Today I hiked Red Mountain Trail | 8.5/10
Location: Manitou Springs, Colorado
Distance: 3 miles out and back
Hike Time: 1:30 – 2:00
Difficulty: Advance-Beginner to Intermediate
You’re probably going to have to pay for parking. It was $10/hr for me on a Sunday.
The reward of this hike is at the top. The views of Manitou Springs and Pikes Peak are absolutely amazing and totally worth the climb. The icing on the cake: Back in the day, the Red Mountain Incline Railway used to bring visitors up to the peak, and you can still see remains of the buildings at the summit. See more about this below in the Notes section. It’s pretty awesome stuff.
Finding the Trailhead
The trailhead for Red Mountain Trail can be found right next to the parking depot for the Pike’s Peak Cog Railway in Manitou Springs. You actually use the Iron Springs trailhead and follow the Intemann Trail (to the left) at first.
Directions: Take 24 West and take the Manitou Springs exit. Take a right at the bottom of the ramp, and follow that road (Manitou Ave) for a few miles up through the beautiful town of Manitou Springs. Once you make your way through the main strip of Manitou, you’ll reach a roundabout. Take your second exit on that roundabout onto Ruxton Ave. You’ll follow this road all the way to the trailhead. As you approach the Cog Railway Depot, the road forks. The trailhead is on the left side of the road as soon as the road forks. Keep an eye out for this gazebo:
Heads Up: When you reach the trailhead, you’ll see this cool little gazebo with a natural spring in it (The water tastes super interesting…wasn’t for me). Once you walk through this gazebo, take a left. Unlike most hikes, you start off going downhill. You’ll take this for a hundred yards or so, and it’ll open up to a dirt/gravel road that turns sharp to the right. Take this road. It will lead to the continuation of the trail at the top of the hill.
This hike was really awesome. I’m upset it took me over 2 years to find it, especially given its rich history and how entrenched it is in Manitou Springs culture. I only ran into a handful of people all the way up and back, which is my kind of hike! I’d say the hike is overall very manageable for a beginner, but there are a few very steep points in the hike that were tough for me and forced me to stop for a drink. The vast majority of the time spent hiking is on the way up due to these steep sections.
When you reach the top, you can either take a left and climb up a rock formation (recommended) or take a right and go to the summit. If you go to the left and climb the rock formation, you’ll find the former site of the Red Mountain Incline Railway. The climb isn’t overly difficult, but it’s a massive boulder. Be prepared to navigate a relatively simple climb (don’t worry, the path is obvious and relatively easy). At the top, you can clearly see some old foundations and a concrete stairway leading down to the base of what had to have been the train station. This blurb about the Red Mountain summit is from my Falcon Guide:
The Red Mountain Incline Railway ferried visitors up the mountain’s steep northeast face. The lower concrete footings mark where the railway ended and visitors disembarked. The upper foundations mark the former site of a restaurant, bar, and a dance hall, where both live music and whiskey flowed. Some even say it was a casino and a gentlemen’s club…but that’s just a rumor.
To add to this history, before it was home to a sweet little hangout spot, the summit of Red Mountain was a gravesite. Back in the 1800s, Manitou Springs used to be a hotspot for people with Tuberculosis. It was something about the mountain air and the spring water. Emma Crawford, one of these TB patients, was buried on top of Red Mountain. Her grave was eventually moved to make way for the railway. At some point, the place she was reburied was saturated by rain, unearthing her coffin and flowing it back down the mountain to the town of Manitou Springs. This is the inspiration behind the Coffin Races in Manitou Springs every year, and the source of the claims that Red Mountain is haunted by Emma Crawford.
I’d recommend going to this area over hiking to the summit (both can easily be accomplished on the same trip). Reaching the summit isn’t difficult, but I think the views are better from the old train station site. It was such a great reward climbing that mountain to spend time in a beautiful place with such a colorful history. I wish I could go back in time to grab a drink and enjoy some live music with this view of Pikes Peak. But seriously, if people were getting hammered up there, I feel like there had to have been a decent amount of accidents near the edge.
Definitely one of my favorite quick day hikes in the Colorado Springs area.