Conquering the Manitou Incline: A Stairway to Extreme Adventure

manitou incline steps

The Felene team took to the steps of the Manitou Incline on Sunday, embarking on a challenge that is no easy task. I’m glad to say we finished the adventure and one more item to check off our bucket list! Read more about the stairway in the mountain below.

Nestled in the picturesque town of Manitou Springs, Colorado, the Manitou Incline stands tall as a daunting challenge for hikers seeking an adrenaline-pumping adventure. Aptly referred to as ‘the Incline’ by locals, this strenuous hike is not for the faint-hearted. It’s like a Stairmaster, but outside, offering a grueling test of physical endurance and mental resilience. In this blog, we’ll explore what makes the Manitou Incline so legendary, but also understand the importance of being well-prepared before taking on this extreme endeavor.

The Steep Ascent

Despite my fear of heights, I pushed myself to ascend the incline. Along the journey, there were moments when I felt breathless, extremely fatigued and a bit disoriented due to the gain in altitude, but thankfully, Tim (our Master Distiller) and my fellow climbers were there to assist me in controlling my breathing and slowing down. I was truly grateful for the abundance of water and granola bars we had brought along, which provided the much-needed sustenance during our climb.

The Manitou Incline stretches just under a mile, but in that short distance, hikers face an incredible elevation gain of 2,020 feet (615 meters) – an average grade of 41% and sections as steep as a jaw-dropping 68%. It’s a relentless climb that will challenge even the most seasoned hikers. The trail consists of a knee-weakening 2,768 stairs, each varying in size and height, keeping hikers constantly on their toes and their quadriceps burning.

This team-building experience was truly exceptional as it pushed us to our limits; Tim and I continually motivated one another as we climbed the incline.

The climb became truly rewarding as the vistas from the summit unfolded before us. I’ve rarely seen anything as beautiful as that panoramic view from the summit of the Manitou Incline.

Preparedness is Key

As we made our way up the slope, we noticed an increasing stream of hikers descending the steps (abandoning the effort to summit due to fear or exhaustion). It’s not advisable to decent the trail via the steps due to their uneven height and the gravelly surfaces. Climbing-up the Manitou steps is very challenging, coming down the same way is dangerous to yourself and those attempting to ascend. 90% of injuries on The Incline are ankle injuries, mostly by people trying to descend via the steps. Adhering to the trail guidelines became increasingly crucial. Sadly, some people seemed to be panicking and resorting to risky actions.

If you’re considering tackling the Incline, come prepared or think twice. The trail demands respect and adequate preparation. Hydration is crucial, as the risk of dehydration and altitude sickness is real at these heights. Ensure you carry an ample supply of water, and if you forget to bring some, local shops in Manitou Springs offer water bottles to save the day.

As we climbed the steps, we noticed quite a few hikers in casual (street) clothing; some wearing sneakers, even sandals and many not carrying water or any hydration. At first, we thought we may have been a bit too intimidated by the climb, but as we reached the halfway mark, many, if not all the casual hikers had disappeared from the steps, likely resorting to the “bail-out” trail back to the base.

If the temperature gets into the 80’s, you will lose a lot of fluids due to perspiration and that can become dangerous. For most people, this hike will take 1.5-2.5 hours to summit the incline, then a 3-mile hike down.

Proper footwear is non-negotiable. Leave your flip-flops and gym shoes at home; this hike requires sturdy hiking shoes that offer ample support and traction. The terrain is no place for inappropriate footwear, and your safety depends on it.

In the summer, it’s also a good idea to keep covered with lightweight clothing that provides UV protection or bring sunscreen as you are very exposed on the trail.

Consider your Fitness Level

The Incline is not a casual stroll; it’s an intense physical challenge that will push your limits. It’s comparable to a rigorous leg day at the gym, but with the added thrill of being outdoors, on rugged and unsteady terrain, steep inclines and surrounded by stunning natural beauty. If you’re not confident in your abilities, it’s best to start with friendlier trails before taking on this beast.

You will find yourself using an incredible amount of energy (especially on a hot day) and the constant climbing caused many to experience leg cramps and outright muscle fatigue. At times I had to rest due to leg muscle spasms and fatigue that made my limbs shake.

The Manitou Incline is a bucket-list hike for adventure seekers, offering a test of physical and mental fortitude like no other. Conquering this stairway to extreme adventure rewards hikers with breathtaking views and a sense of accomplishment that lasts a lifetime. However, it’s essential to respect the trail’s demands and come prepared with the right gear and a realistic assessment of your fitness level. Remember, safety always comes first, so use caution and choose the right time to take on this thrilling challenge. Happy hiking!

Timothy Kelly

Tim is the Founder & Master Distiller at Felene. He developed his passion for the spirits and hospitality business while growing-up and working in his family's restaurant and liquor store business. Tim’s passion for the epicurean lifestyle has found it’s latest manifestation in the Felene Distillery. Tim is a 5-time Gold Medal Award winning Distiller. He has won a Platinum medal at the Prestigious Los Angeles Spirits Awards and his signature vodka was named Best-in-Category by the American Distilling Institute. Mr. Kelly is also a prolific author and writer and his blog is filled with ideas, discoveries, observations and recommendations to help his readers enjoy life’s simple epicurean pleasures.

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