Towering over the small eclectic town of Manitou Springs, while being towered over by Pikes Peak, Rocky Mountain is a great local climb for Colorado Springs residents and visitors. It offers a little bit of everything ranging from Class I hiking up the famous and beautiful Barr Trail to Class 3-4 scrambling on it’s summit rocks. Another route involves the Incline that will test your stamina while causing much suffering. See my description and brief history below for this unofficial and controversial Colorado Springs icon. This is one of the many great smaller peaks in the “Springs” area that offers a great half-day climb with spectacular views. As you make your way up the beginning of the Barr Trail you are treated to excellent views of Eagle Mt., Cameron Cone, Almagre Mt., Marys Mt., Palsgrove Mt., Engelmann Canyon and, most of all, the Colorado Front Range titan, Pikes Peak. Rocky Mountain’s 9450 ft. sister, Mount Manitou, is ~ ½ miles to it’s northwest.
The Incline: The Mt. Manitou Scenic Incline Railway was originally constructed in 1907 as an aid to the construction of a hydroelectric powerplant and it’s waterline. Shortly after completion of the plants construction it was converted into a tourist attraction and began to ferry people to the top of Rocky Mountain, even though it carried the name of nearby Mount Manitou. For a time this was the highest and longest incline railway in the world. It closed for business in 1990 and has since been abandoned. Officially, it is not open to the public, although it serves as a Colorado Springs icon. Though it is clearly marked at it’s base as being private property and forbidding trespassing, it is frequented by countless Coloradoans each year. Go there on a beautiful Colorado weekend morning and you will find countless warriors laboring up and down it’s slope with many of their dogs in tow. Some in the community would chastise me for this, but I too have enjoyed many hours of suffering on the Incline. With it’s 1900 ft. elevation gain in 0.9 miles, it is a fantastic place to train. I used it extensively to prepare for my climb on Mt. Rainier in July 2004. It has attracted Olympic athletes from Greco-Roman wrestlers to gymnasts. There have long been rumors that the owners of the property would make it open to the public, but so far nothing has come of this. Something needs to be done or else this landmark will continue to decay. For now, it will continue to pull Colorado Springs locals to it’s tempting 40-68% grade steps.
Take Route 24 from either direction (east or west) to the Manitou Springs exit for the Pikes Peak Cog Railroad. Go south on Manitou Ave (US 24 Business Loop.) This will take you through the town of Manitou Springs. Take a left on Ruxton Ave., which is 0.4 miles from City Hall in the center of town, and follow it past the Cog Railway depot. Look for signs on the right for Hydro Street and the Barr Trailhead parking lot. Follow Hydro Street for ~ 100 yards to the parking lot. DO NOT PARK IN THE COG RAILWAY LOT. You will get towed. In fact, don’t even think about asking the their lot attendants where you should park. You will get your head bitten off! Trust me, I’m still recovering from the first and only time I made that mistake and had my feelings hurt. The Barr Trail parking lot fills up quickly each morning, especially in the summer on weekends, so get there early.
Other than the limited parking at the Barr Trail lot, there is no red tape with that route. Parking is free. The Incline is officially private property with “No Trespassing” signs posted. See the Incline route page and Overview sections for more details.
When To Climb
This mountain can be climbed throughout the year, but the final ½ mile scramble would be difficult with heavy snow. I would avoid the Incline route in snow or ice conditions.
Camping is permitted at the Barr Camp, which is ~ 3.5 miles farther up the Barr Trail from the junction with the Old Piedmont trail.
Weather for the Colorado Springs area can be checked at: http://www.weatherfirstnow.com/weather/weathernet.asp.
However, do not assume that weather at the top of Rocky Mountain will be the same, as it is 3000 ft. higher. It is like asking the giraffe, “How is the weather up there?”