Staunton State Park – Elk Falls

I just want to start by saying that I absolutely love Staunton. It is the park that I decided hiking is for me. Its a sprawling area that gives you mountains, trees, waterfalls, streams, camping, climbing, hiking, biking and picnic tables. It actually has a decent amount of parking as well. Well today I decided to retry a hike I did in the fall. In the fall this hike pretty much beat me and I’m not sure I could walk for a few days after. Today, so far, I feel like I did a much better job. The track to get to Elk Falls is long and there are a couple of options to take but I decided to take the Staunton Ranch – Historic Cabins – Marmot Passage – Chimney Rock – Elk Falls route and then did the mostly the same but took Bugling Elk instead of Marmot on the way back. First off I would highly suggest the Marmot Passage to get to Elk Falls Pond. It gives some really nice views of Lions head and the surrounding area.

This hike is long. It ended up being about 15 miles which is pretty rough in itself but there are also a series of switchbacks that make it challenging as well. There is about 2000 feet of elevation gains that you will have to deal with as well. There is a pretty significant elevation gain on Staunton Ranch after you reach the picnic area. Eventually you will come to a fire road and an intersection. To get to the pond you can choose either Bugling Elk or Marmot and I would suggest Marmot. Marmot Passage is another one of the stretches with a few switchbacks and elevation through a forest but like I said before the views are absolutely worth it.

Panoramic view of lions head forest and the mountains in the background from Marmot Passage at Staunton State Park

After circling the mountain you will come down a hill and drop off right at Elk Falls pond. The pond is very cool and there are some cool places around that you can sit on a rock and take pictures or eat some snacks. The map makes it seems that at this point you will connect with the Chimney rock trail on your way to Elk Falls but you actually have to walk around to the back side of private housing structure to find these trails to get to the falls or the falls overlook.

Elk Falls pond. After coming down Marmot Passage you need to walk around this to get to the Elk Falls trail.

Chimney Rock trail will take you to the Elk Falls trail. The Elk falls trail is very steep and the footing is soft and slick. I used a hiking pole and took advantage of it. The trail itself is only about a third of a mile of switch backs that go pretty much straight down to the falls landing. You can hear the rushing water and there are some great views of Chimney Rock and Lions head from the trail but pay attention because the footing can be a bit treacherous. Fatman note: It is one thing to climb down this trail but climbing back up it is pretty brutal. I had to take a couple of breaks just to catch my breath. The falls were magnificent today. When I came in the fall they were barely a trickle but today there was plenty of water flowing and they were definitely worth the hike.

A couple of other notes about the hike. Keep an eye out for Danger Noodles, i.e. snakes. There was a small one on the trail today and the last time I was out here I saw 2 others. No rattles so I think it would have been OK but always good to keep an eye out. For the history buffs out there, the Historic Cabins trail was really cool. It was under a mile long and you pass by 3 or 4 of the original cabins and homes on the property and they have informational signs. The original home of the Staunton’s is still on property as well as some other cabins and they were built in the early 1900’s. It was very cool to see that they are still standing. I really doubt my couch will last 5 years let alone 100 exposed to the elements. I met a great couple, Lisa and Henry (I think it was Henry I’m sorry I’m terrible with names) who I hiked with for most of this time. I want to thank them for letting me slow them down. One thing that is cool about getting out in the world and the woods is the people you meet on the journey. Final note, what hike with me would be complete lately without some deer. I saw these two by the historic cabins.

I’m going to try a little something different today before the pictures for those of you (Scott) who said I don’t have enough hiking content.

Elevation and Distance

If you don’t have the AllTrails app you might want to check it out, I really love mine. It records your progress and is a great way to search for hikes that are nearby and gives you difficulty measurements. According to AllTrails today’s hike was 12.9 miles with a total elevation gain of 1,900 feet. The high on Elevation got to 9,370 feet and I felt every bit of it.

Effort

Not all long hikes are hard but some are more difficult than others. With today’s hike there were 3 factors making it difficult. Fifteen miles is a long way to go and you are working pretty hard in stretches like on Marmot Passage. The footing on the Elk Falls trail and just how steep it was also made that the most difficult area of the hike. Her is how today’s hike registered on my Fitbit.

Stats from Fitbit.com from todays hike.

Terrain

The trails at Staunton range from almost manicured to slick and rocky. A majority of the hike will be on solid sandy trails that have some avoidable rocks sticking out. There are a couple of places on Marmot Passage where you will have to walk over rocks. The Bugling Elk trail and a small portion of Staunton Ranch Trail are a dirt fire road. There are quite a few bikers on the paths as well that you will need to keep an eye and ear out for.

Access

Staunton State park has parking and bathrooms at the trail heads. There is a decent amount of parking but it fills up pretty quick. There is a $9 fee per vehicle to enter the park or you can buy a season State Park pass. Staunton is located on S. Elk Creek Road in Pine, Colorado just off of 285.

If you have a suggestion for a hike that you would like me to try, feel free to email me at fatmanlittletrails@gmail.com or you can follow me on the below social media platforms. I have also added this hike and all the hikes to the interactive map that you can find here.

And now for some pictures:

After the hike I went to Scooter’s Smokehouse BBQ for lunch. If you are in the area check them out.

6 thoughts on “Staunton State Park – Elk Falls”

  1. It was great to hike with Greg (from Fat Man Thin Trail) today to Elk Creek Falls @ Staunton State Park.
    We enjoyed his company, and shared some stories.
    Henry and Lisa Austin

  2. The added content really does spruce the blog up – nicely done! Staunton is full of beauty, and your pics showcase that!

  3. Great idea to return to where it all began. What incredible progress you’ve made. You may have to change the name from Fat Man to Fit Man!

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