Staunton State Park is the newest state park in Colorado. It opened in May, 2013 and is located around Pine, Colorado. It is already one of my favorite places to visit and hike along the Front Range. During the week, it’s not too crowded, but on the weekends I imagine you’d have to get there very early, as parking is limited to maybe 50 cars, and there is no off-site parking allowed. When the park had its opening weekend, they provided shuttle service from Conifer. I don’t think they’re providing anything of the sort now that the grand opening celebration is past.
Upon entering the park, you’ll notice a very dramatic granite wall to the northwest of the entrance and about five miles distant, that isn’t actually part of the park system, but is perhaps a landscape feature that isn’t visible when you’re just traveling along Highway 285 toward Bailey, so it’s a nice treat. It is like a miniature version of El Capitan in Yosemite. On the eastern border of the state park itself, there are many unusual and dramatic rock outcroppings similar to this one, where the park has allowed climbers to explore. As you park the car, either in the lower, larger lot or the smaller one a little way up the road to the picnic area, you’ll have the choice of several trails, including the longer Staunton Ranch Trail and Mason Creek Trail. I took the Staunton Creek Trail on this visit, and headed toward the climbers’ access point, where I turned around. A dark cloud had moved over the park and lightning and rain were threatening. If you’re feeling ambitious, you can hike all the way to the northern-most point, which is the Elk Falls Overlook, about 3 miles from the trailhead one way.
The landscape there right now is incredibly lush and green. There are big aspens interspersed with ponderosa and other spruce and pine trees. The meadows slope down dramatically to expose a view of the Lost Creek Wilderness in the distance, Pikes Peak and the snow-capped mountains to the south of Mt. Evans. It doesn’t feel like the Front Range. The lushness, the dramatic granite cliffs and the distant views harken of the San Juan Mountains of southwest Colorado, or Crested Butte.
I like this place because it has a kind of wildness to it, and a soft beauty that is calming and welcoming. It’s not spoiled by highway noise and overuse–yet–and it’s tucked away in a pretty little valley that’s off the beaten path.
Dogs are allowed, as are horses and bicycles on some trails. If you want to picnic there at the special covered area with tables and grills, you’ll have to reserve a spot ahead of time.
This park was bequeathed by Ms. Frances Staunton, its owner, upon her death, to be preserved as a wild place for generations to enjoy. I am grateful to people like Ms. Staunton, who knew the importance of preserving at least some of our land to cultivate wildness, both the inner and outer.