This route begins near the base of the Manitou Incline, and your footsteps may fall on the exact spots where Ute Indians once tread.
According to El Paso County Parks, the trail is one of the oldest migratory routes in the U.S., dating back 10,000 years ago. Ute Indians used the trail to travel to rich hunting grounds in South Park, trade with other tribes, and for spiritual pilgrimages to the sacred Manitou Springs. At the end of the route, trail markers memorialize a 1912 Dedication Ride that included Ute Indian Chief Buckskin Charlie and former Colorado Gov. Alva Adams.
From the trailhead, wind your way up through mountain shrubland for about 1 ½ miles to the top of a ridge where the trail intersects Rattlesnake Gulch. Turn left and head northwest on the wide service road/trail, climbing into ponderosa pine and Douglas fir woodland.
After about 1.25 miles, hikers will reach an intersection with Longs Ranch Road. Continue straight on the trail route, then bear right at a fork where a sign states, “Dead End, Private Property. No Trespassing.” From here, continue only one-quarter mile farther on the road to metal signs on the left labeled, “1912 Trail Marker” and “UPT.” The original markers were stolen by vandals, so the new stone markers on the ground are protected with a rebar dome.
At the first marker, turn left and hike along the social trail for about 50 yards to view the second 1912 marker off the trail on the right side.
To add some variety and a bit more distance on the return hike, several social trails on the right pass through shady conifer forest and swing away then back to the service road/trail. One of these side trails also leads to the Ute Medicine Wheel Interpretive Site.
Back at the trailhead, consider walking back to Memorial Park. It’s about 0.75 miles, all downhill along Ruxton Avenue, passing by the quaint shops of Manitou. Like Ute Indians of the past, you can also enjoy a refreshing drink from mineral spring fountains along the way.
Joe LaFleur has lived in southern Colorado since 2016 and is a hiking enthusiast who hits the trails weekly. Contact Joe with questions or feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org. Hiking is great exercise, but can be hazardous. Always be sure to plan well, check the weather, bring a printed map, tell someone where and when you are going, and contact them when you return safely.