|Elevation Gain||1,535 ft|
|My Time||4 hr 33 min|
|Difficulty||Moderate to Hard|
|Food Nearby||Buck Snort Saloon|
West Meadow via Lazy V
The West Meadow trail is one of the furthest out at Staunton State Park and is popular with hikers and bikers.. Luckily the new Lazy V parking lot makes access a little bit easier. Because of the distance and elevation gain, this path will be either moderate or hard depending on your skill level.
Getting Started – New Lazy V lot
Staunton is one of my favorite places and I didn’t think it could get any better. I was wrong! The new Lazy V parking lot is pretty amazing. What I really enjoyed is how it opens up a completely new section of the park for some people.
The Lazy V lot connects to the area where the Scout Line and Staunton Ranch trails merge. This gives access to the west side of the park, like Elk Falls and climbing access, with a couple of miles less to walk. The lot also adds a couple of pit toilets and more parking, which Staunton needed because it is so popular. I am very excited to have this new lot available!
The only downside to the Lazy V lot is that it lets you start right at the Scout Line trail. Scout Line is a hiker only trail and one of my favorite in the park but it gets steep in a hurry! Over the first mile of Scout Line you will gain about 500 feet of elevation including some grades of over 20% which are the steepest of the hike.
The news isn’t all bad though as the views from Scout Line are some of my favorite in the park so there are plenty of reasons to take a break! The trail elevation is contained a bit by a series of switchbacks. At the switchback points are where the views are some of the best.
The pinnacle of the Scout Line trail is a spot I like to call Fatman Point. You know you have made it when you see a small tree laying on its side that forms a perfect bench. From the tree/bench are some of my favorite views in the world.
While the views are monumental from this small overlook they are not the most significant part. The pass also marks a bit of relief from the grueling incline. There will be a few more up hill parts but the trail flattens out a bit from this point on. The trail will also get a bit more wooded and shady for a bit which is a good time to catch your breath and get your legs back.
From Fatman Pass it is just under a mile until you meet up with Marmot Passage. Marmot passage can be taken to the right (north) to connect to Staunton Ranch for a shorter loop or head to the left (south) to continue on the longer loop towards the Elk Falls Pond.
Marmot Passage is another one of my favorite trails at Staunton. It is popular with hikers and bikers alike and has a bit of best of both worlds vibe. The trail starts in a heavy tree area before opening up into some overlook style views of the distant peaks.
After the overlooks it is back into some nice thick woods before descending down onto the Elk Falls Pond from above. From the junction with Scout Line, the Marmot Passage is roughly two miles long. There are a couple of short bursts of incline but a majority of this trail is flat or at a decline. Just a warning, if you you are hiking in the winter like I was, Marmot Passage seems to collect more snow than some other trails because of the shade so make sure you bring some traction.
One of the most popular places on the west side of Staunton is the Elk Falls Pond. Several trails junction at the pond and access to Elk Falls, Lions Head, and the West Meadow all originate from the pond. Coming from Marmot Passage you will actually descend down towards the pond which really gives a unique perspective.
If you look closely at the above picture you can see a snow covered ranger cabin near the far edge of the pond. I was thinking I couldn’t think of a much better pace to live than that cabin! There is one bench on Marmot and some good sitting rocks by the pond which are great to rest an recharge for the next step in your journey!
From the pond there are a couple of ways to make it to the West Meadow. The most popular trail is to take the Chimney Rock Trail towards Elk Falls and the finish the loop towards the Elk Falls Overlook. That is the popular way to go because you can stop off at the falls. That will be a mile and a half walk though. Lions Back is much more direct, though not as scenic, but is only a half mile to the west meadow junction.
Lions Back starts up a service road and gets up to a 16% grade before flattening out slightly. The road is actually quite pretty, especially when it bends to the southwest. Lions Back is lined in sections with Aspen trees that make for a really nice hike in the fall too!
After the half mile on Lions back you will come to another trail junction. At the junction you can continue on towards Lions Head, turn left for Chimney Rock or right for West Meadow. We are heading right today and the last bit of trail I haven’t been on at Staunton.
My first trip to the West Meadow was really special. To start it was winter and not many people had been there so it was a bit of breaking trail. I also had the entire two and a third mile trail to myself. The 3/4 circle of a loop is relatively flat with only a short section of trail having an incline and never getting above a 10% grade.
Another great feature of the West Meadow Trail is the diversity of terrain and scenery. On the sunny side of the hill the hill opens up to expansive views to the peaks an foothills to the north and west. Even the snow had melted away on this side after sitting in the sun all day.
The northern side of the trail is a mix of deep woods and bigger fields with views pointing back to the south and the more familiar sections of Staunton.
The final section of the trail turns back to the south. This is the most densely wooded sections of the trail. The trail also gets more narrow and the center hill ridge is next to a very steep drop off. In the winter this was the deepest snow of the entire hike.
In the winter I actually got a little nervous on the narrow trail with deep snow on the final section. I didn’t stop to take pictures and was a pretty happy when it was done. However, in the summers this narrow section is very popular with mountain bikers and is relatively busy. The loop finally concludes back at the Elk Falls Pond.
The Return to Lazy V
You then have an option to return the way you came or to take Bugling Elk to Staunton Ranch for a nice hour glass loop. That is the way I went and I like it because it has less elevation and different views to make the return trip more enjoyable.
Video of West Meadow via Lazy V
I made a couple of videos of the West Meadow via Lazy V loop. The first one is a narrative look at the hike:
This second video is a time lapsed version of the hike that I like to call my Hikers Edit. I did it a different way that hopefully made it a little smoother and easier to watch. Remember if you enjoy the videos make sure to subscribe to my YouTube Channel. It is free to subscribe and you will get the latest updates as soon as they are available.
Distance and Elevation
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 9.86 miles and had a total elevation gain of about 1,535 feet including undulations. That put the high point at around 9,286 feet. I was also moving for a total of 4 hours and 33 minutes.
This loop is long and a bit of a yo-yo on the effort scale. Starting at Scout Line means an immediate stretch of incline that wears you out right off the bat. The trail then slopes downhill to the pond before another steeper incline towards the meadow. Overall it is a good workout both on length and elevation but you get some flat and downhills mixed in too.
Staunton has very well manicured and defined trails but they are rocky. When I did this hike, there was snow covering most of the trails but was mostly packed down enough to be easy to handle. Be careful on snow covered rocky terrain. It can be easy to catch a rock that you can’t see under the snow. I broke two micro spikes at Staunton from catching rocks. I would suggest a good pair of hiking boots all season and traction in the winter.
Accessing West Meadow via Lazy V
Staunton State park is located on Elk Creek road just off of 285. The park does require a $10 day pass for all vehicles. Yearly park passes are available as well. There is a pretty good sized parking area and several restrooms with pit toilets at the park. There are also several picnic areas available.
The new Lazy V parking lot is to the left when you pass the picnic pavilion. It is about a mile down the road. There is some side street parking and then the full circular lot is at the end.
Wrapping up West Meadow via Lazy V
I always love Staunton State Park and it was great getting to one of the few areas of the park I haven’t been. The Lazy V parking lot is really great and does a good job of bringing these far out sections of the park within reach for more people!
The West Meadow portion is a nice hike through a meadow. Lots of big views that show the surrounding area as well as some more shaded and tree filled areas. There are other places to go around the park with more established and popular formations but if you are looking for a more relaxed experience in some big open spaces, West Meadow ma be perfect for you!
I have added this hike and all of my hikes to my interactive map page that you can find here. If you have a suggestion or comment you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or follow me on any of the below social media platforms. Happy Hiking!