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The park’s centerpiece is the preserved ranch homesteaded in the early 1900s by doctors Archibald and Rachael Staunton. Their daughter, Frances, later ran the property (and eventually donated it to the state) and sang opera; her voice coach’s cabin is one of eight ranch buildings, dating to as early as 1919, that stand two to four miles from the park’s entrance.
Stamp of approval: Staunton Ranch is listed as a Rural Historic Landscape in the National Register of Historic Places.
Staunton’s complex topography varies from ponderosa-dotted meadows to rugged aspen- and fir-covered hillsides. See it all with a 10.1-mile dayhike—don’t forget to leash the dog—around the west side (via the Staunton Ranch, Bugling Elk, Marmot Passage, and Scout Line trails). In the winter, make the trek with cross-country skis or snowshoes.
Side trip: Detour up Lion’s Back Trail for views—waterfall included—from the overlook.
Climbers explored the area’s granite outcroppings well before Staunton opened, but most of their routes were undocumented. Last year, rangers invited volunteer climbers to open about 60 routes, up to three pitches long and ranging in difficulty, on the pink-hued fins and domes of Staunton Rocks. Few Front Range crags are prettier when the aspens turn to gold.
Hang on: Be on the lookout for potential bouldering spots along Staunton Ranch Trail.
Three-quarters of the park’s trails were designed for two wheels. The Mason Creek Trail rises 1,000 feet through the park’s mostly undeveloped eastern half to the ruins of an old sawmill at 9,200 feet before gentle switchbacks direct you to Staunton Rocks’ expansive views.
Substitute: Horseback riding is allowed on all the biking trails.
Look for elk, deer, marmots, and foxes along the piney meadows of the Staunton Cabin District and in the vales above Elk Falls Pond, or search for bear and mountain lion tracks in the mud of Mason Creek Trail. Wildflower buffs: Some cliff faces host small populations of James’ telesonix and Weber’s monkey flower (one of the state’s rarest plants).
Try it: Cast flies for brown trout and brookies in North Elk Creek and Davis Pond; state license required.
IF YOU GO
Getting There: Take U.S. 285 south to Shaffers Crossing, about six miles west of Conifer. Turn right on Elk Creek Road and drive 1.5 miles to the entrance.
Fee: $7 per car for a day pass
Details: 11559 Upper Ranch Road, Pine, 303-816-0912, parks.state.co.us/parks/staunton