Ouzel Lake Backcountry Campsite sits on the north edge of Ouzel Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park’s Wild Basin. The single campsite, located at 10,020 feet, lies in a spruce and fir forest below 13,176-foot Copeland Mountain. The scenic lake offers great trout fishing and hiking up to Bluebird Lake farther up the valley. Beginning from Wild Basin Trailhead, reach Ouzel Lake Campsite by hiking 4.9 miles up Thunder Lake Trail and Bluebird Lake, passing rushing Ouzel Falls along the way. Allow four or five hours to backpack from car to camp. The trail gains 1,520 feet of elevation from the trailhead. The site has a privy. Get water at the lake’s outlet stream. Boil or treat water before use. The site is usually clear of snow by mid-June.
- Reach Wild Basin Trailhead by driving south from Estes Park on Colorado Highway 7 to Wild Basin Road. Turn right or west on Wild Basin Road to the park entrance station. Continue west to the road’s end and a parking lot located two miles from the highway. Hike 2.8 miles up Thunder Lake Trail to Ouzel Falls. Continue another 0.4 miles to a junction and go left on Bluebird Lake Trail. Hike 1.4 miles up it to a spur trail that leads 0.4 miles to Ouzel Lake. Look for a wooden sign on the right for the path to the campsite.
- A backcountry permit is required for all overnight camping in Rocky Mountain National Park’s backcountry. Obtain permits at the Park Headquarters Backcountry Office next to Beaver Meadows Visitor Center west of Estes Park, at Kawuneeche Visitor Center north of Grand Lake, or at the park website.
- To obtain a permit you agree to obey National Park regulations for backcountry camping. The Backcountry Use Permit must be with you at all times and a tent tag must be displayed on your pack while hiking and on your tent. You must follow your planned itinerary so campsites aren’t overused or crowded. You also receive a tag to place on the dashboard of your vehicle, allowing overnight parking at trailheads without being towed.
- Practice a Leave No Trace ethic when camping at Ouzel Lake. Pitch tents in designated areas near a silver arrowhead. Secure food and garbage. Black bears are here so stash food in a bear-resistant canister, which is required May to October at all campsites below timberline. Keep food, trash, and scented items in the container and store it 200 feet from the campsite. Don’t camp below dead trees; wind storms blow branches off them.
Recommended season(s): Mid-June to September.
—Stewart M. Green