Category Archives: endurance hikes

The Frugal Traveler checks out Eagle Creek

The New York Time’s “Frugal Traveler” dude recently posted a column about hiking and camping along the Eagle Creek Trail, near Portland, OR. He doesn’t really add much about the trail, other than astute observations about the weather (“persistent drizzle”) the waterfalls (“chock full” of them!) abundance of good camping spots and earth shattering realization that you can actually cook steaks and camp! The one good thing about the article is the Risotto recipe that appears near the end. It actually sounds like it would be a decent camping meal. We have yet to hike the trail for camping purposes, but if you do, know that the crowds decrease exponentially past the third mile (where Punch Bowl Falls is) and the upper campgrounds are incredibly gorgeous places to spend a night or two but can fill up quick during the summer months.

For the truly frugal, run the thing; it’s a much faster, and lighter, way to enjoy the trail.

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Mount Sanitas

We here at TWW do not often recommend going from 0 to 60 in the first five minutes of a workout, but unfortunately for our legs there are just some routes that are worth destroying them for. We count Mount Sanitas among that group – a route that is completely unforgiving, but worth every second of leg pain.

Almost a Boulder version of the Incline, Mount Sanitas is essentially a steep hike that is variably runnable, winding up the rocky ridge Sanitas where it tops out about 1.4 miles in. The trail is well worn, with some sections cut directly into the rock ridge, making it an adventure in foot placement and pacing. The views along the way and at the top are some of the best you’ll find in the Boulder area, making the fact that you can’t feel your calves easier to accept.

One drawback; finding the way back down in order to make the run a loop is a bit confusing. The East Ridge trail winds down to the Sanitas Valley trail which we take back to the parking lot. The problem with the East Ridge trail is that it is not clearly marked. Our best advice is to follow the most worn path, and keep your eyes open for the random trail markers. Our map shows the Mount Sinatas trail, the route down via the East Ridge trail, and then the Sanitas Valley trail back to the parking lot. A more label intensive map can be found here.

Do it because: intense hike and workout only minutes from downtown Boulder. Great views of the Flatirons, the town and beyond. Lots of pretty people to ogle.

Distance: 1.4 miles to the summit, 3.0 miles roundtrip.

Directions: From 9th and Pearl Street, take Pearl Street west and take a right on 4th Street, a left on Spruce, and then another right on 4th. Take 4th north to Mapelton and take a left. There are lots on both the north and south sides of the street. Additionally, you can generally park on the road and walk up to the trailhead.

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Gog and Magog Hike

Of course this hike exists in Manitou Springs, proverbial home of witches and Satan enthusiasts in Colorado. Google “Gog and Magog” and up pops website after website abound with satanic intonations. Wikipedia has a pretty comprehensive article about the history of the names and how they have been used in various religious cultures throughout the centuries. I have no idea who named the rock formation that gives the trail its name, but the bottom line is this: bring a goat and some gold to the top to add to the existing pile and you’ll be fine.

The hike is in the same valley as the Incline, at the end of Ruxton Road. Similar to the Incline, this hike is steep. It gains about 1500 feet in 3 miles, using plenty of switchbacks and even some boulder scrambling. I would not rank this trail as difficult as the Ute Trail in Aspen, but it definitely gets the heart rate up and is a good alternative if the Incline is too crowded.

The problem with this trail is that it is difficult to follow in places. I get the feeling when climbing it that its creation was the result of people bushwacking through it rather than any conscious efforts at trail creation. It is definitely worn down from heavy use, and once you find it the navigating is not that difficult, but there are parts where the trail appears to split. My suggestion is this: when the trail looks like it is going in two different directions, always take the one that heads uphill and you should be fine.

You quickly leave the trailhead behind as the first section of the trail gains elevation quickly through a series of switchbacks. This section does not last long – the switchbacks become more spaced apart as the trail winds up the hills. For the most part, the trees shelter much of the view, until you reach the higher sections of the hike where numerous rock outcroppings provide some spectacular views of the Manitou Springs Valley and downtown Colorado Springs. The trail will eventually appear to dead end into a large formation of rocks. This is where your boulder scrambling skills kick in – just climb over them and the trail will resume on the other side. Continue following the trail up until you come to the first large rock formation that gives the trail its name, Gog. At this point the trail will actually dead end, and you must climb up a short section of rock if you want to continue to the next formation. Once atop Gog, you can see the other large rock formation on the other end of what is a generally flat and sandy summit. The second formation, Magog, farther to the south is the more impressive of the two, with more dramatic features and some great spots for bouldering or top-rope climbing.

Overall, the hike has some incredibly impressive views of Pikes Peak and its surrounding foothills. The view itself makes this hike worth it, but the rock formations are fun to explore as well. Take some climbing shoes and chalk with you if you want to get some low key bouldering in while you are there.

Distance: about 3 miles up

Time: 55 minutes

Directions: From downtown Manitou Springs, take Manitou Ave west and take a left on Ruxton Avenue. Continue on Ruxton to the Cog Railroad depot and park (try the Barr Trail lot for more parking). Once on foot, continue up Ruxton Ave until it turns into a dirt road. The creek will be on your left. Walk up the dirt about 100 yards and look to the left for a large log that crosses the creek. Cross this log and cross the Cog tracks. The trailhead should be right in front of you.

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Incline to Barr Camp


Due to my extended stay in Manitou I have been able to do a more extensive reconnaissance of the trails in the area. For the most part I have known about, or heard about, most of the trails around town, but with the advent of more time on my hands (translation: jobless) I have been able to explore more of the area. The Incline to Barr Camp run was the result of three things: 1) a desire to revisit Barr Camp after my last visit a decade ago 2) an attempt to experience the Colorado fall and 3) a need to do some high altitude running to prepare for the Golden Leaf. I had the last reason on my mind the most when I started exploring the run, but that quickly gave way to enjoying the incredible scenery provided by the mountains and the aspen groves running through them. For some reason, when the run is gorgeous, like Eagle Creek or this one, it makes running for long periods of time so much easier. For this reason, I think I would be obese if I had to move to the Midwest.

I started the run by doing the Incline first. I wanted to do this to bypass the series of steep switchbacks that typify the beginning of Barr Trail and to get to 8600 feet or so as quickly as possible. From the top of the Incline, there is an access trail to the upper portion of Barr Trail. You can find it by walking straight, as if the Incline continued, until you reach a trail that angles up (there are some logs stacked next to the beginning of it). Do not confuse this trail with the one that angles slightly down, in the same general area. The downward trail dead ends into some impassable fencing. Once you are on the access trail, it is about a 1/2 mile to the intersection with Barr Trail.

From the intersection with the trail, the run heads up Barr Trail toward Barr Camp, gaining about 2,000 feet in elevation over 4 miles. The climbing is mostly gradual, winding through meadows and forest area until it reaches Barr Camp, located at 10, 200 feet. There are numerous vista points along the run that are home to some incredible views. Pikes Peak is almost always in front of you as you run, and the before mentioned aspens pocket the area. There are points where you actually run through aspen meadows, with the leaves forming a carpet on the trail. Pretty awesome.

From Barr Camp I simply turned around and headed back down the trail, all the way to the bottom (no desire to explode my knees trying to do the Incline in reverse). The whole thing took me 2 to 2.5 hours. I would bring some food and water, as there are not any freshwater sources that are drinkable on the run. Barr Camp, when it is open, sells food if you want to bring cash instead.

Overall I would say that this is one of my favorite runs in the area. It is a bit long, so perhaps best to do it during the weekend. The trail was not too crowded, but that changes during the weekends. The temperature at Barr Camp is usually about 10 to 15 degrees cooler than the town temp, so dress accordingly. Something else to thing about: Mountain lion attacks. I have an irrational fear of being mauled by a mountain lion whenever I run in this town. Although, wouldn’t it be awesome if a mountain lion tried to maul you and you killed it and then used its teeth to make a necklace that you wore to the bars to impress the ladies? That would be the ultimate.

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Fitness Hikes

My typical argument when someone is trying to convince me to go on a hike is that it is too slow. “I would rather run it” is my typical, meat-head response. This summer I spent a fair amount of time in Aspen, and in an effort to reach a middle ground with my more relaxed girlfriend, ended up hiking a fair amount. Surprisingly to me (but not to my girlfriend) I realized that I like it, a lot. While there is still the desire to run on some of the more gradual hikes, it is a great alternative to running and the slower pace makes the scenery a lot more enjoyable. That said, I am adding a new category called “fitness hikes” that will document the more challenging, aerobic type of hikes that are more appealing to me. The Incline and the Ute Trail are what I would consider “fitness hikes;” hikes that get your heart rate up quickly and are generally too steep to run for any significant amount of time.

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Paul Intemann Memorial Trail


Running along the southern rim of the valley in which Manitou Springs resides is the Paul Intemann Memorial trail, a 5+ mile trail built by a completely volunteer force that winds from the western edge of town into the eastern edges of Colorado Springs. The trail is named after city planner Paul Intemann who was killed in a car accident in 1986. Over the years the trail has grown and been extended, and exists as a great memorial to Paul’s work in making Manitou Springs a wonderful place to call home.

The trail winds the entire extent of Manitou Springs, making it a great first arrival destination for anyone looking to get a bird’s eye view of the town. From the trail, both the Incline and Red Mountain are easily accessible. In general, the trail is great for running, with only a view steep parts. For the most part the trail is dirt, with some paved sections which function more as connection points to the dirt sections. The most easily accessible trail head is the Iron Springs Trailhead, which can be reached by taking Manitou Ave west to Ruxton Ave. Follow that up the canyon until the Iron Springs gazebo.

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Red Mountain – Manitou Springs, CO


From downtown Manitou, one of the dominant mountains that overlooks town is Red Mountain, so named for the red sands and granite that give the mountain its unique tinge. In town, the mountain is known for two things; the traditional launching site for the town’s 4th of July fireworks, and Emma Crawford’s coffin, which managed to wrench its way out of the red sands in which it was buried and travel down the mountain in a mudslide until it reached downtown. This little event inspired Manitou’s famous Emma Crawford Race.

I had hiked Red Mountain when I was younger but was never too curious about it until my brother showed me a new trail that winds to the top of it. The Red Mountain Trail is a spur of the Intemann Trail, and winds about 2 miles to the summit of the mountain, where a large concrete platform awaits. Running, it took about 16 minutes from the beginning of the trail to the summit. For the most part the trail is fairly steep, with a lot of loose gravel at the beginning. But as you climb, the trail becomes more firm and levels out a bit.

By itself, the trail is a pretty short workout. But worked in with a longer run along the Intemann trail, it makes for a great out and back leg burner. My plan the next time I head back to town is to combine Red Mountain with the Incline for a long climbing day.

From downtown Manitou Springs, take Manitou Avenue west and turn left at Ruxton. Park near the Iron Spring gazebo and head up the dirt road (Spring Street) and take your first right. The trailhead starts at the chained off road, and the spur for Red Mountain is about a mile into the trail (heading east).


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