Fitness fanatics, you have nine more days to mount the Manitou Incline before it closes for about three months.
While Aug. 22 is the official closing day, the famous mile-high stair climb will close two days earlier for the Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon. The race course follows Barr Trail to the 14,115-foot summit of Pikes Peak, so officials decided to close the Incline early to avoid traffic jams. Most Incline hikers use Barr Trail to descend back to Manitou Springs.
"The chance of injury with runners racing on Barr Trail is our primary concern and we hope that the Incline hikers understand," Pikes Peak Marathon President Ron Ilgen said in a news release.
The Incline will remain closed through Dec. 2 during the second phase of a multimillion-dollar improvement and stabilization project to ensure the tourist attraction can hold up for years to come.
The world-famous trail was never meant to be the fitness challenge it is today.
It started as a railway - first functional, then recreational - before the tracks were destroyed during a rock slide in 1990. And up until 2013, a portion crossed private property and it was illegal to hike up the old incline railway's ties.
Locals turned it into an outdoor stair climber.
The city of Colorado Springs classifies the hike, which gains nearly 2,000 feet in less than a mile up about 2,740 steps, as "difficult" and for the "physically active."
Still, some 700 hikers take it on each day, and traffic can reach about 2,000 hikers on a summer weekend day.
The wear and tear has left the stairs in need of repair.
The first phase of a $5 million restoration took place in 2014 and fixed flood damage and reinforced the middle portion. Those repairs held up in a series of storms in 2015, showing such adjustments were needed to prevent deterioration, project manager Sarah Bryarly previously said.
The next step of the project is repairing the lower portion, ties 1 through 1,525.
Crews will repair and replace damaged retaining walls, clean up rebar and loose debris, fix failed drainage structures and stabilize existing ties.
Costs will be covered largely by a $772,000 hazard mitigation grant awarded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency late last year. Another $225,000 from Colorado Springs Trails, Open Space and Parks finishes the job.
When the Incline reopens, it will resume hours of 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Nov. 1 through March 31 and 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. April 1 through Oct. 31.
Manitou Springs police will issue tickets to people who attempt the hike while the Incline is closed, Police Chief Joe Ribeiro said. The ticket is a misdemeanor, but requires a mandatory appearance in court, he said.
To satisfy hikers in the meantime, the city of Manitou Springs compiled a list of 38 alternative trails, including Barr Trail, which will remain open.
The list details the level of difficulty, distance and surface for each hike. Eighteen of the hikes carry the same "difficult" designation as the Incline. Four others are rated "extremely difficult."
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