Deer Mountain is a fantastic outing no matter the season. At roughly 6 miles round trip and approximately 1,400 feet of elevation gain, this hike is great for all abilities. Not too hard for a novice providing a wonderful opportunity to bag a RMNP summit, or a quick jaunt for the seasoned hiker or trail runner needing a quick and ‘easy’ summit if time doesn’t allow for something longer.
The easiest access is at Deer Ridge Junction on Trail Ridge Road, where hwy’s 36 and 34 meet within the boundary of Rocky. The trail is easy to follow and in wonderful shape throughout the year. Snow can accumulate and remain on the trail from about 1.5 miles up and all the way tot he summit from Nov/Dec through April/May, but the only real difficulty is near the summit where the trail levels out and drops a bit allowing the snow to really drift in and make navigating a little tricky if it hasn’t seen much traffic. But it’s one of the early summits to melt out and can stay relatively snow free well into late autumn and early winter.
Begin on a steep trail through Ponderosa forests for the first third of a mile before the trees open up among long switchbacks as the grade eases for a bit. Be sure to enjoy the views on this section as they are stunning! Shortly, the trail closes back in and you’ll be in dense forest for quite a while with few spots that open up and offer some more great views to the northwest. The grade stays pretty steadily steepish here and there are a couple of good spots to take a breather if needed.
Soon you’ll begin dropping in elevation for a bit. Don’t worry, you’re on the right trail. This stretch seems to go on and on with a big drop for a spell then rolling terrain for about the same distance. Enjoy it because soon you’ll get to the final quarter mile summit push and it’s a doozie! It reclimbs all the elevation you just lost and then some and it does it in a hurry. But the reward is close, so keep on keepin’ on!
The summit appears quickly and just like that you’re on a the small rocky top of Deer Mountain with truly outstanding views of Longs Peak, the continental divide, and Beaver Meadows/Moraine Park. Take a rest, enjoy a snack, and soak in those amazing views! When you’re ready just head back the way you came for an enjoyable hike back to Deer Ridge Junction.
Distance: 6 Miles
Elevation Gain: 1,460 Feet
Summit Elevation: 10,006 Feet
Trail Head Elevation: 8,930 Feet