A hike in Rocky Mountain National Park is always a treat, but this hike is great because it offers five waterfalls and cascades in just 2.7 miles. The hike starts at the Wild Basin Trailhead, near Allenspark (directions below).
Take just a few steps along the trail and you’ll quickly find yourself in the thick forest. The dirt trail is wide enough that you can walk next to a companion and talk as you enjoy the scenery. The trail also starts out fairly flat, just watch out for the rocks and tree roots.
Just a short 0.3 miles down the trail, you’ll come to a sign pointing the way to Copeland Falls. Walk the short spur trail over to the river and the falls. This is a small cascade, maybe five feet high, but it’s a nice spot to take a quick break and take some photos.
As you walk back to the main trail, you may notice there are two trails here. Stay on the trail closest to the river to see a few more cascades, including Upper Copeland Falls, before the trails meet up again.
Now the trail gets a little hard. From here it’s about 1.4 miles to Calypso Cascades. That may seem pretty short, but I found several people struggling to walk that distance. Remember, the elevation up here is about 8,700 feet. It’s a lot harder to walk and hike at elevation, than it is at home.
Just before Calypso Cascades, a bridge crosses a creek with a nice little cascade. While this 15-foot cascade is nice and even picture-worthy, this is not Calypso Cascades. After this, the trail becomes a several of steps. It’s worth the effort to go to Calypso Cascades. (How do you know if you’re at the unnamed cascade or Calypso Cascades? The trail goes to the left over the unnamed cascade, it goes to the right over Calypso Cascades.)
Calypso Cascades is an amazing site. Here water cascades over rocks and trees down a 100 foot drop. Thanks to the construction of a log bridge, hikers can stand in the middle of the cascade and enjoy the view of Cony Creek. The cascades are surrounded by a forest adding even more beauty to the photos.
Take some time for pictures. Maybe even find a rock to sit on while you enjoy a snack before the next part of this hike.
While Calypso Cascades is beautiful, Ouzel Falls still awaits. Hikers gain another 300 feet over the next 0.9 of a mile to the bridge at Ouzel Falls.
At the Ouzel Falls bridge, take a photo or two, then look carefully to your left for a faint trail that leads hikers to the front of the falls and even a better view! The trail is rocky, sometimes muddy and involves climbing over some downed trees. It’s all worth it to stand in front of Ouzel Falls. Stand in the right place and you may even get a misty shower depending on which way the wind is blowing. Ouzel Falls drop more than 40 feet through a cut in a dark rock wall. The water sprays into a pool, then cuts a path down to the main hiking trail and beyond. This is definitely the place to take pictures from different angles. After lots of photos, take a break and enjoy lunch here. Enjoy the spray of the falls and the crashing sound of the water dropping over the cliff and hitting the rocks below.
As you enjoy the falls, you may see someone on the top of the falls. Yes, you can hike up there. As you face the front of the falls, turn around and look at the big downed log behind you. You may have enjoyed lunch on that log. There is a faint trail just on the other side of that log that heads around to the right and up the rocks. Once on top, hike back toward the drop for a view of the falls and a nice cascade just before the drop. This will add about a .25 mile to your hike each way, but it’s worth the extra adventure. One note, while we had trouble following the trail on the way up, it was easy to follow on the way down. And don’t let kids get too close to the edge.
Details: The hike to the five falls (Lower Copeland falls, Upper Copeland Falls, the unnamed cascade, Calypso Cascade and Ouzel Falls) is about 5.6 miles roundtrip with about 950 feet of elevation gain. (Add extra distance for the hike over to Ouzel Falls and above Ouzel Falls.)
Directions: From Denver, take U.S. 36 to Boulder then to Lyons. Stay on U.S. 36 as it turns left and goes through Lyons. At the Highway 36/Highway 7 split, turn south on Highway 7. Take Highway 7 about 21 miles past Allenspark to the sign for the Wild Basin area. Turn left. Just a short distance from Highway 7 is an entrance station (regular admission prices apply). Then drive about 2.3 miles on a dirt road to the trailhead. Arrive early on the weekends (before 8:45 a.m.) or you may have to park down the road, adding more distance to your hike.
If you prefer not to pay the entrance fee, you can do this hike from the free trailhead in Allenspark. The hike from that trailhead is 8.75 miles roundtrip. Read about that hike here.Find more great hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park and throughout Colorado here.
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