Hikers scrambled over the weekend to get one last Incline climb in before the wildly popular trail shuts down for a few months.
The city of Colorado Springs announced last week that the Incline will close beginning at 6 a.m. on Aug. 18. The city had previously circled that date as the likely closure date; last Tuesday's announcement just made it official.
Once the closure is in place, the Incline will undergo a $1.6 million facelift. The trail spent much of the last century as a short railway for tourists; after its closure in 1990 hikers utilized the trail--and its aging rail ties--illegally for the next 20 years. The city says that by closing the trail for a few months, workers will be able to make critical repairs to ensure it's safe for use for decades to come. Workers will also install new drainage structures to reduce erosion.
Even though city officials had advised people to get in their last hike by Friday due to the annual Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon during the weekend, waves of hikers continued to show up Saturday and Sunday.
"I just landed this morning and I came just so I could get here in time to do it before it closes tomorrow," Amy Roberts told 11 News Sunday afternoon.
Her son, however, says he's a little relieved for the Incline to be off-limits for a few months.
"I'm pretty happy about it because now it gives me an excuse not to be able to do it [laughs]," Jared Roberts said.
The atmosphere was almost celebratory over the weekend: cheers could be heard as hikers yelled supportive comments at each; people mugged for the camera on either end up the Incline; at the summit friends whipped out CamelBaks, sat on the rocks and toasted one another with water.
Reaction among users has been mixed, with some people excited to see the upgrades installed, while others hate losing the trail during the peak months of use.
"Super frustrating," Kalynn Casey told 11 News when the news first broke that the Incline was closing. "That's probably the best time to do it [the Incline]."
"They shouldn't!" Jackie Crumplar exclaimed when learning after completing her inaugural climb last week that she couldn't do it again for a few months. "I want to do it every single week, get my time up."
"I hear stories of people doing it every day, and I feel bad for them, but...I mean, seeing these pictures of what the renovations are going to be like, sounds like it'll be a good idea," Air Force Academy Cadet Drew Donlin said.
Edward Tam agreed.
"I've seen people falling over because the steps just come loose, so it's best they actually take the time to get it fixed."
City officials say that during the time it takes to get the Incline fixed, it's critical that people respect the closure so that the repairs can be made as quickly as possible. Prior to the Incline's legalization, locals notoriously disregarded the "No Trespassing" sign with little consequence. The city says that will not be tolerated this time around: trespassers will likely be handed a fine if caught. Unlike the decades in which the Incline was illegal, the city plans to have dedicated patrols in the area.
If a fine doesn't encourage one to stay off the Incline, maybe this will: the city says trespassers will slow crews' progress down, in turn causing the Incline to be closed longer.
The news that the Incline is closing wasn't just met with disappointment by hikers, but with trepidation by some area shop owners, who told 11 News they were worried it would adversely affect businesses that have already been struggling post-flood. Many business owners have come to rely on customers visiting their shops after climbing the Incline.
Courtney Jackson, a waitress at the Townhouse Lounge, said people enjoy refueling on calories at her restaurant after coming down the Incline. She's worried those customers will stop coming in.
"Supporting us after what we've been through the past two years, it's sad for that to be gone, especially at the end of our season," Jackson said.
"I think it will have an impact," she added, "Especially bringing people from Colorado Springs into Manitou. Even if they just get chips and salsa...that's still bringing money into Manitou."
But customers 11 News spoke with said they won't stop coming to Manitou Springs just because the Incline is closed.
"We will probably still make it," Katelyn Recla said. "Manitou is still fun."
The city has released a list of hiking alternatives for those looking for something to fill the void while waiting for the Incline to open. Those can be found in a link on the side of this page.
And if all goes as planned, the Incline itself will be available once again on Dec. 1.