Staunton SP: Lionshead Long Loop

Distance14.62 mi*
Elevation1204 ft*
The stats are an estimate as I only started recording toward the second half of hike
My TIme5 hr 30 min*
DifficultyHard
The stats are an estimate as I only started recording toward the second half of hike
Closest TownConifer
Food Nearby3 Margaritas

Staunton State Park is one of my favorite places to go close to Denver and I decided to take a very long loop around the park on a nice day before a snow storm. There are more direct paths to the top of Lion’s Head and back if you go.

My path took me on the following trails Staunton Ranch – Scout Line – Marmot Passage – Chimney Rock – Lions Back – Elk Falls Overlook – Lion’s Head Loop – Lions Back – Bugling Elk – Border Line – Old Mill – Staunton Ranch.

You can find more information on some of these trails on the following blogs that I have already written, Overlooks and Old Mill and Elk Falls. For this post I will just focus on the new area’s.

Scout Line

Scout Line is a trail that I haven’t been on at Staunton and I always thought it was a fire road. Surprise, surprise, I was wrong. Turns out that Scout Line is now one of my favorite trails in the park. The first thing that I noticed was it seemed a lot less crowded than Staunton Ranch. The second thing that was nice was that it is a hiker only trail so you don’t have to worry about bikes.

It is a relatively steep trail that switchbacks its way through the southern portion of the park. The trail is very wooded and there are some rocky parts but nothing that is too difficult to deal with. There are several area’s that open up to give you a sweeping view of the park that I had not seen before.

The view of the park from Scout Line trail shows just how large the park is.

Scout line curls around to give you some views of the Lion’s Head before connecting back to Marmot Passage. What I like about this trail is that, while it is steep, it actually lets you skip the steepest parts of Staunton Ranch and Marmot Passage!

After connecting to Marmot Passage you will still have the clearing view of Lion’s Head…

Lions head standing guard over the forest.

and make your way down to Elk pond. Elk pond was partially frozen this day and looked pretty cool.

A mostly frozen Elk Pond.

Chimney Rock

After the pond you have the choice of taking Lion’s Back or Chimney Rock. Chimney Rock will also split off to take you to Elk Falls. If you stay on Chimney Rock it will take you back above the falls and head back towards the west. It does give you a great perspective of Chimney Rock that you can’t see from the falls trail.

The Chimney Rock trail will continue through a more open forest and reconnect with Lion’s Back trail. This is also about the spot that I turned on my recording on the map below.

Lion’s Back and Lion’s Head

Lion’s Back trail will take you through a small Aspen Grove to the Elk Falls Overlook. The trail to get up to the overlook becomes a very rocky almost rock staircase. I noticed that several of the large rocks that you have to walk over were a bit loose so make sure you take your time here.

After the overlook the trail continues up towards Lion’s Head. It becomes a more narrow trail that gets a bit steep as it switchbacks up the side of the hill. You will also be in pretty thick forest. The top of Lion’s Head has a small loop that takes you all around the rock feature.

There are views peering back into the park or out towards the mountains and it is a really nice area with a lot of space for a “peak”.

For the trip back to the pond I stayed on Lion’s Head. Lion’s Head is a fire road so it made for a nice walk as my legs were getting a little tired. It is steep though and I think coming back on it is a little easier than trying the loop the other way.

Once I reached the pond I headed back on Bugling Elk, which is another fire road until I came to the Borderline trail. For a faster return you can take Bugling Elk right back to Staunton Ranch and then back to the parking area.

Borderline

I thought that the Borderline trail was going to be a shortcut heading back and I sure did miscalculate. I had never been on this trail but found out that not only is Borderline longer but it is steep and has a lot of switchbacks and is very popular with the bikers.

The path is mostly in the forest which is nice to keep the sun off and is a nice walk through the woods other than the climbing of the hill. Borderline to Old Mill is close to 2.5 miles with 500 feet of elevation gain in the first half of that. There are some nice views on this trail as well though.

A rock formation behind the trees on the borderline trail.

One nice part of the Borderline trail was that it leads to the Staunton Rocks Overlook. This overlook didn’t seem as developed as the other ones at the park as there wasn’t a super clear view but through the trees there were still some really nice views. For a look at the other overlooks check out this post.

I finished the very long loop by taking Old Mill back to Staunton Ranch and back to the parking lot. As I stated earlier there are more direct ways to do this but I wanted a really long walk which this was and showed me most of the park.

Distance and Elevation

*This is an estimate today as I had a problem with my recording. I did the math so the accuracy may be off a bit.

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 around 14.62* miles and had a total elevation gain of over 1,204* feet including undulations. That put the high point at at 9,450 feet. I was also moving for a total of 5 hours and 30 minutes*.

*The below map is missing the first half of the hike

Effort

This was more of a long hike than an overly difficult hike. There were a couple stages of intense incline but mostly a more steady incline throughout. The hike was very long though and took a long time. Here is the step count from my Fitbit.

The step count from today's hike was at 40,205

Terrain

Staunton is one of the most well taken care of parks I have seen. The trails are in good shape and are mostly dirt and very well defined. There is some rock walking as you get closer to Lion’s Head.

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.

Wrap up

For those of you who have followed this blog you know that I love Staunton. It is one of the first places I started hiking and I still think of it as my “home base” hike. For all the times that I have been here, I had no idea that the Lion’s Head Rock formation that I had admired and photographed was actually attainable.

It was a cool moment for me to make it to the this spot for a couple reasons. First off it has some of the best views of any spot this close to Denver. Second, and more personal, it was impressive for me to see how far I have come. Last year when I made it to the falls I thought I wasn’t going to need to call in the medivac for the walk back. This year I went past the falls and just kept going and going.

It felt really good to have that verification that what I have been doing has really been making a difference. I still won’t win any swimsuit competitions but it is nice to know that I can now walk for hours and miles and not need a pully system to get out of bed and bath salts and aspirin to walk to the kitchen the next morning!

I have added this hike and all of my hikes to the interactive map page you can find here. If you have any suggestions for hikes or comments feel free to email me at fatmanlittletrails@gmail.com or you can follow me on any of the below social media platforms. Happy Hiking!

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