Manitou has a saying: Keep Manitou Weird. The town was founded for its natural mineral springs and has a colorful culture. The downtown area continues to be of interest to travelers, particularly in the summer, as the downtown area consists of many one-story, adjoining, small shops, restaurants, and pubs, as well as a creekside city park with a children's playground made from unusual materials. Among other services, shops cater to tourist interests such as clothing, candy, souvenirs, and outdoor recreation.
The main road through the center of town was one of the direct paths to the base of Pikes Peak. Barr Trail, which winds its way up Pikes Peak, is accessible from town and the famous Manitou Incline runs parallel to Barr Trail. The trail is the remains of a former 3 ft narrow gauge funicular railway whose tracks washed out during a rock slide in 1990. The Incline is famous for its sweeping views and steep grade, with an average grade of 45% (24°) and as steep as 68% (34°) in places, making it a fitness challenge for locals of the Colorado Springs area. The incline gains over 2,000 feet (610 m) of elevation in less than one mile. If you're new to the area and the altitude, be careful tackling the incline if you're not acclimated yet! It'll get ya!
General William Jackson Palmer and Dr. William Abraham Bell founded Manitou Springs in 1872, intending the town to be a "scenic health resort". Dr Bell's home, Briarhurst Manor, is open to the public as a fine dining restaurant, which is listed on the National Register of Historic places. In 1876, the town was incorporated. Manitou Springs has been the quintessential tourist town since the 1870s, when visitors discovered the healing waters the Ute Indians had been drinking for years. Many of the town's mineral springs still function today and the water is free.
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