Hiking Deer Mountain
Deer Mountain is a quick drive from the Beaver Meadows Entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park on Trail Ridge Road. The hike is an easy to moderate 6 miles out and back with about 1,400 ft elevation gain overall to a summit of 10,013 feet. The trail is wide and steadily climbs most of the way at a modest angle, making it accessible to many hikers. It is a popular trail for visitors because of both its accessibility and amazing views of the eastern part of Rocky Mountain National Park.
We parked at Deer Mountain Trailhead on Trail Ridge Road. There is no parking lot, so visitors have to parallel park along the side of the road in both directions. There is room for perhaps 30 cars or more (there definitely were that many when we finished hiking).
We arrived at the trailhead at 7 am and there were already a couple of cars parked there. As the summer months roll in, it is more important to finish hiking before the common afternoon rains, so an early start is best.
Close to the parking area we saw a bunch of mule deer snacking on the grass. How appropriate, given the name of the mountain!
Even at 7 am the park was already bathed in bright sunlight, with patches of cold shadow.
Within sight of the trailhead parking area, about 0.1 miles down the trail, is a junction where you turn right onto Deer Mountain Trail for a 3-mile trek uphill.
Even close to the start of the trail we could see beautiful views of the Rocky Mountains. For the first mile or so you can catch good glimpses of the mountains to the north. Although you can see these northern mountains from the summit, the view is interrupted by trees.
Deer Mountain Trail
A little less than a mile into the trail, there is a wide area that features views of the Rocky Mountains. Mt. Meeker and Longs Peak are to the far left.
Early in the morning, the views were clear, with no clouds.
This is what the trail looks like in that area –
After about a mile you start a number of switchbacks up the hill. According to the guidebook Hiking Rocky Mountain National Park by Erik Stensland, there is a total of 13 switchbacks.
As you climb this portion of the trail, you can see peeks of views through the trees of the Rockies.
Most of the switchbacks take you through forest like below. When we visited on Memorial Day weekend there was still snow near the top, including patches of ice, but not enough to necessitate using microspikes.
Deer Mountain Summit
After we reached the summit of Deer Mountain around 9 am, we stayed there for a while taking pictures of the wonderful views of the Rocky Mountains, mostly to the east side of the Park.
Telephoto lens panorama –
Longer telephoto lens panorama –
Wide-angle lens panorama –
Taken with a wide-angle lens –
Phone pic –
Telephoto Lens Close-ups
Taking advantage of my telephoto lens, I took some zoomed in photos of specific mountains and features.
Mt. Meeker (left) and Longs Peak (right) –
Twin Sisters Peaks, which was our last big hike –
Estes Cone –
Estes Park –
The Beaver Meadows Entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park –
Beaver Brook snaking through Moraine Park (part of Rocky Mountain National Park) –
And a few close-ups of mountains to the north that you can see from the summit through the trees –
Photos of Photo-taking
Taking pictures of the eastern side of Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes Park in the background –
Taking pictures of the eastern side of Rocky Mountain National Park –
Taking wide-angle photos –
The Return Trail
Around 10 am we had finished our photography session, so we headed back down the trail. As we headed down, we passed by many hikers.
By this time the sun was shining in full force and we had to take off our jackets to be comfortable.
The trail near the summit –
Dappled strong sunshine coming through the trees –
A bit further down the trail, along the switchbacks –
The hike down was quite pleasant and easy. The views of the Rocky Mountains were somewhat different at this time of day – around 11 to 11:30 am big clouds started gliding in and puffing up.
It made for some beautiful views of the mountains about 1 mile from the trailhead –
A bit further along the open view area, on the way back –
Recommended as a Hike for Rocky Mountain Views
Hiking up and down Deer Mountain Trail is a great option for visitors to Rocky Mountain National Park who are looking for moderate exercise and excellent views of the mountains. For those who want a longer hike of about 10 miles, there is also a Deer Mountain Loop, which we haven’t tried yet, but would also include the spots mentioned in this post.