Rocky Mountain NP: Deer Mountain

As I have said several times about Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP), despite being here in Colorado for THREE months (!), we never tire of the park and all its many incredible features! Today I will tell you about a lovely summit hike (just over 10,000′) that is only 6.9 miles from our campsite, Deer Mountain. I am still trying to catch up the blog; this hike was completed on July 31st.

Deer Mountain trailhead is located at the intersection of US Hwy 36, home to the Beaver Meadows RMNP entrance, and US Hwy 34, aka Trail Ridge Road. The trailhead is at 8,940′, and the elevation gain of ~1200′ makes it a very popular hike, so we got an early start, to secure parking, and started up the trail at 7:17 AM. The trail starts up the western side of the mountain, which allows shade for a good portion of the hike in the morning, and passes through pines and open meadow. It makes for an interesting view early in the morning, due to the shade, and we noted that the wildflowers weren’t open yet!


Panorama looking south, still in the deep morning shade on Deer Mountain

As we climbed across the western side of the mountain, a doe and fawn materialized just below us. We must have made a sound, because the fawn started leaping away, followed by mom, and in a blink, they were gone. I didn’t even think to try to capture a video…


As we climbed higher, looking south, over Beaver Meadows, Moraine Park, and in the left distance, Longs Peak

Still hiking across the western side of the mountain, we saw the only other wildlife we would see this day, a ptarmigan and several chicks, in their summer brown camouflage. These fascinating birds turn completely white in the winter to blend in with the winter landscape. Unfortunately, the chicks were too small, and too fast, to capture. 🙂


Mama Ptarmigan, on a log, keeping an eye on her chicks.

As we hiked higher, the trail zigged across the western side of the mountain, through a series of moderate switchbacks, then actually descends a bit before heading for the summit. At the end of the switchbacks, we got a great view of a gorgeous rock formation on Deer Mountain.


Looking southeast

After the slight decline, you reach the summit trail junction, at which point, you turn right for the summit, or continue straight 4.5 miles into Estes Park. The climb to the summit is short, but intense, with rock steps to the top. The views are SO worth the effort!


Looking southeast, Estes Lake on the left, Mary’s Lake on the right

A quick video, looking east, then south, then west to approximately north, where trees got in the way…



Looking southeast to Mary’s Lake, with Twin Sisters looming above and to the right


Panorama looking south with Longs Peak in the center


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Since there were trees blocking most of the western and northern views from the summit, we hiked around to take in those views as well.


Looking west


Looking north at the Mummy Range, still partially obscured


A little better view of the Mummy Range to the north

After a while (and a snack), we dragged ourselves from the views at the summit and started the hike back down. We were due to work our shift at the campground at 2 PM.


Jerry near the summit trail junction

The slight descent we enjoyed on the way up to the summit was a bit of a climb on the way back down, but not too bad. Once we reached the switchbacks, we got a whole new look at the scenery with the light changes and the new perspective on the hike down.


The view from the end of one of the switchbacks, looking north at the Mummy Range over Horseshoe Park

I will apparently never stop being fascinated by the rocks and the living organisms that decorate them.


Incredible rock formation and lichen


Closeup, because I can 😉 Can you see the spiderweb toward the bottom?

One last peek-a-boo shot, just for fun.


And since the flowers were not yet open on our early morning hike up, a touch of purple and yellow to brighten your day!


Deer Mountain was our 5th summit hike this season, and though not the tallest peak around, it certainly provided excellent views!

I hope you’ve enjoyed yet another peak peek into Rocky Mountain National Park, and that you’ll join us again soon! Cheers!

If you’d like to go directly to the next RMNP post, click here.

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