Eastern Waterfall Guide

Southford Falls Falls of the Month, June through October 2000

Falls of Rocky Mountain National Park, Part 1

Ouzel Falls This is part one of a series of pages on the waterfalls in Rocky Mountain National Park. Unlike other Falls of the Month pages, it covers several waterfalls in the same area of the park. As you may have noticed, this series falls somewhat out of the scope of this page (Colorado is definitely NOT in the eastern United States). However, since I live in Colorado now, I figured I would give you a taste of what it's like out here!

Some general information about falls in Rocky Mountain National Park :

This part of the series concentrates on the waterfalls accessible from the Wild Basin area of Rocky Mountain National Park. Wild Basin is reached by taking CO-7 south out of Estes Park. On your way south, CO-7 passes by the Long Peak and Twin Sisters trailheads. Before reaching Allenspark, turn right into the Wild Basin area. There is a entrance fee station although sometimes it is unmanned.

Copeland Falls
Ratings : Power - StarStarStarHalf-star Beauty - StarStarStarStar Ease of Access - StarStarStarStarHalf-star
Height : 12 feet in two cascades, River/Stream : North St. Vrain Creek, Water Levels : moderate, Safety Considerations : none, Hike : .6 miles round trip, easy terrain

Calypso Cascades
Ratings : Power - StarStarStar Beauty - StarStarStarStar Ease of Access - StarStarStarHalf-star
Height : 90 feet of cascades, River/Stream : Cony Creek, Water Levels : moderate-low, Safety Considerations : none, Hike : 3.6 miles round trip, moderately sloped terrain

Ouzel Falls
Ratings : Power - StarStarStarStar Beauty - StarStarStarStarStar Ease of Access - StarStarStarHalf-star
Height : 60 feet, River/Stream : Ouzel Creek, Water Levels : moderate, Safety Considerations : none, Hike : 5.4 miles round trip, moderately sloped terrain

This trio of falls makes a wonderful day trip. The hike is not easy but, at the same time, it is much easier than some of the other day trip waterfall hikes in the area. It starts at the Wild Basin Ranger Station, which is at the end of the road leading from the Wild Basin entrance station. Parking can be difficult during the summer so arrive early.

The trail leads away from the parking area into a relatively flat and heavily forested area. Chipmunks and squirrels will be often visible as you walk through the quiet forest. On your left, North St. Vrain Creek will be in sight at all times. After .3 miles, a side trail leads off to Copeland Falls. The falls are in two levels, each falling over a wide ledge into shady pools. The upper of the two levels is the more dramatic of the two because the ledge is somewhat narrower and thus the water rushes through with more agitation. In general, though, Copeland Falls is a very peaceful area. Because it is slightly off the main path, many people will skip it on their way to the destinations further up the path so it is often less crowded than the other two falls.

The side trail continues past both levels of the falls and rejoins the main trail soon after. The main trail continues to follow North St. Vrain Creek for quite a ways, crossing Sandbeach Creek shortly after Copeland Falls and then crossing North St. Vrain Creek itself about a mile later. The path then follows Cony Creek up to Calypso Cascades. The hike between Copeland Falls and Calypso Cascades is steeper in slope but not exhaustingly so. At Calypso Cascades, the path reaches a T-intersection. Turn right and walk on to the bridge over Cony Creek. Upstream of the bridge are the myriad of tumbling streams and rivulets of water that make up Calypso Cascades. Photographs of Copeland Falls :

Calypso Cascades isn't attractive in a traditional sense. The area is strewn with fallen logs. Cony Creek flows around, under and sometimes over them as well as a large assortment of boulders. But, on the whole, the falls are attractive because of the tall pine trees surrounding them as well as the attractive cascades at the top and the bottom of the series. The top of the falls includes several drops of five feet or more. It is best viewed from the island in the middle of the stream bed. From there, the stream disappears somewhat into a mess of broken logs and branches. It emerges about two-thirds the way down the cascades in a concentrated chute of cascading water that eventually flows underneath the bridge. This bottom section is easy to get close to, which adds greatly to its interest. Photographs of Calypso Cascades :

Continuing over Cony Creek and over several other small streamlets, the path soon enters a burned out area of dead trees from the Ouzel Fire of 1978. The trail skirts around the outer edge of the burned area, climbing gradually to a bridge over Ouzel Creek. Ouzel Falls is barely visible upstream from this point. To reach a good view of Ouzel Falls, make your way up the left side of the stream. There is a distinct heavily-used path next to the stream that leads you to the viewpoint.

Ouzel Falls crashes through a notch in the cliff and down a sheer rock face. It is one of the most spectacular waterfalls in the park. As such, it is heavily visited, especially on the weekends. However, there is plenty of room in the viewing area for many people and the long hike and limit of parking keeps the crowds down somewhat. The falls are in a wide-open setting and thus these falls have a very different mood than the previous two on this hike. In addition to being a wonderful place to visit and photograph, the falls are a great place to eat lunch. After eating, head back the way you came to the parking lot. The trip back down is much easier than the one up to the falls. Photographs of Ouzel Falls :

In general, this hike is a great one to start off a vacation with. Taken slowly enough, it isn't too strenuous for most people but it does introduce them to the rigors of hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Other Waterfalls in or near the Wild Basin Area : Lyric Falls - on Hunter's Creek, accessible from the trail from Copeland Lake to Sandbeach Lake (about 8 miles round trip), Columbine Falls - on Roaring Fork on the way to Chasm Lake, accessible from the Longs Peak trailhead (about 8 miles round trip)

Complete List of Falls of the Month : Falls of Rocky Mountain National Park Part IV - February 2001, Falls of Rocky Mountain National Park Part III - January 2001, Falls of Rocky Mountain National Park Part II - November/December 2000, Falls of Rocky Mountain National Park Part I - June through October 2000, Bash Bish Falls - May 2000, Wadsworth Falls - March 2000, Staton's Falls - February 2000, no December or January Falls of Month (I was lazy...), Raymondskill Falls - November 1999, Linville Falls - October 1999, no September 1999 Falls of the Month, Race Brook Falls - August 1999, Blackwater Falls - July 1999, Muddy Creek Falls - June 1999, Whiteoak Canyon - May 1999, Elakala Falls - April 1999, Southford Falls - March 1999

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