Running this trail west of Winding Stairs Connector
is easy and fun. Running the ridge singletrack east of Inlet Trail
is also a blast. But, the slope and rock-riddled terrain between those points is quite difficult to "run". Descending the Winding Stairs Connector
is another option but it would be annoying due to poor traction with steep sections.
The start of the Winding Stairs Trail can be accessed from the Swank Trail
. You then follow a nice, rolling ridge as it curves westward. There are some nice views of Devil's Thumb to the north. You'll pass the junction for the Inlet Trail
, a connector that drops back to the valley; this is an option out of the full loop. It is easy to miss this junction, look for markings carved into two trees just before the trail begins a 3/4 mile climb.
Ascend about 1/2 mile from the Inlet Trail
junction to a boulder outcropping. It is not obvious how to get through the boulders. Do not go right/north. Stay on ridge and find a gap with a tree growing in it - yes, right through there. You could go left, dropping from ridge to bypass boulders, but it is annoying, and you would miss an amazing feature.
Ascend another 1/4 mile to an intersection with the Winding Stairs Connector
on your left. There are campsites, boulders and big views to see. The climb on the singletrack along the ridge is intermediate, sometimes difficult, but the majority of Winding Stairs (west of the junction with Winding Stairs Connector
) is easy 4WD road.
Once on top, at the junction with Winding Stairs Connector
, the trail is a 4WD access road to Rampart Range and eventually ends at a T-intersection with a dirt USFS road. The original Winding Stairs trail followed the Winding Stairs Connector
down to the valley but that segment is heavily eroded and seems to have been closed as a 4WD option.
If running eastbound the "connector" looks like the main trail and it is very easy to miss the "new" Winding Stairs route, which branches to the left instead of descending the old 4WD route.