In Rocky Mountain National Park west of Estes Park Colorado, Deer Mountain trail head is located west of the Beaver Meadows entrance station on US-36 and before US-36 intersects with US-34. The trail head is typically open during the winter because it is east of the Trail Ridge Road; which is closed October to June. Primary activities include hiking, backcountry camping (with a permit), and horseback riding but dogs, mountain bikes, and hunting are prohibited. A park pass is required to reach the trail head. The trail head does not provide restrooms or water and cell phone service is weak. Parking is very limited so an early arrival is recommended. We stayed in a YMCA of the Rockies cabin for two nights which gave us easy access to the park.
The 3.0 mile hike to the summit starts at 8,930 feet and finishes at 10,000 feet.
The trail quickly leaves the forest canopy and runs along the side of a ridge.
Hiking along the ridge offers stunning views to the south that include Moraine Park and Longs Peak.
The next picture was taken during a hike in early March and illustrates how big of an impact the weather can have on an adventure in RMNP. We did not complete the hike in March because the upcoming switchbacks were too icy to cross with our toddler in a child carrier and we were not confident that she was warm enough. The rest of the pictures are from our June hike when the weather was sunny and warm.
After climbing the ridge, the trail cuts into the heart of the mountain where a series of switchbacks gently ascend.
After completing the switchbacks, the trail levels off and even descends slightly through a dense forest canopy. We were carrying our 2 year old in a child carrier and found this stretch of trail to be reinvigorating.
The last 0.2 miles is a moderately steep ascent up a set of rock stairs.
The summit area was large and provided ample space for several groups of hikers to have a picnic. The trail and summit were less crowded than we have experienced on other hikes in RMNP. I attribute the low trail traffic to the limited parking and moderate length of the trail.
From the summit, views of Moraine Park and Longs Peak are unobstructed and breathtaking.
Further, the panoramic view from the summit made for an enjoyable picnic setting.
The view to the north is somewhat obstructed but still beautiful nonetheless.
I forgot to take a video at the summit so I took one on our way down.
In sum, Deer Mountain trail is a long hike of moderate difficulty and that offers exceptional views from the start. We saw hikers of all ages enjoying the trail but ample time, food, and water should be considered for this adventure. The following are other RMNP/Estes Park trails we have enjoyed:
- Cub Lake and Fern Lake Trails
- Lily Mountain Trail
- Alberta Falls to The Loch Trail
- Bear Lake, Nymph Lake, and Dream Lake
- Lily Ridge Trail