About Ouzel Falls, Calypso Cascades, and Copeland Falls
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 was accessed from the Wild Basin Trailhead near Allenspark.
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.
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
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).
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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