By BRANDON EWERT
The Manitou Incline represents a rite of passage for many. The impossibly steep trail gains over 2,000 feet in elevation in less than a mile, making it a top destination for those seeking a challenging workout. Fitness enthusiasts and Colorado Springs newcomers flock to the Incline each year to test their endurance and push their limits. For some, completing the Incline is a lifelong goal. For others, it’s a daily workout.
The Incline was originally constructed in 1907 as a railway to reach water towers for Manitou Springs and Colorado Springs. When a rockslide severely damaged the railway in 1990, it was removed and replaced by a public hiking trail. Since then, the Incline has attracted thousands from around the country to test their grit and strength. In 2013, the City of Colorado Springs buried a trip-counting device underneath the trail and found that the Incline is climbed roughly 21,991 times per month.
It comes as no surprise that such high foot traffic combined with the extreme physical challenge of the hike result in health complications for some. Given the lack of vehicle access to the trail, medical emergencies are incredibly difficult to address quickly. In an effort to warn hikers of the potential dangers ahead, a sign was created that listed the total number of deaths that occurred on the Incline. However, friends and family members of the victims spoke out against the sign’s insensitivity, leading to its recent removal.
This summer, as an intern with the Colorado Springs Parks and Recreation department, Annie Engen ’19 took on the solo challenge to create a new warning sign for the Incline. After a month-long process of drafting the sign and staking it up, it was finally approved. The new sign reads:
WARNING: 2,744 steps is not a walk in the park. Hiking the Incline is comparable to climbing up:
• The Empire State Building
• The Eiffel Tower TWICE
• The Washington Monument THREE TIMES
• The Statue of Liberty SIX TIMES
There are two of these new signs on the Incline, one at the base and another about 100 steps further up. Engen hopes that the new and more respectful signs will give hikers a more realistic sense of the extreme physical task ahead, possibly preventing medical emergencies in the future.