|Elevation Gain||1398 ft|
|My Time||3 hr 3 min|
|Closest Town||Estes Park|
The Deer Mountain trail is a moderate trail with amazing views of Rocky Mountain National Park. If you are looking for a trail that shows the grandeur of the park, this might be a perfect hike for you.
The trail starts where Fall River Rd (US 34) intersects with US 36 in the eastern section of the park. There is no dedicated parking lot and you will need to park on the side of the road.
The trail begins near the street and will quickly intersect with the a trail to the campgound access. You will stay to the right at the junction. The first portion of the trail is through open skies with views of the park. The trail is nice and wide and has a consistent incline. The trail will stay out in the open for about a mile with an elevation gain ranging in the 10-15% range. I actually found this a little deceptive. It didn’t feel like a big incline so I just powered through before realizing I was getting kinda tired!
I will say that I saw about the most unexpected animal. Usually at Rocky Mountain I expect deer, squirrels, elk or even bears. This was a first for me with a wild turkey (not the alcohol) sighting!
This lower section also provides some remarkable views of the surrounding mountains. If you are worried about making it all the way to the top, or you have kids that might not be able to make it, these views are great to take in the park without as much effort.
After about a mile of walking through the open you will enter the woods and also a series of tighter switchbacks. The switchbacks will take you about 1.4 miles and around 600 feet of elevation gain. While they aren’t huge on the incline they are enough to keep in mind. The woods are great but losing the views of the mountains is disappointing.
The good news is that around the two and half mark the trail will actually flatten out and some of the trees will thin out. You will head away from the edge though and more into the middle of the mountain. This is a good spot to catch your breath for a bit and prepare for the last push to the summit. This flatter sections lasts for just over a half mile.
The last push to the peak is the most challenging on the trail. There are basically some stone steps that you will need to make it up to get to the top. The steps are at about 16% grade so not the most challenging but they are definitely an adjustment after the flat section near the top.
The top is pretty spectacular and worth the hike. The top is actually really large and there is plenty of room for people to stop and take in the views. I think when I was up top, six different groups had found room with plenty of space.
The views give the ultimate view of the park in my opinion. Although it just barely touches ten thousand feet, it seems higher because of the low meadow below leading up to the next set of peaks. The other nice part was that at the end of May, Deer Mountain, was snow free while the other peaks were most definitely not. A great hike and something I think visitors and locals will all enjoy.
Here is a quick video recap of the hike. If you would like to get all of my video updates make sure you subscribe to my YouTube channel. It is free and will make sure you are alerted when new video is posted.
Distance and Elevation
If you don’t have the AllTrails app you might want to check it out, I really love mine. It records your progress and is a great way to search for hikes that are nearby and gives you difficulty measurements. According to AllTrails today’s hike was around 6.50 miles and had a total elevation gain of about 1,398 feet including undulations. That put the high point at around 9,989 feet. I was also moving for a total of 3 hours and 3 minutes.
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Most of this hike is a steady but not overwhelming up hill climb. Sometimes I feel that those are more challenging because it doesn’t feel like you are working hard and it sneaks up on you. The end of the hike is basically walking up a stone staircase and can be a bit of a challenge.
The constant uphill led to a slower pace for me. I usually average about 17 minutes per mile on flat ground so you can see this was about 6 minutes off that pace plus extra rest time included.
The Deer Mountain Trail terrain was pretty solid. The path was mostly wide and hard packed dirt with the occasional embedded rock. The rock size and frequency grew the higher up and closer to the peak you got. There are a few sections where the trail narrows to single file but nothing to challenging about the terrain. I would suggest a good pair of hiking shoes, possibly a high cut to help with the rocks.
The Deer Mountain Trail is located at the intersections of US 34 (Fall River) and US 35 going through the park. I found it easier to enter Rocky Mountain National Park from the Fall River Entrance. Rocky Mountain National Park is part of the National Park system and there is a daily fee of $25 per vehicle. You could also buy a yearly national park pass.
Rocky Mountain National Park has gone to a summer timed entry system which means you have to buy a ticket to get into the park as well. You can find more information on that system here.
For Deer Mountain, there was no parking lot but some spots available on the side of the road for parking. There is no restroom at the trailhead.
Wrapping up Deer Mountain Trail in Rocky Mountain NP
I really enjoyed my trip up Deer Mountain. The consistent low level elevation gains did give me some problems. It was more mental by not realizing there was an incline and trying to push to hard and wearing myself out.
The views of the park are really impressive. While there is not a lake or waterfall at the end of the hike I think seeing the park from this angle really shows how impressive it is. I also think that this would be a good hike for people who are visiting as it isn’t technically challenging. Plus, while there is elevation gain, there is also plenty of room to stop and take breaks.
I have added this hike and all of my hikes to my interactive map page that you can find here. If you have a suggestion or comment you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow me on any of the below social media platforms. Happy Hiking!