Sunday, October 12, 2014

Mason Creek and Staunton Ranch Trails

John Gillingham, my athletic club's outdoor fitness leader, organized a group hike in September at Staunton State Park, Colorado's newest state park. My husband and I were not able to go with the group so we went on our own the last Saturday in September. The park is located about six miles west of Conifer, Colorado. There is a $7 daily parking fee but it is worth it.

The land for the park, including Staunton Ranch, was donated to the state by Frances Staunton. The park includes several miles of hiking trails. Our 9.6 mile route followed the Mason Creek trail to the Border Line trail to the Staunton Ranch trail. The Colorado Parks and Wildlife's website has information about the park as well as a .pdf version of the park map

The Mason Creek trail climbs up along the creek for a few miles and reaches an elevation of 9,440 feet. This time of year, the forest floor was lush with Kinnikinnick shrubs and moss. The trail took us past grassy meadows, through conifer forests and aspen groves, and close to some large granite cliffs. We saw a couple of deer and some squirrels.

Mixed Forest
Aspen Grove
Yellow Aspens
Approaching the big rock
Granite cliff
After 4.5 miles, we reached the Old Mill site and the junction of the Border Line and Old Mill trails. In addition to the intact building below, there was rusted machinery next to the trail and historic remnants of the mill behind a fence.

About a mile past the Old Mill site is a scenic viewing area. It was a great view but not quite what I expected. The trail map says "Staunton Rocks" so I expected to see a view of rock formations. We saw a couple of runners and mountain bikers stop here to take photos. 

There wasn't a lot of foot or bike traffic on Mason Creek or Border Line. The high traffic part of our hike was the Staunton Ranch trail, which is not as difficult as Mason Creek. At the junction of Border Line and Staunton Ranch trails, it looked like there may have been a forest fire at one time.


Meadow next to cabin
This was a really good hike for seeing the leaves of the aspens change. I would like to return early next summer to see the wildflowers.

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