Yes, Rocky Mountain is an actual mountain. Located in Manitou Springs, Colorado, this 9,250′ peak is often overshadowed by the trail that climbs it: the famous Manitou Incline. This route forms a loop that ascends the incline, but then continues climbing to the little-traveled summit of Rocky Mountain before descending via the gentler grade of the Barr Trail.
Getting to the Trailhead
You have two options to reach the summit of Rocky Mountain: the short-but-steep Manitou Incline, or the longer, gentler Barr Trail. This guide describes a loop that takes you up Manitou Incline and back down the Barr Trail, but you could easily modify this to go out-and-back via the Barr Trail. The two trailheads are only about 100 yards apart, so the parking will be basically the same. You can get turn-by-turn driving directions to the Incline trailhead on Google Maps, and here is the Barr Trailhead.
Speaking of parking… it’s a problem. Both the Incline and the Barr trails are popular, plus the Pikes Peak Cog Railway starts in the same area. If you find parking, you will pay through the nose for it (imagine $10/hour). I recommend parking in downtown Manitou Springs and walking up Ruxton Avenue to the trailhead. It adds about 0.8 miles each way, but I paid just $10 for about 5-6 hours of parking. And it’s a nice walk.
Hiking to Rocky Mountain
There are two routes up Rocky Mountain; the Manitou Incline and the Barr Trail. This guide describes the route up the incline, returning via the Barr Trail. You can modify this to go out-and-back via the Barr Trail if desired. Going down via the incline is not recommended. It’s bad for the knees and bad for traffic flow.
The Manitou Incline is an impressive sight. It’s a series of steps that goes quite literally straight up the mountain. It starts out with gentle steps, but steepens quickly.
At roughly the halfway point up the incline, there is a “bail-out” point where you take a break or cut over to the Barr Trail.
Shade is precious on this trail. There is some, but the steps are largely exposed, making an early morning start advisable in warm weather. Still, there are little nooks where you can duck off the steps and catch your breath in the shade.
In places, the trail goes from steep to ludicrous.
After a mile and 2,000 feet of vertical climb, you reach the top of the incline. Go ahead. Pose for that selfie, drink some water, and eat a snack. You may be done with the Incline, but you’ve still got more hiking to reach the summit.
There is a well established double-track trail that heads towards Rocky Mountain, although are no trail signs. Head uphill past the crumbling concrete foundations that remain from the old incline rail, and look for the wide trail bearing left and uphill.
At 1.5 miles, take a faint single-track trail up to the right.
Follow this as it winds up the mountain, aiming for the summit. There were a few downed trees to cross over, but nothing to difficult.
Finally, you’ll see the boulder-strewn summit of Rocky Mountain. The high point itself is atop a large boulder formation, easily identified by the wood beam anchored at the top. This used to be part of a ladder that climbed to the top, and which has decayed and fallen to bits that you can see nearby. Climbing to the top is not difficult.
To head down, retrace your steps down the single-track trail until you reach the wider double-track section. Here you’ll turn right, heading down and west to the junction with the Barr Trail. Turn left at the Barr Trail and follow it down the switchbacks to the trailhead, about three miles.
Manitou Incline to Rocky Mountain Trail Map & Elevation Profile
Rocky Mountain via Manitou Incline Tips & Resources
- Rocky Mountain is a Colorado Mountain Club Classic. For more details, check out Colorado Summit Hikes for Everyone (affiliate link).
- At the time of writing, no permits were required.
- Bring plenty of water and sun protection.
- Dogs are allowed, on leash.
- After the hike, grab lunch in Manitou Springs.
Rocky Mountain / Manitou Incline Weather Forecast
The Colorado Rockies Six-Pack of Peaks Challenge
Rocky Mountain is part of the Colorado Rockies Six-Pack of Peaks Challenge, a self-paced hiking challenge that takes you up six, iconic peaks–each one a bit higher and tougher.
It’s a challenge in itself, or great training for still bigger adventures. Learn more and sign-up here.
Originally hiked on June 28, 2017.