Ouzel Lake Trail

Ouzel Lake Trail

The Ouzel Lake Trail hike is located in the Wild Basin section of Rocky Mountain National Park. This section is on the southern side of the park and uses a separate entrance. The ten-mile, moderate to hard, out and back features several water features including a stream, cascade, falls and Ouzel Lake.

Getting Started

The Ouzel Lake trail starts off on the Wild Basin trail. This is a very popular trail that connects to several trails in the area and it can get very crowded. The Wild Basin trail starts in a heavily wooded area that travels next to the North St. Vrain creek. There are three small falls in the first half mile of the hike with some side trails that get you close to them.

The rocky trail next to the North St. Vrain creek at the beginning of the Ouzel Lake trail
One of three small falls (the Upper, Lower, and Copeland falls) at the start of the Ouzel Lake Trail

After the falls the trail will lead through the woods again for another mile or so. The trail is really wide on this section and easy to manage. The incline is modest at this point, never getting above 10% grade, so the hike is easier. At the mile and a half point you will run into your first trail junction. This junction is for the Thunder Lake Trail. Stay on Wild Basin to head to the first major water feature, the Calypso Cascade.

Tall pine trees line either side of the wide trail on the way to the Ouzel Lake Trail
The wide wooded trails at the start of the Wild Basin part of the Ouzel Lake Trail

Calypso Cascade

After the junction the Wild Basin trail has its first bit of incline. On the trip to the Cascade you will gain about 300 feet of elevation in six-tenths of a mile with grades reaching 15% of elevation. The short, steep section is worth it when you make it to the cascade.

The Cascade is pretty impressive although in the early winter it wasn’t flowing as much as I assume it would be during the spring melt. I would estimate that cascade starts about 100 feet above and the water, well cascades down. There is a small bridge that takes you across the cascade and it is really a beautiful stop along the trail.

The Finch and Pear Lake trails also intersect at the Calypso Cascade but to get to Ouzel you will want to cross the bridge and continue on. Next stop Ouzel Falls.

Ouzel Falls

Another mile down the road and you will find yourself at Ouzel Falls. The path to get to the falls is moderate with a couple of sections of incline but mostly it is pretty easy to handle. The falls appear behind a large bridge and I was a little disappointed by them so late in the season. There wasn’t much water while I was there but I could see the potential.

Ouzel Falls with some snow around the edges. The water is really low revealing logs and twigs interspersed with the rocks on the way to Ouzel Lake
A mostly dry Ouzel Falls on the Ouzel Lake trail.

The best part of the falls for me was that there were several large rocks around that were perfect for sitting and taking a break. This is about the half way point so a good spot to get some calories and possibly shed some layers.

Moving on from the falls and the trail takes on a different make up for a bit. There are some large boulders to walk around and for the first time you get a bit of an open air view of the area.

A rolling hill covered completely in evergreen trees. The first real open air sections of the Ouzel Lake Trail
A wide view of the wooded hills on the Ouzel Lake Trail

Four-tenths of a mile down the trail will be the junction where Wild Basin and Ouzel Lake split. Take the Ouzel Lake trail and get ready for a big incline.

Walking the Ridge

The next step in the trail is one that is worth it but it doesn’t seem like it at the time. As soon as the Ouzel Lake trail starts it gets steep. Three hundred feet of elevation in just a third of a mile with inclines as high as 20% grade. This was pretty tiring for me especially so far into the hike. However it leads to an amazing ridgeline walk with some of the best views of the hike.

trees line either side of the trail with a giant snow capped mountain in the background of the ridgeline section of the Ouzel Lake Trail
The start of the ridgeline portion of the Ouzel Lake Trail

This top ridge was one of my favorite parts of the hike. The trail is mostly flat for just over a mile. The walk is surrounded by trees with open views of the peaks of the park all around. It was really pretty amazing.

Snow capped mountains form a bowl at the end of the ridgeline portion of the Ouzel Lake Trail
Near the end of the Ridgeline portion of the Ouzel Lake Trail

After the mile long walk on the ridge the trail splits again. This time you will want to head downhill towards the woods. When I did this hike in early November, the top of the ridge was almost completely clear of snow while the wooded section had plenty.

Ouzel creek flowing while surrounded by relatively deep snow on the shadowed side of the Ouzel Lake Trail.
Ouzel Creek flowing despite the snow near the Ouzel Lake

From the time you head downhill on the ridge until the lake is only a half mile and it travels next to the Ouzel creek which makes for a really pretty walk.

Ouzel Lake

Ouzel Lake was one of my favorite alpine lakes I have been to. Part of the reason I liked it so much was that on the day I arrived, the lake was just starting to freeze but the water was crystal clear so I could see the bottom clearly through the ice.

Ouzel Lake frozen but clear enough to see the bottom with a single snowy peak in the distance.
Ouzel Lake

The lake is relatively large with plenty of shore space to enjoy the time. There are a couple of campsites near the lake for those who like to camp. The lake is surrounded by peaks as you start to walk around giving some really amazing views.

Ouzel lake with clear frozen sections near the shore and snow covered frozen sections near the middle of the lake. Mountains form 3 sides of the background.
Ouzel Lake

I really enjoyed my time at Ouzel Lake and also the small creek that flowed from the lake was beautiful as it was still flowing even while surrounded by snow.

THe Ouzel creek as it leaves the Ouzel Lake with snow around the banks of the creek.
Ouzel Creek as it meets Ouzel Lake

A great hike. A little on the challenging side at 10 miles and 1700 feet of elevation gain but if you can get past that I think you will really enjoy this slice of the Wild Basin.

Video of the Ouzel Lake Trail

I have put together a couple of videos of the hike. This first one is more of a narrative version of the hike:

Next up is a raw, time-lapse version of the hike that I like to call the hikers edit. The hikers edit is to give you a feel of what the trail itself looks like. If you enjoy either of these videos I would love it if you subscribe to my YouTube channel. It is free to subscribe and you will get notified when I upload new content.

Elevation and Distance

If you don’t have the AllTrails app you might want to check it out, I really love mine. It records your progress and is a great way to search for hikes that are nearby and gives you difficulty measurements. According to AllTrails today’s hike was around 10.60 miles and had a total elevation gain of about 1,732 feet including undulations. That put the high point at around 10,026 feet. I was also moving for a total of 4 hours and 48 minutes.

Effort

The Ouzel Lake trail is mostly gradual but there are sections with grades over 20% so there is some added effort. It is also a longer trail that covers over 10 miles roundtrip. In the winter there are sections that will only be accessible with snow shoes as well making for extra effort on this hike.

Terrain

The Ouzel lake trail terrain is similar of that of most of the hikes at Rocky Mountain National Park. Well defined trails with a lot of large rocks and roots to deal with. There are a couple of log bridges needed to cross some of the water features but otherwise nothing too technical.

Access

The Ouzel Lake Trail starts at the Wild Basin Trailhead complex of Rocky Mountain National Park. The Wild Basin section is located off of CO-7 near Allenspark. There are pit toilet facilities and parking for about 30 cars at the trailhead.

Wrapping up the Ouzel Lake Trail

I really enjoyed my time on the Ouzel Lake Trail. One of the things I liked so much was that there are good natural breaks to the hike. Even though it is ten miles round trip it didn’t feel that way because of the stops at the Cascade and the falls and the Ridgeline. Plus, Rocky Mountain is always an excellent place to hike.

Be mindful of the distance on this one. If you aren’t able to make it the whole 10 miles maybe a shorter version to the falls or the cascade will be nice. Plus the hike alternates between covered woods and the open air near the top so layers and sun protection will be needed even if it doesn’t seem that way at first.

This was my first time hiking the Wild Basin section of the Rocky Mountain National Park and I immediately started to plan my next hike there.

I have added this hike and all of my hikes to my interactive map page that you can find here. If you have a suggestion or comment you can email me at fatmanlittletrails@gmail.com or follow me on any of the below social media platforms. Happy Hiking!

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