Vigorous Hikes for Colorado Outdoor Junkies

Challenge Hill by Castle Pines Connection

Challenge Hill by Castle Pines Connection

You’ll Have to Step It Up for These Five Colorado Hikes 

By Lisa McIntyre

Are you training for a fourteener or just wanting an incredible outdoor experience? We’ve put together five locations that will provide an excellent workout as spring approaches. Yes, each one still has some snow, but the sunshine and deep blue skies soon will beckon for us to break out the hiking boots and connect with nature.

Fierce elevation changes on incline trails will have your heart pumping and your thighs screaming as you arrive at the summit to enjoy expansive mountain views or cityscapes. It’s well worth it!

“Stair climbing is a unique form of exercise that can have a powerful and positive impact on your health over time,” according to Step Jockey, a leading workplace wellness company. 

And here’s why stairs work so well: 

  • burns more calories per minute than jogging

  • reduces cardio risk by more than 30 percent

  • helps control weight and builds muscle tone

  • easy to build into your life and make it habit

Our suggested sites are relatively easy to drive to and won’t take all day to conquer like a fourteener. These inclines/declines (what goes up, must come down), are listed from shortest to highest:

Challenge Hill’s 200 steps were built 178 feet upward with wood timbers inside the 300-acre Philip S. Miller Park and outdoor center in Castle Rock. It’s been dubbed the “mini Manitou Incline” (also listed below). It’s a great start for cardio training and waking up the thighs. The park is also a great place for the whole family to spend the day picnicking and zip lining. 

Seven Falls courtesy of keywordsuggests.com

Seven Falls courtesy of keywordsuggests.com

Broadmoor Seven Falls in Colorado Springs is a box canyon carved into rock, offering stunning views from the top. You’ll climb 224 steps upward, hugging the canyon wall along the series of falls; the tallest one is 181 feet. The trailhead is part of the Broadmoor property and carries a $10 fee for adults and $5 for children.

 
Red Rocks Steps courtesy earlymorningrun.com & Lisa Hansen

Red Rocks Steps courtesy earlymorningrun.com & Lisa Hansen

Red Rocks Amphitheater near Morrison attracts thousands of concert-goers every summer, but also touts 680 steps that extend from the stage to the vista at the top of the venue. It draws fitness freaks year-round. The open rows of bench seating are double the height of a normal step. Jump up from one row to the next, if you’re looking for an extra challenge. Or, if you just want to make it up the incline once, there are also sets of stairs on either side of the seating area with railings for assistance. The amphitheater is free to all (barring events), but check the website for regulations and times.

 
Manitou Incline courtesy pikes-peak.org

Manitou Incline courtesy pikes-peak.org

Manitou Incline has more steps than the Empire State Building. It is the granddaddy of inclines and is world renowned for training elite runners, sports professionals and Olympic athletes. Because the 2,744 steps gain almost 2,000 feet in elevation in less than a mile, conquering the hill is difficult. If you’re not in great shape and are hoping to tackle it this summer, you may want to do a bit of research about how to best prepare your body and mind for a successful adventure. 

 
Hanging Lake courtesy Sayamindu Dasgupta on Colorado.com

Hanging Lake courtesy Sayamindu Dasgupta on Colorado.com

Hanging Lake’s trail does not include stairs, but a natural mountain climb that’s just over a mile long. The small emerald-green lake is a just reward for willing hikers. The well-traveled trail is near the grand Colorado River off Interstate 70 in the majestic Glenwood Canyon. Named a National Natural Landmark in 2011, it’s one of the most popular destination hikes in Colorado. Check with the Glenwood Springs Visitor Center to find out more about parking, shuttles and the latest regulations.