The gorgeous city of Manitou Springs, CO is situated at the foot of Pikes Peak and I have been hiking in this area since I was a small child. There are several options for hiking in Manitou Springs as well as many other trails nearby. Of course, the most iconic trails in Manitou Springs are Barr Trail and the Manitou Incline. These trails take you up Pikes Peak, America’s Mountain. Experienced hikers can find many challenges in Manitou Springs and there are also options for those who would rather have an easy hike. Here are the 10 best hikes in and near Manitou Springs, CO.
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The Manitou Incline is a popular tourist destination in the city of Manitou Springs. It has an altitude gain of 2000 vertical feet.
The Manitou Incline can be seen for miles around as a little stripe going straight up the mountain. It is especially clear in the snow. The Manitou Incline was built for a cable car to deliver materials to those building pipelines on Pikes Peak. When the pipelines were completed, it turned into a tourist attraction. A section of the track was damaged in a 1990 rock slide, which caused the Manitou Incline to be closed down. The rails were removed, but people began walking up the remaining ties as a grueling workout. Initially, this was illegal because hikers were crossing private property, but work was done and it has been legal to hike the Manitou Incline since February 1, 2013.
The Manitou Incline is located behind the upper Pikes Peak Cog Railway parking lot on Ruxton Ave. in Manitou Springs. There are a few options for parking here. The Barr parking lot is $10 per day, and parking at the Iron Springs Chateau is $5 in the offseason and $10 at Peak season. For a free option, park at Memorial Park in Manitou Springs and take a shuttle.
The Manitou Incline is just under a mile long but has an altitude gain of 2,000 vertical feet. Average hikers make it to the top in 40 to 60 minutes, with world-class athletes taking less time and visitors from lower altitudes taking longer. There are no set rules that state you cannot come back down the Manitou Incline, but it is recommended to just go up for safety’s sake. The most popular way of getting down is to follow the connector trail to Barr Trail. Expect to take another 45 minutes to an hour to get back down via Barr Trail.
With 7,900 vertical feet, the Barr Trail is a proven challenging hike and is not recommended for beginners in hiking.
The Barr Trail is not for hiking newbies, it is more than 12 miles to the top of Pikes Peak and climbs 7,900 vertical feet. Keep in mind that it is 26.2 miles round trip, so if you are going to do the whole thing in one day, you had better start early and move quickly. Luckily, the trail is traveled often and is well-marked. If you would like to split the hike into two days, stop at Barr Camp, which is located 6.5 miles from the trailhead. There are picnic tables, restrooms, and overnight camping available. Dogs are allowed on Barr Trail, just be sure to bring enough food and water. There are not many opportunities to get water along the trail.
Be prepared if attempting this hike. It is best to try to reach the summit by noon, as thunderstorms often occur. Dress in layers, as the temperature is much colder at the top of Pikes Peak than in Manitou Springs. Be prepared to encounter snow and ice on the trail, even during the summer. Pay to park in the Barr Trail lot or catch a free shuttle near Memorial Park in Manitou Springs. Also consider making Barr Camp or the top of the Manitou Incline your destination for a shorter hike, or branching off to a different trail from Barr Trail.
Bottomless Pit Trail via Barr Trail
The Bottomless Pit Trail via Barr Trail is a popular choice for hikers looking for astonishing views of the surroundings.
Start out on Barr Trail and once you get to Barr Camp, hike another mile uphill to the Bottomless Pit Trail turnoff. There will be a sign that says Pikes Peak Summit 4.8 miles to the left and Bottomless Pit 2.4 miles to the right. It will end up being a 17.4 mile out and back adventure that is for experienced hikers only. Know that there are some places where the trail fades and it is hard to follow. It is a good idea to chat with the host at Barr Camp for a little advice before heading out on this trail. It is worth the hardships, as there are stunning views all around and gorgeous wildflowers. Dogs are allowed on the trail, but they must be kept on a leash.
Paul Intemann Memorial Nature Trail and Red Mountain Trail
A view of the entrance of the Paun Intemann Memorial Nature Trail near the Crystal Park.
This is the view of the Paul Intemann Memorial Nature Trail entrance near the famous incline.
When I was out exploring Manitou Springs, I happened upon both ends of the Paul Intemann Memorial Nature Trail. One end is near The Iron Springs Chateau and one is up to Crystal Park Road, just outside the gated community of Crystal Park. You can pay to park near the chateau or catch the free shuttle from the Memorial Park area. This trail is relatively easy but does have some steep parts. There is also a turn off to hike up to Red Mountain. If you choose to go up to Red Mountain, there are some great views from the top. Get a good look at downtown Manitou Springs, the Manitou Incline, Cave of the Winds, and Garden of the Gods. Piece together your own adventure, by hiking all of the Paul Intemann Memorial Nature Trail, which is 1.8 miles out and back or adding the Red Mountain Trail that is 2.5 miles. If you take the shuttle from Memorial Park to the trailhead, you can also consider hopping off the trail at Pawnee Ave. and walking back to your car through the neighborhoods of Manitou Springs. As you can tell from the pictures, this trail gets quite snowy in the winter, it is best used April through November.
Red Rock Canyon Open Space
The Red Rock Canyon Open Space is a great place for family where they can enjoy many activities such as biking, hiking, horseback riding and many more. There are picnic areas and pets are allowed!
The large parking lots and major access points to Red Rock Canyon Open Space are located in Colorado Springs, but there is a way to get to the amazing expanse of trails from Manitou Springs. This access point is tucked in a residential community off Crystal Hills Boulevard. The map on my phone labeled it as ‘Sand Canyon Upper Trailhead.’ Take the Sand Canyon Trail into the park and connect to many miles of other trails.
I have always thought of Red Rock Canyon Open Space as the little brother of the Garden of the Gods. There are many amazing red rocks and beautiful views from Red Rock Canyon Open Space. The park now consists of 1474 acres, which have been acquired by the city over time starting in 2003. Enjoy hiking, biking, horseback riding, and climbing in the park. There is also a bicycle free ride area, picnic areas, and off-leash dog loops.
I always enjoy reading the signs in the park about the quarry operations that took place here in the late 1800s and early 1900s. There are many structures in the state and across the country that were built using the Lyons sandstone from this park. These include some of the spring-houses in Manitou Springs that are built around the natural mineral springs.
Manitou Springs Creek Walk Trail
The Manitou Springs Creek Walk Trail is a lovely place for walking and biking especially during the afternoon to the evening where the view gets dramatic.
I may be stretching it to call this a hike, but it is a nice walk or a terrific bike route. There are many great trail systems all across Colorado Springs, and the Manitou Springs Creek Walk Trail connects the city of Manitou Springs with the Midland Trail that runs through Colorado Springs. From this trail, you can get to a vast expanse of interconnected trails in Colorado Springs. Use it to get around town or to Colorado Springs, or just enjoy a section of the trail for an evening or afternoon stroll. The picture above was taken in Cherry Park near the Manitou Springs Aquatics and Fitness Center, it is a great place to catch the trail or a nice destination for a short walk from downtown.
Deer Valley Nature Park
A look at the entrance of Deer Valley Nature Park covered in snow during the winter season.
Deer Valley Nature Park is located off Crystal Hills Blvd. and is nestled in a residential community. There are some really great views of Colorado Springs and Garden of the Gods available from this park. Just know that it is pretty basic and undeveloped.
Rainbow Falls Historic Site
A stunning view of the popular Rainbow Falls. Unfortunately, the area is closed during the winter season.
Rainbow Falls is a nice short hike, but it is closed during the winter. The historic site spans five acres, has a parking lot, a trailhead, picnic tables, benches, and a covered area with information about the geology and history of the area. It takes less than half a mile to get to the falls. Just don’t be shocked by all of the graffiti (this site is also known as Graffiti Falls to locals). One of the features of note at the site is a bridge that was built in 1932 that stretches over the creek at the falls. It has been placed on the National Register of Historic Bridges.
Other Hikes that are Currently Closed
A gorgeous view of the nature surrounding the area. You can see this view from the Williams Canyon Trail and Waldo Canyon Loop Trail, which are currently closed temporarily.
Williams Canyon Trail and Waldo Canyon Loop Trail are two hikes that are currently closed. Hopefully, they will reopen someday, so I wanted to mention them here. I have many fond memories of hiking Waldo Canyon as a teenager. Unfortunately, the Waldo Canyon Fire, which roared from June 23rd through July 10th, 2012 burned the area of the Waldo Canyon Trail. This same fire has made the area of the Williams Canyon Trail prone to extreme and dangerous flash flooding. Therefore, this trail is also closed. The fire burned more than 18,000 acres, including many homes. Public meetings are being held now to re-imagine the Waldo Canyon area, which was widely used and loved by residents and visitors. Exciting things are in the works to create new trails and other recreation opportunities in the coming years.
Other Nearby Hikes
A view of the stunning Red Rock Canyon Open Space from the side of the pathway. It is so beautiful.
Colorado Springs, located right next to Manitou Springs, is a hiker’s paradise. You can see Garden of the Gods from Manitou Springs, and you can get to it from several roads just outside of Manitou Springs. As mentioned earlier, Red Rock Canyon Open Space is also located a short distance down Highway 24. Cheyenne Canyon is also close, with many trails to choose from. Other options in Colorado Springs include Ute Valley Park and Cheyenne Mountain State Park. If you head in the other direction up Highway 24 toward Woodland Park, you will find even more opportunities to hike. Check out Catamount Trail, Heizer Trail, Rampart Reservoir, the Rainbow Gulch Trail, and the Ring The Peak Trail System.
Marie has been hiking in the Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs areas since she was a small child. Hiking is one of her favorite ways to exercise and experience gorgeous mountain views.