Have you discovered the new trail above Manitou Springs?
If you are a hiker in the Colorado Springs area, I am willing to bet that you have repeatedly hiked every one of our beautiful trails. We love our trails, but it is nice to find a new one so close to home.
The notorious Manitou Incline is a one-way grueling vertical ascent, and the return trip down Barr Trail can be hard on the trail, and hard on the trail users headed uphill.
There is another solution in the works, and, GOOD NEWS, the first part is finished and open to hikers. The North Return Trail (NRT) switchbacks up the mountain face to the right (north) of the incline, the opposite side as the Barr Trail. Ultimately, it will connect with the top of the incline for a quick trip back down. At this point, the trail ends at tie 1,300. Explore it now before it becomes the prime route down from the top of the incline.
- Tie number 2,744 The Top!
- Tie number 1,800 The Barr Trail cutoff (left side)
- Tie number 1,300 The North Return Trail (right side)
- Tie number 300 The North Return Trail lower connection
- Tie number 1 “Aw, it doesn’t look too bad from here”
This new trail is 1.6 miles long, with a 580 foot elevation gain, from the base of the incline to tie number 1,300. The switchbacks appear very much like lower Barr Trail, at least what Barr looked like before the railings and heavy use.
The North Return Trail connects to the Ute Pass Trail and the UPT begins at the base of the incline. The first piece of the trail is steeper than you would expect, but it soon turns into a steady elevation gain. Just like Barr Trail, the lower sections is exposed, with little tree cover.
Looking down at the Ute Pass Trail, The North Return Trail to the left. The cog station is on the far right.
How about a unique hike? Hike up the North Return Trail to the incline. Climb the 500 steps (1,300 to 1,800) up to the Barr Trail Cutoff and then take Barr Trail down. Remember, dogs are discouraged on the incline. This same circle wouldn’t work starting on Barr Trail, as the Incline is one-way.
The North Return Trail with tie number 1,300 in the background..
Along the trail, Mullein plants line an extent of the trail. It didn’t take long for this invasive plant, similar to Lambs Ear, to make itself at home. With a velvety soft flocked leaf, it is is also know as the Fisherman’s Friend. (Think about it.)
Interesting trailside notes: The NPT trail cuts through a large bank of milky quartz. I also spotted in a Pikes Peak Granite boulder, an inclusion of a highly oxidized basalt, similar to the ancient volcanic area of the Cripple Creek District. How can that be on this side of Pikes Peak? I very well could be wrong. A second boulder was also spotted. I would like to hear from someone more knowledgeable in geology.
A unique view of the Manitou Incline, as seen from the North Return Trail.
As it stands now, this trail is a connection 2/3 the way up, and the well built trail is rarely used. When it is completed as the return route from the top of the incline, it is going to be a steady downhill flow of the victorious Incline hikers. Now is the time to check it out. If you try the loop using the North Cutoff Trail, up 500 steps and then down Barr Trail, let me know!
Our book, Easy Hikes to the Hidden Past has a chapter dedicated to the Ute Pass Trail. Just sayin’