Staunton State Park,
Colorado’s newest state park,
is open to fishing, mountain biking, horse riding and hiking. It's a park not to be missed, especially with the fall foliage season rapidly approaching.
Opened in May of 2013, the park encompasses land from several different ranches. The park is 3,800 acres of meadows, forest, lakes and granite cliffs (rock climbing is allowed in a section of the park).
On a recent visit to Staunton, my group elected to visit the Elk Falls Overlook
, one of the most popular destinations in the park. As one of the highest points within Staunton, and one of the longer hikes, it's as far from the park entrance you can get.
We followed the Staunton Ranch trail to the Bugling Elk trail, and then the Lions Back trail to the Elk Falls Overlook, at 9150’ in elevation. Some of the trails in the park are new, along with others that appear to be old ranch roads winding their way through through open forests and lush meadows. The Bugling Elk trail ends at the Elk Falls Pond
, where we picked up the Lions Back trail to complete the hike to the falls overlook. The pond is situated between a large meadow to the northwest and a steep narrow canyon to the southeast. It is a great photo op.
Elk Falls Pond, Staunton State Park
Most of the elevation gain on our hike was during the mile from the pond to the overlook, but doesn't mean it was difficult. The hardest trail was no more than moderate in difficulty; following natural contour lines or existing ranch roads. The Lions Back trail continues to a horse or bike tie up spot, and then continues for another 250 feet as a hiker-only trail to the overlook.
The overlook offers a great view of the vista up, down and across the canyon. The Elk Falls cascades hundreds of feet down the face of a steep cliff and can be heard thundering across the canyon. Looming above the overlook is Lions Head, a rocky 9450 feet-tall granite peak overlooking most of the park. A newly completed trail from the overlook to Lions Head made for a quick hike and provided even more stunning views of the entire park and the Tarryall Mountains.
We returned via the same route, on Lions Back, Bugling Elk and Staunton Ranch trails,
for a 10.6 mile round trip hike with just under 1200’ elevation gain from the park entrance to the top of Lions Head. But with so many trails in the park, any combination of them can be combined to create trips of varying lengths.
To get there
View from Elk Falls Overlook in Staunton State Park
: Take US 24 to Colorado Hwy 67 in Woodland Park. Go north on Hwy 67 to County Road 126 in Deckers and go west to US 285. Turn north on US 285 at Pine Junction and look for the well-marked exit on the right for Staunton State Park. The park entrance is about 1 mile west of US 285. Alternatively, you can take US 24 west through south park, and just past Hartsel turn north on Hwy 9 to US 285 and turn north. Continue over Kenosha Pass (a great place for fall colors) and pass through Bailey and then look for the exit after passing through Pine Junction.
Bob Falcone is a retired firefighter, photographer, hiker, college instructor and business owner who has lived in Colorado Springs for over 23 years. He is the president of the Friends of Cheyenne Canon and a member of the El Paso County Parks Advisory Board. You can follow him on Twitter (@hikingbob), Facebook (Hiking Bob), or visit his website (Hikingbob.com). E-mail questions, comments, suggestions, etc to Bob: firstname.lastname@example.org.