i overuse the word “best” like it’s nobody’s business. everything is the best thing. everyone is the best person. every day is the best day. and while sometimes I simply mean that I have a favorable opinion of something, I can say with certainty that rocky mountain national park is actually the BEST. it’s just the best.
a few weekends ago, my sister, amy, and my cousin, carrie, and i woke up at the crack of dawn and made our way up to RMNP for a morning hike. it was the National Park Service’s 100th birthday that weekend, so all national parks were free of charge, and we wanted to make sure we got to the trailhead before all the crowds.
We decided to hike to the summit of Deer Mountain along the aptly named Deer Mountain Trail in the northeast region of RMNP, pretty close to the entrance in Estes Park. We assumed it would be MOBBED that weekend, because RMNP usually is MOBBED on the weekends (plus entrance was free!), but surprisingly, it was weirdly quiet. Where was everyone??? Didn’t they know it was free??
We got a spot right next to the trailhead at Deer Ridge Junction and headed on up to the trail – where we were slammed with MAGICAL PANORAMIC VIEWS almost immediately and for almost the entire trail.
The tallest mountain is Longs Peak!
Carrie killing the hike, damn girl
The hike is about 6 miles round trip and it climbs pretty steadily the entire way to the summit. It wasn’t exactly an easy hike – there were some steep sections, and the last bit to the summit is essentially just a rock staircase – but definitely doable for any able-bodied person of a reasonable level of physical fitness. You’ll get out of breath, get your heart rate up… but as my dad would say, that’s where you get your money’s worth.
Right before reaching the summit, the trail actually flattens out pretty significantly, and it’s SUCH a tease. We were actually hiking downhill for awhile before reaching a junction in the trail where you can either head up to the summit or back toward the town of Estes Park (more than 4 miles on that trail). We headed to the summit, obviously, and after climbing that last steep 0.3-ish miles of trail, we were rewarded with some CRAZY magical views of the mountains and Estes Park at the 10,000-foot summit.
Amy on a flatter portion of the trail
The view from the top!
At the summit of Deer Mountain!!! Elevation: 10,013 feet
Just a little meep in the mountains
The edge of the town of Estes Park is in the left part of this pic
We spent about a half hour up at the top, soaking in the views and the warm late-August sun. On our way down, there were tons more people going up than we had seen – we had been hiking alone basically the entire trail and it was a muuuuch more pleasant experience. Proof that the early bird gets the worm!
This ended up being one of my favorite Rocky Mountain NP hikes to date, and I’m definitely planning on doing it again sometime. Not too long, not too hard – but long enough and hard enough to be worthwhile – and the views were out of control breathtaking. Like I said, RMNP is the BEST.
What’s your favorite Rocky Mountain National Park hike?