Elk Falls - Best Waterfall Near Denver Opens to the Public

May 3, 2013 Comments (5) About 45 Min, Best Hikes, Blog, Colorado State Park Hikes, Creek or Brooks, fall colors, Meadows, Rock Formations, Waterfalls

Elk Falls – New Waterfall Near Denver

Elk Falls in Colorado’s new Staunton State Park opened to the public in 2013. This highest waterfall near Denver had been unknown to most, and inaccessible, except to a few. Now it’s an adventure waiting for able hikers! If you are a fan of waterfall hikes and you live near Denver, you’ll know that it’s kind of slim pickings; most of the best waterfalls in Colorado require driving beyond the Front Range, or into Rocky Mountain National Park. Elk Falls, is just 50 minutes from Denver! The 3700 acre Staunton State Park offers incredible hiking, rock climbing, and beautiful rock formations – all making for some great Colorado day hikes. Explore the full Elk Falls hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and many of the details you need to enjoy this adventure in Staunton State Park.

Trail Snapshot: Elk Falls Overlook Hike at Staunton State Park

  • Hike Distance: 10.8 Mile Round Trip
  • Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult
  • Duration: Approx 4-6 hr
  • Trail Type: Out & Back
  • Starting Elevation: Approx. 8200′
  • Elevation Gain: +900′
  • Seasons: All Year
  • Dogs: Allowed On Leash
  • Hike Trail Map: Click for a Map of Staunton State Park
  • Denver Drive Time: 45 min
  • Driving Directions to Staunton State Park: Click for Google Map
  • Town Nearest Hike: Conifer, Colorado
  • Beauty: Waterfall, Rock Formations, Meadows, Pine Forest, Ponds, Hummingbirds, and Deer
  • Activities: Hiking, Photography, Mountain Biking (on many trails)
  • Fee: Entrance Fee or State Parks Pass Required

Parking & Trailhead Information for Elk Falls in Staunton State Park

The parking and trailhead area are immediately noticeable after the park entrance. On weekends, things can really back up at the entrance due to the number of visitors and those who need to purchase a parks pass. If you don’t have your yearly parks pass, you can pick one up at a local Kings Soopers grocery store at the customer service area. Because your hike will begin with the Staunton Ranch Trail, the main artery of Staunton State Park, just look for the main trail which heads to the center of the park. If you’ve parked at the lower parking area, you’ll have two Trailheads before you, the Staunton Ranch and the Mason Creek trailheads. Be sure to choose the Staunton Ranch Trail. The Elk Falls overlook can be reached by starting on the Mason Creek Trail, but its a significantly longer and more difficult 17 mile loop hike. Maps are available at the entrance and highly recommended for this hike.


The Hike: Elk Falls in Staunton State Park

The Staunton Ranch Trail leads hikers into the heart of Staunton State Park, through stands of ponderosa pine and past the Staunton Rocks climbing area. After 3.3 miles, the trail ends at a trail intersection with three new trails. The most direct route to the Elk Falls overlook is to choose the Bugling Elk trail which follows a small creek for 1.1 miles until it arrives at Elk Falls Pond, a good place to stop and Fish.

At Elk Falls Pond, a third trail, the Lion’s Back Trail, leads another 1 mile up to the Elk Falls Overlook. Atop a highpoint, hikers will gain great views down to where Elk Falls drops from the cliff face into a beautiful mult-tiered waterfall. Out and Back, its a total of 10.8 miles.

Colorado State Parks is working on an Elk Falls Trail project that will eventually open access to the base of Elk Falls. This is projected to be completed and opened to the public in the Fall of 2016.

If you’d like to add a more challenging return segment to your hike and see new areas of the park, hikers can pick up the Marmot Passage trail until it meets with the hiker-only Scout Line trail, which eventually leads back to the main Staunton Ranch trail. This return route will add additional mileage, difficulty, and time to the hike back. Consult the trail map and topo lines to get a feel for the demanding nature of this option.


Tips & Resources for Hiking To Elk Falls Overlook :


Conifer, CO
partly cloudy
98% humidity
wind: 11mph NE
H 49 • L 37

Map & Driving Directions

Click for Driving Directions

5 Responses to Elk Falls – New Waterfall Near Denver

  1. Palmer & Co. says:

    Awesome!! We’ll put this one on our list. Great post, A+J!

  2. Paul says:

    The trails in Staunton are top notch. So good that there is quite a bit of horse and bike traffic on the main trails. I took the entire loop around the park (15 miles). While the feature site is the view from Elk Falls Overlook, take in the equally impressive view from Staunton Rocks if you can.

    I highly recommend the Scout Line and Marmot Passage trails on the way to Elk Falls Overlook. On the return trip take the Bugling Elk and Border Line trail to Staunton Rocks then the Old Mill trail back to Staunton Ranch trail. If you want to extend the hike take the Mason Creek trail that loops the NE side of the park. While there is nothing outstanding about the Mason Creek trail it is a nice long hike through nice hills and meadows….although this trail is popular with horse and bike riders.

  3. Caitlin says:

    The trails here are very well marked! No chance of getting lost! I hiked with my dog for 12 miles and really enjoyed my time. The hours are also later for summer so much more time to enjoy the trails. I would recommend these trails for anyone.

  4. Vitalii says:

    11.2 miles done in 4.5 hours. Very nice trails, clean and well maintained. Definitely recommend to take Marmot Passage Trail and Scout Line Trail on the way back from Elk Falls Overlook (very spectacular).

  5. Erika says:

    The trail down to Elk Falls itself is open. As of yesterday, the Chimney Rock trail (connects Elk Falls Pond to the Elk Falls trail) had a little ice, but was easy to pass in just hiking boots. The falls were half ice and gushing through–beautiful! I would recommend going down to the falls instead of up to the overlook to get a better sense of their grandeur, and the hike through the canyon walls to get there is breathtaking. Staunton is definitely one of my favorite places to hike within an hour of Denver–the views are unbeatable, the park has so many trail options (and all are perfectly maintained and well-marked), and there’s something new to discover each time I visit including views of diverse wildlife (from deer and marmots to moose and eagles).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *