Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

Wild Basin And Ouzel Falls

Thursday August 14, 2014
Glacier Basin Campground
Rocky Mountain National Park


Rocky Mountain National Park has several sections.  We have so far concentrated on the east side where we are camping.   But our inadvertent drive up here on Route 7 took us past two of the more southern areas of this HUGE park, over 249,000 acres.  Today we are going to drive back down Route 7 in Ruby and do the 5.4 mile out and back Ouzel Falls hike in the Wild Basin area of the park.

I do love my commenters.  Sharon recommended this hike as one of the best in the park and oh was she right.  We probably would not have driven back down to do this without her enthusiastic recommendation so I must thank her and encourage you all to please tell me what you loved in any area we are visiting. 



We get a late start somewhat on purpose as we are trying out different times of day for hiking to see if anything other than 5am works.  I’m all for 5am but David not so much.  Today we leave at 1:00, drive 20 miles down Route 7 to the dirt road entrance to the Wild Basin Trail Head.  Down the road about 5 miles we find the Wild Basin Trail Head.

The parking lot looks packed and we are thinking, Oh Dear, but actually there are a number of trails that go off from this trailhead so we are hopeful that lots of these folks are going on longer hikes than we are.

We stop by the ranger station and chat with him about the trail.  I get my National Park Book stamp.  I’ve had my poor book for nearly 20 years and it is just falling apart.  They came out with the spiral type some years after I got mine.  I hate to get a new one since I lose all the stamps in the old one sort of.  But at this point I am having to put stamps on pieces of paper and tape them into my book.  But that’s only in certain sections of the country like here in the Rocky Mountains. 







Our plan is to hike to Ouzel Falls.  We’ll pass Copeland Falls and Calypso Cascades.  It’s going to be a water day and I’m really looking forward to it. 


We’re immediately walking over St. Vrain Creek and we follow it the half mile to Copeland Falls.





As usual, the wildflowers along the way are lovely.








The water views and sounds along the trail are splendid.   There are a number of small falls on our way.

















Copeland has an upper falls and a lower falls.  They are both beautiful.  I stop at the lower falls on the way up and save the upper falls as a treat for the trip back.



Wonder when the next big flood is going to come by and throw that rock on down in the creek.




From here the trail gets a bit more rocky as we climb, climb, climb.  At some points, the trail looks as rocky as the creek bed beside it.














I’m not sure how they decide which of these beautiful water spots to name.  Along the way to Calypso Cascades we cross bridges with fabulous water tumbling down the rocks.







Just after I cross the bridge I stop and watch a couple of little golden mantled ground squirrels.  One is snacking.  They are so cute.  He’s obviously storing up the fat for winter. 





On up, up the trail and then it’s time for a snack for us.   No problem finding beautiful spots.







When we make it to Calypso Cascades we are only 1.3 miles from Ouzel Falls.  The loss of the lodgepole pines to the pine bark beetle has really littered all the waterways including the cascades.  The sound of all this water is just magnificent.











We come across a trail crew doing more bridge repair from the 2013 flood.  They certainly do beautiful meticulous work.  It is all done by hand.  They tell us that they must find all their materials on site.  I guess the pine bark beetles have helped with that problem.










Doesn’t this look like an ornamental grass growing out here along a trail?  It’s really beautiful but I can’t find anything like it in any of the ID books.  Any of you Rocky Mountain folks know its name?



More rocky climbing but we can hear the falls now so we know we are near our destination.




We arrive at Ouzel Falls where we find that the bridge is out and a work around has been created.  I guess this will be the next project for the work crew we passed.  We follow the blue tags as instructed back and around on no trail where we no doubt would not be going if the original trail hadn’t been closed at this point. 






I suspect that the viewing of the falls was originally from the bridge or a platform.  The spot from which we see it now is blocked by a huge boulder so without climbing around on the rocks (which of course we do) we cannot see the full drop.  This is a large, loud, lovely falls.








The falls are just gorgeous but the absolute icing on the cake is the American Dippers.  We’d been looking for the fall’s namesake bird all the way up the trail in every bit of water we passed.  And here they are.  How perfect! Ouzels at Ouzel Falls.




At first we see only one hanging on to the slippery rocks as the water comes flowing over them.  I’ve heard them described as part fish, part duck, part song bird.  They are always found near cold fast moving water where they hunt for insects by walking on the stream bottom or swimming with their strong wings.    I love this bird.  It feeds on aquatic insects and their larvae, including mayflies, MOSQUITOES and MIDGES. They also eat dragonflies, worms, small fish, fish eggs, and flying insects.




They are so much fun to watch.  When they are not dipping in the water they are bobbing up and down.  They do a deep knee bend dance pretty constantly.  It is really hilarious.   I took a short video of it but don’t have the band width or the patience with U-Tube to post it.  But HERE are some short segments posted by someone else that show what we were SO LUCKY to see.  I have to say ours did much better deep knee bends.  But that may be because we soon find out he is a juvenile biding his time until his hard working parent provides the food.





Here he is squawking for food just as his parent turns away after feeding him to go back for more.



Notice how much chubbier junior is than mom, or dad.






As they move down stream, we climb up on some higher rocks to keep watching the show.  David, with his long legs, beats me up there.









Here comes mom feeding this glutton again.






He’s squawking as mom flies away and he keeps it up after she is gone.  I wonder if this is the dipper version of the terrible twos?






One parting shot of his gorgeous colors as he waits on a lichened rock for his next snack.  He’s a chubby one all right.





We could have stayed here for hours watching these two and laughing but we’ve been here quite a while and it is time to turn back.  One last look at the falls and we head down the way we have come.






In addition to the beautiful scenery that we get to see again, I also have a fun time with this little chickaree.  They are just too cute.  Look at that tongue and those furry toes.









Is there anything more wonderful than the sounds of a mountain stream?  I’m in heaven.









I said I’d show Upper Copeland Falls on the way down so here I am, stuck with all this wonderful water all round me.













What a great hike this has been.  The entire thing, all 5.5 miles of it.  We’re almost back to the trail head when we have a little surprise encounter with this Mule Deer Doe.   She makes a perfect farewell to this place I would be happy to return to tomorrow and do it all over again.   Don’t miss this one if you come here.




Can’t thank you enough Sharon.  It was a fabulous day!


  1. Wow, another beautiful hike and I can really feel it, your excitement and happiness being in that part of the country surrounded with adorable wildlife. I am obviously drawn to your Ouzels narratives cute and the captures are just fabulous. Love it.
    FYI, I liked the Cherry Wheat beer at Tahaquamenon Falls.

  2. I take it there aren't any mosquitoes there? Looks like you've retired your bug nets for the season (hopefully!).


  3. wow. . .you guys are amazing hikers for sure. . .that trail looked rugged.

    We really thought the hike to Alberta Falls was spectacular when we were there. . .but it is also very, very popular with all the tourists. . .here's the link if you want to check it out:


  4. Fantastic! I love streams that bubble like that-so soothing and beautiful. You got to see an Ouzel. Cool. I can just imagine you guys laughing. I love those kinds of moments we share. Wish I'd been there. Such fun!

  5. All that lovely flowing water and cool bird!

  6. That sure was a great hike. I've never even heard of the american dipper, but sure would love to see one myself. The chickaree was adorable...what a cute face.

    Judging by your jacket, I guess it was nice and cool. We're having a warm spell here, so we're looking forward to some cool temps.

  7. We love hiking with the sound of running water along the trail. You sure had a beauty!! We definitely have put Rocky Mountain NP on our TODOS list. We hiked a water route yesterday here in Georgia, beautiful... but not quite the same scale as where you are:o)) Keep having fun and sharing that amazing place with us!!!

  8. Great shots of the dipper. They are cool birds.

  9. Saw where you were and had to turn my sound machine on to the rushing water.....then went back and read the post all the way through again because I didn't want to "leave"! I hadn't heard of Ouzels either and am now anxious to see them in the wild. I imagine "mom" was not as amused as the two of you by junior's antics!

  10. we watched some dippers at the base of a falls in Glacier for hours... lots of fun those little birds offer up

  11. What a great hike to some beautiful falls. We're here in southern Colorado, the beauty this state holds is amazing.

  12. Always makes one feel good when a recommended hike meets the person's expectations. This surely is a good one. Quick funny story about our first time on this hike and how different things are at different times of the year. We arrived at the trailhead very early (remember this is in late May or early June). Ranger station all boarded up and not one other car in the parking lot. We start across that first bridge and the first thing we see is a large yellow sign telling us that mountains lions frequent the area and have been spotted recently. Now being from the Smoky Mountains, bears we can handle, but MOUNTAIN LIONS, not so much! We almost turned around, but thankfully, we didn't. Never saw another soul that day, nor did we see any mountains lions either. But oh my, what a hike!! RMNP remains one of our favorites. Hope you are off doing another fabulous hike today!

  13. BEAUTIFUL! Love a hike with lots of water features! Great shots of the dipping birds, they really are so cute! How neat to run into a work crew and find out they make everything by hand and from onsite materials. Very cool!

  14. A beautiful trail, and amazing waterfalls. I think that's the first that I've heard of dippers; they really have character.

  15. There are so many very cool waterfalls in this gorgeous park. Glad you found these! Looks like there is still a ton of water flowing even at this time of year.

  16. Another great hike! I am astonished that those little birds aren't washed away with the power of water. Even standing on the slippery rock is a feat that would plunk me into the drink!

  17. I could walk forever alongside a stream tumbling over rocks. The sound is like a symphony!

  18. I could hear the water from your pictures and descriptions and feel the coolth. Beautiful!

  19. You certainly have to give a special tip of the hat to those crews working to make the repairs on that bridge. Looks like much of the work was done with hand tools. What dedication they put in to the job to make trails enjoyable for everyone to enjoy. :c)

  20. Between the American Dippers and the Muel deer doe, I'd be in glory land!

  21. Hikes that include water (rivers, lakes, streams, waterfalls) are the best! The dipper is one of my favorite birds, and definitely Eric's favorite. For several years he's been part of a group studying the American dipper -- every week a group of dedicated birders hikes along the creek to observe and record their behavior and nesting habits. I love watching the dippers swim underwater! And the fledglings are adorable.

  22. The dipper study group is in Ashland, Oregon. They hike along Ashland Creek, which runs through Lithia Park downtown. :-)

  23. Outstanding hike- I got cooled off just watching.

  24. Those toes were adorable! And the lichen framed the bird nicely too. Maybe a Map Lichen, both the gray and the yellow but it's hard to tell without a little more detail. The rock section of my Lichen guide is a little thin as well. I keep hoping to stumble across a good website to help out.


Your comments are the best part of this blog for me.
I LOVE hearing from you!