Staunton State Park is located in Pine, Colorado only 40 Miles southwest of downtown Denver. Staunton opened in May 2013, making it the newest state park and I highly recommend checking it out.
I love visiting this park for a few reasons:
1. Well maintained, well marked trails that never feel crowded. Very serene, peaceful.
Tip: Make sure to grab a helpful trail map at the entrance gate from the attendant when you pay your $7 entrance fee.
2. Incredible, expansive mountain views. There are several outstanding overlooks for photo opts.
3. Variety of terrain; aspen meadows, pine forests, rock formations, a waterfall, ponds, and creeks. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife too.
4. Knowledgeable, friendly trail hosts that are eager to educate hikers about the park.
5. Great workout. Nice elevation gains and long trails. The meadows are at 8,100 feet and the granite cliffs over 10,000 feet.
On this particular hike, I was pretty ambitious. I hiked 13 Miles. The orange highlighted route indicates my hike.
This is along the Staunton Ranch trail at the beginning of the hike with a terrific view of Lion’s Head. I would later have my lunch up there at the Elk Falls Overlook. (9,150 feet)
Early in the day I spotted a couple of yellow bellied marmots in this area. Sorry, they are camera shy. Later in the day, I came upon 4 deer grazing in the nearby meadow.
Creek crossing. There is a nice bench just off to the right. An ideal spot for snack time and resting the legs.
Staunton allows rock climbing and has several different areas to do so. Check their website though for closures when native raptors are nesting. Other park activities include mountain biking, fishing, and horseback riding.
Climbing up the Bugling Elk Trail.
Passing an open meadow getting closer to Elk Falls Pond on the far west side of the park.
Elk Falls Pond
I made it….Elk Falls Overlook! I stopped here for my lunch which consisted of Nut Thin cheese crackers and grapes. I’m still hungry just writing that sentence. I really made a mistake bringing so little food for such a long hike. I always talk about trail PB&Js too and I failed to bring one! Lesson learned.
This is Lion’s Head just to the right. There is a trail over there but it is currently closed because of the nesting raptors I mentioned. (I really enjoy saying “raptors”. It’s so Jurassic Park 😂)
A steep .35mile trail off the main trail will take you down to the base of Elk Falls. Well worth the effort! I met a couple down there that took this pic for me. It was their first visit to the park.
The clouds were starting to come in as I made my way on the Marmot Passage Trail. I packed my light puffy jacket that performs ok in the rain, but I would have much preferred my rain jacket in the event of heavy rain. Luckily, the rain held off. (Mental note: pack the rain jacket too! It is a 10 Essential for a reason!)
This is me, pretty wiped with about 3 Miles left to hike until I reached my car. My inner voice is screaming “should have brought more food!” My water situation wasn’t great either in all honesty. I started the day carrying 50 ounces and I found myself rationing the last few miles. Ugh. So many valuable lessons.
Despite the hunger, headache, (either from the elevation, dehydration, or both) and exhaustion of 13 Miles, it was a fantastic, peaceful day walking through the woods. Good for the soul! Good for the body! Good for the mind!
And stay tuned, because I returned to Staunton one week later with Aaron and remedied some of my trail fails. Plus we encountered a big surprise. Hint: white and falls from the sky 😉