Ouzel Falls, Calypso Cascades, and Copeland Falls

Rocky Mountain National Park / Wild River Basin / Allenspark, Colorado, USA

About Ouzel Falls, Calypso Cascades, and Copeland Falls


Hiking Distance: about 5.8 miles round trip
Suggested Time: 2.5-3.5 hours

Date first visited: 2020-07-28
Date last visited: 2020-07-28

Waterfall Latitude: 40.19897
Waterfall Longitude: -105.60079

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Ouzel Falls was the main waterfall that I targeted on a hike that encompassed at least two or three other waterfalls in the Wild Basin section of Rocky Mountain National Park.

This southeastern part of the reserve near Allenspark felt different from its main parts closer to Estes Park, and it even had a separate entrance gate.

Ouzel_Falls_hike_176_07282020 - Ouzel Falls
Ouzel Falls

Besides the superficial differences that I noticed about my Ouzel Falls hike experience, I suspect that the Wild Basin section of Rocky Mountain National Park featured a more humid climate than what we had experienced closer to Estes Park.

In fact, most of the terrain in the Wild Basin were subalpine forest, which contained dense groves of trees, further made it easier for the basin to retain snow deep into Summer.

Such moisture gave rise to several waterfalls in the area though in the Ouzel Falls hike I’m describing here, I managed to see the Lower Copeland Falls, the Upper Copeland Falls, and the Calypso Cascades.

All these waterfalls preceded the 40ft Ouzel Falls though I could have pursued other waterfalls and lakes by extending this 5.4-mile round-trip hike.

Ouzel_Falls_hike_001_07282020 - The somewhat remote Wild Basin Trailhead at the start of the Ouzel Falls hike was surprisingly busy even though this picture was taken before 6am!
The somewhat remote Wild Basin Trailhead at the start of the Ouzel Falls hike was surprisingly busy even though this picture was taken before 6am!

Overall, I got an early start and spent about 3 hours on this trail under some relatively comfortable conditions.

Basically, I enjoyed the crispness and relative quiet (i.e. easy to socially distance and pay attention to wildlife) of the cool morning on the way to Ouzel Falls.

Then, I had a pretty easy time going downhill on the return hike when both the morning sun and the amount of foot traffic intensified.

Hiking from the Wild Basin Trailhead to Copeland Falls

Starting from the surprisingly busy Wild Basin Trailhead (especially since I arrived before 6am when I did this hike), I then followed the Thunder Lake Pack Trail.

Ouzel_Falls_hike_020_07282020 - The Lower Copeland Falls
The Lower Copeland Falls

This trail pretty much followed along North St Vrain Creek for a good distance.

However, barely about 0.4 miles from the Wild Basin Trailhead, I reached a signed fork in the trail, which was labeled Copeland Falls.

Just to the left of this sign was another fork that was right besides North St Vrain Creek.

I briefly went downstream by a few steps, which led me to a somewhat frontal view of the wide 10-15ft Lower Copeland Falls.

Ouzel_Falls_hike_037_07282020 - Looking towards the cascading Upper Copeland Falls
Looking towards the cascading Upper Copeland Falls

After having my fill of this waterfall, I then followed the side trail back upstream past the sign and to the Upper Copeland Falls, which was a series of rushing stepped waterfalls.

Since these waterfalls were each a bit on the small side, the pictures didn’t seem to do them justice.

Nevertheless, it was worth doing this 0.2-mile detour, especially since this side trail rejoined the Thunder Lake Pack Trail further upstream of the Upper Copeland Falls with no need to backtrack to the sign to resume the longer hike.

Hiking from Copeland Falls to the Calypso Cascades

The Thunder Lake Pack Trail continued to follow the north bank of North St Vrain Creek with some light elevation gain.

Ouzel_Falls_hike_077_07282020 - The Thunder Lake Pack Trail followed the North St Vrain Creek for a good stretch before crossing this creek at a footbridge further upstream
The Thunder Lake Pack Trail followed the North St Vrain Creek for a good stretch before crossing this creek at a footbridge further upstream

It would continue in this manner for about the next mile where I kept left at a trail junction and then continued in a more southerly direction as the trail crossed North St Vrain Creek over a footbridge.

Beyond the footbridge, the trail climbed more noticeably for the next 0.2 miles or so where I heard more minor cascades on the rushing North St Vrain Creek.

In another 0.2 miles, the climb eventually flattened out at a signed trail junction with the Allens Park-Wild Basin Trail.

It was at this junction that I kept to the right and went across three footbridges over segments of Cony Creek.

Ouzel_Falls_hike_117_07282020 - Using the railing from the bridge over Cony Creek to take a long exposure shot of the Calypso Cascades
Using the railing from the bridge over Cony Creek to take a long exposure shot of the Calypso Cascades

Upon standing on these footbridges, that was when I was able to look upstream at the Calypso Cascades, where it was easy to use the railings on the bridge as sort of a MacGuyver’d tripod to take long exposure photos of this waterfall.

To this point, I had gone about 2 miles and it took me a little over an hour to get here.

Hiking from the Calypso Cascades to Ouzel Falls

Beyond the footbridges for the Calypso Cascades, the Wild Basin Trail meandered along with minimal elevation gain for the next 0.3 miles before the trail then began its next round of climbing.

This climb involved a handful of curves and switchbacks for the next half-mile or so as it went alongside Ouzel Creek.

Ouzel_Falls_hike_131_07282020 - Context of the trail to Ouzel Falls with what I think might be Longs Peak way in the distance
Context of the trail to Ouzel Falls with what I think might be Longs Peak way in the distance

Towards the top of this climb, the trail flattened out once again before arriving at a footbridge over Ouzel Creek.

While I started to notice somewhat unsatisfying distant views of Ouzel Falls from just before this footbridge, I noticed an unmarked use-trail that continued further upstream to get closer to that waterfall.

When I got to the end of the use-trail, I managed to get a somewhat obstructed frontal view of the gushing Ouzel Falls (thanks to a large boulder that apparently blocked the views of the base of the falls).

I’m sure there might be ways to improve the view of Ouzel Falls than what was presented at the end of the trail, but the amount of mist thrown around and wetting the boulders here made me reconsider.

Ouzel_Falls_hike_195_07282020 - Partial view of Ouzel Falls shortly after starting the hike up the unmarked use-trail leading closer to its base from before the footbridge over Ouzel Creek
Partial view of Ouzel Falls shortly after starting the hike up the unmarked use-trail leading closer to its base from before the footbridge over Ouzel Creek

Instead, I noticed a rock outcrop slightly downstream, which yielded an angled yet more open view of Ouzel Falls.

Once I had my fill of Ouzel Falls from this vantage point, I then returned the way I came.

While I’ve seen this hike reported to be about 5.4 miles round-trip, according to my trip logs, I actually hiked 5.8 miles round-trip.

So I’d imagine that my detour to Copeland Falls as well as the unmarked use-trail to get closer to the base of Ouzel Falls must have accounted for the missing 0.4 miles.

Authorities

Ouzel Falls resides in the Rocky Mountain National Park near the town of Allenspark in Boulder County, Colorado. It is administered by the National Park Service. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.

Ouzel_Falls_hike_006_07282020 - Signs at the trailhead for the Ouzel Falls hike, which was mostly along the Thunder Lake Pack Trail
Ouzel_Falls_hike_008_07282020 - It was a nice, cool, and quiet morning when I had my early start on the Ouzel Falls hike
Ouzel_Falls_hike_010_07282020 - Continuing along the Thunder Lake Pack Trail in the early morning
Ouzel_Falls_hike_013_07282020 - Approaching the signed trail junction for Copeland Falls
Ouzel_Falls_hike_014_07282020 - Heading briefly downhill along North St Vrain Creek towards the Lower Copeland Falls
Ouzel_Falls_hike_022_07282020 - Looking directly towards the Lower Copeland Falls
Ouzel_Falls_hike_026_07282020 - Another look at the wide Lower Copeland Falls
Ouzel_Falls_hike_027_07282020 - Continuing up the side trail alongside North St Vrain Creek en route to the Upper Copeland Falls
Ouzel_Falls_hike_029_07282020 - Context of the side trail alongside North St Vrain Creek with Upper Copeland Falls up ahead
Ouzel_Falls_hike_034_07282020 - Focused look at the two-tiered stepping drops of the Upper Copeland Falls
Ouzel_Falls_hike_040_07282020 - More contextual look directly upstream at Upper Copeland Falls from a rocky outcrop
Ouzel_Falls_hike_050_07282020 - Closer look at the main drops of the Upper Copeland Falls
Ouzel_Falls_hike_059_07282020 - Continuing on the wider but rocky main trail for Ouzel Falls after the side trail for Copeland Falls had rejoined it
Ouzel_Falls_hike_060_07282020 - Context of North St Vrain Creek alongside the main trail leading to Ouzel Falls
Ouzel_Falls_hike_061_07282020 - Horse scat on the trail confirmed that the Thunder Lake Trail was indeed a stock trail
Ouzel_Falls_hike_063_07282020 - The Thunder Lake Trail pretty much stuck with the North St Vrain Creek
Ouzel_Falls_hike_067_07282020 - Passing by a group of hikers, which were one of the few people that I encountered on the morning of my Ouzel Falls hike
Ouzel_Falls_hike_068_07282020 - Continuing to follow the Thunder Lake Pack Trail alongside the North St Vrain Creek
Ouzel_Falls_hike_075_07282020 - Passing by some large boulders along the Thunder Lake Pack Trail
Ouzel_Falls_hike_080_07282020 - Continuing amongst some tall trees flanking the Thunder Lake Pack Trail
Ouzel_Falls_hike_085_07282020 - Passing by some more large boulders while pursuing the Ouzel Falls along the Thunder Lake Trail
Ouzel_Falls_hike_087_07282020 - Approaching the footbridge traversing North St Vrain Creek
Ouzel_Falls_hike_090_07282020 - Looking upstream from the footbridge over North St Vrain Creek
Ouzel_Falls_hike_094_07282020 - Beyond the footbridge, the trail started to climb in earnest above North St Vrain Creek
Ouzel_Falls_hike_095_07282020 - Context of the climbing trail and North St Vrain Creek after the footbridge
Ouzel_Falls_hike_098_07282020 - The trail to Ouzel Falls continuing to climb after having crossed the footbridge
Ouzel_Falls_hike_100_07282020 - Looking down towards some intermediate cascade on North St Vrain Creek during the climb beyond the footbridge en route to Ouzel Falls
Ouzel_Falls_hike_107_07282020 - Looking across a couple of the footbridges traversing Cony Creek in front of the Calypso Cascades
Ouzel_Falls_hike_118_07282020 - Looking towards Calypso Cascades from the first of its footbridges
Ouzel_Falls_hike_122_07282020 - Focused on a different segment of Cony Creek and the Calypso Cascades from one of the latter footbridges going over it
Ouzel_Falls_hike_123_07282020 - Getting passed by this fast-hiking couple, which was only time I was passed during my Ouzel Falls hike
Ouzel_Falls_hike_134_07282020 - Looking back at a hiker who was returning from Ouzel Falls. Clearly he must have gotten a much earlier start than I did
Ouzel_Falls_hike_140_07282020 - Looking in the distance towards what I think might be Longs Peak from the Ouzel Falls hike as it was climbing alongside Ouzel Creek
Ouzel_Falls_hike_146_07282020 - The trail to Ouzel Falls taking a short breather from the climbing before resuming its climbing up ahead
Ouzel_Falls_hike_155_07282020 - Catching up to this pair of women as the trail continued to climb en route to Ouzel Falls
Ouzel_Falls_hike_159_07282020 - Approaching the footbridge over Ouzel Creek
Ouzel_Falls_hike_163_07282020 - Before reaching the footbridge, I spotted an unmarked trail leading closer to Ouzel Falls. This was the look back towards the bridge from that unmarked trail
Ouzel_Falls_hike_169_07282020 - At the end of the unmarked trail, I managed to get this view of Ouzel Falls
Ouzel_Falls_hike_171_07282020 - Another look at Ouzel Falls where large boulders seemed to make this waterfall appear smaller than it really was
Ouzel_Falls_hike_187_07282020 - Looking at Ouzel Falls from a more open outcrop that I managed to scramble to just before the end of the unmarked trail
Ouzel_Falls_hike_201_07282020 - Looking back at a partial view of Ouzel Falls from closer to the footbridge over Ouzel Creek
Ouzel_Falls_hike_207_07282020 - Crossing over this small creek on the way back to the Wild Basin Trailhead after having my fill of Ouzel Falls
Ouzel_Falls_hike_209_07282020 - Unfortunately, death is a part of the cycle of life, and I noticed this rotting bird or squirrel (couldn't tell) while hiking back from Ouzel Falls
Ouzel_Falls_hike_211_07282020 - The nice thing about the return hike from Ouzel Falls was that it was mostly downhill
Ouzel_Falls_hike_214_07282020 - Making it back to the footbridges before the Calypso Cascades
Ouzel_Falls_hike_224_07282020 - Looking up at this tree where a bird with an orange belly was doing its thing along the Ouzel Falls hike
Ouzel_Falls_hike_228_07282020 - On the home stretch towards the end of the Ouzel Falls hike along the Thunder Lakes Trail where I encountered many people going the other way
Ouzel_Falls_hike_230_07282020 - Finally making it to the Wild Basin Trailhead to end the Ouzel Falls hike

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Ouzel Falls was accessed from the Wild Basin Trailhead near Allenspark.

I’ll describe how I got here both from Boulder (where we were staying) as well as Estes Park (which was the Gateway Town to Rocky Mountain National Park).

Driving from Estes Park to the Wild Basin Trailhead

From Estes Park, I would head east on North St Vrain Ave then turn right at the light onto the CO-7.

Longs_Peak_001_07282020 - On the route between Estes Park and Allenspark, I managed to get this view of Longs Peak, which was said to be the highest peak in Rocky Mountain National Park
On the route between Estes Park and Allenspark, I managed to get this view of Longs Peak, which was said to be the highest peak in Rocky Mountain National Park

I’d then follow the CO-7 for about 13 miles to the turnoff for the County Road 84 leading to the Wild Basin section of Rocky Mountain National Park.

Once on this road, I followed it for about 0.4-mile before veering right at a signed fork for the Wild Basin Area, where there’s also an entrance kiosk shortly thereafter.

From there, I continued on the 2wd unpaved county road for the final 2.1 miles leading to the Wild Basin Trailhead at the end of the road.

Overall, this 16-mile drive would take around a half-hour.

Driving from Boulder to the Wild Basin Trailhead

Boulder_001_07262020 - We had been staying in Boulder during our time visiting Rocky Mountain National Park so we had to drive a bit further than if we had been staying in Estes Park
We had been staying in Boulder during our time visiting Rocky Mountain National Park so we had to drive a bit further than if we had been staying in Estes Park

From Boulder, I followed the Route 7 north through North Boulder for about 3.5 miles.

It eventually joined up with the US36, where I then continued north for almost another 11 miles to a three-way intersection.

Turning left to remain on the US36 towards Lyons, I then drove another 1.5 miles before turning left onto the CO-7.

I then followed this winding road for about 21 miles to the signed turnoff for the County Road 84 on the left (roughly 2 miles past Allenspark).

Ouzel_Falls_hike_235_07282020 - The busy Wild Basin Trailhead Parking Lot
The busy Wild Basin Trailhead Parking Lot

Once on the County Road 84, I followed this road to the end roughly 2.5 miles from where I left the CO-7 to the Wild Basin Trailhead.

Overall, this 40-mile drive would take around an hour.

For context, Estes Park was about 37 miles (about an hour drive without delays) northwest of Boulder, 41 miles (over an hour drive) west of Fort Collins, 47 miles (about 90 minutes drive with tolls required) northeast of Grand Lake, 65 miles (about 1.5 hours drive without delays) northwest of Denver, and 173 miles (under 2 hours drive) southwest of Cheyenne, Wyoming.

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Checking out the Lower Copeland Falls


Sweep from downstream to upstream covering the Upper Copeland Falls from a couple of different spots


Examining the Calypso Cascades from all three bridges


Brief sweep of the Ouzel Falls from the end of the spur trail though it was blocked by a big boulder at its base


Back and forth sweep from a rock outcrop that probably yielded the best view of Ouzel Falls


Downstream to upstream sweep of Ouzel Falls from well downstream revealing more intermediate cascades before the profile of the main waterfall

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Tagged with: allenspark, colorado, boulder county, wild basin, rocky mountain national park



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Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of the award-winning A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
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