• Activities:

    Fishing, Photography, Backpacking, Hiking

  • Skill Level:

    Advanced

  • Season:

    Summer, Autumn

  • Trail Type:

    Out-and-Back

  • RT Distance:

    14 Miles

  • Elevation Gain:

    2500 Feet

Bathrooms
Forest
Lake
River
Scenic
Waterfall
Wildflowers
Wildlife
Cliff Jumping

Hiking to Bluebird Lake offers up incredible views of Rocky Mountain National Park and relative solitude. An added bonus on this backpacking tip is that you'll pass some of Colorado's best small stream fly fishing.

Starting at the Wild Basin trailhead on the south side of Rocky Mountain National Park, hike through a wet forest towards upper and lower Copeland Falls, located 0.45 miles from the trailhead. From here, continue on the main trail along the North Fork of the Saint Vrain River to Calypso Cascades, a beautiful tumbling waterfall with some incredible fly fishing for Brook Trout below the cascade and Greenback Cutthroat Trout above the cascade.

Calypso cascade is located 1.8 miles from the trailhead, and makes a great easy day hike to show off to friends and family. From here, the trail breaks away from the creek and cuts through drier forest, evidence of a forest fire that burned the area in 1978. After a small climb, the trail joins with Ouzel Creek at Ouzel Falls, 2.6 miles into the hike. The trail leading to this point is very busy for three seasons, but past this point, other hikers are few and far between. Ouzel Falls makes for a great lunch stop, and a route avoiding the regular trail, which includes a switchback up a large hill, can be found by walking parallel to the cliffs that form the falls for less than a half mile away from the main trail.

From the top of the cliff, backtrack towards the falls, where a shallow area with stones to walk across allows you to cross Ouzel Creek without any danger. The next three miles consist of incredible fly fishing in an open meadow, as well as opportunities to see wildlife—look for elk, marmots, and bears—and abundant ripe raspberries in the late summer. Notice that this area doesn't have an established trail, so continue for the next two miles or so through the meadow, where you will encounter the regular trail to the north, which runs along a ridge. You'll then pass Ouzel Lake, located 4.5 miles from the start of the trail.

Until this point, the trail is moderate-easy, with a low grade through most areas. Past the Ouzel Lake trail spur, the Bluebird Lake trail leads towards the still distant Bluebird Peak, which rises directly over Bluebird Lake. After passing Ouzel Lake, the trail reenters a dense, lush forest for a much of the remainder of the trail. From here, after crossing over multiple streams, you'll make the final ascent to Bluebird Lake (often passing over a snowfield, but depending on the time of year). The trees thin as the elevation approaches 11,000 feet, and after a steep stretch of trail, the trail arrives at Bluebird Lake. The lake is fishless due to a lack of a passable outlet stream, spawning habitat and long, cold winters. The outlet can be crossed, leading to the north side of the lake, complete with a small area where you can cliff jump.

The descent follows a more maintained trail, and you can choose to bypass the Ouzel Creek meadow by staying on the trail and following the trail signs back to the parking area. The trail is one of the best kept secrets of Rocky Mountain National Park, and although the trail is between 12.6 and 13.5 miles in length and climbs 2,500 feet to elevations just above 11,000 feet, the result is well worth the hike! The trail can also be done as a multi-day hike, with eight backcountry campsites near the trail.

Pack List

  • Water
  • Water purifier
  • Hiking shoes
  • Fly fishing rod
  • Camera (fully charged)
  • Rain jacket
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
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Reviews

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My wife and I hiked to Bluebird Lake as a long day hike, taking our time and stopping off at Ouzel Falls and Ouzel Lake on the way. By the time we reached this epic alpine lake, it was late afternoon and we had the whole place to ourselves, even with Labor Day weekend crowds all throughout other parts of RMNP. We scrambled around the side of Bluebird Lake and on up to Lark Pond. I wish we'd had more time to see Pipit Lake and scramble to the top of Ouzel Peak.

5 months ago
5 months ago

Not really an iconic spot but worth the trip. You're likely to have the lake to yourself and views of the valley are great.

about 2 years ago
about 2 years ago

Start early and take your time on this 13 mile hike!

over 3 years ago
over 3 years ago

Bryce Powell

Fly fisherman, backpacker, hiker, student and photographer from Loveland, CO, currently living in Provo, UT

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