Saturday, February 2, 2013

Deer Creek Snowshoe

Distance: 4.6 miles round trip
Elevation: 10,632 ft - 11,461 ft
Elevation Gain: 920 ft (cumulative)
Dogs: Off leash
Bathroom at Trailhead: No
Date Snowshoed: 20 Jan 2013

The northern extent of Deer Creek Valley in winter
Snowshoeing up Deer Creek Valley (basically the end of Montezuma Road) in Summit County is an adventure into a Titan's playground where the expansiveness of the terrain will make you feel diminutive and if you choose a windy day, will turn you into a pillar of ice. There is no place to hide in this valley so even on a sunny, calm day it can be nippy. This means bring along a thermos of hot chocolate and an emergency blanket to sit on.

The parking lot
Heading up the road.  Deer Creek itself is off to the left.
You get to the trailhead by following Montezuma Road through the town and continuing on for another mile or so. The parking lot is very large, very obvious, and usually devoid of cars. On this trip it was packed and we were worried that we were in for a crowded experience. It turns out that the cars were for an avalanche class up near Webster Pass. We actually only saw one one other snowshoer on the trip.

Looking back down the valley
Note that Deer Creek Valley is a haven for snowmobiles, and you may encounter a few. Certainly the road was packed down by their treads, and the valley itself filled with their tracks. Even though this was the middle day of a holiday weekend however, the only snowmobiles we saw were the forest service patrol, so it is possible you may not encounter any.

The road as it crossed Deer Creek and heads up into the trees
A shadier segment
The route follows Montezuma Road up the valley. It is wide, well packed (we wore only Microspikes), and is filled with mountain views to the side and rear. At 0.8 miles is a gate that will close the valley in the spring. At 1.2 miles the route crosses Forest Road 290. Stay left here and cross the creek to the south. From this point on the route leaves the sun and transitions into the shade of a Lodgepole Pine covered hillside and begins to climb steeply.

Breaking out of the trees. The Valley is just ahead but the route will head to the left  for a bit
At 1.4 miles is another trail heading to the left. Stay to the right on the main trail. At 2.0 miles is a small sign with an arrow pointing left. Again stay to the right. Both of these junctions are off the main route and it is not hard to make the right choice.

In the middle of the bowl looking south
Looking up at the rocky western wall
At 2.1 miles the route breaks out of the trees and Deer Creek Valley comes into view. The route will head southwards just a little bit more and then you can run screaming into the stadium like bowl that seems to go on forever. It is 2.5 miles to the southern end of the bowl but we only went 2.3 miles out into the middle. The snow was deeper here and we found ourselves post holing despite all of the snowmobile tracks.

We ate lunch on a small wind-swept mound along the eastern side of the bowl and watched the sun creep towards the horizon. There would be a lot of explore in the valley if you have the time, but bring along snowshoes if you decide to wander.

Looking north
From our spot, we could see Glacier Mountain to the northwest. We hiked up there to the General Teller Mine from Saints John a few summers ago. In that post is a picture of Deer Creek Valley in all its glory.

Moon rise over eastern wall
It has been many years since I have snowshoed Deer Creek. My first experience was bone chilling and I could not even see the views so it faded from my memory. The 2013 January holiday weekend was stunning in Summit County though so it seemed like a great time to try it again. Now that I have seen what it really looks like, I will definitely return.

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