Oct 23, 2020 | ACTIVE LIFE | By Kristen Richards | Photo by Anil Jergens

The Manitou Incline is a popular hiking trail in Manitou Springs that climbs almost 2,000 feet in 0.8 miles via 2,744 old cog railway steps. It runs parallel to the Barr Trail, the trail leading to the summit of Pikes Peak. The Manitou Incline is well-loved by tourists and locals as well as many Colorado College students. 

On days when the smoke from the Colorado wildfires has been swept away by gusts of strong wind, you can see the Manitou Incline from the grass above the soccer fields on campus. It appears as a vertical line on the horizon, as if someone stacked wooden blocks one on top of another up into the sky.

For me and many other CC students who love the outdoors, the Manitou Incline has provided a home of challenge and community.

Late in the afternoon of Oct. 8, smoke began to billow out from the Barr Trail and the Manitou Incline closed indefinitely as fire crews rushed to control the burn. Three days later, on Oct. 11, the Manitou Springs public information and engagement officer, Alex Trefry, announced that the fire had been fully contained.

The Colorado Springs Indy reported that the fire had burned approximately one acre of land about half a mile up the Barr Trail and that the Manitou Incline was scheduled to open again the next day.

An article in the Gazette released shortly after the fire began stated that the Manitou Springs emergency operations center received a phone call that described a man yelling “Burn the forest down!” just before the smoke appeared. The officials suspect arson; however, so far there have been no updates about why and how the fire was started.

Though the fire itself was contained quickly and there was little to no direct impact to the Manitou Incline, the thought of the Barr Trail and Manitou Incline burning was distressing in more ways than one. 

The Incline fire is a shocking reminder of the impermanence of the wilderness areas that so many of us love and spend time exploring. It is imperative that moving forward we strictly follow the state guidelines for fire restrictions to avoid any and all human-provoked wildfires. Of course, it’s not ideal to go camping in late October without the warmth of a fire, but if we truly want to enjoy this wilderness we have to take care of it, and that means avoiding any activity that could cause destruction.

Currently, El Paso County, along with the majority of other counties on the Eastern slope of Colorado, have fire restrictions in place. If you are camping outside of El Paso County and want to build a campfire, be sure to check the Colorado State Forest Service website for updates on fire restrictions by county.

We are lucky to have Pikes Peak and the Manitou Incline in our backyard, to see all 2,744 of those wooden steps still standing and beckoning to us. I hope that, through educating ourselves on the importance of fire safety, we can keep the Manitou Incline and surrounding area free from wildfires.

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