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Colorado Springs, Colorado, United States

Stanley Canyon

Slicing Into the Front Range

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    This guide contains photos
 (8 votes, 3 reviews)
Difficulty: Moderate
Length: 4.0 miles / 6.4 km
Duration: Half day
Family Friendly • Dog Friendly
Overview: Picture the “wall” of the side of a chocolate layer cake. Imagine making one knife cut down through that wall. Pull out your imaginary knife (so you won’t get hurt) and gaze into the slit you’ve created. Now transfer this image to the front range of the Rocky Mountains, behind the Air Force Academy, near Colorado Springs. This is Stanley Canyon.

Trail #707 leaves the trailhead parking lot on the west side of the Academy grounds and leads you UP the right (north) side of the canyon to the Stanley Canyon Reservoir about two miles away. In the first mile of the trail, you’ll climb about 1200 ft. This is steep. The pathway is decomposed granite, except where it’s solid granite. The solid sections are not long, but they can be tricky, especially if they’re wet. As you climb, you’ll reach platforms where you can rest and look back to the east toward the Academy and Colorado Springs. About half way along, you link up with the stream and parallel its course the rest of the way. The outstanding feature of this hike are the rock formations in the canyon walls; take plenty of time to observe them. After the first mile, you’ll reach the top of the canyon. The path levels out, mostly, for the final trek up to the reservoir. This last section takes you through pine forests and aspen meadows. The reservoir is not large, but it is lovely. If you fish, it’s worth taking your equipment; word is there are medium size rainbow trout in the lake.

Dogs and kids seem to love the lake. I’ve seen dogs on and off leash. Because of the rocky path, I put boots on the dog – forgot one time, resulting is several sliced pads.

Tips: Directions: Enter the Air Force Academy at the South Gate, exit 150 off of I-25. You’ll need photo ID, and you must be willing to have your vehicle searched. Obey the speed limits on base! Follow South Gate Blvd for about a mile. When it transitions to Stadium Blvd, take a left onto Pine Drive. Drive approximately 5 miles. Just before you reach the Medical Center on Academy Drive, you’ll see a dirt road leading off to the left; turn onto this road. Stay to the right when it forks. You will end up at the trailhead parking area.

1. Wear strong walking shoes; the trail is rough.

2. Carry water; the exertion at this altitude will dry you out faster than you might imagine.

Points of Interest



This is a popular hike, but I’ve never seen the lots full. Exit the parking area onto a service road leading up into the mountains. Follow the signs to Trail #707. Once you leave the road, the trail begins its ascent up the canyon. Take your time; watch where you’re walking.

Looking East

After you’ve gained about 300 feet of elevation, you can look back to the east for a fantastic view of Colorado Springs and USAFA.

Solid Granite

This is the first of three difficult spots on the trail. The granite is solid, but angled sharply. Don’t be discouraged; I’ve seen parents with babies in backpacks do this. Do be careful though.

Go Left

This is the second difficult spot. I recommend traversing to the left. This will take you into close contact with the stream. Around the corner, the trail resumes its relentless upward trek. More views of the canyon.

Boulder Climb

The last of the difficult spots. The stream runs down through these boulders. Your mission is to pick your way through without getting your feet wet. Imminently doable. Aren’t the Rockies amazing?

Meadow Level

From this point, you’ll walk beside the stream through the woods and across the meadows. Hills rise to your right. If you still have energy and haven’t had enough UP, you can walk up for a better view. Otherwise just follow your nose to the face of the dam.

Stanley Reservoir

The dam which creates the reservoir allows you two paths. The path to the right leads to the trail that goes 5.5 miles to the Farish Memorial Recreation Area. The left hand path takes you to the top of the dam. From here you can walk around the lake, or you can walk up the road on the south side to pick up a trail that leads all the way to Rampart Reservoir – another 3 miles.
Pictures in this guide taken by: dougknighton
Denied access to this part of the base unless you have military ID. Very disappointing. Really wanted to do this hike. The military personnel on Pine said "some people will let you in to hike, but this is a high risk/high security area and I am not letting you in." I gave it 5 stars b/c it looks like a great hike. We've done Eagle Peak numerous times, but really wanted to do this one. We'll try again another day or check out a post I saw of a hike from Eagle to Stanley and see if we can't get there.
Visited on Nov 22, 2014

by 4corners4me on Nov 23, 2014
My friends and I did this hike last weekend. This is a great hike, but I don't consider it easy. There are a lot of boulders and rocks to navigate. In my opinion, the beginning portion (and end portion on return) is the toughest part of the trail. There is a mountain creek that will be with you for a big part of the way. Make sure you have good hiking shoes and those trekking poles come in handy. Views are great. We accessed the trail via the Air Force Academy. You need a military ID to get on base, but you can easily sponsor friends who don't have access. The trail is easy to find. Just follow the signs to the hospital. Go around to the west of it with the road. There is a guard here. Show your ID again and immediately take the dirt road to your west. The dirt road forks. Take the fork to the right. Trail is marked by #707.
Visited on Jul 26, 2014

by kwarren1970 on Aug 03, 2014
Great hike, had a blast. Very steep, almost 40% grade in places. The first mile you gain over 1000 ft. I wouldn't recommend this if you're not in pretty good shape. One section borders on dangerous, it's basically a rock face with just enough slope to scramble over. But don't slip because its a pretty sheer drop for about 100 ft. Some narrow rock scrambles along the creek; you'll probably get a little wet. We encountered some slushy snow up top; probably won't be a problem in a couple of weeks.
Visited on May 16, 2014

by erickbryant3972 on May 17, 2014

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About the Author

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Retired Air Force Chaplain who began military life as an Airborne Ranger. Evidently I didn't get enough...

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