With school recently completed, I was able to take some time to fly out West and reconnect with the Rocky Mountains. This is a trip I’ve taken several times before and documented my visits in 2013 and 2014 on this website. As I gain about 7,000 feet of elevation between home and the national park entrance, I always like to start with a fairly easy hike to help with the altitude acclimatization.
This year, I chose Ouzel Falls, a short hike with only moderate elevation gain and a maximum altitude under 10,000 feet. It provided an excellent entry point for my lungs to readjust to hiking in diminished air pressure while still providing an immersive experience into the natural beauty that is the Rockies. What’s more, I was able share this first hike with my mother and father who had been spending the summer working at the YMCA of the Rockies, just outside the national park.
The trail starts at the Wild Basin trailhead and runs West along North St. Vrain Creek. On the way to Ouzel Falls, hikers are treated to views of Copeland Falls and Calypso Cascades along with beautiful plant life and some small animal sightings. Above Ouzel Falls the trail splits and can lead to either Thunder Lake to the North or Bluebird Lake to the South, both in the Eastern shadow of the Continental Divide.
Shortly after departing the trailhead, Copeland Falls appears on the left. Passing the falls, the trail continues among the pine forest with the creek just out of sight.
As the trail meanders away from and back towards the water, small boulders create rapids in the water. The natural clearing of the creek permits a view of the forested base of Copeland Mountain in the distance.
When we take a short break, a ground squirrel emerges to investigate our presence.
As we approach the final section of the hike, the trail turns sharply to reveal a section of Calypso Cascades. The rushing water flows down rocks and fallen trees spraying the surrounding vegetation with needed moisture.
Looking to the Northwest, a bank of clouds descends below 10,000 feet to engulf the hillside. The moisture in the late morning air protects drops of water magnifying the details of a leaf’s structure.
As we arrive at Ouzel Falls, we find an Ouzel bird exploring the rushing water. The falls are named after these small creatures who live near the water and can be identified by the characteristic bobbing motion they exhibit. Despite the name of Ouzel falls, the birds remain somewhat elusive to visitors. Over several hikes in many years of coming to Colorado, this was the first time I’ve been able to see the bird first hand.