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.
On a busy summer weekend at Rocky Mountain National Park we were disappointed when we had to park in the park & ride and cram on a shuttle to get to our hiking destination. The ride turned out to be great because our knowledgeable shuttle driver pointed out areas of interest as we passed by. One of his highlighted destinations was Bierstadt Lake. Our driver explained the lake was named after renowned 19th century landscape artist, Albert Bierstadt. Here is a link to Bierstadt’s work.
At the end of July we hiked to Bierstadt Lake with my daughter Cecy in her Ergobaby. There are several ways to get to the lake. We decided to start at Bear Lake trailhead which is two miles each way. The first .6 miles starts out along the Flattop Mountain route before splitting off.
From the junction we followed the trail through forest away from the mountains. Once we arrived at the lake we took a nice rest to let Cecy have some time out of her carrier (it was a pretty warm day), eat a snack and take in the views. I think the best view is when you walk half way around the lake and turn back to see Flattop Mountain in the distance.We hiked back to our starting point at Bear Lake – a mostly uphill return journey. As an alternative, you could continue for 1.3 miles to end up at Bierstadt Trailhead and take the shuttle back to Bear Lake parking lot. I would think this route would be easier, but I’ll have to try it out to confirm.
I hope to take advantage of the free shuttle system on future hikes to avoid backtracking. Here is a link for more shuttle information and routes.
When I think of hiking up mountains, I don’t normally think of seeing dolphins on the descent. Back in February we visited my brother who lives in Morro Bay, California and he took us to Montana De Oro State Park to climb up Valencia Peak which rises 1,347 feet. That doesn’t sound high if you are used to Colorado’s elevation, but we basically started right at sea level.
I was pretty proud of myself for chugging through the 3.7 miles! (roundtrip) I was also happy that Cecilia, who was only 3 months old, did so well strapped to my front in her Ergobaby carrier. When it got a little sunnier, we pulled up the hood to protect her head.
Yes, we had to change a diaper on the trail and she cried a little for milk towards the end, but hiking with my daughter was one of the things I was most excited for when I was pregnant.
The perfect weather, ocean views, my brother acting as an awesome ‘hike guide’, and spotting dolphins made Cecilia’s first hike pretty hard to beat!