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!
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…
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. 🙂
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.
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!
A quick video, looking east, then south, then west to approximately north, where trees got in the way…
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.
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.
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.
I will apparently never stop being fascinated by the rocks and the living organisms that decorate them.
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.