If you're looking for a hike that gets away from the hustle and bustle of the "highway" in the local Colorado Springs area that is Barr Trail, here's a great little hike for you, and you get to bag a great little mountain in the meantime! I was able to make it in just about 90 minutes up, and 50 minutes down, though I was running most of the way.
First of all, park at the Barr Trail trailhead, if you're starting way early in the day (before 5:30AM in the summer) or late in the day after the traffic dies down. To get there, take Rt 24 west from Colorado Springs and take the first exit in Manitou Springs. Take a right off the exit into the tourist-like town. After a mile or so, hunt for the COG RAILWAY
sign pointing to your left down Ruxton Ave. Go past the Cog Railway depot and parking lot until you see a "Dead End" sign and little sign pointing to the right to the "Barr Trail." This is Hydro St (here's map
). Drive up to the top of the hill and look for a parking space. If it's after 5:30AM in the summertime, don't even bother, and drive back down to Ruxton Ave. to look for a parking spot.
Finding the "Incline"
After you've parked, find your way down to Ruxton Ave. and look for the Cog Railway station. You can't miss the big red building. Across from this building is a parking lot. Go into this parking lot and go to the extreme west side. Go to the back of the parking lot and look for a small trail that goes up the hill. There's a cement parking "block" actually situated 5 ft up the hill to keep the rocks from falling. Climb up here, and head up and to the right. A minute later, you'll come upon a railroad-tie laden trail that goes straight up the mountain. This is the "Incline," what was formerly another of the Cog Railway's attractions. The train stopped running in 1990, and even though most of the trail is on private property, you'll see literally hundreds of people walking, jogging, or running up it in any given day. Take a deep breath and head up the trail. Yeah, you'll be hating life in a little bit, I promise!
OK, by now you're wondering why I've brought you this way. If you've never done the "Incline," it really
is a great hike. Anyway, it rises about 2000 ft up in less than a mile! I consistently do it in about 45-50 minutes. When you get to the top, congratulate yourself and have a seat for a few minutes! You deserve the rest.
Finding the Rocky Mountain trailhead
After resting, look to the west. You'll see a short set of concrete stairs. Head up these stairs and continue west up the large trail. There's a little trail that goes off to the north about 200 yds up, but this goes to Rocky Mountain's "Eagle's Nest." Don't take this trail! Stay on the big trail! After a bit, the large trail turns to the left and flattens out. Now look for a sign on the left that says, "To Incline" and points to the left, and "Barr Trail" with an arrow to the right. See the photo. On the other side of the trail is a trail that continues up. See the photo. Take this trail, which is the Rocky Mountain Trailhead.
Finding the Mount Manitou trailhead
You're now on Rocky Mountain, Mount Manitou's "little" (but more popular) sister. Take the series of switchbacks, oh, maybe 6 or 8 of them, until the trail flattens out as you're heading north and the trail splits. There's a huge stump on the right side (see the photo), and a smaller trail that continues to the left and up. It's been there for the last couple of months (May-July 05) and may still be there, but there's the letters "RM" written in sticks (see photo) on the left-hand trail. This takes you to the top of Rocky Mountain. Don't take this trail, but instead continue north. I'll consider this point to be the Mount Manitou trailhead.
Finding the J-pipe
You'll know you're on the right trail when you see a very cool-looking tree laying across the trail just after the trailhead. See photo. Continue on this trail for a couple of minutes, and it'll widen out significantly and down. Where the trail bottoms out, you'll see a strange looking J-pipe sticking out of the ground. See photo. I don't know why they're there, but I would guess there's a tunnel that needs ventilating. On your left is Mount Manitou, and ahead (heading north) is a wide road called "Longs Ranch Road." I don't know if it's private property or not.
Bushwacking to the summit
Continue along Longs Ranch Road for a couple of minutes until you come to the second J-pipe. The walk took me about 6 minutes. You're now at a dirt road which looks like a 4-wheeler route. Take a left. Go up a while until you see a trail on your right. Take this trail all the way to the summit. It's only a short walk. I think the view is better from Rocky Mountain
than from here, but hey! I like to bag peaks, so let's check off another one!
Coming down to your car
If you want to walk, that's fine, but I ran most of the way and made it to the Barr Trail parking lot in 55 minutes. You can take your time, however.. After finding the first J-pipe, make your way down Rocky Mountain to the main trail and the sign. Take a left and go back to the top of the "Incline." Head to the right and make your way down the mountain to the very popular Barr Trail. Be careful, because it's quite steep, and if you have running shoes on instead of hiking boots, you may slip! You'll know you're on Barr Trail because the trail gets really wide. Head down the mountain about 3-1/2 miles (it's a good jog if you want) and you'll find your way at the bottom of Barr Trail at the trailhead. If you parked on Ruxton Ave., you may have to walk down the steep hill on Hydro St.
Congratulations! You've completed the J-pipe Express!
Just your basic gear. I'd recommend a Camelbak with 50 oz of water, some sunscreen if you go later in the day, and maybe a snack to eat at the summit . Running shoes are OK, but you may want hiking boots if you're a beginner.