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Iron Mountain, Manitou Springs
Manitou Springs is famous for being the gateway to America's Mountain. From town, people walk to Barr Trail and embark on the 13.1-mile hike to Pikes Peak. Lesser known are the trailheads of lower-profile mountains. They, too, are found in town, hiding in neighborhoods. They're not as heralded as the route to the 14,115-foot summit or to the uber-popular Incline. But anyone who seeks them is guaranteed solitude and views.
Take Iron Mountain, for example. The trailhead is up Pawnee Avenue, the street rising up the hill at the downtown stoplight. But for a worthwhile extension of this trip, we recommend starting at the Intemann trailhead reached off Ruxton Avenue. After a short, steep ascent, the path flattens on a ridge overlooking the town, the Waldo Canyon burn scar and the red rock walls bordering Ute Pass.
At the junction for Red Mountain, continue straight to spot Garden of the Gods in the distance. At the next power-line post, see the trail continuing up to the right. Ahead, nearing 0.75 miles, continue on the wider path going straight, not to the right. Iron Mountain enters into view, imposing enough to seem as if the top is much farther than a mile.
Intemann Trail spills onto the road, with Iron Mountain's switchbacking trail clearly marked across the way. You'll rise and dip at first but never significantly. The pines blend with the scrub oak as the path steadily climbs into wilder surroundings of the foothills.
Along with downtown Colorado Springs and the hazy plains spreading east, you'll see outcrops marking the scenic area known as Section 16. A longer day can be had by heading left toward that area at the trail 'T.' Go right for the final push to the overlook, where Pikes Peak joins the 360-degree vistas.
Trip log: 2 miles round trip (out and back), 938-foot elevation gain, 7,136 feet max
Getting there: For the Intemann trailhead off Ruxton Avenue, follow the street to the left of the traffic circle in downtown Manitou. Cross the bridge for Spring Street and follow the dirt path up.
FYI: Park at the free lot at Hiawatha Gardens, 10 Old Man's Trail. Hiking and mountain biking. Dogs on leash.