Ouzel Lake Hike in Rocky Mountain National Park - Day Hikes Near Denver

July 15, 2016 Comments (0) 9+ Miles, About 90 Min, Fishing, hikes near estes park, Lakes, Medium, Rocky Mountain National Park

Ouzel Lake Hike in Rocky Mountain National Park

ouzel lake rocky mountain national park header

Ouzel Lake is nestled in an expansive valley in the Wild Basin, and is one of the better fishing destinations in Rocky Mountain National Park. It’s a moderate, 4.9 mile, creekside hike that passes several beautiful cascade waterfalls, including one of our favorites, Ouzel Falls. Combine the hike to Ouzel Lake with an overnight, and a journey to the shores Bluebird Lake. Explore the full Ouzel Lake hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more tips and details to help you enjoy this adventure in Rocky Mountain National Park.


Trail Snapshot: Ouzel Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

  • Hike Distance: 9.8 miles Round Trip
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Duration: Approx 5-7 hr Round Trip
  • Trail Type: Out and Back
  • Starting Elevation: 8566′
  • Elevation Gain: Approx. +1510′
  • Seasons: Spring through Fall
  • Dogs: Dogs Prohibited in RMNP
  • Hike Trail Map: Click for a Map of Ouzel Lake RMNP
  • Denver Drive Time: 1 hr 30 min
  • Driving Directions to Wild Basin Trailhead: Click for Google Map
  • Driving Directions to Winter Recreation Parking for Wild Basin Hikes: Click for Google Map
  • Town Nearest Hike: Allenspark, Colorado
  • Beauty: Lake, alpine tundra, waterfall, mountain views, meadows, river, wildlife: Abert’s squirrel, elk, deer, moose, bear; wildflowers.
  • Activities: Fly fishing, picnicking, hiking trails, snowshoeing, horseback riding, backcountry camping (with a permit), photography
  • Fee: Park Pass Required


Parking & Trailhead Information for Ouzel Lake

The southeast corner of Rocky Mountain National Park boasts one of the loveliest portions in the park known as the Wild Basin. The Wild Basin Trailhead is located just 15 minutes outside of Allenspark, Colorado along Highway 115. There is a ranger station at at the Wild Basin Trailhead with toilets and drinking water available.

In the winter (October-May), Hwy 115 may not be plowed to the trailhead, and hikers will need to park their vehicles at a winter parking lot for Wild Basin hikes. Be aware that hikes from the winter parking lot add on another 3 miles of hiking (one-way). There are other small parking areas, like the Finch Lake Trailhead, that may be accessible and allow hikers to park closer to the Wild Basin Trailhead. It’s important to know that Hwy 115, though titled a “highway”, is a maintained dirt road, which means that it can be used by 2WD vehicles. However, after heavy rains and other severe weather, its quality may degrade until it is repaired. 4WD may be needed when snow is on the ground.



The Hike: Ouzel Lake Trail in RMNP

It’s 4.9 miles one-way to Ouzel Lake. The trail begins at the Wild Basin Trailhead, and takes hikers through the central area of the Wild Basin, past three cascade waterfalls: Copeland Falls, Calypso Cascades, and Ouzel Falls.

The first waterfall, Copeland Falls, is just 0.4 mile into the hike on this first, easy segment of trail. For details on accessing both the lower and upper leaps of Copeland Falls, check out our full trail profile for Copeland Falls.

The path follows North Saint Vrain Creek until it encounters a first trail junction. The trail to the right leads past a series of backcountry campsites. These are reservable through the Rocky Mountain National Park Wilderness offices and make for a great place to stay for longer adventures into the Wild Basin area. The left-hand trail is the correct way towards the Bluebird Lake trail system and Ouzel Lake.

Having taken the left-hand trail, hikers cross a large log bridge spanning North St. Vrain Creek. Pause when you hear the sounds of an unnamed cascade that can be viewed from the bridge area. Soon after the bridge, the trail meets with a second trail junction at Calypso Cascades. Taking the right-hand trail, the cascades (named after the purple orchids that grow along the creek) come into view. The path crosses a second bridge at 1.8 miles, then things begin to get more challenging, as the trail weaves through a set of switchbacks to Ouzel Falls at 2.7 miles.

ouzel falls rocky mountain national park header

Ouzel Falls on a Wet Spring Day – Courtesy of Chris Heald

After about 0.4 mile past Ouzel Falls, the trail comes to a junction with the Bluebird Lake trail, 3.1 miles into the hike. The way to Ouzel Lake takes the Bluebird Trail (left). This final 1.8 segment of the hike to Ouzel Lake gains a ridgeline and becomes more demanding. It’s a desolate segment of trail, charred by a fire in 1978. However, wildflowers make their way up through the barren landscape, and the surrounding mountain peaks come into full view due to the few trees left by the burn.

At 4.5 miles, there is a marked trail spur that leads to Ouzel Lake, bending its way around a small pond to Ouzel’s northwestern shore. At the lake, you’ll find more trees and a lot of marshland–and marsh = mosquitos, so be sure to bring repellant. If you are looking to try some deet-free repellant, we have had some great luck with a lemon-ecualyptus repellant made by repel. The fishing up at Ouzel Lake is great! Of course, a Colorado State fishing license is required.

Tips & Resources for Hiking to Ouzel Lake in RMNP

  • Camp + Hike + Fish: Reserve one of the two backcountry camping sites along the Bluebird Trail to spend some time fishing Ouzel Lake and exploring the other destinations along the trail: Bluebird Lake, a waterfall between them, Lark Pond, and Pipit Lake. Contact the RMNP Wilderness Offices to reserve a site.
  • Summer Thunderstorms: If you see clouds with dark undersides building in the west, this means that thunderstorms are likely–a typical occurrence on most summer days. Begin hikes early to avoid storms and consider turning back if weather looks threatening.
  • Get there early: Parking may be somewhat limited as with many hikes in RMNP area and can get full even early in the morning.
  • You’re in Bear Country: Black Bears live in the Wild Basin area and are active on the months of April through November. Be aware, and dispose of your food responsibly.
  • Trail Map for Wild Basin Area: Trail Map Link
  • Packing List: Always pack the 10 Essentials. Download our Hiking Guide to get list and dayhiking packing checklist.
  • Food Storage: There are food storage lockers available at the Wild Basin, Finch Lake, and Sandbeach Lake Trailheads. These are required for visitors staying overnight. Backcountry campers are required to use bear resistant food containers.
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • Photo: We would like to express our gratitude to Ed Ogle for sharing such an amazing photograph of this hike to Ouzel Lake in RMNP.
  • After the Hike: Meadow Mountain Cafe


Weather

Allenspark, CO
37°
partly cloudy
86% humidity
wind: 4mph NW
H 63 • L 35
67°
Thu
64°
Fri
58°
Sat

Map & Driving Directions


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