When I realized the weather was going to be nice while Nick & I were in Colorado, I instantly knew we had to try this Incline everyone had been telling me about. We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into.
The Incline was originally a working cog railway in Manitou Springs, near Colorado Springs. It stopped running when the tracks were washed out in a rock slide in 1990. The railroad ties remain, making it a very steep, uneven stairway. It has become a very popular attraction/fitness challenge for locals and tourists.
The base of the Incline sits at about 6,500 feet elevation, and rises over 2,000 feet in about .88 miles (1.42km). If you’re terrible at visualizing measurements like I am, THAT’S STEEP.
I run and workout regularly, so I consider myself to be in good shape. This Incline kicked my butt. I think the biggest issue is that we did this right when we arrived in Colorado. Where we live in Missouri, the elevation is about 700-800 feet. We were not acclimated to the altitude AT ALL and got winded very quickly. There is a Bailout about 3/4 of the way up, where the Incline meets a switchback trail that runs from the bottom to the top. While that was tempting, we refused to take it and pushed ourselves on. We took our time and made our way up slowly, but we DID make it! The view from the top is really beautiful, and it was really satisfying to see the parking lot below and realize how far we’d climbed.
After enjoying some peace and quiet at the top for a little while, we decided to make our way down the trail. Several people were going back down the Incline, but it was so steep and we were so tired we decided the trail was probably safer. The trail was about 4 miles to the bottom, and it was a little tricky to maneuver. Apparently the flooding last fall washed some of it out and rolled a boulder down blocking the way.
Nick and I both agreed on two things after we got back to our car. 1) We never would have done this our first day of vacation had we known how difficult of a time we would have with the altitude change. 2) We’re glad we didn’t know that because we’re so glad we did it and felt great about finishing it.
-Bring plenty of water. We only had one bottle to split between us and we were rationing it out so we didn’t run out. The air was much drier than we were used to so we got pretty thirsty.
-There is a parking lot for the Incline right at the base that costs $5 (credit card only). The lot is fairly small and based on the amount of people on the Incline in the middle of a workday, I can only imagine how quickly this lot could fill up on a weekend. I suggest carpooling with other people if possible.
-There is a False Summit about 3/4 of the way up. It’s so steep it hides the rest of the Incline and will trick you into thinking you’re almost to the top. Keep that in mind, because it would be completely demoralizing to think you’re a few steps from the top only to discover you still have a bit to go. Luckily the steepest part is behind you at that point so if you’ve made it that far, you can make it all the way!
Have you ever hiked the Incline? How was it compared to what you expected?