Trail Length: 10-mile out and back
Trailhead Elevation: 8,120’
Elevation Gain: 1,500’ net elevation gain
Trailhead Location: From C470, take US Highway 285 south to Shaffers Crossing, about 6 miles west of Conifer. Turn north on Elk Creek Road and follow the signs 1.5 miles to the park entrance.
Yesterday (June 1st) was National Trails Day so what better way to celebrate than to get out on the trail and take a hike! Staunton State Park is a brand new state park in Colorado (the first new state park in Colorado in 27 years) which just opened to the public on May 18, 2013. Always looking for new places to hike, we decided to go check it out.
The Staunton Ranch began as a homestead around the turn of the 20th century. Drs. Rachel and Archibald Staunton were on their way to California from West Virginia and a rest stop in the Denver area convinced them that Colorado should be their new home. The first 160 acres of the Staunton Ranch was homesteaded by Rachel Staunton who lived there in the warmer months and provided medical care to the people who lived in the area. Some of her clientele were Native American families who bartered beadwork, pottery, jewelry, and rugs to show their appreciation and pay for her services. The Staunton Ranch grew to 1,680 acres over the years.
Frances H. Staunton, daughter of Archibald and Rachel, preserved and protected the Staunton Ranch throughout her life and gifted the land to the state in 1986 with the understanding that the ranch would someday be developed into a state park. With a Great Outdoors Colorado grant and additional land purchases (especially Elk Falls), this new 3,828 acre park is a beautiful gem close to the Denver metro area. With over 20 miles of hiking trails, there is plenty to explore.
Our goal for today’s hike was the Elk Falls Overlook, a 10-mile roundtrip hike. We started up the Staunton Ranch Trail around 1:40pm. The first section of the trail is a single track trail winding through the trees. There were many aspens along the whole length of the trail. It will be great to come back and hike here in Autumn when they’re turning color. About 25 minutes up the trail, we came to a small, open meadow with a few aspens in it.
Some beautiful, little wildflowers along the trail.
After 1.65 miles the trail makes a right turn from the single-track onto an old road. We continued hiking up the old road for another 1.15 miles, heading in the direction of Elk Falls Pond.
We passed a short spur trail to the right which takes hikers up closer to Staunton Rocks, a climbing area in the park. Here’s a shot of some of the rocks.
After a total of 2.8 miles hiking the Staunton Ranch trail, we came to a trail junction. The Bugling Elk trail continues on for 1.1 miles to Elk Falls Pond, the Marmot Passage Trail goes to the left and will also take you to Elk Falls Pond in 2.5 miles. The Border Line Trail goes to the right and takes you around the back side of Staunton Rocks.
We continued on up the Bugling Elk trail. A view down the road/trail.
The trail turned and headed to the south along a creek. We were surprised to still see some snow and ice along the creek.
This pine evergreen tree stood out to us. The branches seemed so perpendicular to the trunk of the tree.
As we approached Elk Falls Pond, we came across this interesting sign!
I guess the sign was appropriately placed because when we got to the pond, we did, in fact, see a marmot sunning himself on a rock near the water.
A shot of Elk Falls Pond.
We had hiked approximately 4 miles with another mile to go to get to the Elk Falls Overlook. We started up the Lion’s Back trail.
The trail wound through some more small aspen groves as we headed up.
At the end of the road/trail, we reached a sign telling us we only had another 250 feet to scramble up to the Falls overlook. We arrived at the overlook around 3:10pm.
Some shots looking across the valley to Elk Falls
Another view down the valley.
Some views to the northwest.
A close up of a spruce tree budding out with new pine cones.
A beautiful view to the west of Mt. Evans as we started heading back down the trail.
Back down at Elk Falls Pond. The late afternoon light and clouds provided a great reflection in the pond.
An old farm hay rake we came across heading back up along the Bugling Elk trail.
Since it was late afternoon, we were hoping to come across some elk on the Bugling Elk trail, but no such luck although we did come across a few deer.
We continued back along the trail taking in the views.
There were several old cabins and homesteads along the trail. This was one of them.
A great view of Pikes Peak to the south as we were heading back along the Staunton Ranch trail.
We arrived back at the car around 6:45pm and headed out of the park.
A great 10-mile hike complete with views of 14ers, interesting rock formations, a beautiful pond, waterfall, aspen groves, and wildlife! We will definitely need to come back and explore more of the park’s trails.