“A loop around and over Deer Mountain near Estes Park.”
— Brian Smith
Birding · Fall Colors · Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife
This hike leads you from west to east around the northern side of Deer Mountain
before summiting and descending. Proximity to Estes Park make this a convenient hike for those coming from the Front Range.
Starting at the Deer Ridge Trailhead, start down the Deer Mountain Trail
and prepare to turn left onto North Deer Mountain Trail
North Deer Mountain Trail
skirts the mountain's northern flanks as it heads northward and gradually to the east and south as it descends around Deer Mountain
's base. Enjoy the grandiose views of Deer Mountain
and surrounding peaks as you descend towards Estes Park. The trail passes through mixed forest and meadow typical of the montane ecosystem. Just after the four mile mark, look for a connector trail to branch off to the right and follow it to the Deer Mountain Trail
The Deer Mountain Trail
climbs steeply up the eastern slope of Deer Mountain
before descending its western slope to a junction with North Deer Mountain Trail
. About halfway through, the Deer Mountain Summit Spur
branches off to the southwest and climbs steeply to the summit. Follow the summit spur for a final push to the top and a reward of panoramic views. Head back down the Deer Mountain Summit Spur
and turn left back onto Deer Mountain Trail
. Descend the steep, switchbacking trail as it dives off of the western ridge of the mountain. Eventually, you'll be back where you started at the Deer Ridge Trailhead.
Flora & Fauna
This montane ecosystem has open stands of large ponderosa pines. Spacing of ponderosa pines is somewhat related to available soil moisture. Grasses, other herbs and shrubs may grow between the widely spaced trees on dry slopes. As the pines become old, their bark changes from gray-brown to cinnamon-red, and the bark releases a pleasant fragrance when warmed by the sun. The long needles of ponderosa pines are attached to the stems in groups of two's and three's.