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On Walkabout On: The Mt. Manitou to Ute Indian Trail Loop

Basic Information

  • Name: Mount Manitou to Ute Indian Trail Loop
  • Where: Manitou Springs, Colorado
  • Elevation: 9,429 feet
  • Distance: 9.5 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 3,485 feet
  • Time: 4-6 hours
  • Difficulty: EasyModerateHardDifficult
  • More Information: SummitPost.org

Topographic Map of the Trail

Mt Manitou Topo Map

Elevation Map of the Trail

Mt Manitou Elevation Map

Narrative

I have hiked up the Manitou Incline many times and recently as part of my training for the upcoming 14er season I decided to add a summit of the 9,429 foot Mt. Manitou as part of my work out.  The top of the Incline ends below the summit of a rock outcropping known as Rocky Mountain.  Many people mistakenly think this is Mt. Manitou when it is not.  Mt. Manitou is a higher summit that is located behind the 9,250 foot Rocky Mountain.  My hike to the top of Mt. Manitou began with first completing the nearly 1-mile and 2,000 foot elevation gain hike to the summit of the Manitou Incline:

Picture from My Hike Up Mt. Manitou

At the top of the Incline I then walked past the ruins of the old incline railway station that was once on the top of this mountain:

Picture from My Hike Up Mt. Manitou

As I walked past the ruins I happened to notice this cross behind the ruins:

Picture from My Hike Up Mt. Manitou

I have never noticed this cross before, but there was no name on it and I doubt someone would actually be buried up here?  Does anyone know who this cross is for?  Anyway behind the ruins I could see the trail that leads towards Mt. Manitou:

Picture from My Hike Up Mt. Manitou

This was a great trail that skirted the summit of Rocky Mountain:

Picture from My Hike Up Mt. Manitou

Along the way on this trail I stopped at a lookout that had a great view of the 10,707 foot Cameron Cone:

Picture from My Hike Up Mt. Manitou

You can read about my prior hike to the summit of Cameron Cone at the below link:

It also had a slightly obscured view of the 14,115 foot Pikes Peak:

Picture from My Hike Up Mt. Manitou

You can read about my prior hike up Pikes Peak at the below link:

Here is a panorama photo I took using my iPhone 5S of the view:

Picture from My Hike Up Mt. Manitou

The trail then connected on to Barr Trail:

Picture from My Hike Up Mt. Manitou

There were a few people I saw that had run up the Incline and then planned to jog over to Barr Camp.  I walked just a short distance on Barr Trail before coming to the intersection with the Old Fremont Experimental Forest Trail:

Picture from My Hike Up Mt. Manitou

This trail headed through the forest in a Northwesterly direction:

Picture from My Hike Up Mt. Manitou

I had never been up this trail before so I was surprised to find the ruins of a small village:

Picture from My Hike Up Mt. Manitou

This village was the Fremont Forest Experiment Station that a marker installed by the US Forest Service explained the history of:

Picture from My Hike Up Mt. Manitou

The station was installed in 1909 as part of an effort to learn how to properly reforest parts of the American West that had been decimate by uncontrolled logging.  The station made a number of scientific finds that proved invaluable in regards to effective forest management.  Supplies to this small station were brought in using the Incline since the railway was still operational back then.  From the Incline donkeys or horse drawn wagons would be used to move supplies to the station:

The station ended its work in 1935.  You can learn more about the US Forest Services experimental stations that they established throughout the West at this link.

Here are a few pictures of the abandoned Fremont Forest Experiment Station:

Picture from My Hike Up Mt. Manitou

Picture from My Hike Up Mt. Manitou

The forest around the station now is quite lush and shows the success of the Forest Service’s work here:

Picture from My Hike Up Mt. Manitou

Something else that was nice to see at the station was that Spring has finally come to the high country with the aspen trees beginning to sprout their leaves:

Picture from My Hike Up Mt. Manitou

From the experiment station I continued to follow the trail for short distance until it came to another intersection.  Here I took a right up a trail that ascended a small hill:

Picture from My Hike Up Mt. Manitou

On top of the hill there was another trail intersection where I made a right on the trail that leads towards Mt. Manitou:

Picture from My Hike Up Mt. Manitou

This trail goes in between Rocky Mountain and Mt. Manitou and according to my map there is supposed to be an intersection with a trail that heads North up to the summit of Mt. Manitou.  I could not see a trail leading to the summit of the mountain so at this point I just broke brush through the trees to the summit:

Picture from My Hike Up Mt. Manitou

I eventually did see a faint trail that even had some red tape marking the path:

Picture from My Hike Up Mt. Manitou

However, once I reached the final summit approach I had to do an easy rock scramble to get to the summit:

Picture from My Hike Up Mt. Manitou

The highest point on Mt. Manitou is this big rock:

Picture from My Hike Up Mt. Manitou

Here is a view of the summit from the top of the rock:

Picture from My Hike Up Mt. Manitou

On top of the rock there was a jar that had a register for people to sign:

Picture from My Hike Up Mt. Manitou

I signed the register and noticed that no one had hiked up here in over two weeks which shows how infrequently hiked this mountain is despite being so close to the mega-popular Incline and Barr Trail.

The views from the summit were quite good, but I had to maneuver around the rocks a little bit to get unobscured views because of the trees.  Here is an iconic view of the great Pikes Peak:

Picture from My Hike Up Mt. Manitou

Here is the view looking towards the 12,367 foot Almagre Mountain:

Picture from My Hike Up Mt. Manitou

This perspective of Almagre Mountain I think is its best viewpoint because from other perspectives the mountain just looks like a big pile of rocks South of Pikes Peak.  From this perspective though Almagre has a bit of red color to it and looks like a much more impressive mountain.  Here is a closer look at Almagre Mountain:

Picture from My Hike Up Mt. Manitou

You can read about my prior hike up to the summit of Almagre Mountain at the below link:

Looking to the North I could also see the 14,264 foot Mt. Evans rising up in the distance:

Picture from My Hike Up Mt. Manitou

You can read about my prior hike up to the summit of Mt. Evans at the below link:

Finally here is a panorama I took of the view:

Picture from My Hike Up Mt. Manitou

I spent about 20 minutes on the summit taking pictures, eating some granola bars, and drinking water before deciding to break brush again back towards the trail.  After about 15 minutes of breaking brush I found myself back on the trail between Mt. Manitou and Rocky Mountain:

Picture from My Hike Up Mt. Manitou

As I headed Southwest on this trail I came upon this structure in the ground:

Picture from My Hike Up Mt. Manitou

My best guess on what this could be is an underground power line that once ran to the railway building at the top of the Manitou Incline.  If anyone knows if this correct please leave a comment.  At this point I actually had the option of returning back to the top of the Incline which this trail on my right led back to:

Picture from My Hike Up Mt. Manitou

I was still feeling pretty good and had plenty of energy left so I decided to continue to jog down the dirt trail that descended Mt. Manitou in northerly direction.  As I jogged down the trail I had a view of the Waldo Canyon burn scar directly in front of me:

Picture from My Hike Up Mt. Manitou

Above me I could see the summit of Mt. Manitou that I had just descended:

Picture from My Hike Up Mt. Manitou

In areas where the trees did not obscure the view I could look down into Ute Pass and see the cars driving on Highway 24 down below:

Picture from My Hike Up Mt. Manitou

I could also look up Ute Pass and see cars driving on Highway 24 towards Woodland Park with the green forested foothills below Pikes Peak on one side and the blackened slopes of the Waldo Canyon burn scar on the other:

Picture from My Hike Up Mt. Manitou

Something else I spotted as I continued down the trail was that someone had decorated one of the structures in Denver Broncos colors:

Picture from My Hike Up Mt. Manitou

This is some serious fan devotion whoever decorated this structure in the middle of nowhere where few people will ever see it.  Very cool thing to see though during my jog.  Eventually I reached the bottom of the mountain where there was an open gate:

Picture from My Hike Up Mt. Manitou

Near this gate was this sign that said the trail was closed to any motor vehicles:

Picture from My Hike Up Mt. Manitou

Just a short walk from the gate I then came to the intersection with what my map labeled the Ute Indian Trail, but the sign called it the UPT:

Picture from My Hike Up Mt. Manitou

I think this trail used to be called the Ute Pipeline Trail and thus the reason for the UPT marker.  Once again if anyone knows if this is correct please leave a comment.  Next to the UPT sign there was another sign that said that if I continued on the original trail that I descended from that it would lead to Longs Ranch and the small village of Cascade in just .73 miles:

Picture from My Hike Up Mt. Manitou

As I headed down the UPT I also saw this Ring the Peak trail marker which just confirmed further for me that I was on the right trail:

Picture from My Hike Up Mt. Manitou

The walk on the Ute Indian Trail was a nice one due to how green everything was becoming since Spring had finally arrived to Colorado:

Picture from My Hike Up Mt. Manitou

I even saw a few of these white wildflowers along the trail:

Picture from My Hike Up Mt. Manitou

For the majority of the jog along the Ute Indian Trail there was this natural gas pipeline that ran adjacent to the trail:

Picture from My Hike Up Mt. Manitou

I was a bit surprised to see a gas pipeline this exposed in the middle of the forest.  My concern would be some kind of accident or natural event causing a gas line rupture and possible fire.  I just have to assume that appropriate safety precautions have been taken with this pipeline.  At one point the gas pipeline passes underneath a large water pipeline:

Picture from My Hike Up Mt. Manitou

The trail overall was a descent towards Manitou Springs, but it still had hills that had to be occasionally hiked up that provided some views of the burn scar to the East:

Picture from My Hike Up Mt. Manitou

To the West I could see that a lot of fire mitigation had been done where someone brought in a wood chipper to chip downed trees:

Picture from My Hike Up Mt. Manitou

The chipping of these trees caused the forest to have an even stronger pine smell then it normally has.  At one point the trail came to a clearing where I could see Rocky Mountain and Mt. Manitou watching over me to the West:

Picture from My Hike Up Mt. Manitou

I then ran into this sign that said that this was the point where the old wagon trail intersected with the Ute Indian Trail:

Picture from My Hike Up Mt. Manitou

It was easy for me to imagine the horse drawn wagons heading up this trail over a hundred years ago:

Picture from My Hike Up Mt. Manitou

Back then it must have taken all day to make the journey from Colorado Springs up to Woodland Park at the top of Ute Pass.  Today this same journey can be done if there is no traffic in 15 minutes by driving up Highway 24.  Something else I noticed further down the trail was this pine tree:

Picture from My Hike Up Mt. Manitou

These conical shaped pine trees are a common sight at the Garden of the Gods, but I have never seen one just randomly growing in the wild like this one was.  After ascending up a small hill I then came to a sign that pointed out that I was now at 7,000 feet above sea level:

Picture from My Hike Up Mt. Manitou

Ahead of me I could see what appeared to be a water pumping station for Manitou Springs that the trail entered into.  At the fence line I could see there was a gate that I figured was locked:

Picture from My Hike Up Mt. Manitou

I had to assume there must be some kind of trail that bypasses the plant so I descended down from the hill towards the pumping station.  Near the pumping station I saw what appeared to be a newly constructed trail on my right:

Picture from My Hike Up Mt. Manitou

This trail is easy to spot since it is covered with freshly laid gravel which easily made this the best trail surface I had hiked on all day.  This trail switchbacks up a very large hill as it heads back towards the start of the Incline.  I could no longer jog because my legs were just too wore out to try and jog up this steep hill.  So I took my time walking up the hill and enjoyed the views of the Rampart Range to the East and the water pumping station down below:

Picture from My Hike Up Mt. Manitou

To my West I had incredible views of Cameron Cone and Rocky Mountain:

Picture from My Hike Up Mt. Manitou

At the top of the hill I was really surprised to see this improvised structure that appeared to have someone living in it:

Picture from My Hike Up Mt. Manitou

The structure even had a fenced in “backyard” that was filled with garbage:

Picture from My Hike Up Mt. Manitou

I did not want to go poking around inside of the structure and have some crazy meth-head attack me so I quickly left the area.  Does anyone know if a structure like this is legal to construct on what appears to be public land according to my map?  Further down the trail I saw the remains of another improvised camp:

Picture from My Hike Up Mt. Manitou

I have heard theories that the Waldo Canyon fire was started by homeless people or improvised meth-labs in the forest and seeing this made this theory more plausible to me.  Both sites had empty flammable cans lying around in the garbage to include gasoline.  It does not take too much imagination to picture drug induced carelessness at one of these camps causing the Waldo Canyon fire.

Anyway when I wasn’t looking at improvised homeless camps (meth-labs?) I was taking in the expansive views of Manitou Springs from the hill:

Picture from My Hike Up Mt. Manitou

I also had great views of Cameron Cone that looks quite impressive from this angle:

Picture from My Hike Up Mt. Manitou

As I descended down this hill I found myself staring across at the Manitou Incline which is where I began this hike:

Picture from My Hike Up Mt. Manitou

Down below I could see the Cog Railway Station which was swarming with customers:

Picture from My Hike Up Mt. Manitou

It was a quick jog down the hill where I found that the trail ended literally at the start of the Incline:

Picture from My Hike Up Mt. Manitou

Conclusion

People waiting to go up the Incline saw me jogging in from the side trail and were interested in where I was coming from.  I told them my route and they could not believe I had jogged and hiked all that distance after hiking up the Incline.  I am happy with my level of fitness, but I am no where near as fit as some of the people I see going up the Incline in the morning like this guy that hiked up 719 times in one year.  My route that included a summit of Mt. Manitou and jog down the Ute Indian Trail would probably not be much of a challenge to the more fit people on the Incline, but for people of decent fitness looking to push themselves a little bit more I thought this work out was a really good one.  It was 9.5 miles long with 3,485 feet of elevation gain which is more challenging than some 14ers.  I was definitely wore out after this work out which proved to be a great training event for the summertime 14er season.

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