General Mountain Information: Elk Falls
Video Hike Review: Elk Falls
Elk Falls Trail Rating: ★★★★ (⅘ Stars)
Distance: 11.82 miles RT
Staunton Ridge to Scout Line to Marmont Passage on way there
Bugling Elk to Staunton Ridge on way back
Elevation Start: 8,254 ft
Summit (Highest Point): 9,275 ft
Total Elevation Gain: 2,000 ft (varies depending on trail combination you take)
Estimated Time to Complete: 4-4.5 Hours RT
Difficulty: Moderate What does this mean?
Season: Year Round – Expect snow November – April
Class: Class 2
Getting Here: To get to Elk Falls you must first navigate to Staunton State Park. Take US 285 to the S. Elk Creek Rd exit. Continue down S Elk Creek Rd for about 1.5 miles and you will see the park entrance on your right. Once in the park, the ranger can direct you to the best area to park but essentially you want to park near the Staunton Ranch TH. You can enter Staunton State Park into your favorite navigation device.
Parking: A $7 state park entrance fee is required and there are several restrooms available at each parking area. There are multiple lots to park at, so don’t worry about a lack of space.
Dogs: Dogs are allowed on the hike to Elk Falls and throughout Staunton State Park, but must be kept on a leash. Bringing a dog to a state park is sort of rare, so hopefully Staunton stays this way in the future! This is a great hike for dogs and I would highly recommend it.
Camping: As of April 2017, there is no camping allowed in Staunton State Park. The park is constantly expanding and changing though, so be sure to check the Staunton State Park website for the most up to date details. If you want to camp in the area, check out Deer Creek campground and Meridian campground which are not terribly far away.
Other Events In Area: Things to do and places to do things in Colorado: Concerts, Festivals, Events – eventsincolorado.com. The most complete calendar of things to do throughout the state of Colorado including concerts, fairs, festivals and family friendly activities
Make it a Loop: Elk Falls can be a loop or an out and back hike depending on the trails you choose. The world is your oyster! A popular loop would be: Staunton Ridge to Scout Line and Marmont Passage with Bugling Elk to Staunton Ridge. There are multiple loops available on your hike to Elk Falls, view the complete park map here.
Trail Summary: Elk Falls is a moderately trafficked hike located in Staunton State Park near Conifer, Colorado. The trail to Elk Falls is relatively new (established in the summer of 2016). There are a number of ways to get to Elk Falls, but all involve basically the same trail conditions of packed dirt. Although this hike is almost 12 miles round-trip, it is not terribly taxing.
Trail X Factors: Park Hours
Generally when you go hiking, the only time related factors you need to be aware of are the sunset and the sunrise. However, when you hike Elk Falls, you need to be aware of park hours. Staunton State Park closes at 5PM. I discovered that if you have to leave the park after the gate closes at 4:30PM, there is a button you can press to leave. Still though, you need to plan your hike around park hours and plan accordingly.
- Hiking Boots/Shoes
- Mickey’s Mountain Kit
- Water / Snack
- Optional: Camera
- Optional: Tripod
- Optional: Camera Filters
Mick’s Tip: When I first saw Elk Falls, it was from the distance on a hike to Lion’s Head mountain in the late spring. My most recent trip to the falls was in November. On both trips to Elk Falls, the river was raging and the falls had a very strong flow to them. Generally, when you visit a waterfall, especially in Colorado, you try to hit it in the spring when the mountain snow melt is at its peak. However, it seems like Elk Falls is an exception to the rule which makes it a great spot to visit year round.
Photography Tip: Elk Falls is a fantastic hike for photography. Not only do you get the falls at the end of the hike, but you also get a handful of beautiful spots along the way. Be sure to pack your tripod and filters to snap some great long exposure shots of Elk Falls.
Mick’s Trip Elk Falls
There is a season in Colorado, I call the tweener season. Generally, it’s late fall when there is some snow in the high country, but not enough to ski or snowboard on. When I was planning a hike for a mid November weekend, I found myself in the heart of tweener season. I was pretty excited to check out Elk Falls; I had seen it on a previous trip to Staunton State Park and was amazed by its size (that’s what she said). I remember thinking about trying to “bushwhack” to the waterfall and I am glad I didn’t, because taking a trail is my preferred method of travel and one was established shortly after my first visit to the park.
The whole clan (Jackie, Juno and I) went on this hike and arrived to the trailhead around 1PM. It was a beautiful fall afternoon and the temperature made it feel more like summer. As we made our way to Elk Falls, I was amazed about how much the park had changed since I visited it a few months earlier. There were new trails, new parking areas and even more construction still going on. It was pretty cool to think that this park would be used for many years to come and we were witnessing it in its infancy.
We decided to take the Staunton Ranch trail to the Scout Line trail, a route I was pretty familiar with from a previous hike. The temperature was flirting with 75 degrees and I was sweating like a stuck pig. We worked our way up the ridge and into the forest and I was glad to have some reprieve from the sun. After a few hours, we reached Elk Falls Pond. From Elk Falls Pond, we took the Chimney Rock trail (which was new) down to the Elk Falls trail.
The last few hundred yards of the trail down to the waterfall was a bit hard to grip. The trail at that point was mostly sand and loose rock and was a little bit eaten out. This was kind of surprising since the trail was so new. The massive positive though, was that we got to enjoy the falls completely by ourselves. It was so cool to enjoy such a beautiful spot in nature with Jackie and Juno. Juno seemed pretty intrigued but the waterfall, I am not sure she had ever seen one before.
We enjoyed Elk Falls for several minutes. Snapped long exposure pictures, snacked and re-hydrated. However, our fun came to an end when I realized what time it was. The sun was going down and the park closed at 5PM. I’ve been to Staunton a couple of times, but I am still not used to the concept of having a deadline on when I need to finish my hike. I have never pushed the 5PM gate closing and didn’t want to start today.
We hustled back to Elk Falls pond and decided to take the quicker Marmont Passage trail back to the car. The sun was setting as we arrived to the parking lot and we had 15 minutes to spare before the park closed. When we drove down to the gate, we discovered that it was already closed but luckily there was a button to activate the closed gate. We all really enjoyed our hike to Elk Falls and highly recommend it to other hikers. Even though the hike is about 12 miles roundtrip, it is not extremely taxing and involves a fairly small amount of elevation gain along the way.
Video Hike Review of Elk Falls