• Activities:

    Photography, Backpacking, Hiking, Fitness

  • Skill Level:


  • Season:

    Summer, Autumn

  • Trail Type:


  • RT Distance:

    20 Miles

  • Elevation Gain:

    5300 Feet


Rugged wilderness that few experience. Panoramic views of Wild Basin, Paradise Park, and the Indian Peaks Wilderness. Climb two peaks and hike through fields of wildflowers and skirt subalpine lakes. Approximately 5,300 feet of elevation gain and 20 miles roundtrip.

Begin at the Wild Basin Trailhead in southeastern Rocky Mountain National Park near the town of Allenspark. Plan to start before sunrise if attempting this trek as a day trip in order to avoid afternoon thunderstorms above the treeline. This trip can easily be made into a backpacking experience by camping at any of the campsites along the trail or at Upper Ouzel Creek (below Bluebird Lake). Grab a permit at the Wild Basin Ranger Station before heading in if you'd like to camp. Follow the well-maintained Wild Basin Trail toward Ouzel Falls until you reach Bluebird Lake (6 miles in).

Once at Bluebird Lake, descend the obvious gully to the outlet stream of the lake and cross the stream on easy to navigate rocks. The other side of the stream rises steeply so climb the easiest ledges you find to reach the top. Some cairns may help guide you at this point. Once you are above the outlet stream, continue skirting the northern side of the lake and hike west toward Lark Pond and Pipit Lake that lie above Bluebird Lake. Route finding is necessary so make sure you are familiar with your surroundings and remember to consult a topographical map. Continue through intermittent scree slopes and wildflower fields until you reach tiny Lark Pond. The shoreline is concealed in krummholz and willows, so take care when choosing a path. We found it easiest to stay on the north side of the pond because crossing the outlet stream appeared difficult. Continue heading west toward Pipit Lake for less than a half mile until you reach an easy place to cross to the southern side of Lark Pond or the outlet from Pipit Lake.

Either continue to Pipit Lake or begin ascending the north slope of Ouzel Peak before you reach the lake. Both options will provide a straight-forward path up the north slope. Just ensure that you do not begin ascending the slope until you reach the western end of Lark Pond to avoid the more difficult terrain that lies east of the slope. Once climbing the class 2 rocks of the north slope, it is a long and loose (but straight-forward) scramble to the summit. Enjoy the spectacular views of lakes and ridges from the summit of Ouzel Peak (approximately 8 miles into your journey) and make sure you know your place on the map before continuing to Ogallala Peak.

Ogallala Peak is easily recognizable across a broad tundra slope when looking south from Ouzel Peak. As Rocky Mountain National Park's southernmost 13er - the peak is an exciting summit to reach but considerably easier than Ouzel when approached from this direction. All that is required is a gentle 1.4 mile walk across tundra and talus from the summit of Ouzel Peak. As you near the summit you will begin to see the splendid Cony Creek drainage below you to the east. The turquoise pools of this drainage are the Hutcheson Lakes and Cony Lake. Once you reach the summit you will see a thin ridge extending east to the challenging summit of Elk Tooth and turning south you will see the northern reaches of the Indian Peaks Wilderness. Be sure to sign the summit registry as this is a rarely visited peak! On our visit, we were only the 11th and 12th people to reach the summit for the year.

After you reach the summit of Ogallala Peak you can choose many ways to return to your vehicle at the trailhead. If you're up for class 4 scrambling you can descend into the Cony Creek drainage and catch the Pear Lake trail back to Wild Basin Trailhead. However, this is an advanced option that requires scrambling skills and route finding knowledge. The easiest way to return to Wild Basin Trailhead is to backtrack the way you came. On our hike we decided to try a different route down to Junco Lake and, although it afforded new views and terrain, it was fairly challenging and clearly uncommonly traveled. Make the best decision for your party based on the fitness and experience of your group.

Despite all of my time spent in the backcountry of Rocky Mountain National Park, this is the only trip I have taken in which I encountered no other people! An incredible wilderness experience to say the least.

Pack List

  • Navigational aids
  • Topographical map
  • Sturdy boots
  • Daypack
  • Warm layers
  • Sunglasses
  • Camera
  • Water filtration
  • Permit if camping
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Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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Crystal Brindle Explorer

I'm Crystal, a park ranger for the National Park Service in the United States and the Department of Conservation in New Zealand - you'll find me floating between hemispheres as the seasons change. I am an avid landscape photographer and wilderness explorer committed to capturing the scenes and moments that inspire me and require dedication to experience. Living in national parks throughout my life, I've developed a deep appreciation for the natural world. This appreciation drives my passion for protecting wild places today. My first job as a ranger in Rocky Mountain National Park inspired me to spend my time exploring the depths of the park’s wilderness and instilled a sense of adventure that extends into all areas of my life. I now actively seek backcountry recreation that takes me into remote corners of mountainous regions all over the world. I have had the opportunity to live and work in some of the most intriguing places our world has to offer - from the high places of Colorado, to the South Island of New Zealand, to the rugged Alaska Peninsula, and many locations in between. I feel that the only way to truly get to know a place is to meet it on its own terms and to embrace its challenges through which its beauty is revealed. To me this is the definition of wilderness and the foundation of my photography. Since I began this journey of photography three years ago, I have honed my interests to focus on high-alpine mountain landscapes inaccessible to all except those who travel on foot. These are the landscapes that captivate me. I feel drawn to share their remarkable qualities through the visual narrative of photography and short stories of personal experience. This is a craft that I am refining daily and my photography is only a work-in-progress but I feel that this effort is worthwhile as I strive to let the landscape tell its own story and act as a vector for its message. What's next? After a summer of living with brown bears and climbing mountains under the midnight sun in Katmai National Park and Preserve on the Alaska Peninsula, I'm heading back to New Zealand to further explore the wonders of the South Island and work as a Hut Warden on the Heaphy Track in Kahurangi National Park.

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