Red Mountain: A Hike and a Bit of Manitou Springs History   Leave a comment

Mary told me about a hike called Red Mountain that she had done with a friend last week. It’s only about three miles round trip and you actually “summit” (you’ll understand the quotes later) a little mountain. Perfect for me– not so daunting I’d never make it to the top plus a guaranteed feeling of exhilaration from climbing to the top of something. I’d never heard of it, which intrigued me, so I went today.

This is a branch off the Paul Intemann trail, so you must find the trailhead for that first. Parking is tricky because you are battling all the crowds headed up to the Pikes Peak Cog Railway or the Barr Trail parking lot. Exit off of Highway 24 for Manitou and head through the historic downtown area on Manitou Avenue until you get to the roundabout. Take a left onto Ruxton Avenue which leads up to the Cog. I ended up going all the way through the Cog masses to the Barr Trail parking lot and turning around because I didn’t see Spring Street, which is very near the trailhead. That’s when I decided to call Mary to make sure I was in the right spot. She mentioned Iron Springs, which is where you access the trail. Luckily, I had just passed it and was able to find a spot to park on Ruxton. I had to walk a bit to get back up to the trailhead, but I was PARKED–something seemingly impossible in Manitou on any given weekday in the middle of the summer. Apparently, Spring Street is a tiny little unmarked road (hence, I couldn’t find it) that you actually end up walking on for a brief portion of the hike.

Iron Springs–interesting little bit of history. But even more exciting history is coming up next!

It wasn’t until after my hike that I did some Google research (a favorite pastime of mine) on Red Mountain and found out that it was the original burial site for Emma Crawford, a young woman who died of tuberculosis in 1891 (according to the website, Mysterious Colorado). She had requested that her fiance bury her on top of Red Mountain, where she liked to explore. However, when a railway was built to the top about twenty years later, her body was moved. After roughly another twenty years, weather and time caused her remains to wash down the mountainside. She was reburied in a cemetery. It is said that she peacefully haunts Red Mountain and Manitou Springs. In honor of Emma, Manitou Springs holds an annual event in October called Emma Crawford Coffin Races. Teams design a coffin and dress up in costumes (one member is “Emma” in the coffin) to race down Manitou Avenue. There is also a parade. Hmmm…I wonder if I can convince my husband to go watch this year. I’ve embedded a short video about Emma from the History Channel’s Haunted Rockies which can also be viewed from the Mysterious Colorado website ( The part about Emma begins about a minute into the video.

I also discovered that the remnants of stairs and what looks like a building on top of Red Mountain are what’s left of the railroad and a restaurant/bar where people used to go to dance to live music. Who knew I would learn so much from a hike today? Now that the history is out of the way, on with the hike and fabulous views from atop this little mountain.

When you start off at Iron Springs on the Paul Intemann Trail, you will walk along the babbling Ruxton Creek for a short while.

Ruxton Creek on my way up the street to the trailhead.

The trail will come out to Spring Street but keep going until you see the sign that reads, “trail,” and points to the right. You will hike up what looks like a dirt road for a bit and come to a chain that stretches across the path. Here is where the Paul Intemann Trail sign is so go around (or over :)) the chain.

Gaining a little elevation on the Intemann Trail.

You will be on the Intemann trail for a ways before seeing the sign for Red Mountain.

It is only a mile up, but it is a steady climb the whole way. Most ratings for this trail say moderate with some difficult parts. For  a casual hiker like myself, it was difficult the whole way up! Good training for the lungs and heart.

Up, up, up over some tree roots.

Rock outcropping.

Clouds moving in.

Spiky dead tree trunk alongside the trail. It reminded me of a medieval mace.

Speaking of weapons, I was carrying a big stick (but was a little too out of breath to speak softly or otherwise :)) to appease my paranoia of getting attacked in the woods. There are many schools of thought on women hiking solo. Some think females should never go alone; others believe as long as she is prepared and wary, hiking alone is fine. Having grown up on a farm in Illinois where we could keep the doors unlocked and leave keys in vehicles, I came to Colorado pretty naive. Sometimes, I used to run alone in Memorial Park in the evenings with nothing but a friend’s rottweiler for protection. I never told people where I was going when I went out on trails alone. Over the years, I’ve wizened up a little. These days, I get a little nervous about frequenting trails by myself. I’m suspicious of everyone and every sound.

I only encountered three hikers on this trail and one of them was a lone female, which made me feel a lot more at ease. She said, “It’s so quiet up there you can hear your heart.” Just the motivation I had needed to keep climbing and the assurance I had craved that I was safe hiking alone. I debated abandoning my stick, but just couldn’t do it… until I had to because I took a wrong turn across some scree and needed both hands to ease my way back down to the correct trail.

Here’s where I went wrong. DON’T go straight ahead past the rock into the scree, it leads nowhere! I don’t know how I missed the very clear turn to the left.

Almost there! That’s Pikes Peak. Not sure I could ever climb THAT mountain!

I took a rest in the narrow saddle because the last bit of the climb about killed me. I was hearing my heart, all right.

Scary!  You must cross this steep side of the mountain a little ways from the saddle to reach the top. I did not want to slip and cause somebody to find a horrific surprise in their backyard!

Finally at the top…which isn’t really the top, technically. On the other side of the saddle is the highest ridge of the mountain. Oh well, it FELT like the top!

That’s the REAL summit where you see the exposed red rock…I think.

These are the remains of the railway or dance hall. I’m not sure which. There is a little plastic tube labeled “information” but water had seeped into the plastic sheet protectors and blurred the ink. I’m sure it contained lots of historical facts about the area.

Oh, the views from up high! Oh, to be a bird! That’s the backside of Garden of the Gods.

Pikes Peak.

Headed back down! I stood at the top for a little bit with a huge smile on my face, just taking it all in. I can see why summiting is so addictive for some people. I felt elated for having reached the top of a mere BABY mountain!

Going down flew by! Be careful when you are nearing Intemann again. At one point, there is a social trail that branches off the main trail. It’s a shortcut back to Intemann. I somehow ended up on this. It leads to where you want to go, but it’s better to follow the main trail. I like to play by the rules!

My final two cents:  This is a GREAT hike with fabulous views. It took about an hour and a half round trip for me (that’s with stopping a lot for pictures and to breathe). The best part is that it’s a short hike, but you feel such a sense of accomplishment when you reach the top. You have to be in some sort of shape to do this hike. It’s a climb!


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