Stanley Canyon

Please don’t mind the hot mess that is my hair in these photos:  I came straight from my shower at the gym and forgot my hairbrush on the hike. 

I’ve been trying to do this hike for a while now, but the
directions I’ve been finding on the web have been wrong (imagine that).  The two sites with directions state the
trailhead is 3.9 miles from the initial checkpoint.  So I’ve done that several times, even driing
as much as a mile in either direction, and I’ve been unsuccessful in finding
the trailhead.  But after purchasing the
Pikes Peak Atlas earlier this week, and talking with a friend at the Humane Society
who’s done the hike, today I was able to successfully find the trailhead!

OK, so it’s not 3.9 miles from the checkpoint as indicated,
but more like 5.5.  In any event, if you
take the USAFA southgate entrance and make a left on Stadium drive, the turnoff
will be before the next checkpoint.  In
fact, it will be about 20 feet before the next checkpoint, on your left.  Follow the dirt road and the trailhead will
be clearly marked.   My advice is to
bring with you a sturdy hiking pole, water, waterproof hiking boots, and a
sense of adventure.

I saw some wild turkeys on the drive up…

To be honest, there isn’t much information about this hike
online, so I’ll detail it here.  Please note these are “early season” conditions, and it had snowed/rained for the past 3 or 4 days, so I’m sure the water levels were higher than normal.

Yes, the trailhead is clearly marked, in multiple

It’s hard to get lost for the
first half mile or so, but after that it’s anyone’s game.   I saw
two other vehicles in the parking lot when I got there, so I surmised I’d end
up meeting two different hiking parties.  I also forgot my map in the car.  Well, I didn’t really forget it, as I remembered when I was about 10 yards from my truck, but I didn’t feel like going back to get it.  In any event, I’d taken a picture of the trail at the trailhead.  How difficult could this be?

I saw several scruffy looking rabbits along the trail. 

The trail goes straight up for about 90% of the hike.  

Here’s the indication you’ve left the USAFA

And as soon as you get to the top of this hill there’s a
great view, and this is where you’re leaving the easily marked area of the trail.  

Check out this really cool water collection pool in the side
of the mountain!  I’m sure it’s a
waterfall of it’s own earlier in the season.

The first ¾ of the hike is up through a lot of loose
granite, over creeks and yes, up waterfalls.

The trail actually goes up the waterfall.  For anyone who’s ever climbed up granite, you
know it’s very slippery when wet.  This
was indeed the case here.

The trail is difficult to find in places, but I reasoned
since I was hiking towards a reservoir, as long as I followed the water I’d
eventually find it, right?  That ended up
being a good assumption.  Also a friend
of mine told me she’d recently done this hike and kept thinking it couldn’t be
right to keep crossing the waterfalls, but that was indeed how it was done
(Thanks Paige for the advice!).   I was
lucky it was still early in the season and the leaves hadn’t emerged yet.  Otherwise it would have been really difficult
to see through the brush to find the eventual trail.  

The trail went back and forth over a steady stream of
water.  I was really glad I’d brought my
waterproof hiking shoes, and wondered how I was going to hike down these slopes
(up wasn’t easy, but I had footholds).

Where there were crossings over the stream they weren’t very
elaborate:  Just a couple of
strategically placed logs.  This is where
a hiking pole comes in handy!

Check out these baby aspens!
I love the intense green color of the trunks.

Most of the trail us rocky granite.  You can tell it’s covered in snow during the
wintertime, and I’m assuming well traveled.
Because of this there are multiple trails to the same destination, all
paralleling each other.  All are

As soon as I made it to the top of the waterfalls it was as
if I was in a different world!  The
temperature dropped 20 degrees and there was snow everywhere.  Water was dripping like rain from the trees
as the snow melted in the morning sun. This is where I saw my first group of
hikers.  They looked like cadets, and there
were 5 of them, so I figured they could indeed have been the owners of both
vehicles, but at least one.

And there were tons of animal tracks…

After about ¼ of a mile hiking through the cold I came upon
a clearing that still had snow, but it was much warmer and quickly melting.

The reservoir was beautiful!
As I approached I saw a fisherman, and surmised he was the owner of the
second vehicle.  We exchanged greetings
and I snapped a few pictures.

I could hear the sounds of gunfire (expected on base) and
the drumming of woodpeckers.  I saw
several fish jumping in the reservoir.  I
didn’t stay long as I actually had quite a bit of work to do today.  And I was getting cold.  My Raynauds was really kicking in (and
unexpectedly).  My finders were red and
beginning to turn white.  I knew I needed
to get to a lower elevation to arm up.

The way back down was indeed more challenging than up, as I
was hiking down slippery slopes with little footing.  When hiking up it’s much easier to find a
place to put your foot, but when going back down everything just slips.

And much of the trail was covered with small creeks of

Just as I made it to my truck I heard a very loud rumbling
and saw the Thunderbirds soar by!  So
cool!  This was totally unexpected and
awesome, so instead of taking the second hike I’d planned for today I stood
there at the trailhead for half an hour just watching them practice.  

I had a very unique view of their flight, as
everyone else in the Springs was watching them looking west, and because of the
hike I’d just completed I was watching from the east. I love living in Colorado

One of my favorite parts about this experience was seeing the cadets watch the flyover from on top of the buildings. 

Author: Laura M Clark

Laura has summited over 500 peaks above 13,000' solo, including being the first woman to solo summit all of the Colorado 14ers, as well as the centennials. After each hike, she writes trip reports for each one and publishes them on her blog, which is read by fans all over the world. Author of Wild Wanderer: Summiting Colorado’s 200 Highest Peaks, which is available to purchase on Amazon.

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