Location: Rocky Mountain National Park
Distance from Denver: 70mi (1.5hrs) ♡ ♡ ♡
Hike: ~5.5mi RT ♡ ♡ ♡
Difficulty: Moderate ♡ ♡
Parking Situation: Large lot, but fills up quickly. There are rangers directing you; we got there around 10am and had to park 1/4 mile away from the parking lot. ♡ ♡
Parking Fee: N/A, but there is a fee to enter the park (we use our National Parks Pass)
Happy Monday, friends! What better way to start the week than to swoon over fall colors!? I guess puppies would make it better, but we don’t have one yet….so you guys will have to settle for gorgeous golds in the mountains instead :)
For this year’s fall colors hike, we chose to go to Ouzel Falls. It’s closer to Allenspark in the Wild Basin region rather than Estes Park (so when you go past Lyons, take a left at the light, rather than the usual right). The drive is super pretty as you follow the river at the base of the canyon. At some point, you catch the Peak to Peak Scenic Byway, and have stunning views of Longs Peak as you enter the area into the park. We thought it would be more secluded, but it wasn’t - this is a very popular hike!
The parking lot is very large, but fills up relatively quickly. We ended up parking near the Finch Lake trailhead and had a 1/4mile warmup hike before the start of the trail. We didn’t mind though, because both sides of the road were covered with gorgeous aspens that were changing colors. There was a cool breeze the morning we went, and it totally lent to the perfect fall weather atmosphere!
The best part of this hike is that you pass Copeland Falls and the Calypso Cascades on your way to Ouzel Falls! There is an upper and lower Copeland Falls; we just went to the lower falls.
What we loved were the pops of color all along this trail! The trees were in various stages in their winter cycle, but the majority were that golden color that we all love to see! The most stunning ones were not only against the perfect blue-bird skies, but also against a sea of evergreens!
Before you reach the Calypso Cascades, there is a stunning plateau that overlooks the forest of aspens, above. We saw quite a few people taking a break here, which we totally understand - we could sit with this view all day long! We loved all of the shade on this hike, as well! The majority of it is through the forest, fully inhabited by deer and chipmunks.
When you first reach Calpyso Falls, take a second to mentally prepare for what is ahead - at least a half a mile of stairs. This is what made the hike “moderate” rather than “easy” in our opinion. It is totally worth the workout though, because when you reach the upper portion of the Calypso Cascades, you’ll see a sign that says you are a mile away from Ouzel Falls. Now we aren’t sure that we fully believe this; it felt closer to a mile and a half to us given there is a bit of an incline after this point. But pretty soon, you’ll see the signs for Ouzel itself! There is a small landing at the bottom where you can partly see the falls, but we highly suggest veering to the path on the left to hike up to the landing right in front of the falls.
Yes, we literally mean right in front of it - we could feel the spray hit us as we stood around taking pictures! It does get really crowded up here, but most people leave relatively quickly so if you hang around long enough, you’ll get a few windows where you have the area all to yourself. What we loved were the cutest little chipmunks that came right up to us, as well as the stunning bluebirds that call this area home!
The views on the way back aren’t shabby either, as you get to see more pops of gold in the mountains! We were lucky enough to run into three deer, who were looking to cross the trail to get water. It was so special to be in the woods on this hike, and we can’t wait to explore the Wild Basin region of RMNP some more!
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