The Serene Beauty
of Williams Canyon
Just north of Manitou Springs lies a peaceful canyon shut away from the busyness outside its dramatic limestone walls. Even though it was a pleasant Saturday in July, we saw few hikers on the trail. It wasn't until we reached the waterfall that we encountered about 20 people because many had come from Waldo Canyon.
In 1870 the canyon was named after Henry Truman Williams, a New York editor and publisher who set up guided tours to the west.
Directions: From hwy 24 take Manitou Ave. into Manitou Springs, then take Canyon Ave. north to Glenn Rd. where you can park on the right. If it's too crowded, you can park at Soda Springs Park downtown, then head east on Park Ave. a block to Canyon Ave. You will go under Hwy 24 to the trailhead (below).
Length: About 1 mile to the waterfall and one more mile to the fork leading to Waldo Canyon (left) or Rampart Range Rd. (right). We didn't quite reach the fork.
Difficulty: Moderate. The trail is flat and smooth to begin with, then climbs about 1000 ft. overall if you continue a little beyond the falls. As we approached the falls, there was only one short section where we sat down to scoot forward because there was a lot of slippery loose rock on a slope.
The beginning of the trail is the former exit for Cave of the Winds. Heavy rains in 1995 damaged the road to such an extent that it was closed to traffic. The canyon has been known to flood. Get a waiver (good for one year) from Cave of the Winds' ticket office to cover their liability before hiking.
We saw a couple of lizards sunning themselves along the path.
Cave of the Winds visitor center can be seen high above on the west rim of the canyon (above).
We took vacationing friends there once, but when we saw the tickets were $18, we decided it wasn't worth it after having seen Mammoth and Crytal Caves in Kentucky. There were many people in line, though.
There were a few openings in the cliffs (below) that probably tempted climbers in the past to explore them.
The stream below was easy to cross that day, but had there been a lot of rain or recent snow melt, we may have gotten our boots wet.
We entered a nice shady section as the path started to climb more. Then we caught a view of the waterfall in the distance. I was disappointed that there didn't seem to be a way to the base of the falls.
Cliff surrounding the waterfall on the other side of the canyon floor.
Almost a mile into the hike the trail became a little challenging as it narrowed in sections with drop-offs and one area had lots of loose rocks on a slope. Greg had to scoot down the slope because he had a toddler in a carrier. The seasoned hiker would not be bothered by these areas.
The view from the top of the waterfall looking south was very beautiful. We took a break and ate lunch by the punchbowls as butterflies fluttered around.
I was intrigued by this sturdy shelter made of branches not far beyond the waterfall. Weaving twigs through the branches, then stuffing a thick layer of leaves, pine needles and dirt could provide some warmth for a stranded hiker in the cold.
We saw these brightly colored caterpillars on the way out of the canyon. Sorry, I don't know what kind they are.
I really enjoyed the scenery along this trail, but may approach the falls from Waldo Canyon next time, though it's a lot farther that way. You don't need a waiver from Cave of the Winds coming from that direction.