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Hiking and Mapping the Manitou Springs Incline

While less than 1 mile (1.42 km) in length, the Manitou Springs Incline is not for the faint of heart. Originally built for cable cars used to carry materials during the construction of Pikes Peak pipelines, the Incline was a tourist attraction until 1990. Thereafter, the cable cars were disassembled, and soon the Incline grew in popularity as a hiking trail and fitness challenge.

Base of the Manitou Springs Incline
The bottom of the Manitou Springs Incline. Approximately 2,744 railroad ties <br />make up the steps to get from this location to the summit.

The Incline’s average grade is 41% (68% at its steepest) over a 2,000 foot (610 meter) elevation gain. The trail consists of uneven stairs made with roughly 2,744 railroad ties. The Incline is a mecca for exercise enthusiasts and anyone desiring a challenge.

As one of those aforementioned exercise enthusiasts and challenge seekers, I decided to embark on this grand cardio-adventure earlier this year. One early Saturday morning, I joined a few hundred other hikers and began the trek up the Incline, one railroad tie at a time.

Surfer Mapping Software: 3D surface map of the Manitou Springs Incline and Barr Trail
The above 3D surface map was created with our gridding, contouring, and 3D surface mapping software program, Surfer. The elevation, imagery, and trail data was downloaded from The National Map courtesy of the USGS.

I frequently work out and consider myself to be in pretty good shape, but within the first 5 minutes of hiking, I knew this would be a workout to remember. My heartrate quickly increased and sweat began beading on my forehead. After 20 or so minutes of hiking, my legs screamed for a break. The breaks were quite pleasant as they not only allowed me to catch my breath, they also gave me a chance to take in the spectacular views. I soon developed a system of hiking for 10 minutes followed by a 1-2 minute break, and at that pace, I summited the incline after 1 hour and 2 minutes.

The hike back down to Manitou Springs was not nearly as intense as the hike up. While I could have gone back down the Incline, I opted to take the meandering Barr Trail to give my legs a much needed respite. This 3 mile (4.8 km) stretch took another hour and provided additional scenic views. From car to car, the trip took around 3 hours.

Surfer Map: Base map, contour map and profile map of the Manitou Springs Incline and Barr Trail
The above map was created with a base map, contour map, and profile map. It was plotted with our gridding, contouring, and 3D surface mapping software program, Surfer. The elevation, imagery, and trail data was downloaded from The National Map courtesy of the USGS.

I highly recommend conquering the Incline at least once in your lifetime. Fellow hikers are extremely friendly and encouraging, and the sense of accomplishment upon summiting is quite a rush. Plus, the post-hike brew never tasted so good!

My next challenge will be summiting the Incline’s neighbor, Pike’s Peak, a popular Colorado 14er. Happy hiking!

 

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Sunday, 24 September 2017

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