I return to the Wild Basin section of Rocky Mountain National Park this morning. This time with Karen. We drive two miles beyond the ranger station and Sandbeach Lake Trailhead to the Wild Basin Trailhead. Tons of parking and good camp sites along the way. This trailhead has nice facilities and ample parking, but is also quite packed. The guidebook states the hike to Ouzel Falls is the most popular route in all of Wild Basin. I now believe it. Still, it’s like Bill Bryson’s description of the Appalachian Trail in his book, A Walk in the Woods. No matter how many people visit the trail, they spread out and it never feels crowded.
This trail is popular for several reasons. The trail is fairly pedestrian – well maintained with an obtainable elevation gain. The guidebook rates it suitable for families. The rushing creeks and spectacular falls are stunning. Plentiful camping sites reward backpackers on their trek to Thunder Lake. And then there are some nice views of the south side of both Mount Meeker and Longs Peak. This photo of me sitting on a log is at Copeland Falls which is only a half mile beyond the trailhead.
This second set of falls is nearly as impressive as Ouzel. These are Calypso Falls rising behind us in this photo. It’s apparent some families are only walking to Copeland Falls. Calypso is about two miles past the trailhead and would make a satisfying turn-around point. We witness a little girl, maybe seven years old, get scolded by her father for climbing a rock. Seriously, drive Trail Ridge Road if you don’t want to get out of your car and walk about. Although that’s a great road to get out and climb some rocks too.
We hear the roar of rushing water flowing over Ouzel Falls well before we arrive. This site is 2.7 miles from the trailhead and not at all difficult for a short day hike. We are almost meandering and it only takes us 90 minutes. We see this really cool looking bird that I believe is a Steller’s Jay. We are looking for the Water Ouzel – or American Dipper – for which the creek and falls are named, but don’t see any. We don’t climb up too close for better views of the falls. Quite a few people are on the trail spur and Karen’s not a big fan of bushwhacking. We can’t go beyond this point either as the bridge is washed out. There’s an alternate, in fact much shorter, route for backpackers headed to Thunder Lake; so the bridge is not an issue.
We return without stopping at all the sites. Many more families are headed up – even though it is now lunch time and rain clouds are forming. Besides the water features, several spots along the trail open up for nice views of the south side of Mount Meeker and Long’s Peak. You might have to click on this photo to see it well enough. The peak above my hat is Mount Meeker. To its left is Longs Peak. From our house in Longmont both peaks have the traditional triangle peaks. And in fact are termed the Twin Peaks. From this southern view you can see the flat top of Long’s Peak. Karen has a dance audition in a couple of weekends and I think I might target that date to bring the girls up here. This is one of those hikes that everyone in the family will love. It’s 45 minutes from town. Get your family up here.
We kicked around the idea of hiking this or Cub Lake with our 5 year old but we got a later start in the day and figured we’d do better to deal with the rain in the car than out in the open with her. She loved the trip up Trail Ridge Road and the mini hike from the visitor’s center there.
Ed Mahoney said:
Trail Ridge Road has a lot to offer. I’m currently reviewing all the more family-friendly trails and they seem to correlate highly with the most popular. Got to get there early just to get a parking spot yet alone beat the rain.
Terry Collier said:
Looks like a good hike . In Chicago probably at 7707 about midnight . Dad
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