Sunday, January 23, 2011
Deer Mountain (Winter), Rocky Mountain National Park
Deer Mountain (Winter - Snowshoe)
Rocky Mountain National Park
Date Hiked: Jan. 23, 2011
Distance: 6 mi (RT)
Elevation Gain: 1,083 ft
Elevation Start: 8,930ft
Managing Agency: National Park Service
Fee: Yes, $20 (annual pass available)
Directions: Enter the park at the Beaver Meadows Entrance in Estes Park. Follow Hwy 36 west towards Trail Ridge Road and when you reach Deer Ridge Junction, look for the trailhead on the right (north).
Deer Mountain is a great peak to climb any time of year. It is not one of the higher peaks, not on the Continental Divide, but provides terrific views of the park's high peaks. In winter, the trail is a different sort of adventure. It is not difficult, but with the elevation gain, it makes for a intermediate snow shoe hike. When I hiked here I got to the top, was rewarded with a great view, got back to the car and realized that I only hiked half of the trail, distance is tough to tell sometimes when you are snowshoeing. That being said, snowshoeing to the 1st "summit" and viewpoint makes for a wonderful 3 mi snowshoe and in the winter I may recommend this over doing the entire hike.
The trail starts out through the gentle forest with immediate views to Longs Peak and the Three Sisters Peaks to the south. Soon the trail starts to switchback up the side of Deer Mountain and after the switchbacks get shorter and steeper, you reach a flat area, then a bit of a clearing. Here is where the 1st summit and viewpoint are located. The rock outcroppings (be careful here as the snow may not be entirely stable) offer a wonderful westerly view of the Mummy Range. Specifically, Mounts Chapin, Chiquita, and Ypsilon are in full view and extremely impressive with the winter snow.
This makes for a great turnaround, or you can explore further, there is about another 1.5 miles of trail before the official summit.