The Manitou Incline
Location: This hike is located in Manitou Springs, which is right outside of Colorado Springs. The best way to complete the hike is to park in Manitou Springs and take the shuttle to the base of the staircase.
Elevation/distance: Your total gain is going to be almost 2,000 feet, even though the entire hike is less than a mile.
Description: OK, this hike is tough. It's essentially a million (2,744 actually) steps. It's actually what I would envision as the "stairway to heaven", except you don't feel like you're in heaven when you are going up it. ;) Because you are gaining SO much elevation in such a small distance, it's pretty steep. We had to take a good amount of breaks. Online warns you that it will take first timers 3-4 hours, but it only took us a little less than an hour. Still, it's a hard hike. A lot of athletes use the incline to train for intense races, which makes me die a little inside to picture running up all those stairs. One you reach the top of the incline, you come face to face with the stretch of Colorado Springs surrounded by mountains. However, because the incline is so. crowded. it was honestly hard for us to see much at all. You technically aren't supposed to hike down using the stairs (there is a path at the top that you can take to get back to base), but Cal and I got lost and had to take the stairs halfway down, ha! I would not recommend that- it's steep and it gets in others' way. If I were to redo that part of the experience, I would ask around to ensure we were on the right trail down. Be warned- the incline is super popular, and *everyone* wants to experience it. It sometimes felt like we were just in a line of people trekking up stairs. It's worth it for the experience of completing such a notoriously tough hike, but I wasn't a fan of that part.
Who I would recommend it to: Anyone who wants to check off a popular and well known hike. Like I mentioned, it's pretty crowded, and doesn't have the best views, but you feel quite accomplished after a "death march" to the top. We saw kids (as young as 5!) who had made it to the top, so we felt like we didn't have any excuse. ;) I would take it slow and take lots of breaks if you need to. If you have any sort of knee or back issues, be aware that it is essentially a super steep stairway, and may aggrivate those problems.