Do you think there are still places on earth that are unknown to most?
Well, the answer is yes.
It is the case of Elk Falls in Colorado, the highest waterfalls near Denver, that had remained inaccesible to the majority of people for long time.
These stunning 75 feet of falls are located at only 50 minutes from the city and have been part of Staunton State Park since 2013, when the park opened.
After the park creation, people could admire Elk Falls from a distant overlook; nowadays, thanks to two newly constructed trails, the waterfall can be experienced in a more intense way.
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Reaching Elk Falls and Stauton State Park
Following north on Elk Creek Road for 1.5 miles you will find the park entrance.
The park is open all year from 8 am to 5 pm and a park pass is required for each day of your stay (it costs 7 $ a day). You can leave your car at the group picnic area.
Once you have parked, take a map at the main entrance and start your trip to Elk Falls (you can find a small guide and a general map here).
There are some hiker-only trails and many multi-use trails for hiking, biking and horse riding: all trails are very well signed, but you can ask park rangers and volunteers for any needs.
If you love nature, peace and the sound of the water falling down, you cannot miss the majestic show this area offers. You will enjoy a variety of landscapes and vegetation: meadows, dramatic rock formations, forests, streams and waterfalls.
On your hike you could even meet coyotes, red foxes, deers, hammingbirds and other wildlife.
Make sure you have always your camera with you.
You can enjoy the trail throughout the year with the proper measures in the different seasons: trekking poles and shoes traction devices, since you can find ice and snow on the trail, or snowshoes in case of heavy snow.
Astonishing colors will welcome you in fall, while the snow will accompain you during winter months.
Hiking on Elk Falls
Rated as moderate, the hike distance is about 12 miles round trip (from 4 to 6 hours).
The starting elevation is about 8200 feet and the elevation gain is approximately 900 feet.
Take Staunton Ranch Trail and, after a 3.3 mile hike in the forest, follow Bugling Elk Trail and reach Elk Falls Pond (it is possible to fish here, but a Colorado fishing license is required).
Take a rest admiring the landscape and the main inhabitants of the place: the marmots.
At this point, Lion’s Back Trail directly leads to the breathtaking Elk Falls Overlook.
From Elk Falls Pond, the new Chimney Rock Trail connects to both Lion’s Back Trail and the Elk Falls Trail that will bring you down to the formerly inaccessible base of Elk Falls.
Elk Falls Trail, in fact, has been recently opened and gives the visitors the chance to enjoy some of the best scenic views that were not accessible before.
Getting closer to the waterfalls you will first perceive the sound of the water falling on the rocks and then an incredible scene will open up. Before taking your way back, following the same trails, seat on a boulder, stay there for a while, watch, breath, and hear this awe-inspiring result of nature.
General behavior on Elk Falls
If you want to fully enjoy, you should follow some simple rules for your own safety and on the basis of the leave-no-trace principles so to minimize your impact on the environment.
- Dress properly
- Stay on the marked trails to help preserving the surrounding environment
- Respect vegetation and wildlife
- Take your trash
- Keep your dog on a leash and clean up after it
- Use the avalaible restrooms (in the parking areas) and if not possible, cover your waste in a hole at least 200 feet from streams and trails
Staunton State Park
The park, the newest state park in Colorado, stretches for over 3908 acres, about 40 miles southwest of Denver and around 6 miles west of Conifer. The city of Denver could certainly be the perfect starting point for visiting both the park and the waterfalls: you can view all our hotel offers in town here.
Created out of a gift by Francis H. Staunton, Staunton State Park opened on May 18, 2013 and today offers many recreational opportunities:
- Mountain biking
- Horseback riding
- Rock climbing: you can get your free downloadable climbing guide here http://www.fixedpin.com/collections/climbing/products/rock-climbing-staunton-state-park.
It is not allowed to climb Lion’s Head and the spectacular Elk Creek Spires, in order to protect them. Also, climbing can be prohibited during seasonal closure for nesting raptors.
- Fishing: a Colorado fishing license is required and it is possible to fish at the Davis Ponds, Elk Falls Ponds and the streams. Swimming and boating are not allowed
- Education programs: many educational activites are proposed for both adults and children (such as archery, wildlife photography or the Junior Ranger Program for children)
- Picnicking: there are picnic tables and BBQ grills close the the parking areas
- Group picnicking: the site for group picknicking is for rent and available for reservation
These areas can be very crowded, above all during holidays and weekends. Annual park passes can be puchased online.
Check the park website before leaving for your hike for alerts and winter information.
Camping is not allowed and it is not possible to stay overnight in the park. Hunting is also prohibited.