Trail Reviews: Deer Mountain Trail - Rocky Mountain National Park
Distance: 6.2 miles
Standing just slightly above 10,000ft, Deer Mountain is a beautiful escape offering sweeping views of the rocky mountain range and the humble snow-covered plains below. Parking can be slightly confusing, but I found off the side of the road just near the trailhead to be allowed. From my experience, this trail doesn’t seem to be too popular. I was the first to arrive at the trailhead at 8:00am and only encountered two other people throughout my time on the trail. Almost as soon as you begin your hike, you will begin to reap the reward. Through the sparse ponderosa pines, not even a mile in, the trees open to reveal the Continental Divide and open plains of Moraine Park. In the distance you can watch as the wind sweeps the snow from atop the staggering peaks and carries it along through the air.
You can’t escape the views throughout much of the beginning of the trail as the trees continuously open up to reveal the same stunning mountain view, and it never gets old. Switchbacks will take you into the forest with packed snow covering much of the trail. Pay close attention to the path and you just might catch sight of an array of animal tracks ranging from elk to deer to bunny tracks. I found that the higher I went, the less prominent shoe tracks became, until there were none to be found and all that could be seen was a fresh blanket of snow. Even still, the path can still be seen, outlined among the white blanket. Little pillows of snow outline either side of the trail and you will surely find yourself off the path when you sink in the snow.
After snaking your way up the side of the mountain, the path straightens out and leads you further into the forest. The snow on either side of the trail deepens and at certain points, and for very short stretches the trail itself can require calculated foot placement. After winding through the forest for a short while you will find yourself at the point of summit, the trail ventures off to the right and up to the peak. The last stretch to the summit is short and leads to a breathtaking overview of the sights seen at the beginning of the hike. The only difference? You’re 1,200ft higher, seemingly at equal level with the mountains in the distance. Don’t stop where the trail ends. If you venture off to the right of the trail you will get a view of the mountains free of any trees and branches in the way, the perfect spot to snap shots of the mountains. From this point you can catch sight of Estes Park, Moraine Park, Longs Peak, Hallett Peak, and the other mountains composing the Continental Divide. With many options for rocks to sit upon, this spot is perfect for taking a break and soaking in the views … maybe even crack open a Wildway Snack Mix to naturally sweeten the experience.
*This trail can be completely done without snowshoes, but some sort of traction device is advised as much of the trail is covered in ice and soft snow.