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:
Later in the week I got a fresh perspective of Deer Mountain by taking a 2 hour horseback riding tour at the National Park Gateway Stables which is located right next to the Fall River Visitor Center.
The ride ‘follows the Fall River to the base of Deer Mountain and Aspen Glen area into Lil Horseshoe Park and Hidden Meadows.’ I was a little nervous to ride a horse on a trail in the mountains, plus my horse was so tall! However, I’m glad I pushed myself out of my comfort zone to enjoy a new experience in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Next time, I want to bring my girls on a ride. The Cowpoke Corner Corral is run by the same company. It is located on Highway 66 near the YMCA. They have shorter pony rides to help kids get comfortable in the saddle. They also offer a one-hour ride option on horseback. You can find out more information about pricing and weight restrictions at skhorses.com.
This time around, I hope I can express my delight with this waterfall hike. We ventured out on May 25th, the Friday of Memorial Day weekend. Although the Rocky Mountain National Park filled up with visitors over the holiday, we lucked out with great parking* close to the Fern Falls trailhead.
A highlight of this lower elevation* hike is the nearly constant view of the Big Thompson River. Most of the hike is very child friendly as long as you watch out for little ones wandering too close to the river, or getting too adventurous on the amazing rock formations.
We started the hike with the hopes of making it to Arch Rocks (1.2 miles) or The Pool (1.7 miles) if we were lucky, but the girls were doing so awesome we decided to hike to Fern Falls which is 2.6 miles each way. That’s a little far for our kids to hike on their own, so we carried them a lot of the way in a deuter kids carrier and an ergo baby carrier.
The distance from The Pool to Fern Falls is a little under a mile, but you gain 400 feet of elevation quickly. I was out of breath but had to remind myself that I was carrying a 16-month-old toddler.
The hike up was totally worth it. Everyone was in a great mood and the waterfall was impressive.
Fern Falls lives up to its name, the surrounding area is lush and damp. We didn’t stop long because mosquitoes were swarming the area.
*Fern Lake trailhead has a small non-paved parking area. The road leading to the trailhead becomes narrow for two-way vehicle traffic. There is shuttle service and some additional parking .8 miles away from the trailhead.
*Fern Falls trailhead begins at 8,150 ft of elevation so when I say ‘lower elevation’ I mean low compared to many places in RMNP, but high for those of us from non-mountain regions. Remember to take it easy and drink lots of water!