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Ouzel Falls (G.1 to B.4)

Description:  A hike to Ouzel Falls on the Wild Basin Trail is the perfect outing for families or couples looking for an enjoyable, and dare I say it, romantic hike combined with a picnic or relaxing day in Rocky Mountain National Park.  It meanders along the tumbling North St. Vrain and Ouzel Creeks, passing two beautiful cascade falls as it climbs toward Bluebird Lake and Isolation Peak in NW Boulder County.  There are few times when one cannot hear the sound of rushing or falling water along the trail.  Wild Basin is a very well maintained trail that just about everyone can enjoy.  The day I hiked there were families with small children who chose to picnic along side Copeland Falls, just 0.3 miles up the trail.  Further on, couples were relaxing around the twin bridges crossing the Cony Creek with great views of Calypso Cascades at 1.8 miles.  Beyond Cony Creek the trail steepens as it ascends toward Ouzel Creek and ultimately Ouzel Falls at 2.7 miles, but I found many families and groups making their way either to or from the falls on a busy Sunday afternoon.  Beyond Ouzel Falls the trail continues toward Ouzel Lake and then Bluebird Lake.  Regardless of how far you decide to hike you will not be disappointed as there are great views all along the trail.  Also, there are many, many great places to relax and picnic along the park road as you drive to the trailhead.  Consider taking a lunch or other meal and enjoying the park's benefits before and after your hike.

American Dipper, or Ouzel - not by author

What's an Ouzel?  I had no idea what an Ouzel was until on a trip to Salida, CO and a hike to nearby Brown Creek Falls my friend and I spotted a small bird diving into the water near the base of the falls.  Intrigued by this I did some research after returning and discovered it was an American Dipper, also known as an Ouzel.  Apparently, they have an extra eyelid and scales that prevent the intake of water so they can hunt for insect larva, tadpoles and other submerged food.  Look for them near the cascades as you hike.  There ya go.  You can't make this stuff up!

Difficulty: Very Easy (G.1) to Intermediate (B.4), Up To 5.4 Miles, Up To 1,100' Elevation, 1.5 to 4 Hours.  The first 1.5 miles of Wild Basin to the bridge crossing the N. St. Vrain is smooth, broad, gradual and very manageable.   Once across the bridge the trail steepens noticeably to Calypso Cascades, drops for a while and then begins an earnest ascent to Ouzel Falls.  However, none of it will be too strenuous for anyone who is in good health and reasonably good shape.  The short round trip to Copeland Falls earns our easiest rating of G.1.  Continuing to the first bridge, a 3.0 mile round trip is a moderately easy G.2.  Only the full 5.4 mile out and back to Ouzel Falls puts this hike into the lower intermediate category at B.4, mainly due to 600' of elevation gain over the final 1.2 miles, most of them at over 9,000'.

Driving Directions:  Wild Basin Ranger Station, Rocky Mountain National Park, County Highway 115, Allenspark, CO 80510.  About an hour drive from downtown Boulder.  Take Broadway north to US-36 and turn left toward Lyons.  Just before Lyons at the traffic light turn left to stay on US-36 into downtown Lyons.  Turn left just past downtown onto CO-7 and follow signs for Allenspark, in about 21 miles.  Stay on CO-7 past the turn off for Allenspark for another 2.0 miles or so.  Look for a large brown sign indicating a left turn for Wild Basin.  Just past the sign turn left onto County Rd. 84.  After you pass the Wild Basin Lodge you will see County Rd. 115 to the right and the entrance station to Wild Basin.  Google Map directions here...

Parking and Trailhead: You will need to buy a RMNP pass for your vehicle if you do not already have one.  Current fee rates for the park can be found on the RMNP website here.  Once through the gate continue on County Rd. 115 for 2.3 miles to the Wild Basin parking area.  If the lot is full there are many places along the road to park as well as picnic.  The trailhead is in the south east corner of the parking area and well signed.

Click image for Ouzel Falls detail on Google Maps

Click image for Ouzel Falls detail on Google Maps

Trail Guide:  Check out the map board at the trailhead for any notifications and then head across the small bridge onto the Wild Basin Trail.  Shortly you will come to a wooden sign board with distance information to Ouzel Falls, Calypso Cascades and Copeland Falls.  Follow the trail for 0.3 miles to another wooden sign that identifies you are at the beginning of Copeland Falls.  There is a trail that runs down to the water where you can see the last falls which is a must.  Copeland is really a series of falls and there is a trail that runs along the creek parallel to Wild Basin here you will want to take so you can see all the falls.  It will then join back up with Wild Basin and you can proceed up the main trail.  At the 1.5 mark you will come across an impressive wooden bridge across the N. St. Vrain with some nice views of smaller cascades.  Rest here and catch your breath as the trail starts to climb more aggressively after you cross.  At 1.8 miles you will meet the Allenspark - Finch Lake - Pear Lake Trail at the twin bridges across Calypso Cascades.  Turn right to cross the bridges, making a mental note that on your return you will turn left just past the bridges.  Beyond Calypso the trail drops a bit and then starts an earnest climb to Ouzel Falls.  For a while on this trail you will not be close to any water, but will have some nice views of the peaks of Mt. Meeker and Long's to the northwest.  Soon you will start to hear the sound of rushing water signaling your imminent arrival at Ouzel Falls.  Rest and enjoy!  Return the way you came, remembering to turn left just past the twin bridges at Calypso.

Map Resources: EveryTrail Map, US Forest Service (Allenspark) Topo Map

Après Hike: Where do you find berries?  Along a mountain stream of course!  Where else can you find berries? In Wild Woods Brewery's Berry Patch Wheat!  Wild Woods is one of the newer micros in Boulder and they are certainly making a splash with their beers.  I highly advise you to try one of their samplers as I generally can't decide which of their craft beers I favor the most!  They are located at 5460 Conestoga Ct., Boulder, CO  80301.

Picnicking: Awesome spots all along County Rd. 115 as you head to the Wild Basin Ranger Station.

Restrooms:  At trailhead.

Dog Friendly: Dogs are not permitted on RMNP trails.

Cell Service: No.