Trail Guide: Beginner Hiking at Staunton State Park

I’ve been to Staunton Stake Park twice, and I’m already in love. When my parents visited from Maryland a few weeks ago, I needed an option for hiking that wasn’t too far from Denver. It also had to offer doable trails for people living essentially at sea level. Staunton has all of this (and you don’t have to sacrifice views!). Not only did my parents survive the trip, but our friend Leah who legitimately lives AT sea level (the Florida Keys…lucky lady!) also enjoyed an excursion at Staunton.

Staunton is one of Colorado’s newest parks (like really new – it just opened in May 2013) and it does not disappoint. It’s less than an hour from Denver, and the drive is not only gorgeous but easy. Totally manageable for tentative mountain drivers and the park is easy to find.

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The park has a number of trails that are open to mountain bikers, hikers, and horses. There are a few hiker-only trails, but we opted for the Staunton Ranch trail (for a complete trail map, go here). It’s a 3ish mile out-and-back that offers stunning views of the park as well as a moderate challenge.

The trail guide also said Staunton Ranch was a trail with great wildlife watching, but the only wildlife we saw in September were deer in the parking lot and an unidentified mammal/rodent. Maybe a marmot? I obviously need to get on The Google.

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The Staunton Ranch Trail is gradually uphill but levels out about an hour in. There are plenty of opportunities to take a break (and take in the views), and only one or two parts where the trail is even very steep. We went as far as the main junction between Staunton Ranch, Marmot Passage, and Old Mill trails. It took us a little over an hour to get that far.

Staunton Park is a great place for first timers and other beginners thanks to brand-spanking new trails that are really well marked. Plus, at major trail junctions there are bear-proof trash cans and occasionally port-o-potties. That’s right people, bathrooms on the trail!! As someone who chugs water religiously while hiking (and who has had some close calls getting to a bathroom in time as a result), this was a super exciting development.

Well marked trails, a bathroom, AND a trash can? I must be in heaven.
Well marked trails, a bathroom, AND a trash can? I must be in heaven.

All mountain bikers we encountered were very friendly and courteously shared the trail. I would suggest yielding to horses as well – and looking out for their poop (a drawback of the multi-use trails but something I’m used to as a weird horse person).

For more advanced/fit/adventurous hikers, there’s a longer loop that goes to Elk Falls, which is beautiful. There are plenty of trails to explore in the park, giving you different options for each time you come back (and you will – trust me!).

My only complaint is that you can’t camp there, but it’s really not the end of the world. The website says camping isn’t available “at this time,” so that makes me think it could be in the works for the future.

Bottom Line

Great trails, nice facilities (including a big picnic pavilion!), and gorgeous views make this park a wonderful hidden gem that any Denverite (or visiting Denverite) should check out. Since it’s a state park, it costs $7 to get in if you don’t have an annual pass. The fee simply allows Colorado Parks & Wildlife to maintain the park, so having to pay to use all of their wonderful amenities and beautiful trails is always worth it!

Helpful Information

Perpetually taking photos with the back of Billy's head/body in them.
Perpetually taking photos with the back of Billy’s head/body in them.
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