Adventure into Rocky Mountain National Park by summiting one of the region’s most scenic mountains. Deer Mountain is a perfect climb for those who are just visiting Colorado, offering a stunning hike and scenic views without the struggle of excessive elevation. Located within miles of Estes Park, this accessible mountain is a perfect retreat for winter hikers who are looking for a non-technical climb.

©Melissa Farage

Start off from the trailhead at Deer Junction, and follow the steps to move away from the road. The trail greets visitors with a gradual elevation gain, allowing hikers to warm up on the long switchback and absorb stunning views of the Rocky Mountains. The trail cuts along the base of Deer Mountain, passing through a grassy slope adorned with occasional aspen. After a switchback the path retreats up the open mountainside, cutting across the rocky mountain shoulder. Winter hikers can delight in the abundance of snow along the eastern reaches of the mountain, and should come prepared with traction such as snowshoes or micro spikes.

©Melissa Farage

The trail switchbacks several times through a shady grove of pine trees, offering occasional glimpses of the snow-covered Rocky Mountain peaks through the closely-knit branches. After several sets of switchbacks the trail cuts out along a rocky ledge, affording views of the climb and the valley below. Soon, hikers find themselves upon a sunny ridge adorned by sparse pine and bare aspen. The path cuts along a mountain plateau, losing elevation as it passes through a landscape punctuated by aspen, snow drifts and glimpses of rocky peaks. Nearly 2.8 miles into the trail, hikers are given the option to follow the trail to Estes Park or turn off to reach the top. The last .2 miles test hikers with one last climb before leading out to the mountain’s barren summit. From this spectacular perch, enjoy sweeping views of the town of Estes Park and the peaks of Rocky Mountain National Park.

Keep your eyes peeled, you might just see some deer!

©Melissa Farage

Distance: 3 miles each way

Season: Winter

Difficulty: Moderately Easy

Elevation Gain: 1,000 feet

Highest Point: 10,000 feet

Passes and Permits: Rocky Mountain National Park Pass

Open to: Hikers

Maps: Rocky Mountain National Park Map

Directions:

From the town of Estes Park, enter the Rocky Mountain National Park through the Beaver Meadows entrance. After paying the park permit fee, continue through the gate, remaining on Highway 35. After 3 miles, you will come to the Deer Mountain trailhead at Deer Junction.

©Melissa Farage
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