UTE INDIAN TRAIL
Say hello to all those crazies at the Manitou Incline. Wave as you go on your far less tortuous way. This historic trail starts directly to the right of the stair stepper's base, and while challenging at points, this option allows many more chances to breathe and enjoy the view.
You'll see the first of many interpretive signs early on: The Ute Indian Trail is considered one of the country's oldest migratory paths, with native people having used it about 10,000 years ago. They did not have the sight of power lines as you'll have. But perhaps the natural vistas were similar: The great, green hillsides above Manitou Springs rise with you on your initial climb. Soon Garden of the Gods and the eastern plains enter into view. Then you'll come eye-level with the Waldo Canyon fire burn scar before the trail descends into grassy and scrub oak-filled surroundings.
The hike's second half - continuing west with U.S. 24 toward Cascade - lacks the views of the first 2 miles or so. Don't count on much shade as you steadily ascend and dip again with the trail. You can, however, safely count on seclusion. Only four other people were spotted on this trip. The trail ends with a short interpretive loop.
Trip log: 6.42 miles round trip (out and back), 1,307-foot total elevation gain, 7,343 feet max
Getting there: Ruxton Avenue starts off the traffic circle in downtown Manitou Springs and continues up to the Pikes Peak Cog Railway. The Manitou Incline trailhead is opposite the train station, beside the paved parking lot. Trailhead to the right of the steps.
FYI: Trail open to hikers, bikers, horses. Dogs must be on a leash. Park in the free lot at Hiawatha Gardens and take the free shuttle to the Incline.
Seth Boster, The Gazette