Rewarding summit in Manitou Springs

Pikes Peak in view from the top of Red Mountain in Manitou Springs. The Manitou Incline is seen to the right, where crowds converge, often missing this steep summiting path. Photo Credit: Seth Boster, The Gazette

When we spotlighted Manitou Springs’ Red Mountain a few years ago as part of this series spotlighting the region’s trails, we claimed this: “You’ll struggle to find a local trail that is this quick, this challenging and leads to views this good.”

We stand by that claim. Which is why we’re adding this humble summit to our “Classic” category of Happy Trails.

First, decide on your approach. The Red Mountain Trail spurs off the Intemann Trail, the multiuse path skirting Manitou’s hillsides. Catch Intemann either by heading up Pawnee Avenue or up Ruxton Avenue. The latter might be a better bet with the free shuttle that runs from the free parking lot in town.

The bus drops off near Iron Springs, just up Ruxton from the Spring Street turn. Cross the Spring Street bridge and follow the short access road to Intemann’s trailhead.

You’ll snag great views of the Waldo Canyon burn scar and Mount Manitou, unmistakable for its scar: the Manitou Incline, where crowds converge, all too often missing Red Mountain.

From Intemann, the summiting path is reached in about a half-mile, marked by a post pointing into the tall woods. It’s less than a mile to the top — but you’ll have to earn it.

The trail is relentlessly steep, soon switchbacking amid rocks. Pay attention to the trail clearly curving where it might be tempting to continue straight.

The sandy face of the summit emerges on the final push. A sharp rock defines the mountaintop, around which a trail leads to the unobstructed panorama of Pikes Peak, Garden of the Gods and the plains sprawling beyond downtown Colorado Springs. The added bonus here is a piece of history: the crumbled remains of a railway and dance venue.

Red Mountain, Manitou Springs

Trip log: 2 1/2 miles round trip (out and back from trailhead off Ruxton Avenue), 1,041 feet elevation gain, 7,368 feet max

Difficulty: Moderate-difficult

Getting there: Free parking at 10 Old Man’s Trail. Either take the shuttle up Ruxton Avenue or walk the avenue about a half-mile to Spring Street bridge.

FYI: Hiking only recommended. Dogs on leash. Icy in winter; with steep trail and exposure, could be dangerous without traction.

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