I recently drove up to the new Staunton State Park just past Conifer, Colorado. It’s an easy, fairly short drive from Denver, very close to where I used to live in Pine Junction, Colorado. As you can see from this Staunton State Park trail map there are a bunch of routes to chose from whether you prefer to hike, bike or horseback ride. The day started a little brisk with fog and mist in the mountain river valleys, but turned out quite warm considering it is November in Colorado.
Having never been in the park I chose to keep it simple and take the main Staunton Ranch trail through the heart of the park. I would then take a little balloon loop hiking a short way up the Marmot Passage trail close to the top of a ridge to the west, then head back along and down the ridge on Scout Line trail until it rejoined the Staunton Ranch trail I came in on.
To begin my hike I parked at the park entrance and walked a very short way on the Davis Ponds trail alongside one of the park roads up to a very nice picnic area, then crossed the parking lot and road to the Staunton Ranch trail on the other side. Next time I’ll probably drive down to the Staunton Ranch trail head parking area, though that looks like it would add some distance to the already long hikes in the park.
As you can see by clicking on the Elevation Profile to the right, the route I took was a relatively gradual ascent and I had the park mostly to myself. I really saw no one except a few deer on my way in and a big crow or raven who seemed to follow me from the air for a while. Later in the day on my trip back I did encounter a few people and their canine friends here and there.
While the route I took was an easy grade, coming back on Scout Line trail (which was a hiker only trail) was pretty steep. I had a sandwich I had packed at the intersection of Marmot Passage and Scout Line trail on a crude log bench. Shortly after heading off down Scout Line I met a group of older men who had hiked up that trail and were surprised to see me as they had seen me leave the parking lot and figured I must have taken some short cut. I explained I had actually went a longer, but less steeper way. Next time I’ll probably will head up that trail as they did instead of taking it down. It would be more of a work out but a lot easier on the knees. The steep sections of Scout Line trail was the only place I would recommend hiking poles (which I had stupidly left in my car).
View my Staunton State Park Hike in a larger map
I ended up hiking 7.1 miles. Actual moving time was around 2 hours & 42 mins which was about 2.7 mph moving average. Total time was about 3.5 hrs and my hike had around 1017 feet Elevation Gain.
As I mentioned the next time I go I will probably try and and head up Scout Line right away, and then take Marmot Passage all the way to at least Elk Fall Ponds. From there depending on how wore out I am I might consider the Lion’s Back trail to the Elk Falls Overlook. Either way, after the steep trip up, I would probably take the longer but gentle grade back down and around the center of the valley, taking Bugling Elk trail to the end of Staunton Ranch trail and follow that the whole way back to the park entrance.
On a separate trip I think I’ll take Staunton Ranch trail part way up to the Old Mill trail to check out the mill site, then back behind the eastern ridge on the long Mason Creek trail.
As you can see I took several photos on my hike. You can view the photos as a SLIDE SHOW, or click on any of the small photos in the article above to zoom them in a new tab or window.
At first I had my SLR camera in my pack so the first few were with taken with my cell phone. Those came out pretty poor due to my phone’s camera lens being very dirty at the time. It wasn’t too long until I pulled out my SLR and from now on these hikes I think I will keep it slung over my shoulder and clipped to my front hiking pack straps. The smartphone camera just does not have enough control, and with the SLR in the pack there is no way to use it without taking off the pack and digging around inside. I think I’ve come up with a way to attach my camera to my pack where its not too uncomfortable and if I need to “shoot from the hip” I can use it without too much fiddling.