For most of its distance, this route leverages the steep but very well-trodden Stanley Canyon Trail. Stanley Canyon is a scenic, narrow canyon trending east-southeast out of the Rampart Range foothills and a summer weekend can find this trail teaming with hikers, families and dogs.
Forking off the Stanley Canyon Trail, the route briefly follows an informal use trail, before turning into a bushwhack through timber with no line of site to the summit for most of its distance. Solid navigation skills are a must, especially for safe return to the main trail.
Roundtrip Distance: 4 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,900 feet
YDS Class: With careful route finding, even the final push to the summit should not exceed Class 2+ or easy Class 3 on granite blocks.
Enter the US Air Force Academy via the North Gate (US-government issued ID required). Follow the main road for approximately 5 ½ miles to Pine Drive. Take Pine Drive west for about ¼ mile to an un-signed dirt road on your right. Continue on this road, bearing right-ish at the only fork, until the road dead-ends at the parking area.
• From the parking area, the Stanley Canyon Trail (Forest Service Trail #707) begins as a dirt road but soon forks off into a wide single-track. The lower parts of the trail may be a bit of a spaghetti junction, but pay attention to follow the trail signage where available to ensure you stay on route.
• From the parking area, you will follow the steep but easy to follow Stanley Canyon trail for roughly 1 ¼ miles. Two drainages converge at a meadow where the trail levels out. Follow a use trail to the right very briefly up the right-hand drainage. Do not continue on the Stanley Canyon Trail to Stanley Reservoir.
• Leave the social trail and trend generally northeast through dense timber toward the summit. Game trails may occasionally ease your passage, but remember deer and elk rarely strike out to summit peaks.
• Upon reaching the base of the western slopes of the peak, dense forest gives way abruptly to large blocks of granite. Carefully ascend these blocks, selecting a route that is not too steep and sticks to the more stable blocks.
• The summit marker sits on the southwestern portion of the curving summit ridge.
Typically, this route demands only standard hiking gear appropriate to the season. However, in the winter, the stream flowing through steep Stanley Canyon forms numerous ice flows, many of which cover the trail. At minimum, traction devices like Stabilicers and trekking poles will be required for safe passage. I have seen hikers employ 10-point crampons and ice axes to safely surmount these ice flows at their peak, when the ice is hard and smooth, and the flows are at their largest, covering significant portions of the trail in the steepest, narrowest spots.