Tag Archives: Staunton State Park

Mason Creek Trail – Staunton State Park, Conifer CO Hiked 2/1/14

6 Feb

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Mason Creek Trail

Lowest Elevation: 8200 ish feet

Highest Elevation: 9300 isn feet( Total Elevation gain 1100Ft)

Trail Length: we were shooting for 7-9 miles, what we got was 6 miles round trip.

Trail Uses: Hiker, Biker, Horses and in winter snow shoe and cross country skiing

Degree of difficulty:  Moderate

Fees: $7 a day OR $70 for the state park annual pass.

Bathrooms: Yes at the parking lots

Pets:  Yes, Dogs on Leash only.

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My biggest challenge after going to sea level is always getting my altitude lungs back, this past weekend I only had this one chance to get back up to 9,000ft in prep for our snowshoe this upcoming weekend.  I had decided that Staunton State Park would be great to revisit as there were so many trails we didn’t yet explore and  the trails we had done were pretty tame with altitudes between 8000-9500FT.  What I hadn’t planned for was the 1-2 feet snow that started falling in the high country the 2 days before our hike and was set to continue through Saturday afternoon.

When we got to the trail head around 9AM,  there was just one other car and we had passed a group of snowshoers who had not yet started their journey.  As we bundled up, I will admit I was a little put off by how much snow I was seeing… I had somehow convinced my self that this area wasn’t hit as hard as other mountain areas.  The bonus to that snow, everything was stunning!  The sky was becoming more cobalt blue than cloudy, while it was still snowing with clouds moving and changing like crazy.

starting out

starting out

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We started out pretty optimistic that we would be able to hammer out 11 miles, but planning on only doing 7-9 and it seemed possible that first quarter-mile.  Then we had to start pealing off layers and at the same time the snow shoeing group passed us.  They all looked so happy and fun.  At this point the trail was somewhat broken in with traffic from either super early morning users or the day before, so there was only a couple of inches to really deal with.

As we moved on, I took a turn at being in front because I want to make sure that I take equal time in finding the path and getting us to our destination once we start backpacking.  It wasn’t long before we passed the snowshoers as they peeled off layers.  I didn’t think much of it at the time and just kept plowing through.

We really started to climb about half a mile after passing the group and then slowed down.  The snow was much deeper, no one had come this way in a while, likely since before the storm and  under the snow was not so fun ice.  It was hard work! The trail  moved along a nice ravine, the trees were heavy with all the snow but crazy beautiful…We pulled over to peel off another layer and the group of Snowshoers were there again.  I was thrilled no more breaking trail for us…but then they stopped….right next to where we kindly pulled off the trail…. and waited.   I admit at first I was wondering why they wouldn’t want to get ahead of us, but it turns out they didn’t want to break trail either.

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I will tell you that this felt like the longest 2.25 miles I had ever hiked and when at just over 2 hours we hit that trail marker for halfway on the Mason Creek Trail.  I started laughing, knowing we would be lucky to make the shorter loop I had planned, let alone do anything more than 7.5 miles. Oh and clearly at the halfway sign was where everyone had been turning around, there were NO trail prints after this sign.

getting close to the halfway mark of the Mason Creek Trail

getting close to the halfway mark of the Mason Creek Trail

The snow is just below my knees...although this looks odd

The snow is just below my knees…although this looks odd

We went just 3/4’s of a mile further and my legs were straight up jelly mush, we were taking pictures of a pretty aspen grove(aka – catching our breath) when I had a heart to heart with  myself.  If my legs were in this shape and we weren’t even half way through, how likely was I to hurt myself if I continued on.  It was then that I called the hike and we headed back.   I am glad I did, as on the way back down I did indeed fall but it wasn’t too bad.The best part of the day was insane beauty all round us!  We had moody skies with breathtaking blues, grays and whites.  The snow-covered surroundings made me feel like we were in a fairy tale of some sort, we even had some serious snow fall as we were hiking at one point.   And the treevalanches ( when the snow all falls off of a tree for no apparent reason) were fun to try to catch with the camera… until one caught me… all down my back …. with all my base layers showing since I was so hot from the climb and trail breaking.  Surprisingly Aaron caught it on film…

Before Treevalanche

Before Treevalanche

Getting hit by the treevalanche

Getting hit by the treevalanche

post treevalanche

post treevalanche

Near miss

Near miss

Turnaround point 2

Turnaround point

Turnaround point

After 4 hours of hiking just 6 miles we headed home a little defeated and a lot worked out, we wimped out our Sunday hike and just enjoyed the sore muscles from Saturday.   After the directions are some of our favorite pictures from the day.

Where ever you are, I hope you get out and hike soon!

Directions:   Take US Highway 285 south to Shaffers Crossing, about 6 miles west of Conifer. Turn north on Elk Creek Road and follow the signs 1.5 miles to the park entrance

On the way back

On the way back

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The state park did a great job plowing the parking lot!

The state park did a great job plowing the parking lot!

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Staunton State Park, Conifer CO Hiked 11/23/13

7 Dec

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Staunton Ranch > Scout Line> Marmot Passage>Bugling Elk> Stauton Ranch

Lowest Elevation:  8120 Ft

Highest Elevation: 9240 Ft ( I think total we got around 1800+ ft of elevation gain with the ups and downs)

Trail Length:  Roughly 10 miles

Trail Uses: Most of the trails were hiking, biking & Horses Scout Line is hiking only

Degree of Difficulty:  Most trails themselves are easy but doing them all together is moderate or difficult mostly

Fees: $7 a day OR $70 for the state park annual pass…. on this day we bought the pass since ours expired

Bathrooms:  Yes at each parking area there are vault toilets or Port-o-potties

Pets: Yes Dogs On leash only

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Work has been crazy and getting more crazy everyday, at the time I picked this trail I had not had even a minute the entire week to research hikes.  It was at 10PM that Friday night that I saw Mark and Sandy over a buencamino2014.wordpress.com talking about their hike at Staunton State park that morning.  They have been talking about the merits of this state park since it opened this summer while Mark worked there to get it ready for opening.  One thing I love about Colorado is that when a new state park opens there is as much excitement about it or more, as there was when Ikea opened.  I heard about the lines to get in the park all summer long and just didn’t want to deal with the crowds .  On  a pretty cold Saturday with potentially no sun, it was the perfect time to check it out!  Mark & Sandy  were nice enough to suggest a couple of routes that would get us around 10 miles and some of the best views in Park.  Honestly I would never had picked this route if not for them so thank you Mark & Sandy!

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This particular view was like a beacon of beauty, all lit up from the sun above the clouds.

We started the hike via Staunton Ranch trail,  which also happens to start at the Mason Creek Trailhead.  It is a little confusing as you walk up the trail but look up and left, you will see the trailhead:

Starting out

Starting out

This trail is not tough at all, the path is very well-groomed with a gradual climb as it winds up and around the park.  I really like how they have marked the trails in the park, they use the initials of the trail name on a simple iron post.  I would say this portion is easy to moderate, moderate mostly because round trip it is a 6.6 mile hike.

Staunton Ranch Trail marker

Staunton Ranch Trail marker

It felt like about 2 miles or just under, when we reached our trail break at the Scout Line Trailhead, also very well-marked where the 3 trails intersect and the signs have the mileage to the next trail break – I loved it!

SL Trail sign

This trail is all single track and starts a pretty aggressive climb up to some beautiful bluffs.  I have to say this was my favorite section of the hike, the views were amazing and the way they built up the trail using natural resources was actually really beautiful.

A creek crossing right at the trail break starting up Scout Line

A creek crossing right at the trail break starting up Scout Line

Climbing up SL

Climbing up SL

use of rocks as the trail… Beautiful

use of rocks as the trail… Beautiful

More Climbing after some stunning views

More Climbing after some stunning views

One of the views on SL

One of the views on SL

Me on Scout Line

Me on Scout Line

I have to tell you Scout Line was just gorgeous and reignited that love of discovering a new trail in me.  We spent more time then necessary on the trail just taking it all in the were views all over as we hiked along it.  As we got closer to the next trail break at Marmot Passage we had this great climb along the mountain.

Another great use of rocks to make the trail work

Another great use of rocks to make the trail work

Marmot Passage Trail Head

Marmot Passage Trail Head

Marmot Passage is an easy trail that does a little climbing and then mostly heads back down.  It actually started getting pretty cold while we were on this trail and so we started moving much faster.  As we descended to the Elk Falls Pond, the cloud cover really settled in but the pond still looked pretty from above, it could not dampen our excited and joy.

Elk falls pond Elk Falls pond signage

Once down by the pond, finding Bugling Elk trail to head back was very easy and the trail itself is some type of access road very wide and easy to hike:

BE Trailhead

We climbed up a little and then headed back down to Staunton Ranch Trail.

back to Staunton ranch Trail conditions from BE to SR

Knowing that we were just 3.3 miles from the end had us in great spirits, discovering this gem for ourselves…. well we were pretty chatty about it all.  So chatty in fact we almost missed the herd of deer on our left.  Then while taking too many pictures of them cavorting, we found out almost a minute too late that the main buck was on our right rounding up the rest of his herd and he was CLOSE.   Honestly I have never been that close to a buck, I would say he was just 5-6 feet away from us and totally unconcerned with what we were doing as he got his last doe back in line.

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I have to tell you that this hike was awesome!  I am so glad I happened upon Mark and Sandy’s most recent hike post to pick the park and even more thrilled they could give me advice on such short notice!  There is so much beauty in this state park and I totally get why there were lines of people waiting to discover it all.  Yes the route we took was long but it was crazy beautiful and so worth every step.  For approximately 70% of the hike, we had it totally to ourselves which added to its awesomeness .  We saw the most traffic on Staunton Ranch trail as we were returning to our car and what we did encounter still wasn’t all that much.   Honestly I cannot wait to get back to this State park and see more, I hope you can find your way out here to see it all for yourself!  After the directions will some of my favorite pictures from the day.

Directions:   Take US Highway 285 south to Shaffers Crossing, about 6 miles west of Conifer. Turn north on Elk Creek Road and follow the signs 1.5 miles to the park entrance

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