The Pikes Peak region’s two most iconic trails happen to share a corridor: Barr Trail and the Manitou Incline. The former, climbing about 13 miles to the 14,115-foot summit of America’s Mountain, is more for the adventure seeker, while the latter calls more to the fitness fanatic preferring a steeper, shorter ascent on wooden steps.
The similarity? The popularity.
But maybe you’re not like the rest. You’re not craving the long distance nor the lung-busting Incline gaining 2,000 feet in less than a mile. We propose a trip granting a taste of Barr Trail plus the rewarding view those stair-steppers get.
They have been noticeably fewer since August, when a reservation system started limiting hourly Incliners. That might come as good news for Barr Trail regulars; not quite as much sharing now on this route descending from the Incline. That scenic point above 8,500 is the destination of this trip.
Fair warning to the uninitiated: You’re still in for a workout. Though never as harsh as the Incline, Barr Trail steadily ascends one switchback after another in a series runners-in-training know as the Ws.
It’s a colorful vista: Camerons Cone and rock-festooned hillsides nearby, those mysterious canyons north above the highway, Garden of the Gods and the endless plains east. Soon, the trail enters a forest of tall timber and house-sized boulders.
We logged close to 1 1/2 miles at the switchback that meets the Incline’s halfway “bail-out” point. From here, we tracked another 1 1/2 miles to the Incline summit. Pikes Peak hangs in view — perhaps inspiring you to go the distance next time.
Trip log: 5.6 miles round trip (out and back), 1,833 feet gain one way, 8,578 feet max
Getting there: Trailhead at the end of Ruxton Avenue, above the hydro plant across from Pikes Peak Cog Railway depot. Rather than pay to park, ride the free shuttle from the free lot at Hiawatha Gardens in downtown Manitou Springs, at 10 Old Man’s Trail.
FYI: Hiking/running only recommended. Icy in winter; bring traction. Dogs on leash.
SETH BOSTER, THE GAZETTE