Waldo Canyon is considered one of, if not the, most popular hiking trail in the Colorado Springs area. One hike here and you’ll see why people keep coming back. The trail climbs at a manageable rate, has a loop in the middle and features views of the city and Pikes Peak.
The trailhead for Waldo Canyon is 7.5 miles from Interstate 25. (Directions below) After finding a spot in the crowded lot, head for the stairs. There are 76 stairs to get you warmed up and ready to hike.
During the first mile, the trail winds above the highway and traffic, in and out of small canyons. At about the one mile mark, the trail turns away from the road and goes into Waldo Canyon. The trail winds through some rocky areas to a meadow at about 1.6 miles. If you’re not hiking the loop, this is a good spot to stop and enjoy a peaceful break without the sound of the highway. One of my hiking books said the meadow was once home to Waldo Hog Ranch.
Just beyond the meadow, hikers will find a bench, then the sign for the loop. Hikers can go either direction in the loop and it can be fun to ask others on the trail for their advice. Turn right and you’ll start with several steep switchbacks. Turn left and you’ll eventually cross a seasonal stream and hike along the side of it. The elevation gain and the distance to the top is the same either way. I liked going left for a more gentle climb.
Hiking clockwise, we hiked through the trees, along that seasonal stream and then into an open area at the top of the canyon. At the top, we actually hiked a saddle to the next canyon over. The best part about going clockwise is the great views of Pikes Peak along the trail. It’s just breathtaking. You’ll also see the nearby city and you might catch a glimpse of a mountain with towers on it, that’s Cheyenne Mountain. You’ll know the loop is coming to an end when you start down several steep switchbacks, back to the main trail. From here, it’s 1.75 miles to the trailhead.
Read more about the trail and camping rules on the Pike National Forest website. If you’re hiking in Colorado Springs, try St. Mary’s Falls and The Incline. And for an extensive list of hikes in Colorado, check out this article.
Details: Hike with the loop is 7 miles with about 1,200 feet of elevation gain with all the ups and downs.
Cost: Consider bringing $1 per person in cash for the donation box at the trailhead.
Directions: From Interstate 25, exit U.S. 24 west toward Manitou Springs. Drive past the exit for Manitou Springs and the exit for Cabe of the Winds. From there, it’s about two miles to the parking lot on the right side of the road. At the trailhead is a sign that says Pike National Forest, Waldo Canyon.