Deviate from the horizontal!

Rampart Range Road/Williams Canyon




Numbers
Distance: 10.63 miles - SSP to RRR 1.80, RRR 5.30 , Trail to Bail Trail 1.30, Bail Trail to SSP 2.23
Start/Finish: 6,345'
High Point: 7,933'
Difference: 1,588'
Total Gain/Loss: 1,925'

Connecting Trails
Bail Trail start to SSP via Waldo CW, UPT: 7.07 (15.47 run total)
Bail Trail start to SSP via Waldo CCW, UPT: 8.8 (17.20 run total)

RRR Landmarks
First Gate: 1.45 (3.25 from SSP)
Second Gates: 2.72 (4.52 from SSP)
Shooting Range 2 Miles sign: 3.85 (5.65 from SSP)
Antenna/water tank 5.24 (7.04) from SSP
Williams Trail 5.30 (7.1 from SSP)

Run through
By Randy Lindsey and Matt Carpenter

Synopsis
We used to run Rampart Range Road (RRR) as an out-and-back, but it was too punishing on feet, ankles and everything else with all those miles. Now we’ve discovered some nice connections from the road that provide variety and substitute steepness for distance. This route takes you down into the beautiful, forested Williams Canyon surrounded by tall limestone cliffs. You can return directly to Manitou via the canyon, or you can climb up to the Waldo Loop Trail for views and a good running surface. The longer return to Manitou via Ute Pass Trail provides the sort of ups and downs late in a long run that let you really appreciate a relaxing bath at home.

Section 1: The Road
From Soda Springs Park, run east, downhill on Canyon Avenue, and turn left along the creek onto Lovers Lane. When you reach El Paso Blvd. at Manitou’s Memorial Park, turn left and continue east. After 9/10ths of a mile on El Paso Blvd, run under the Highway 24 bridge, then turn left and then curve right into the Garden of the Gods park. Do not take the paved road that branches to the left which leads to a gated community.

Go up the steep hill to Balanced Rock. Threading your way between the precariously balanced rocks, descend a short distance down the other side. 155 meters after balanced rock turn left onto the gravel Rampart Range Road.

Section 2: Rampart Range Road
Follow Rampart Range Road up a gentle grade for what seems like forever. Hopefully you’ll have someone to talk to for this stretch.

Eventually you’ll spot a cluster of microwave and cell phone towers atop a hill. When you finally reach these you must go around them and pass them on the north side on a level section. About 120 meters later watch for a small rock cairn on the left between two trees.

Section 3: Upper Williams Canyon
The cairn marks an obscure trail that drops steeply off to the left through the woods. This little trail takes you down into Williams Canyon. Keep your head down so the gunners at the shooting range above you don’t pick you off (just kidding, I hope).

When the trail reaches the canyon bottom, it is a very gentle descent for about a mile through thick forest, with 7 watercourse crossings (mostly dry). This trail is not formally maintained so watch your footing.

Just after the 7th creek crossing when you’re at the right-hand side of the canyon, look for the Waldo Canyon cutoff trail coming down the hillside on your right. We call this the “Bail Trail” because it makes for a quick way back to the car when doing the Waldo Canyon loop from Manitou via the UPT. There used to be a sign here but all that remains is the post.

If you want a longer loop skip to the section 4 alternative.

Section 4: Lower Williams Canyon back to the park
Lower Williams Canyon is a lot rockier than the upper section. However the views are spectacular especially if the sun is bouncing off the high steep cliffs. 100 meters after leaving the junction with the “Bail Trail” that leads up to Waldo you must cross over a small waterfall. While there are a total of 18 creek crossings (2 of them you go into the dry creek bed and come out on the same side so perhaps they should not count as crossings) on the lower section this is usually the only one with any significant water in it.

After you cross over the falls stay right and head up over a narrow rock ledge next to a rock wall and then take a small left down. Be careful here! Go right and then down to continue on your way. After 6/10ths of a mile and many more creek crossings you will come to your second waterfall. The trail dips down into the mostly dry creek bed but does not cross the creek but instead exits by going up a few gentle rock steps. If it does not look obvious just stay to the right near the ledge as you are forced to turn to the left as you follow it. The trail then traverses two scree sections on the way down the canyon. A very nice meadow is followed by your last obstacle where you can either go up to the right with a few yards of scrambling or down to the left with a few yards of water. Soon after this section you will cross a few more rocks before popping out on the Williams Canyon Road 1.06 miles from the Bail Trail. From here it is 1.17 miles to Soda Springs Park. Simply head down to the left where you will come to asphalt just before passing under a bridge that will give you 96 foot of clearance to Hwy 24. Just uner 4/10ths of a mile later you will be back at Soda Springs Park.


Section 4 alternative: Run up to Waldo
Turn right and ascend this steep trail for .8 of a mile to reach the Waldo Canyon Trail. It is also not formally maintained, but it is generally obvious and easy to follow. When it connects to the Waldo Canyon loop, you’ll be atop a ridge. Most of us turn left to follow the loop clockwise, which is shorter (.87 vs 2.6 if you turn right). If you want more distance, turn right on the loop (not recommended in winter due to ice down in the canyon where you would be descending).

Section 5: Waldo to Hwy 24
After running up another ridge you will run down a series of 9 switch-backs to arrive at the sign at the bottom of Waldo Canyon which marks the start of the loop portion of the Waldo Canyon trail. From here, turn left and take the 1.69 mile approach trail out to Highway 24.

Section 6: Longs Ranch Road
At the Waldo trailhead on Highway 24, continue all the way to the end of the parking lot until you are opposite the road that crosses the highway median. Do not cross earlier, as there is insufficient time for cars racing around the curve to avoid you.

Cross the highway and climb through the large gate on the west side. This is marked no trespassing, but since the publicly accessible Ute Pass trail is up this road, we believe the sign refers to motor vehicles and to certain areas of private property farther up the road. We are good citizens and do not vandalize, trespass or otherwise cause trouble.

This is the start of the Longs Ranch Road. Run or walk up this steep, well maintained roadway, to the junction with the Ute Pass Trail (UPT) just .42 of a mile from the Waldo Trail head or .32 from the gate. This junction is at a point where LRR takes a short jog to the right, so by continuing straightish/leftish onto a jeep road you connect to the UPT.

Section 7: Ute Pass Trail
After 50 meters the steep little section of “road” takes a 90 degree left turn and heads south toward Manitou via the UPT. This is where you discover that the UPT is the only trail in the world that is uphill both ways!

See the Ute Pass Trail-Longs Ranch Road-Experimental Forest-Barr Trail description for details on the UPT section.

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