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437 Ouzel Lake Trail 2011-07-13

Ouzel Lake from above

For a longer hike, Amy and I were going to go to Ouzel and hopefully, on to Bluebird Lake. Ouzel Lake is in the southeastern section of Rocky Mountain National Park in the Wild Basin Area.

The trailhead is a few slow, dirt-road-miles from the entrance station. We arrived at the trailhead early enough to find a parking space and started our hike around 7.

We were familiar with the first couple of miles of the trail from previous hikes but the setting was a bit different. All the creeks were full and overflowing. It was great to see the rivers running so full. They were truly spectacular.

Quickly we walked past Copeland Falls and on to Calypso Falls. The water was overflowing the banks and onto the trail. A short section of trail was at least a foot deep in the rapid water. A makeshift log crossing kept the passage dry but you had to be careful.


crossing the creek on logs


Above Calypso Falls we took the trail to Ouzel Lake. Along the trail were great overlooks and then the spectacular Ouzel Falls. The falls shot water straight out from the cliff as if from a flume, then the water showered onto the rocks below.

Above the falls we walked easily to the trail junction with the Thunder Lake Trail. Then, the trail started to get serious about climbing and we got serious about sweating. After climbing a good distance we rounded a corner. I told Amy, "'cause we liked the climbing so much, it looks like we get to do some more." Sure enough it climbed even more but it brought us to the top of a glacial ridge.

The ridge was one of the best parts of the trail. The views were wonderful on the exposed trail. At the Ouzel Lake junction, Amy went on to Ouzel Lake while I took the Bluebird Lake Trail. At about a half of mile, I could see Ouzel Lake from the trail. (Amy said the Lake was one of the prettiest she had ever seen.) Shortly after seeing Ouzel Lake, I began to cross huge snow banks. They were not difficult to cross but it was hard to find where the trail went. Bite my tongue! In a short distance further I came to an almost impossible crossing. An avalanche had tossed trees like sticks and the deep snow cover made it unlikely that I would ever find the trail. After crawling over, under, and through fallen trees, and postholing in the seemingly bottomless snow, I decided that perhaps I should wait for another day.

I turned around and again picked my way through the maze; soon Ireturned to the trail. When we had first arrived at the Ouzel Lake junction, we had built a small cairn (rocks stacked) off the trail. If Amy returned from Ouzel Lake, she was going to knock the rocks over so I would know she had already started back down the trail. Arriving at the junction, I saw the cairn had been removed, so I picked up my pace and chased her down the trail.

We both really enjoyed the trail. It had a little bit of everything - easy grades, steep hills, lakes, water falls, stream crossing, overlooks, a wonderful exposed ridge, wildflowers everywhere, and great vistas. It is a must do trail.

A few Ouzel Lake Trail notes ...

Arrive early. It is a longer hike of eleven miles round trip.

The trailhead parking fills quickly.

Water is not available at the trailhead but is available near the entrance station.

A privy is available at the trailhead.

As usual, a great informational kiosk is located near the trailhead.

It was unusual year in which the water overflows the banks but it was truly awesome.

In crossing the stream near Calypso Falls I watched a hiker moving cautiously. I held out my hand and helped her across. She said to me, "I have never seen water like this in 43 year!" We felt fortunate to be able to see the water that high.

The rest of the trail was well maintained and liter free.

A privy was available near Ouzel Falls and at all the backcountry sites.

Happy Ouzel Lake trails


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