The Manitou Incline's closure due to COVID-19 hasn't stopped progress on "the hill," as regulars affectionately call the grueling trail of 2,744 timber steps.
Earlier this month at step 1,300, Incline Friends president Bill Beagle veered right into the woods alongside crew members overseeing the construction of what Colorado Springs parks officials are calling the Northern Incline Trail. The Friends nonprofit is funding the $36,000 project, which is expected to wrap up by August.
"It's gonna be a beautiful trail," Beagle said. "The views in there are just wonderful."
From step 1,300 — more than 500 steps below the "bailout" for Barr Trail — the machine-cut northern connector will switchback down between scrub oak and pine trees for a little more than a mile to Ute Trail. From there, it'll be a short walk to the Incline's base.
"From what I've seen, it's not gonna have nearly the roots and rocks of Barr Trail," Beagle said. "It's gonna be much more pleasant."
Conceived in the 2011 management plan for the Incline, the idea is to relieve pressure on Barr, which has eroded over the years due to heavy, descending traffic. The connector is also meant to relieve those unable to reach the "bailout."
The management plan calls for another return trail — another alternate to Barr — at the summit of the Incline. That construction would be on U.S. Forest Service land, likely requiring a lengthy federal review.