COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – The first phase of the new Northern Incline Return Trail is now complete and open to the public. It offers two new return options for hikers, both located in the bottom half of the Manitou Incline. The higher of the new return connections is accessed at railroad tie 1300, the Incline’s approximate midway point. The other is found lower on the Incline at railroad tie 395.
The railroad tie numbers are part of a trail measurement system that counts the number of stairs on the trail. It starts at 0 and goes to 2,768, the final step at the top of the Incline.
From the new midway connection at tie 1300, located 500 stairs below the existing cut through to Barr Trail, hikers follow a new 1-mile naturally-surfaced section to the existing Ute Pass Regional Trail. Once hikers reach Ute Pass, it’s roughly an additional half mile to the base of the Incline. From tie 395, there is 0.15 mile of new trail before connecting with Ute Pass for an additional 0.2-mile hike down to the trailhead.
“We are very excited to offer these much-anticipated return options for Incliners,” said Karen Palus, parks director. “Now, users who desire a shorter loop or may have underestimated the difficulty of hiking the entire Incline, have a way down besides Barr Trail, and much earlier on their journey too. This will also be helpful for first responders in emergency situations and is the start of providing needed relief to the historic and heavily-trafficked Barr Trail. This project has been years in the making and wouldn’t have been possible without critical collaboration from the community and partner organizations.”
The newly-completed sections are located mostly on City of Colorado Springs property, located just north of the Manitou Incline. This land was acquired by the City as part of its 2016 land exchange with The Broadmoor.
The improvements, identified in the 2011 Manitou Incline Site Development and Management Plan, were funded in full by Incline Friends, a local non-profit organization that contributed the entire $32,000 needed for construction of the new trails, plus additional funding for design and development. Under construction since late May 2020, the project was closely coordinated with El Paso County, which manages Ute Pass, and Colorado Springs Utilities, the Ute Pass property owner.
“The Incline is a community treasure and an aspirational experience that we are proud to support through improvement projects like the Northern Incline Return Trail,” said Bill Beagle, Incline Friends’ president. “The new return trails provide magnificent views, offer a comfortable tread, and, most importantly, help support a safer and more positive experience. The generous and loyal support of passionate Incliners made these improvements a reality, and we look forward to working just as closely with the City of Colorado Springs and other partners to connect the new return trail system to the top of the Incline.”
The second phase of construction on the Northern Incline Return Trail will begin at railroad tie 1300 and stretch to the top of the Incline. That portion of trail will run through the Pike National Forest, owned and managed by the U.S. Forest Service, and must be approved through a National Environmental Policy Act process before construction begins.
Prior to hiking the Incline, users must make a free online reservation. The system is part of an agreement between the cities of Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs in response to COVID-19. To reserve a spot, visit ColoradoSprings.gov/Incline.