Hiking Deer Mountain with Toddlers We just got back from another wonderful family vacation in Rocky Mountain National Park. The first day we decided to hike up Deer Mountain which is one of our favorite hikes because of the amazing views. Unfortunately, this time the views were pretty hazy from forest fires in nearby Grand Lake, Colorado.
According to Rockymountaintrails.com, this hike starts at 8,940 ft in elevation at the Deer Ridge Junction. It’s 6.2 miles round trip and gains 1,210 ft of elevation.
For us, that’s a pretty tough hike with the kids in their carriers. Our girls are 3 and 1 years old, so longer hikes are a great way to help them grow in patience. I’m really proud of them! It is fun for me to look back on times we’ve hiked this before. Check out past posts:
Horseback Riding Deer Mountain
Later in the week I got a fresh perspective of Deer Mountain by taking a 2 hour horseback riding tour with National Park Gateway Stables.
The ride ‘follows the Fall River to the base of Deer Mountain and Aspen Glen area into Lil Horseshoe Park and Hidden Meadows.’ You can learn more about the tours on their website. They even have pony rides for ages 2-7.
We pack snacks, drinks, sing songs and play games to keep the girls entertained during longer hikes. Games include ‘tortoise and the hare’ where we take turns who is in the lead and who is going slow paying attention to details (or getting distracted by wildflowers). We also play ‘bear’ where one parent goes ahead with a child and hides behind a tree or rock to jump out and surprise the other parent and sibling.
We’ve been admiring the work of Erik Stensland’s for years. He is a talented photographer who captures the beauty of Rocky Mountain National Park. We’ve strolled through his galleries in Estes Park and Grand Lake countless times trying to decide on our favorite piece. We’ve endlessly flipped through his award-winning book, Wild Light which was given to us as a gift. And now we have finally decided on a print for our home!
With hundreds of breathtaking images to choose from it was hard to narrow down. We ultimately chose ‘The Oasis‘ and had it printed on the Plaque on Plaque format so it stands out on our wall. Taken in a peaceful setting in the backcountry of Rocky Mountain National Park, this picture inspires calm serenity. I can sit and look at it, imaging that I am sitting by the mountain lake in a moment of peaceful solitude.
You can see this image and hundreds of other amazing shots online at imagesorrmnp.com or at Stensland’s galleries when you are visiting Rocky Mountain National Park. They are located at: 203 Park Lane in Estes Park, CO and in Studio 8369 at 1117 Grand Avenue in Grand Lake, CO.
Pro Tip – If you are planning a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park this Spring and want to take your own great photographs, Erik gives great advice on his website. He suggests taking pictures 15 minutes before and after sunrise and sunset to get the best lighting. You can basically put your camera down for the rest of the day and just take in the beauty around you.
One of our favorite early season hikes is Deer Mountain which I wrote about here and you can’t go wrong with a short stroll around Lily Lake or Sprague Lake.
Looking for a family friendly summit hike in Rocky Mountain National Park? There is something very rewarding about reaching the summit of a mountain, but with young kids it’s hard to spend the time, energy and face the technical challenges of hiking up many of the prominent peaks.
Good news! You don’t have to hike all day to experience wonderful panoramic views and gain that awesome feeling of accomplishment. A three-mile hike up Deer Mountain offers both. The hike is located at Deer Ridge Junction, a few miles west of the Beaver Meadows entrance.
There isn’t a parking lot near Deer Mountain. Cars park right off the street making parking limited.
Gear for hiking with young children and babies
I carried our 4 month old in an Ergobaby carrier and my husband carried our 2 1/2-year-old in a Deuter kid comfort carrier. With the added weight, we were happy to take extra breaks to enjoy the inspiring mountain vistas.
As we approached the summit, we hiked through melting snow which is pretty common in May – especially this year. I was thankful for my waterproof hiking boots, but we still got wet and muddy. Keeping a pair of flip-flops in the car to change into post hike would be helpful.
Trekking poles were also helpful. You gain 1,093 ft of elevation.
Standing at 10,013′ we made it to the summit. This was our youngest daughter’s first summit hike. Both girls were ready for a snack at this point, but we were worried about dark clouds looming in the distance and decided to start our descent. We probably should have started this hike earlier in the day because storms are more common in the afternoon.
On the way down, we had to be cautious in a few areas where slippery rocks were covered in slushy snow (especially with our precious cargo).
Luck was on our side, the weather cleared and we enjoyed the 3 mile return trip under blue skies.
As this summer winds to an end, it’s fun to look back at all of the fun trips we’ve had. This summer started for us on May 30th at an elevation of 10,013 feet with panoramic views of Rocky Mountain National Park and a little bit of snow. We strapped our six month old daughter, Cecy, to my husband’s back via our Ergobaby and hiked a six mile round trip trail up and back down Deer Mountain.
We chose Deer Mountain for our first family adventure in Colorado because some of the higher altitude hikes were still covered in snow. There was some snow near the top of this trail too, but far less than in other areas of RMNP.
Cecy napped the whole way – how cute are her little feet hanging out of the carrier!? I didn’t have a clue what babies should wear on hikes, so I kept her in her pajamas. At least her little feet stayed warm, but I’ve since found better baby hiking apparel options which I’ll write about soon.
This was a fun early season hike and also a great way to celebrate my husband’s birthday!