Rocky Mountain National Park: Summiting Deer Mountain

Our final morning in Rocky Mountain National Park we got an early start for the trailhead to Deer Mountain – the most accessible summit in the park. While the park is known for all of its 14ers, Deer Mountain’s summit is at an easy, breezy 10,040 feet.

To cut to the chase, our hike was 6.3 miles roundtrip with an elevation gain of 1,311 feet. Even with a 30-minute stop at the top, the hike only took us three hours – much less time than the hiking guides and online reviews had led me to believe.

There is very limited parking along the road at the trailhead so I do agree with the online reviews that you should arrive early. In fact, I might have arrived even earlier than we did and made this one a sunrise hike – something to consider!

As it was, we had a short, beautiful drive to the trailhead watching the sun rise over the park. Everything behind us was starting to light up, and we had awesome views despite the haze from the nearby forest fires.

The trail cuts through a meadow and then turns into a series of switchbacks that slowly wind up the mountain. You then enter the woods, cutting across the mountain to a fork in the trail where you can elect to hike down toward the park entrance or straight up to the summit.

There were very few people on the trail – we passed one couple on our way up and a handful of people on our way down. Mostly we saw deer in the meadows and on the trail – apparently the mountain is aptly named! – and heard tons of bull elk bugling in the valley surrounding us.

The last stretch climbing several series of steps to the summit was by far the hardest part of the hike but the views from the top were worth it.

The sun was overheard, the haze had further diminished, and we could literally see for miles.

Brian had packed our mini tripod for our phones so we were able to take a few selfies on the summit. I can’t think of a better way to have celebrated our seventh wedding anniversary – I love living this life with you, Brian! <3

We had an uneventful hike back to the trailhead where all of the parking spots were now full. As we hopped in the car and headed on our way, we could see the summit rising up above us (photo below). It’s always fun to get back down to earth and look up to where you’ve just been.

If you’re looking for a relatively short and easy hike in Rocky Mountain National Park, Deer Mountain is a great one and not that far from the park entrances. Happy hiking!

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