Rocky Mountain National Park: Ouzel Lake

Amble along rushing creeks, waterfalls, and lichen-covered rock outcroppings on the way to a secluded alpine lake in Rocky Mountain National Park's Wild Basin.
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Amble along rushing creeks, waterfalls, and lichen-covered rock outcroppings on the way to a secluded alpine lake in Rocky Mountain National Park's Wild Basin.

From the Wild Basin Trailhead, take the sandy Thunder Lake Trail. After a half mile, bear right on the spur trail to Upper and Lower Copeland Falls. Here, Sandbeach and North St. Vrain Creeks converge to form a small but frothy pair of falls.
More waterfall views are still ahead. Continue 1.5 miles to Calypso Cascades: a final resting place for fallen pine trees lodged between massive, rounded rocks. Hike another mile to Ouzel Falls. Taller and thinner than Calypso Cascades, the whitewater of Ouzel sprays onto algae-covered rocks. Large, flat boulders, situated just off trail, make for great rest stops.
Follow the rocky outcroppings and merge onto Bluebird Lake Trail. Unmatched views of Mount Meeker and Longs Peak are to the right; Ouzel Creek flows through the valley to the left. Bear left at the junction with Ouzel Lake Trail. A short distance along the headwaters of Ouzel Creek leads to the alpine lake. Copeland Mountain, Ouzel Peak, and Maharta Peak rim the western shore. When finished relaxing, retrace your steps.

INFO For information on permits, current trail and camp conditions, and wilderness guidelines, go to nps.gov/romo/planyourvisit/backcountry.htm

PERMIT A wilderness permit is required for all overnight camping in the backcountry. Reservations accepted ($20 administrative fee for permits during peak season). nps.gov/romo/planyourvisit/backcntry_guide.htm

CONTACT Rocky Mountain National Park, (970) 586-1206; nps.gov/romo

-Mapped by MacKenzie Ryan

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 15.9

Waypoints

OUZ001

Location: 40.208344, -105.566533

Wild Basin parking area, ranger's cabin, and bathrooms. In the winter time, park 1.1 miles up the road at the winter trailhead.

OUZ002

Location: 40.207748, -105.566551

Trailhead. Cross bridge and head southwest through a corridor of conifers and aspen.

OUZ003

Location: 40.206017, -105.570438

Cross the wooden bridge. St Vrain and Ouzel Creeks run alongside and, in certain places, across the trail to Ouzel Falls.

OUZ004

Location: 40.205124, -105.571335

Bear right @ Y-junction. Side trip: To see Copeland Falls, bear left @ junction and follow a rocky spur trail to lookout over Lower and Upper Copeland Falls. 15-foot boulders sit between aspens on right side of trail. Footing can be precarious here in the winter.

OUZ005

Location: 40.204182, -105.57283

Trail becomes rockier for a short section. Pass boulders to the left and cliffs rise to the right of the trail.

OUZ006

Location: 40.203968, -105.573135

Keep straight @ 3-way. The trail to the left leads to a longer sidetrip to Copeland Falls.

OUZ007

Location: 40.203049, -105.577347

Listen for the rushing creek.

OUZ008

Location: 40.200932, -105.582397

Creek comes into view; rock slab on right.

OUZ009

Location: 40.200748, -105.58297

Climb several rock steps as the trail turns away from the creek bed.

OUZ010

Location: 40.200333, -105.587913

Pass Pine Ridge campsite on right.

OUZ011

Location: 40.1996, -105.588364

Cross bridge over St. Vrain Creek. From here the grade of the trail ticks up a notch, gaining 500 feet of elevation in the next 1.2 miles.

OUZ012

Location: 40.195889, -105.590587

Turn right @ T-junction. Cross wooden bridge over creek. Calypso Cascades tumbles down rocky, forested slopes on the left.

OUZ013

Location: 40.195534, -105.590965

Cross bridge.

OUZ014

Location: 40.19661, -105.593462

Trail passes through an open glade clearing. Views of ridgeline and peaks to the north.

OUZ015

Location: 40.1978, -105.595665

Small overlook with views down the basin. From here, the trail ascends a series of switchbacks on the approach to the falls.

OUZ016

Location: 40.19865, -105.599716

Ouzel Falls: For closer views, turn left off trail to bottom of the falls.

OUZ017

Location: 40.201764, -105.60388

Bear left @ the Y-junction and take the Bluebird Trail through the valley. Ouzel Creek will be to the left.

OUZ018

Location: 40.202379, -105.625217

Bear left @ the Y-junction, merging onto Ouzel Lake Trail.

OUZ019

Location: 40.199747, -105.631104

Ouzel Lake! A great spot to stop for lunch, or, if you're brave, to dip your toes in the chilly water. Beware for birds. The park service strongly advises against feeding wildlife. You may find some unexpected flying visitors who show interest in your sandwich.

Trailhead

Location: 40.208278, -105.566511

©MacKenzie Ryan

Lower Copeland Falls

Location: 40.205263, -105.571071

©MacKenzie Ryan

Upper Copeland Falls

Location: 40.205116, -105.571178

©MacKenzie Ryan

Pine Ridge Campsite

Location: 40.200412, -105.587411

©MacKenzie Ryan

Calypso Cascades

Location: 40.195889, -105.590372

©MacKenzie Ryan

Ouzel Falls

Location: 40.198708, -105.599384

©MacKenzie Ryan

Rock walls along the Bluebird Trail

Location: 40.201264, -105.606165

©MacKenzie Ryan

Ouzel Creek with view of Longs Peak

Location: 40.203428, -105.616293

©MacKenzie Ryan

Junction to Ouzel Lake Trail

Location: 40.202362, -105.624983

©MacKenzie Ryan

Stellar's Jay

Location: 40.19956, -105.631013

©MacKenzie Ryan

Ouzel Lake

Location: 40.199609, -105.631378

©MacKenzie Ryan