Tips for Hiking The Insane Manitou Incline

I’m fresh off the Manitou Incline and, truth be told, I’m doing fine.  You know, fine. Fine, now that I’m over the desire to just DIE on the trail. And fine, now that I am back to oxygen filled air. Sure I’m fine NOW, after downing 3 Ibuprofen to combat the gnarliest headache ever, and yes, fine now that it’s OVER.

However, I think it’s important to point out that I was not FINE while hiking this ridiculous bitch of a hike.  And, truth be told, 95% of the people hiking (climbing) this thing were not fine either. I met more people on the side of the climb, catching their breath than I have ever met on any hike anywhere, and we are pretty advanced hikers! I mean we live in Colorado, and the Epic Hikes in Colorado are renowned!

It’s not fun. The Manitou Climb is not chock-full of scenery or breathtaking beauty.  I mean, it sure as hell could be, but, I wouldn’t know that because I was in survival mode. It is steep and it is challenging and it definitely makes one question their fitness level.

The oxygen
The oxygen

Table of Contents

The Manitou Incline – False Summits

Survival Mode.  Determined to Own this Manitou Climb and own it as quickly as possible so as not to draw out my agony. I kept looking up and seeing a never ending stairway. It seriously never ended, and then if the joke wasn’t on me already … there is a false summit.

Now I want to know, whose idea was that?  Not funny.  I literally sprinted once I saw this “summit” and then much to my dismay, 300 more steps. Sure, 300 steps doesn’t sound like a ton, but when you’ve already done 2,744 steps at an average incline of 41%, and the last 300 are part of a section with a 68% incline … it’s a boatload of steps!

Do I Have To Train?

This Manitou Incline is considered the holy grail of cardio for athletes (and idiots, like myself).  It’s not for the faint of heart or for people scared of heights or for anyone with any medical issues, or, for that matter, for anyone who doesn’t have a competitive spirit.  In fact, many people train BEFORE they even attempt the Manitou Climb … we did not! We simply showed up, having no clue what we were in for, filled with a false sense of bravado.

So, without further ado, let me tell you what you need to know to have a shot at making it to the top.

Never Quit Attitude

Manitou Incline
No seriously, this is a real thing, that people hike, people like us! 🙂

The Manitou Incline will take nothing short of undeterred determination. I can’t tell you how many people were making it halfway only to hop onto the Barr Trail (the trail that you take to descend) and head down.  I get it, it’s hard.

Believe me, if you give yourself any leeway in this department, if you don’t drive yourself and refuse defeat, you will quit. It really is that grueling and I don’t care who you are. However, if you keep pushing, stop looking up to see how far you have yet to go and focus on how far you have already come, you can succeed.


Manitou Incline
Nothing is more important that staying hydrated and Camelbak backpacks are the easiest way to maintain hydration.

More important than attitude is hydration.  I actually met a girl going up the trail who did not have any water on her … none. Luckily some very nice guy gave her a water bottle, but one water bottle was not enough and she bid me adieu at the Barr Trail.

You sweat a ton, the sun is beating down on you, and you are climbing in elevation … grab yourself a Camelbak at your local outdoor shop — it’ll be your saving grace whilst attempting the Manitou Climb!  Don’t attempt this climb without a hydration pack, it will be your undoing.

Pace Yourself

Manitou Incline
Oh the agony of not even being halfway and feeling this tired!

The first ¼ or so of the Manitou Incline seems deceivingly easy and it’s easy to start off like a bat outta hell, only to crash shortly after.  Start slowly, very very slowly, despite the temptation to pass everyone in sight.  This strategy is how the game won, my friends! In this case, slow and steady really does win the race.


Manitou Incline
Up at these elevations oxygen is thin.

If you are not used to hiking in high elevation, you need to be cautious, several people on the climb were complaining of feeling light headed and one woman actually started to fall before her friend caught her.  Even I had to channel some yoga moves and open my chest to allow more air in, so take tthe breathing part of these tips seriously.  And, don’t be afraid to take breaks, on the last 300 steps, I daresay I would climb 40 steps and then break and before that we, Maddy and I – Kady took off and beat us to the top by about 20 minutes – stopped another 3-4 times!  There’s no shame in that! All that matters is that you make it … so take breaks and breathe!

Climb On a Weekday

This is our mantra, we do a majority of our work on the weekends so we don’t have to battle crowds and traffic on our adventures.  This time, however, we broke our golden rule, partly because we completely forgot what day it was and partly because we were only in the area for a couple of days and had a lot on our agenda.

The Manitou Incline was uber crowded, on a Saturday, with people from all walks of life — military, dads with babies, mom’s and even a kid or two. I highly recommend a weekday hike!!


Manitou Incline
Parking is at a premium, arrive uber early, go on a weekend, or simply be prepared to to walk…FAR.

Parking, in a word, sucks!  Big time. There is very little near the Manitou Incline trailhead and what is there is private and costs $$.  I probably would have paid, but on Saturday, people were everywhere and we couldn’t snag a spot, despite circling a few times.  We ended up driving down into the adorably epic town of Manitou Springs. And because it was a Saturday, we had no luck finding relatively close paid parking, we parked, a good 2.5 miles from the start of the Incline. And walked.

The crazy thing is, the hike up to the Incline from town is steep too.  We were already sweating and taking off clothes prior to even getting started!

Dress in Layers

Manitou Incline
The Barr Trail is the 4 mile trail that safely takes you down to the base of the mountain.

Not only is Colorado the most bizarre state in the country for weather changes, but it’s also chilly in the morning and warms up rapidly after the sun rises … even in the winter.  The only way to be prepared is to dress in layers.  Maddy actually broke this ingrained rule of ours and wore jeans and a light long sleeve shirt.  After around 10:00 she was roasting and bounding up steps in search of shade. I, however, did not bound behind her.  She found her shade and enjoyed it while I dragged by big butt (this hike forced me to get back into shape) up the steps at a snails pace.

Don’t make the same mistake as Maddy. Be as prepared for snow as you are for 90 degree weather when hiking in Colorado.


Read the Rules for the Trail here.

A Few Last Thoughts On the Manitou Incline

So, was it fun? I mean, in the end, it must have been fun,right, or else, why do it?

No, no, it wasn’t even the slightest bit fun.  Of course,  I cracked a smile a few times in acknowledgment to my fellow comrades and because Maddy made me laugh out loud, but fun?  Not in the least.

I did it, simply, to say I did it.

Yep, I hiked up 2000’ in elevation in only 1 mile, for bragging rights!  Insane, but one hell of a thing to do … everyone needs to do it at least once!  We’ll do it again, I mean 11 members of our family have yet to climb the famous Manitou Incline, so we’ll be at it again someday.

And, for other EPIC Colorado hikes, check this out!!

Manitou Incline

10 thoughts on “Tips for Hiking The Insane Manitou Incline”

  1. My daughter (25) and I (59) are heading to Colorado Springs next week and are going to attempt the climb. I’m a walker (4-5 mi a day) and recently started yoga a couple times a week and she works out several times a week. Did you do anything special to train for the climb? I didn’t think there was really anything I could do to really “prepare” me for this so just tried to keep my activity elevated. Per your post, we’ve purchased camelback packs. I guess what I’m really trying to ask – is this attainable for a normal person? Totally enjoyed your post!

    • Oh yeah, you can totally do it. It’s hard, it’s excruciating, and it will take most normal people longer. 🙂 Let me know how it goes!!!

      • Hi Susie
        I absolutely love it! I’m sorry you don’t think it’s fun or breathtakingly beautiful! I think it’s fantastic, and not that hard. I’m 65, female, and have done it many times. I try to do it every other day when I’m there! I don’t live in the area, I’m in Texas. Love the town too, but I really enjoy the exercise associated with the climb. You had some good tips.
        Wish I could bring it home with me, I love it that much, and miss it like crazy when I’m not there!! I’ll be back though, and REALLY looking forward to it!

        • You might be the only person to ever claim that the Manitou Incline isn’t “that hard”. ha ha. Good on ya! <3

  2. My three friends and I hiked the incline today with no training and we were fine. It’s not easy, but as long as you are fit and keep a steady pace with breaks, it’s reallh not too bad. I am not sore even four hours afterward.

  3. I’ve done the Manitou incline in just under an hour, not bad for a flatlander from Omaha. I did train on lots of stairs and stair climbers before going to Manitou though. My biggest piece of advice is to start out slower than you want to. You will actually make better time by setting a sustainable pace than going fast and needing a lot of breaks. Using your hands isn’t cheating either, I would use my hands to push my knees down on the step up and even used a dog crawl on the steeper portions.


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