Wild Basin Trailhead

Elevation: 8500 Feet

To reach the Wild Basin Trailhead from Estes Park, you will drive 12.6 miles south on Colorado Highway 7 to the Wild Basin Road junction and turn right.

Continue driving for .4 miles and you will make a right to turn into the park. The Wild Basin Trailhead is located approximately 2.2 from the park turnoff. You will be driving on a gravel road, but any 2-wheel drive vehicle will be fine.

Trip Information

Our itinerary consisted of 4 days and 3 nights of backpacking and camping.  On day 1, we hiked the 5 miles from the Wild Basin Trailhead to Ouzel Lake; where we will be campsite for nights 1 and 2.

For day 3, we hiked 2 miles and climbed 1500 feet in elevation from Ouzel Lake to Upper Ouzel Falls.  On day 4 we hiked back approximately 7 miles to the Wild Basin trailhead from Upper Ouzel Falls.

In this guide we will share what we packed, details of the hikes, and our experience hiking and camping at Ouzel Lake.

Hike to Ouzel Falls

Lower Copeland Falls

  • 2.7 miles one way (5.4 miles roundtrip)

After we finished packing up our packs with our gear, we set out to reach our first destination of the hike, Ouzel Falls.  There are several beautiful stops on the way to Ouzel Falls.  The first area of which is Copeland Falls, which is just 0.3 miles from the Wild Basin Trailhead.

After you reach Copeland Falls, you will continue on the trailhead for another 1.5 miles to reach Calypso Cascades.

Calypso Cascades

Calypso Cascades

  • Distance: 3.6 Miles Round-Trip
  • Elevation Gain: 8500 Feet

Calypso Cascades are a series of small waterfalls approximately 1.8 miles from the Wild Basin Trailhead. The cascades get their name from the Calypso Orchids that line Cony Creek in Rocky Mountain National Park.

As you continue on the trail, in 0.9 miles you will reach the majestic Ouzel Falls.

Ouzel Falls

Ouzel Falls

  • 2.7 miles one way (5.4 miles roundtrip)

The magnificent 40′ Ouzel Falls is a great day hike at just 5.8 miles round trip. Ouzel Falls is named after the Ouzel or Water-Dipper, the only songbird that lives primary in water. You can walk right up near the top of the falls which makes for a great opportunity, but be sure to exercise caution as your approach the falls.

You can return back to the Wild Basin trailhead by turning around and hiking back the 2.7 miles from which you came. Or, you can continue another 2.2 miles to Ouzel Lake.

Hike to Ouzel Lake

Ouzel Lake

  • 5.4 miles from Wild Basin Trailhead (9.9 miles roundtrip)
  • Elevation: 9370 Ft

To reach Ouzel Lake from Ouzel Falls you are pretty much following Ouzel Creek. After you hike about a quarter mile past Ouzel Falls you will approach the Thunder Lake Trail/Bluebird Lake junction. You will want to stay left as you continue another 1.7 miles.

When you are about 3.5 miles away from the Wild Basin trailhead, you will notice the charred remains from the Ouzel Fire of August 9th, 1978. The fire was started by a lightning strike, and because it was considered a low-risk zone of the national park, the fire was allowed to continue burning.  However, 5 weeks later there was a powerful windstorm that spread the fire. The fire burned out of control for several months until the fire was finally put out on December 4th, 1978.

After descending down into the valley, you will reach the final gradual ascent towards Ouzel Lake. As you hike, you will notice the new pine forest growth that is in the process of regenerating from the Ouzel Fire of 1978.

At a total distance of 4.6 miles from the trailhead, will reach the magnificent Ouzel Lake. Ouzel lake is approximately 10,200 feet above sea level and is considered one of the best places to fly fish. Especially the native greenback cutthroat trout. Please keep in mind that it is only catch and release, and that a fishing permit is required.

Camping at Ouzel Lake

Right before you reach Ouzel Lake, there is a sign for the Ouzel Lake campground. You will ascend up a short trail and will reach the campground. There are several important things to know about the campground in advance of your trip:

  • You are required to have a permit to camp at Ouzel Lake
    • To get a permit, you can call the park at (970) 586-1206 and ask for the availability of a camping permit at Ouzel Lake.
  • You are required to use bear canisters from April 1st – October 31
    • Keep your canisters away from the campsite to discourage wildlife from venturing into the campground
  • There is only an outdoor privy to go to the bathroom
    • Bring a trowel so you can dig a hole to go to the bathroom if you don’t want to use the privy. The smell was pretty rough when we visited.
  • You will need to boil or filter the stream water to get clean drinking water.
    • There is no access to clean water at the campsite, so make sure you have a stove and fuel to boil the water or a good water filter to ensure you have enough for the trip.
  • Bring medicine in case of altitude sickness
    • 2 members of our party suffered from altitude sickness on the trip, one being our experienced trail guide. I recommend bringing some headache relief medicine to help relieve your headache if you get altitude sickness.


Camping Ouzel Lake

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