Skip to main content
'Just take another step:' Rachel Jones makes history on the Manitou Incline
Email share

MANITOU SPRINGS, Colo. — Giving up was never an option for Rachel Jones. The business owner and mother has always lived by one thought: “As long as you can take one more step, you’re not done.”

Jones recently became just the fourth person — and the first woman — to complete 1,000 trips up and down the Manitou Incline in one calendar year. About 10 years ago, Jones could just barely do one trip up the infamous incline.

“I went with two friends, and we struggled up every single step," Jones explained. “It was brutal. One of the hardest physical challenges I’ve ever done.”

Jones and her companions wouldn’t make it to the summit that day, stopping partially through the climb and retreating for the base. However, as she walked away that day, Jones recalled that she stopped to look back. In that moment something within her ignited.

“I came back, maybe about a week later and I was just determined," she said. "I just had to make it."

Colorado Voices

Rachel Jones makes history on the Manitou Incline

Jones became the first woman to summit the incline 1,000 times in a year.

Before it was a popular hiking challenge, the Manitou Incline was a cable tram constructed in the early 20th century to assist with nearby construction. Not longer after it was constructed, the incline was turned into a tourist attraction where passengers could ride a shuttle to the top.

It wasn't until 1990 that the railway was removed, which resulted in a fun, new challenge for area hikers.

According to the Manitou Springs Chamber of Commerce, about 70,000 people visit the Incline every year. Although it's free to hike, reservations are required.

“It was one of the first times in my life that I overcame that voice in my head telling me I couldn’t do something … It was such a liberating feeling.”

As she became a regular on the incline, Jones didn’t want to let go of that feeling of liberation. She noticed herself stronger. Others took notice as well.

One of the incline regulars approached her with the idea of joining the “500 Club,” reserved for those who log their laps, counting towards a goal of 500 trips in one calendar year. A single mother of a 5-year-old boy at the time and struggling to make ends meet, Jones didn’t see how achieving that could be possible.

“I had so many reasons why I couldn’t accomplish something like that, but it became something to work towards,” Jones recalled.

And work at it she did.

On Dec. 19, 2021, after years of intense training and conditioning, she began counting. Months went by, and the now stronger, faster, more determined Jones found that she was not only going to reach her goal of 500, but was on pace to finish months in advance. Although thrilling, the realization made her feel uneasy as well.

“It sort of took the wind out of my sails … A challenge is supposed to stretch you,” she said. “It almost felt like I was getting too comfortable within the challenge.”

Not one for complacency, Jones set her sights on what seemed like an impossible challenge: 1,000.

Only three people have ever climbed to the peak of the more than 2,700 steps 1,000 times in one year. All three were men. So for Jones, this would mean much more than just joining an already exclusive club. It meant making history.

Credit: Rachel Jones

“I wanted to pick a challenge that I truly believed was impossible, and figure out how to make it possible.” 

For months she kept pace, mapping out every lap in hopes of reaching the 1,000 mark before her year was up. However, in September of 2022, right after she counted her lap number 735, an unexpected discovery completely changed the course of the rest of her journey.

“I discovered I was pregnant,” Jones said.

Excited but scared is how Jones described feeling that day. Not only was she juggling being an entrepreneur and business owner with being a mom to a now-17-year-old, the incline challenge was a job in and of itself. Jones had to maintain a strict diet and routine.

Adding pregnancy on top of that, Jones was unsure of how to continue with the challenge. For her, the number one priority was the safety and health of her baby.

“I talked to my doctor, told her about the challenge,” Jones recalled. “She approved."

“I stuck with that original concept of just take another step … I just had to take it day by day”. 

Day by day is what Jones did, showing up to the incline each time as the symptoms of being a new mom began to take effect.

She recounted a time in October when she thought she wasn’t going to be able to continue, but her baby became her inspiration.

“Before she came along, I would go into my own head, my own thoughts,” Jones said. “But once she joined me on the trail, I sort of kind of started mentally tapping into her energy. Asking her how she felt, I just really felt this connection.”

That connection drove Jones to the top of the incline, to the top of her goal.

On Dec. 18, 2022, Jones became the first woman to mark 1,000 trips up and down the incline, all while carrying her new precious baby girl. When asked what her advice would be to anyone thinking of attempting the incline — even once — Jones said with a smile, “There’s a better version of you waiting at the top, and that’s a good enough reason to do it every single time.”

William Peterson is the senior photojournalist at Rocky Mountain PBS. You can reach him at

Jeremy Moore is the senior multimedia journalist with Rocky Mountain PBS. You can email him at

Related Stories

Spotlight Newsletter

Community stories from across Colorado and updates on your favorite PBS programs, in your inbox every Tuesday.

Sign up here!