Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Deer Mountain

Distance: 6.6 miles round trip
Elevation: 8,973 ft - 10,044 ft
Elevation Gain: 1,361 ft (cumulative)
Dogs: No (National Park)
Bathroom at Trailhead: No
Tags: #RMNP, #hiking, #coloradooutdoors

View of Long's Peak from the summit of Deer Mountain in Rocky Mountain National Park
Deer Mountain in Rocky Mountain National Park is a hike a 10K ft promontory between the Horseshoe Meadows and Moraine Park sides of the park. As such you get views of the Continental Divide to the south including Long's Peak as well as the rocky outcroppings to the north. This area gets a lot of sun, which makes it hot in the summer but snow free earlier than other places in the park.

Starting out
Across the lower slope
The trailhead for this hike is located at Deer Ridge Junction, approximately three miles west of the Beaver Meadows entrance where highways 34 and 36 intersect. There is parking only along the roads themselves and these spots fill up quickly in summer.

The Continental Divide
The switchbacks have intermittent sun and shade and can be rocky.
The initial section ascends gradually across gentle slopes covered in green grasses, pines, and Aspens. Yellow Golden Banner cover the landscape in summer and compete for viewing time with the mountains to the south and their snow covered crevices.  As you climb higher, the trail begins to switchback up through Ponderosa and Lodepole pines.

The Mummy Range and Horseshoe Meadows to the north
The trail levels out on the summit ridge
The summit is at the end of long ridge that dips and ascends between fire-scared trees and sandy meadows. The final pitch to the summit is a long series of rock steps that had many a tourist gasping for breath. It climbs around 145 ft in less than two tenths of a mile.

Rock stairs leading to the summit
A view of south Estes Park from the summit
The summit is itself is a large pile of rock interspersed with trees and sandy benches. There is plenty of room to spread out and enjoy the views of Long's Peak. Deer Mountain is one of the more popular hikes in the park, so finding a parking place along the road can be a challenge. An early start and plenty of water are a must in summer.

This Swallowtail butterfly was just one of the many colorful visitors to Deer Mountain.

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