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Colorado Springs, Colorado, United States

Williams Canyon

The Secret Treasure of Manitou Springs

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    This guide contains photos
 (8 votes, 3 reviews)
Difficulty: Moderate
Length: 6.0 miles / 9.7 km
Duration: 1-3 hours
Family Friendly • Dog Friendly
Overview: I met a lady along the trail who was, like me, enjoying this hike for the very first time. Unlike me, who has only lived here a year, she was a 30-something native who’d “just never been up here before.” She seemed to regret having waited so long; I’m glad I didn’t. Williams Canyon is situated, fittingly enough, at the end of Cañon Ave. in the northwest section of Manitou Springs. It extends approximately 3 miles due north. The trail parallels the stream to its source. What is now a bare trickle in early October was once powerful enough to carve this canyon deep through ancient layers of limestone, dolomite and sandstone, producing cliffs that rise 300 feet above the trail. In the spring, when the waters flow more abundantly, you’ll attain a better sense of what this place might have been like long ago. What makes this canyon unique in the area now are the limestone walls exposed along the canyon’s upper rim.

Directions: Exit I-25 at Cimarron Ave (exit 141) and head west toward Manitou Springs on US Hwy 24. Take the Manitou Ave. exit off 24 and drive through the “downtown” area to Cañon Ave. Turn right and drive up the hill to the Hwy 24 overpass. You’ll find some parking space under the overpass. If it’s full, you can park on the street and hike up – just be sure you park legally, not blocking someone’s driveway.

Tips: This is a 6 mile, out & back hike. It can become warm in the canyon; so take plenty of water.

The canyon tends to concentrate heat in the middle of the day; so I’d recommend hiking early or late. This gives you better lighting for photos anyway.

At the beginning, you will hike through private property owned by Cave of the Winds. Stay on the trail.

Points of Interest



I’ll call the Hwy 24 overpass the trailhead. Actually, there are no markers indicating the beginning of the hike. It looks as though the street just extends on into the canyon. This is deceptive. The paved road degrades rapidly and you find yourself on an old stage coach “road” (for lack of a better word) that was once used to take people up to the Cave of the Winds information center (a fancy exit for CW now exists directly off Hwy 24). About a half mile into hike, you’ll find a old gate with a large NO TRESPASSING sign. This is the beginning of the CW property. The custom here is to ignore the sign, climb over the gate bar and continue up the canyon. Pay particular attention to the work of the water that carved away the rock around you.

Cave of the Winds Trail Split

At this point the stage coach road makes a sharp U-turn and heads up to the Cave of the Winds info center. The trail continues less noticeably on up the canyon. You’ll see the bare back side of another NO TRESPASSING sign. Once past this you’re off CW property.


About a mile into the canyon, you’re up above the canyon floor on the eastern wall. As you come around the corner, you’ll see the canyon widen as it receives another stream from the east. Ahead of you is either a tall bare rock face or delightful cascade of dancing water – depending on the time of the year you’re here. As you can tell from my pictures, I was here in October, when there was just enough water in the upper pools to bear witness to the possibilities of the spring run.

Waldo jCanyon Trail Split

A little over a half mile above the falls, you’ll arrive at the Waldo Canyon trail split. I wish a sign actually indicated this fact, but the reality of the diversion exists, nonetheless. From here you can hike up about a half mile to the 3.5 mile long Waldo Canyon Loop (see my Waldo Canyon Loop guide for another approach to this well used trek). To complete the hike you started, stay to the right and continue on up Williams Canyon.


About .8 miles above the falls, you’ll round a curve in the trail and discover a small manmade cave on your right. For some reason I haven’t been able to establish, the National Forest Service is restoring this site – attested to by a very unofficial-looking, hand-scrawled blue index card, posted on a tree trunk in front of the cave.

Pike's Peak View

Just past the cave, you start a fairly steep climb up to Rampart Range Rd, the terminus of this leg of your journey. As you climb you’ll be able to see back down the length of the canyon, with mountain vistas of Almahgre Mtn and of Pike’s Peak in the background.

Rampart Range Rd

This is the point where you turn around and head back. I stopped for lunch. I recommend you touch the road and head back down the trail before stopping. As you can tell from the pictures, there’s nothing particular to look at, and cars driving along the road raise enough of a cloud of dust (but no “hearty ‘Hi-O, Silver!’”) that you won’t want to stay here. … From this point, enjoy the return hike, remembering to keep your mind and eyes open to the wonderful fact that the way back looks very different than the way out.
Pictures in this guide taken by: dougknighton
Most of the trail is pretty much in a river bottom now because the flooding washed everything out; you can only go about a mile before the traces of any trail are pretty much lost. We ran into someone who says if you wade into the creek the trail will pick up further down. It's interesting scenery up until that point, but definitely not the trail it used to be.
Visited on Feb 15, 2014

by myself365 on May 28, 2014
The hiking trail is part of Cave of the Winds and does require you to sign a release to hike the trail. However due to the Waldo Canyon fire the trail has been closed for hikers.

And where the directions take you, it says no trespassing, hike at your own risk.

Visited on Jun 24, 2013

by shadowattak1 on Jun 24, 2013
Nice trail as far as you can go, but you can only hike to about the Waldo Canyon Trail split because both trails are closed due to the Waldo Canyon fire scar. Unknown when the trail will be re-opened.
Visited on Apr 21, 2013

by mlagodna on Apr 21, 2013

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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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