Saturday, November 7, 2015

Don't want to pay parking fees at the Incline? Here are your alternatives

Posted By on Sat, Nov 7, 2015 at 7:04 AM


You've no doubt heard that parking on Ruxton Avenue or at the Barr Trail lot in Manitou Springs has just gotten obscenely expensive. This increase in fees, in reaction to complaints from residents along Ruxton Avenue about noise, parking and traffic, is designed to minimize the impact on the neighborhood due to the popularity of the Manitou Incline.

The fees, which have increased to $5 per hour on Ruxton Ave, and to $10 per day at the Barr Trail parking lot – along with limiting use of the lot from 7am to 8pm – will likely severely crimp the style of Incline, Barr Trail and Ute Pass Trail users.

Want to get a sunrise start on Barr Trail next summer? Or, get back after dark? Good luck — you'll find closed gates. You can park in downtown Manitou Springs and walk up to the trailheads, but how long before downtown merchants complain about their customers not having a place to park?

While others tackle those issues, maybe it's time for users to consider alternatives to the Incline. While I have written before about Incline alternatives, many of those stated near the Incline and would face the same parking problems. But not this list. (And yes, there really isn't anything that is an exact replacement for the Incline, so please, hold the cards and letters)

click to enlarge From the bottom of the Challenge Staircase in Castle Rock. - BOB FALCONE
  • Bob Falcone
  • From the bottom of the Challenge Staircase in Castle Rock.
The closest approximation to the Manitou Incline is the “Challenge Staircase” in Castle Rock's Philip S. Miller Park. Constructed about a year ago, at approximately 200 steps, the Staircase is shorter than the Incline, but is still rather steep and will get your heart and breathing rates up.

The evenly spaced steps make for a smoother climb, and it's wide enough that it can accommodate up and down traffic. Trails at the top take you back to the bottom of the Staircase, or on a 7-mile loop around the entire park.

To get there: Take I-25 north to the Plum Creek Parkway exit on the south end of Castle Rock. Go west for less than a mile and turn left into the park, then make the first left following the road to the parking lot at the bottom of the Challenge Staircase.

Closer to Manitou Springs, the Catamount Falls Trail in Green Mountain Falls has moderate steepness and numerous switch-backs. At the top of the hill, you can either turn around and head back down, or keep going through the “Garden of Eden” — and then the Catamount Flume — until you reach the road that goes around the North Slope Reservoirs. For a good view of the north face of Pikes Peak, take the road to the right for a short, steep climb to the Catamount Reservoir.

To get there: Park at Hondo Avenue and Ute Pass Avenue and walk approximately 1/2 mile up Hondo to the service road. Go through the gate on the service road and walk past the waterfall to the trailhead. Approximately six miles round trip if you go all the way to the reservoir.

The Heizer Trail in Cascade is a steep, 4-mile round-trip hike to the summit and back, with stunning views along the way and especially at the top.

click to enlarge Pikes Peak from Heizer Trail. - BOB FALCONE
  • Bob Falcone
  • Pikes Peak from Heizer Trail.

To get there: Take Highway 24 to the Cascade (Pikes Peak Toll Road) exit. Turn left onto Emporia Street and then left on Park Street and another left on Anemone Hill Road. The signed trailhead is at the top of the hill. There is no parking at the trailhead, but you can park on Emporia Street near Highway 24 and walk up to the trailhead. The walk from Emporia Street and Highway 24 adds about another mile (round trip) to the hike.

Finally, with winter is fast approaching, consider another outdoor activity for your outdoor exercise: Snowshoeing. While easier than “post-holing” while hiking in deep snow, snowshoeing is more difficult than plain-old hiking. You'll get more bang out of your workout — even milder slopes than the incline become a pretty good workout when you're snowshoeing.

Wednesday, November 11th is Veterans Day, and entrance fees to National Parks and Monuments are waived. And the 2015 IndyGive! campaign is underway with a number of local outdoors groups are participating, including some that may champion your favorite park or cause. (Full disclosure: I am president of the Friends of Cheyenne Cañon group, one of this year's participants.) Find them in the Great Outdoors section of the guide and make a donation.

Happy trails!

Bob Falcone is a retired firefighter, photographer, hiker, college instructor and business owner who has lived in Colorado Springs for over 23 years. He is the president of the Friends of Cheyenne Canon and a member of the El Paso County Parks Advisory Board. You can follow him on Twitter (@hikingbob), Facebook (Hiking Bob), or visit his website (Hikingbob.com). E-mail questions, comments, suggestions, etc to Bob: info@hikingbob.com.

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