Ouzel Falls

      by Gordon S. Novak Jr.

Ouzel Falls is an excellent starter hike for the whole family. It involves 2.8 miles of moderate hiking and isn't at too high an altitude. It provides three destinations in one hike, as well as going through lovely country with streams, wildflowers, and forests.

The hike begins at the Wild Basin ranger station, 12 miles south of Estes Park on Highway 7. Half a mile up the trail is Copeland Falls on the North St. Vrain Creek. There are two falls here, the upper one a hundred yards upstream. This area also abounds with wildflowers.

The trail continues upward, following the stream for another third of a mile before crossing over a powerful falls on a rustic bridge.

Beyond the bridge, the trail continues somewhat steeply up the side of a ridge above the creek to Calypso Cascades. Now the trail turns right and heads away from the creek and through forest.

Soon the trail enters an area that was burned in the 1978 Ouzel Lake fire. This fire started small and was thought to be self-contained, but later it flared up, spread down the valley, and threatened cabins near Highway 7. Some regrowth is evident in this area, but it still appears more burned than restored, a quarter-century after the fire.

After the burned area, the trail turns and makes several switchbacks as it makes the final climb to Ouzel Falls. When the sound of the falls can be heard, it is only a few hundred yards more. A final nearly-level stretch of trail leads to the falls. Look for the ouzel, a small bird that dives into the streams and "flies" underwater to find insects on the bottom. The falls is visible from a bridge on the trail, and a small side trail can be used to get a better view. This is a fine falls, about 30 feet high with a good volume of water, producing a spray mist that drifts over the area and adds to the ambience.

Time from start to Ouzel Falls: 1:20. Time to return: 1:00. Water consumed: 1/2 quart per adult.

Rocky Mountain National Park: The High Peaks