Sunday, July 19, 2015

Wild Basin, Rocky Mountain National Park

Every year we buy a Rocky Mountain NP pass, and always have good intentions of getting our money's worth, but other hobbies, chores... always seem to get in the way. The 7-day entry to the Park is $20, and the annual pass is $40, so really is a no brainer.

This time of year (summer) the park visitation is at its peak, but the Wild Basin area to the south of Estes Park is a little less "touristy"; however the parking area is still filled by 9am!. Wild Basin is what the park refers to as the "lush southeast corner", a valley filled with wildlife, waterfalls, lakes and flowers. It is definitely a beautiful corner of the park, and an area well worth exploring.

From the parking area (8,566 feet in elevation) the trail begins to follow the North St. Vrain Creek, and the sound of water is always close by. The smell of pine is in the air too, and the lack of oxygen is always present. The first stop along the trail is only 0.3 miles from the trailhead, and is Copeland Falls.

Copeland Falls

From Copeland Falls the trail continues to follow the creek, dipping in and out of wonderfully scented Pine forest. Along the trail you are bound to see ground squirrels, chipmunks, and if lucky deer or even bears. About 1.4 miles from the trailhead you will reach a major wooden bridge crossing the St. Vrain, this is a wonderful spot to just find a rock and sit and enjoy the sound of the rushing water.

North St. Vrain Creek

North St. Vrain Creek

After crossing the bridge over the North St. Vrain the trail starts to climb, and shortly veers away from the hustle and bustle of the big creek. The trail starts to follow a smaller creek that appears to have been blocked by a beaver dam, making a very lush green wetland area. After climbing 0.4 mile you reach the magical Calypso Cascades.

Calypso Cascades

Beautiful lush vegetation around the creeks

Calypso Cascades is the turning around point for many people, and makes for a beautiful 3.6 mile (700 feet in elevation gain) round trip hike. But if you continue on for another 0.9 mile you reach another gem of Rocky Mountain NP, Ouzel Falls. The trail between Calypso Cascades and Ouzel Falls is vastly different, it is much rockier, alot less lush, and more Alpine - but no less beautiful. The flowers along this 0.9 mile section are abundant - Indian Paintbrush, Columbine, and many more.

One of many wild flowers along the trail

the beautiful Columbine

The 0.9 mile section of trail from Calypso Cascades to Ouzel Falls is definitely a little harder; it climbs 250 feet over that distance, is rockier, and has less shade. The prize at the end is well worth it though, a spectacular waterfall reminiscent of what we experienced in the Blue Ridge Mountains whilst living in North Carolina.

Ouzel Falls

Ouzel Falls was our turn around point, and since the foot bridge was washed out during 2013 floods, is the turn around point for most people. The mileage to this point is 2.7 miles, with 950 feet in elevation gain, making the entire hike 5.4 miles of beauty. For more info about this area, check out the official Rocky Mountain National Park website HERE.

Happy Hiking!.

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