It was billed as an 'incline,' and it sure was when my wife and I tackled what has to be the tallest staircase on the continent.

The view from the top of the Manitou Incline (CSJ/TSM-Rochester)
The Manitou Incline, from the starting point at the bottom of the mountain. (CSJ/TSM-Rochester)

I'm talking about the Manitou Incline, which is located in the lovely town of Manitou Springs, Colorado. It's just outside of Colorado Springs, which is where my wife and I spent last week while on vacation.

The Manitou Incline was once a very steep railway that ran nearly 2,000 feet up the Pikes Peak mountain range. It was once used to haul supplies up the mountain but after a rockslide took out the tracks in 1990, just the remaining railroad ties remain.

And ever since then, all sorts of people-- like my wife and I-- have been tempted to see how fast they can climb those stairs, right up the side of the mountain. We tackled the incline last Friday, and it was intense!

While a normal set of stairs might contain 10 or 12 steps, this incline features 2,768 unevenly set 'stairs' that run nearly a mile long. (That's even more stairs than you'd find in the Empire State Building in New York!) If that's not torture enough, the ascent up the mountain rises up another 2,000 feet, resulting in stairs that are at a 45% angle-- and 68% during some stretches.

Of course, the starting elevation in Manitou Springs is already 6,000 feet above sea level, which makes it tougher to breathe. Needless to say, it takes awhile to make it to the top of the incline. But we did it-- in just under an hour and a half. But even then we weren't done-- because then you have to hike back DOWN the mountain, on the scenic 4-mile Barr Trail.

It was quite the workout. Of course, we then celebrated our accomplishment with a few adult beverages from some of Colorado Springs' craft breweries, content in the knowledge that if we ever have to 'take the stairs,' it can't be as intense as this incline is!

Listen to Curt St. John from 6 to 10 a.m. on Quick Country 96.
and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on 103.9 The Doc