Hike Distance: 12 miles
Elevation Gain: Approximately 1500 feet
Highest Point of Elevation: 8,950 feet
Dogs: Allowed On Leash
Nearest Town: Conifer, Colorado
There’s something about waterfalls. Perhaps it’s the sight of a seemingly endless cascade of water. Maybe it’s the repetitive sound of the falls crashing against rock. It could be the slight yet pervasive mist that arises and envelopes the scene. Whatever the reason, waterfalls are hypnotic. It’s undeniable, the draw these majestic features of the land possess.
Our very own Staunton State Park recently finished construction on 1.9 miles of new trails, and when we heard these paths lead hikers right to the base of the formerly inaccessible Elk Falls, we made it a priority to trek them.
The public has been able to admire Elk Falls from a distant overlook since Staunton State Park opened in 2013. Thanks to the newly constructed Chimney Rock and Elk Falls Trails, you can now experience the waterfall in an entirely new way. The 75 feet of falls is a stunning sight from above, but seeing this feature of the landscape up close is a must. The roughly 12-mile round trip hike may sound daunting, but don’t fret. With plenty of time and good planning, the journey to Elk Falls will become a fast favorite.
The new trails begin near Elk Falls Pond, which is accessible by routes of varying difficulty and length. The rangers and volunteers at Staunton are the best resource for ensuring a successful hike. Ask for help in finding the route best suited for your ability and they will kindly point you in the right direction.
Once you reach Elk Falls Pond, about 4.4 miles from the first parking lot, take a breather and relax before moving on. You’re sure to see the marmots that call this territory home. When you’re ready, head toward Lion’s Back Trail. Chimney Rock Trail diverges from here.
Start along Chimney Rock Trail and take your time. You’ll meander through dense forest and bear witness to the masterful construction and arrangement of the rocks that make up the path. Keep your eyes peeled for some quirks along the way, such as the elk skull pictured, as well as the lush moss and colorful lichen.
After 0.65 miles, Elk Falls Trail appears to the left while Chimney Rock Trail continues up toward Lion’s Back and the Elk Falls Overlook. Venture down Elk Falls Trail, comprised mostly of descending switchbacks.
In no time, your ears will pick up the glorious sound of water cascading off a cliff. Just over a quarter of a mile of trail brings you to your destination: Elk Falls. Seat yourself on any of the large boulders adorning the land and take in the sights. You’ve earned it.
Once you’ve had your fill, take Elk Falls Trail back up to Chimney Rock Trail. From there, either continue up to Lion’s Back Trail and the Elk Falls Overlook for a different perspective, or make your way back toward Elk Falls Pond the way you originally came.