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I am a New York-based writer, travel lover, and author of The Drive North and Destination Paranormal. I have several other books in the works, including fiction.

Hiking to Ouzel Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park


Ouzel Falls

I started hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park early in the morning with a friend. Our goal was to make Ouzel Falls from the Wild Basin trailhead. That was easily doable, considering it was only three miles away with an easy elevation gain of under 900 feet. We set a much more difficult secondary goal, which was dependent on how we felt once we made the falls.

Now, I say the elevation gain of less than 900 feet was easy because the incline was gentle and the trail shaded. Despite the warm summer temps, this makes it quite manageable for most any hiker. We saw families on their way up, senior citizens with hiking poles, and some folks who were in obviously no way prepared for a hike; they didn’t have a pack with water, snacks, or anything else should something happen.

The shaded trail to Ouzel Falls

The shaded trail to Ouzel Falls

Our first stop on the trail was to the tiny Copeland Falls. A short spur trail branches off from the main trail, leading hikers by the falls, and then reconnects with the main trail to continue on up to another set of falls.

Copeland Falls

Copeland Falls

After hiking nearly two miles, you’ll come to the 200-foot-tall Calypso Cascades. They’re a series of waterfalls tumbling down the mountainside in small trickles. It’s quite the beautiful spot, and completely different than the Copeland or Ouzel Falls.

The Calypso Cascade

The Calypso Cascade

At nearly 9,400 feet up in elevation, the Ouzel Falls are about a mile away from the cascade. In total, it’s less than three miles one way from the trailhead. And it’s worth every step. But all of those steps don’t quite get you there. When you’re facing the falls from the bridge spanning the creek, look for a hidden path to the left that will lead you right up to the falls.

Hiking close up to Ouzel Falls

Hiking close up to Ouzel Falls

The Ouzel Falls practically leap off the mountainside, as they make a giant splash down onto the rocks below. From there they turn left, and continue tumbling as they break apart on more rocks before slipping under the bridge. It’s a beautiful sight to see up close, and a fantastic spot to make for a picnic after hiking all of that way.

Will you be tired once you’ve made Ouzel Falls? It all depends on how you deal with the elevation – which isn’t the same for every person, and doesn’t always rely on your level of physical fitness – and how good you hike. I’ve been distracted with a lot of projects of late, and haven’t been great about making the gym. But neither my friend nor I were tired out after reaching the falls, so we decided to continue on.

The nearby view from Ouzel Falls

The nearby view from Ouzel Falls

There is a spectacular overlook just a few steps beyond the bridge over the falls. While we admired the view, we stopped to study the map to see just how far Ouzel Lake was from the falls. Two more miles? Ten total roundtrip? We both agreed that was doable, despite a total elevation gain of over 1,500 feet from the trailhead.

While the distance isn’t extreme – it’s only ten miles in total, after all – the hike to Ouzel Lake is difficult and should not be taken lightly. The elevation gain begins shortly after walking away from the falls, and is tackled in one big, difficult chunk. After that, it’s a long walk along a sun-exposed ridgeline for over a mile. The views here, right in the basin surrounded by so many amazing mountain peaks, are absolutely amazing. But it is also exhausting, especially on a hot day.

Hiking the ridgeline to Ouzel Lake

Hiking the ridgeline to Ouzel Lake

We battled the sun throughout this section of the trail, and oftentimes took cover in small patches of shade to rest. But while we were concerned with the heat, it wasn’t our top worry. Clouds moving in from the west looked big and dark; this means the potential for lightning. And when you’re the tallest thing on an open trail at 10,000 feet, that’s the last thing you want to encounter. Thankfully we were quick about making the lake, a relatively sheltered area.

The trail leading up to Ouzel Lake

The trail leading up to Ouzel Lake

The creek leading from Ouzel Lake

The creek leading from Ouzel Lake

The amazing view across Ouzel Lake

The amazing view across Ouzel Lake

The views are well worth the long hike to and from the lake. Just be sure you’re prepared with plenty of water, snacks, sunscreen, and any other necessary medical supplies should you take a tumble or encounter something big and ugly. Bear and moose frequent this part of the park, so encounters are possible. As a matter of fact, a woman was charged by a moose cow near the Calypso Cascade shortly before we arrived. So, be sure to stay safe, take the proper precautions, and know how to react should something happen. We did, and had a great time as a result.

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5 Comments on “Hiking to Ouzel Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park”

  1. henrymowry August 27, 2013 at 3:00 pm #

    Love this post! I’m going to basically reblog it tomorrow with my recommendation. I’m also starting a series on all 59 of the National Parks, and will link to your posts extensively, I am sure. Thank you for doing what you do!

    • Jason's Travels August 27, 2013 at 3:05 pm #

      Thanks for the note, Henry. I look forward to reading your posts about the national parks, some of my favorite places in the world.


  1. Hiking To Ouzel Lake: Rocky Mountain National Park | MowryJournal.com - August 28, 2013

    […] Go to his blog post, here. […]

  2. Capture the Color 2013 #CTC13 | Jason's Travels - September 9, 2013

    […] National Park create the same inspiration within me as the blue waters of Hawaii. I recently hiked the trails to Ouzel Lake, a small mountain lake just below tree-line on the south side of the park. The views of peaks […]

  3. Winter Is Almost Here | Jason's Travels - November 19, 2013

    […] the change of season comes an end to hiking. No more Rocky Mountain National Park. No more Waterton […]

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