incline on Oahu, which seemed difficult at the time. It was a similarly steep, rail-road-tie ascent that gained 990′ of elevation in 0.7 miles. At times those rail-road-ties seemed to stack like a ladder, and we were happy, hurting fools at the top.

The Manitou Incline is twice as much elevation gain 0.3 additional miles. It is an infinitely less pleasant endeavor (in a good way).

Would we do it again? No.

Are we happy we did it? Absolutely. Proud, even. We’re are 45 and 48 years old. Hell yeah, we’re proud of it. And so should you be if you conquer this arduous ascent.

Along with Pike’s Peak and Garden of the Gods, this was the best thing we did on our late-summer vacation to Colorado Springs. If you’re up for a real challenge, you don’t want to miss the Manitou Incline.

If you’d like to learn more about things to do in the Colorado Springs area:

Driving Pikes Peak

Tips for Visiting Garden of the Gods

Best Viewpoints at Garden of the Gods

How to Visit Paint Mines Interpretive Park

Meow Wolf Denver

Thank you for stopping by our website! We are the Hoffmann family, a full-time RV family that has split residence in Seattle, Washington and San Antonio, Texas. We have special needs children that we homeschool, and work travel assignments for the Veteran Affairs Hospital. If you would like to learn more about us, check out our Start Here and Biography pages. In the meantime, God bless and travel happy!

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