Colorado, Hiking, National Parks & Monuments, State Parks, Rocky Mountain National Park, United States

Colorado Hiked: Deer Mountain

Summiting a mountain in Rocky Mountain National Park is usually quite the feat, but it does not always require long hours, pre-dawn starts, and going above treeline. Deer Mountain, a forested 10,013 foot peak that dominates the view as you enter the park (though if you’re like me, you’re distracted by those high alpine peaks more often than not) is a great option for nabbing a summit, but not having to do anything too crazy to achieve it.

Deer Mountain from the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center

Knowing this is quiet a popular hike, even in the winter, I was happy for an early arrival at the Deer Ridge Junction Trailhead, which still had plenty of parking left (it would be full by the time we were done hiking!). Being early February and winter after all, the entire trail from the car to summit was on packed snow. I donned the microspikes, and laughed about how the forecast never said anything about hellacious winds.

Obligatory trailhead sign

The climb starts out gentle, and never really gets super steep. For a mountain summit hike, this is quite pleasant! Aside from the wind (seriously, it was that bad!), it was a pleasant day to be outdoors, with light clouds and temperatures between low 30s to low 40s by the end.

Enjoying the gradual incline. Word to the wise… do not steep off the packed trail… I posholed to my knee!
Longs Peak peeking out
Gaining elevation and views
A well trodden switchback
My Kula cloth acting as a wind vane!
Reaching some open views and where the trail flattens (and even descends) out before the final summit push
Here kitty kitty kitty. I thought this was a domestic cat print, until I got home and looked at my own cat’s paws, and realized what I saw was much bigger. I’m guessing a bobcat?
This hike has the views!
I’ll never stop taking a million photos of Longs Peak any chance I get!
PeakFinder is a must have app, honestly.

After about 2.5 miles of solid ascending, the trail flattens out and then descends mildly. It might feel like you’ve reached the top, but alas, the summit has not not been missed somewhere in the trails. I groaned, as I hate anytime I have to walk back uphill when descending back to the trailhead. Luckily it does not last long, and after a quarter-mile, the trail will begin the final climb to the summit.

The split to the summit is well marked. In the summer the trail continues off the east side of Deer Mountain, and it is possible to do a roughly 11-12 mile loop. In the winter, it is not packed.
Approaching the wind blown summit of Deer Mountain

After about ninety minutes of casual hill walking, we arrived on the summit! The winds, were had been crazy all day, were even crazier, so some quick photos of the panoramic views were taken, and we scampered back into the trails to have a snack.

My favorite thing to find on the summit of any mountain, the survey marker!
The views from Deer Mountain are awesome
I wish it was not so windy, I would’ve liked to hang out a bit longer
Looking towards Twin Sisters Peak on the left side of the photo
Looking back down on the Beaver Meadows entrance station
Trail snack was a snickerdoodle from Mary’s Mountain Cookies. I scored a bag of “day olds” for the price that normally one cookie costs! Definitely a great hiking treat.
Heading back down

There was a steady stream of people heading up the trail during the descent, and I gave myself a pat on the back for the early start (no entrance line, plentiful parking, and an ascent done in solitude). Overall, the hike clocked in at 6.44 miles with 1,418 feet of elevation gain. With our casual pace, it took two hours fifty minutes total (including the cookie break).

I stopped by the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center for a passport stamp and could not resist posing as a park ranger for a few seconds!
Post hike fueling at Cafe De Pho Thai in Estes Park

Date Hiked: February 5, 2023
Trailhead: Deer Ridge Junction
Total Mileage: 6.44 miles (Garmin Forerunner 255s/Strava)
Elevation Gain: 1,418 feet
Time: 2 hours 50 minutes
Weather: Stupidly windy, cool
Trail Conditions: Snowpacked
Special Considerations: This hike is within Rocky Mountain National Park, which has an entry fee. During the peak summer months, a timed entry reservation must also be obtained to reach this trailhead between 9am and 3pm.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s