Iron Mountain, Manitou Springs
For all of the fuss surrounding the Manitou Incline — the 2020 inception of a reservation system split the fan base of the Pikes Peak region’s most famous and infamous trail — all one must do is look around at the other possibilities.
True, there is nothing quite like this vertical set of steps. But just to the east is the trail to Red Mountain, a worthy workout on its own minus the crowds. And just east of that summit is the slightly more modest Iron Mountain, which similarly boasts views without the hassle.
Well, OK, parking isn’t exactly ideal. Iron Mountain’s trailhead is along Pawnee Avenue, at the end of the neighborhood. You’ll want to park for free in town at Hiawatha Gardens, 10 Old Man’s Trail, and get the heart rate pumping from there. This paved stretch, roughly a mile, will be the hardest of the trip.
Before the private drive, you’ll see the Intemann Trail to your right and, just up from that, the Iron Mountain trailhead to the left; this is an extension of Intemann, running onward to Red Rock Canyon Open Space.
The trail ribbons the mountainside, with clear views of the town below, Garden of the Gods and canyons above U.S. 24. It steadily switchbacks between oak and pine before ascending westward into clear views of the foothills.
At the “T,” Intemann Trail continues left, the overlook one final push to the right. Pikes Peak shows itself in one direction, the plains appearing like an ocean in the other. It tends to be windy at the top, but don’t let that deter you from perhaps being the only one up here.
Trip log: 3.7 miles (out and back, including distance to and from Hiawatha Gardens), 938 feet elevation gain, 7,136 feet max
Getting there: Pawnee Avenue starts at traffic light in Manitou Springs. The street rises past the library and elementary school and to the trailhead.
FYI: Hiking, mountain biking. Dogs on leash. Icy in winter; have traction.
SETH BOSTER, THE GAZETTE