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Rocky Mountain National Park: The Complete Hiking Guide explores all 400 named features in the park, from casual strolls to class 4 climbing. Two-thirds of the book covers off-trail hikes not commonly found in other guidebooks.

Ouzel Falls

Trail Features: Waterfalls, Wildflowers copeland-falls
Trail Location: Wild Basin
Roundtrip Length: 5.4 Miles
Trailhead Elevation: 8500 Feet
Total Elevation Gain: 870 Feet
Avg. Elev Gain / Mile: 322 Feet
Highest Elevation: 9370 Feet
Trail Difficulty Rating: 7.14 (moderate)
Parking Lot Latitude 40.20883
Parking Lot Longitude -105.56614

Trail Description:

copeland-fallsThe hike to Ouzel Falls begins from the fairly remote Wild Basin Trailhead in the southeastern corner of Rocky Mountain National Park, located near the small communities of Meeker Park and Allenspark. To reach the trailhead from Estes Park, drive 12.6 miles south on Colorado Highway 7 to the Wild Basin Road junction and turn right. The Wild Basin Trailhead is located roughly 2 miles beyond Copeland Lake on a narrow, two-wheel drive gravel road.

This hike offers several attractions along the way, including Copeland Falls and Calypso Cascades. Lower Copeland Falls, your first destination along this route, arrives only three-tenths of a mile from the trailhead. The upper falls are located roughly one-tenth of a mile further upstream along the North St. Vrain Creek.

Beyond the falls the trail crosses over Sandbeach Creek. At just over 1.3 miles from the trailhead you'll reach a spur trail that provides access to a series of five backcountry campgrounds that offer a total of seven individual campsites. To continue onto Calypso Cascades, stay to the left at this junction.

ouzel-fallsAt 1.7 miles you'll pass an unnamed waterfall, which shouldn't be confused with Calypso Cascades, which is still another two-tenths of a mile further up trail. Unfortunately the 200-foot high Calypso Cascades weren't all that impressive the day we saw them, but certainly can be during the spring run-off, or after a long period of rain.

Above Calypso Cascades you'll begin to catch sporadic views of the surrounding mountains, including Longs Peak and Mt. Meeker towards the north.

At 2.7 miles, and an elevation of 9370 feet, hikers will finally reach Ouzel Falls, which is a pretty impressive waterfall. Although you can see it from the log bridge that crosses Ouzel Creek, make sure to take the short unmarked side trail to get a much better view. Ouzel Falls, Ouzel Creek and Ouzel Lake (2.25 miles further up trail) are all named after the water ouzel (or dipper), which is a small bird that dives under the water in search of food.

If you wish to extend your hike to visit the most scenic feature on this trail, you do have the option of continuing onto Bluebird Lake. This option, however, would add another 7.2 miles to your roundtrip hike, and would make it a fairly strenuous hike.