Hike The Incline to get in hunting shape

If you’re looking for a good exercise that’ll get you in shape for hunting season, consider traveling down to Colorado and hiking the Manitou Incline.

My wife’s idea of fun is running 5Ks or even 10Ks. I got out of the half marathon she is going to do in June, because I’ll be photographing a rodeo that weekend. But I’m sure there’ll be another one some other time this summer that I won’t have a built-in excuse for.

I wasn’t able to talk my way out of her plans for a trip over the kids’ spring break, though. In hindsight, I’m glad I went, but dang, it was brutal. She took us all down to Manitou Springs in the mountains west of Colorado Springs for the purpose of hiking up the Manitou Incline.

This thing is an old cog railway line that has been converted into a hiking trail. They took out the rails, but they left the timbers to serve as steps for people crazy enough to want to hike up it. You go up 2,000 feet in less than a mile of horizontal travel. It starts out at 6,600 feet, and it climbs to 8,600. There are 2,768 “stairs.” And it’s even more difficult than all that makes it sound.

If you’re trying to get in shape for hunting, though, you can’t beat it. You get the elevation to have to deal with, as well as the struggle to keep putting one foot in front of the other. You can load up a pack so it weighs what you’ll be carrying on your next hunt and make it as authentic as possible, but I recommend against trying that if you’ve never hiked the Incline before. Try it once without any extra weight before you decide to do it with a load.

Manitou Springs is a long way from a lot of places in Wyoming, though. The other option is to go to the area you plan to hunt and get some practice hikes in there this summer. But if you’re up for a road trip followed by a miserable, painful, exhausting climb straight up a steep mountain, head on down to Manitou. Maybe I’ll see you there. I plan to repeat it once a month until elk season.

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