Staunton - Colorado's Newest State Park

Staunton State Park

Last week we visited Colorado's newest state park. Located just six miles west of Conifer, it reminds some of Sherwood Forest in England because of the huge, old-growth ponderosa pine trees. Others believe the jagged, granite peaks resemble Yosemite National Park in California. Frances Staunton, who gifted the property to the State of Colorado in 1986, described the area "as a natural wilderness-type park ... typifying Colorado's most beautiful mountain forest and meadow region."

When Frances was six her family left West Virginia and headed to California, searching for a healthier, drier climate. They arrived in Denver during the winter of 1905. The beautiful, snowy landscape inspired them to stay in Colorado forever. Her parents were both doctors. Archibald and Rachel Staunton set up medical offices downtown at the Republic Building. Shortly thereafter, they purchased the mountain property and Mrs. Staunton lived up there in a cabin seven months of the year to earn the homestead deed.

Dr. Rachel offered medical care to people in the area including Native Americans who exchanged pottery, jewelry, beadwork and rugs for her services. The Staunton's continued to acquire land and built numerous structures on the site. They began renting out cabins so others could enjoy the "Lazy-V Ranch". They leased some of their property to a logging operation that built a sawmill, cable system and an employee bunkhouse. Frances eventually took over management of the ranch. Throughout her life she protected and preserved the fragile environment. Later, she declared in her will that the extraordinary land where her family had a second home should be given to the government.

On May 18, 2013 her wishes became reality. Staunton State Park is now open to the public. "This is an oasis, a sanctuary, a place where people can get out of the stress and pressure they have in their everyday lives," declared Governor John Hickenlooper at the official dedication of the park. We got acquainted with the wilderness by hiking an easy loop around the triple-tiered Davis Ponds. The soft, fresh paths were easy on the feet and the quiet solitude was a welcome relief from the busy week.

The park's varied life zones support a rich diversity of wildlife. All kinds of animals have been seen in the locale such as squirrels, marmots, showshoe hares, fox, bobcats, mountain lions, black bears, deer, elk and moose. There are also rumors that lynx live in the area. We're planning to come back and explore the over 18 miles of trails, maybe we'll even make it to the spectacular Elk Falls Overlook. Park manager, Jennifer Anderson, explains the special allure of the landscape, "there is a moment (when visiting Staunton) that the spirit (of the place) creeps into your heart." That's why you'll love Staunton State Park.

Staunton State Park opened two weeks ago

It reminds some of Sherwood Forest in England

Others believe the granite spires resemble Yosemite in California

Varied life zones support diverse wildlife

Pikes Peak can be seen from Staunton

The quiet solitude is a welcome relief


  1. every photograph could be a drawing by Mr Miller ^^

    1. Yes, I would like to use some of these as reference photographs but I have to finish the drawings I'm currently working on first. I'm not as fast as you. It's amazing how many pastel paintings you're getting done.

  2. To my eyes every photograph looks like many of the woodlands I played in as a kid. I adore such spots, and the world is better for every additional one we can maintain.

    1. It took about 30 years to get the place developed as a state park but it turned out nice. I definitely want to get back and hike deeper into the wilderness there.

  3. wow! - Another beautiful place in Colorado to put on my list - It is gorgeous through your photographs and probably even more so in person!

    1. We've been there once and it's great. The feature attraction of the park is Elk Falls Overlook. I'd like to get there but it's about a 12 mile hike, roundtrip.


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