Bluebird Lake, Wild Basin Trailhead, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Bluebird Lake - 12.6 miles

Wild Basin Trailhead

Bluebird Lake (10,978') in the Wild Basin Area of Rocky Mountain National Park

Bluebird Lake (10,978') in the Wild Basin Area of Rocky Mountain National Park

Round-Trip Length: 12.6 miles
Start-End Elevation: 8,500' - 10,978' (11,028' max elevation)
Elevation Change: +2,478' net elevation gain (+2,938' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Strenuous
Dogs Allowed: No
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: Yes
Related Trails:

Bluebird Lake - 12.6 Miles Round-Trip

Bluebird Lake (10,978') is located 6.3 miles from Wild Basin Trailhead in Rocky Mountain National Park. It occupies a large, rocky bowl above treeline just east of the Continental Divide. The trail follows North St Vrain Creek and Ouzel Creek through diverse forests and an interesting burn-recovery area into the upper valley.

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

A steep push leads through treeline to the lake, where an unmaintained route continues along the inlet to its headwaters at Pipit Lake.

Visitors will enjoy varied terrain, several waterfalls, access to Ouzel Lake and excellent fishing on the hike to Bluebird Lake:

The trail rises gently beside North St Vrain Creek to spurs for Lower and Upper Copeland Falls (.35 and .45 miles). Mild travel continues to the backcountry campsite access trail (1.38 miles : 8,860'), crosses the creek and climbs .45 miles to Calypso Cascades (1.8 miles : 9,108').

The trail wraps up a north-facing valley wall and passes through an area touched by lightning-induced fire in 1978 (2.1 miles : 9,100').  Despite significant damage, the forest is in a natural state of recovery. Grasses and young aspen fill newly opened spaces, and in time spruce and fir will return and restore the forest to its ecological climax.

The trail steepens to Ouzel Falls (2.6 miles : 9,366'), drops and rises back to the Ouzel Lake - Thunder Lake Trail split (2.95 miles : 9,418').

Bear left for a short, moderately steep climb to a divisive E-W ridge between the Ouzel Creek drainage (south) and North St Vrain Creek drainage (north).

The trail bends west through the heart of the 1978 Ouzel Fire zone with rangy views through a culled forest: Pilot Mountain (12,222'), Mount Alice (13,310'), Mt Meeker (13,911) and Longs Peak (14,259') are visible to the northwest, and Mount Copeland Copeland (13,176') frames the south valley wall over Ouzel Lake.

The trail undulates along the exposed ridge to the Ouzel Lake spur (4.5 miles : 10,026'), and continues on a more rugged path into an unaffected swath of forest (5.2 miles : 10,175').

It rises quickly through an attractive composite of mature spruce, glades, flowers and streams to the Upper Ouzel Creek Backcountry Campsite (5.9 miles : 10,602').

Here the forest thins at the base of a steep climb beside Bluebird Lake's outlet stream.

The trail negotiates rocks slabs and talus through treeline on the final approach; look for cairns or simply follow the stream if concealed by snow.

The trail crests a few dozen yards over Bluebird Lake and scrambles down to the shore (6.3 miles : 10,978'). Ouzel Peak (12,716') rises prominetly from the west shore, with Mount Copeland's north flank and Mahana Peak's (12,632') southeast flank completing the cirque wall.

An unmarked and unmaintained route follows Bluebird Lake's inlet west to Lark Pond and Pipit Lake, while another cross-country route leads southwest to Junco Lake.

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N40 12.464 W105 33.990 — 0.0 miles : Wild Basin Trailhead
  • N40 12.230 W105 34.391 — .45 miles : Spur to Upper Copeland Falls
  • N40 12.051 W105 34.982 — 1.0 mile mark
  • N40 12.022 W105 35.293 — 1.35 miles : Spur to backcountry campsites
  • N40 11.731 W105 35.426 — 1.8 miles : Calypso Cascades
  • N40 11.939 W105 35.788 — 2.25 mile mark
  • N40 11.919 W105 35.981 — 2.65 miles : Ouzel Falls
  • N40 12.094 W105 36.197 — 3.0 miles : Ouzel Lake and Bluebird Lake Trail split
  • N40 12.040 W105 36.332 — 3.3 miles : Reach E-W ridge over Ouzel Lake drainage
  • N40 12.196 W105 36.898 — 3.8 miles : Undulating travel along exposed ridge
  • N40 12.141 W105 37.518 — 4.5 miles : Ouzel Lake spur
  • N40 11.969 W105 38.264 — 5.2 miles : Enter subalpine forest
  • N40 11.827 W105 38.591 — 5.45 miles : Base of 1st steep chute climb near treeline
  • N40 11.680 W105 38.872 — 6.0 miles : Begin final steep climb beside oulet stream
  • N40 11.535 W105 39.166 — 6.3 miles : Bluebird Lake

Worth Noting

  • High open areas through the burn area are exposed to sun and wind for lengthy stretches - hats, sunglasses, layers and lotion are recommended.
  • Ouzel Falls and Ouzel Lake are named after the Ouzel - or Dipper - a small bird that jumps into cold mountain streams and 'flies' underwater to catch insects on the bottom.
  • An avalanche in the spring of 2011 below Bluebird Lake has left a considerable amount of debris and deadfall on the trail between 5.2 and 6.0 miles.

Camping and Backpacking Information

Backcountry Campsites in the Wild Basin Area

Pine Ridge Backcountry Campsite

  • The Pine Ridge site is located 1.4 miles from Wild Basin Trailhead at 8,880'. There are 2individual sites and a privy. 2 backcountry sites are located in a lodgepole forest north of the trail, just east of the bridge across North St. Vrain Creek. A food storage cable is about 8 steps past the spur to site #1. It's in a small clearing to the left and runs perpendicular to the trail. Obtain water from North St. Vrain Creek.

Tohosa Backcountry Campsite

  • The Tohosa site is located 1.7 miles from Wild Basin Trailhead at 9,040'. There is 1 individual site and no privy. The site is located .3 miles up the unimproved, backcountry campsite access trail in a lodgepole stand at the edge of a small rocky bluff. Obtain water from North St. Vrain Creek, approx. 160 yards downhill from the site.

Aspen Knoll Backcountry Campsite

  • The Aspen Knoll site is located 2.3 miles from Wild Basin Trailhead at 9,400'. There is 1 individual site and no privy. The site is located along the unimproved, backcountry campsite access trail in a mixed aspen-spruce-lodgepole forest. Obtain water from North St. Vrain Creek, approximately 200 yards downhill from the site.

Siskin Backcountry Campsite

  • The Siskin site is located 3.2 miles from Wild Basin Trailhead at 9,460'. There is 1 individual site and no privy. The site is located along the unimproved, backcountry campsite access trail in a lodgepole stand. Obtain water from North St. Vrain Creek, approx. 135 yards downhill from the site.

North St Vrain Backcountry Campsite

  • The North St Vrain site is located 3.5 miles from Wild Basin Trailhead at 9,560'. There are 2 individual sites and a privy. The sites are located along the unimproved, backcountry campsite access trail, right where it rejoins the main trail. A food storage cable is located 20 steps up the access trail in a small clearing on the left, and parallel to the trail. The sites lie in a thick lodgepole stand on the north side of the trail, just after it crosses North St. Vrain Creek. Obtain water from North St. Vrain Creek.

Thunder Lake Backcountry Campsite

  • The Thunder Lake site is located 6.8 miles from the Wild Basin Trailhead at 10,574'. There are 3 individual sites, 1 group site, and 1 stock site. The individual sites are located in a forested area north of the trail about 300 yards east of the lake. The stock site is about 100 yards from the lake on the south side of the trail and slightly east of the hitchrack. Obtain water from Thunder Lake's outlet stream.

Ouzel Lake Backcountry Campsite

  • The Ouzel Lake site is located 4.9 miles from the Wild Basin Trailhead at 10,020'. There is 1 individual site and a privy available. The site is located north of the trail and east of the privy in a mixed lodgepole, spruce, and fir forest. Obtain water from the lake's inlet stream.

Upper Ouzel Creek Backcountry Campsite

  • The Upper Ouzel Creek site is located 5.6 miles from the Wild Basin Trailhead at 10,600', approximately .7 miles below Bluebird Lake. There is 1 individual site available, located north of the trail above the hitchrack and natural terraces. Obtain water from the creek.

Fishing Information

  • A valid Colorado fishing license is required for all persons 16 years of age or older to fish in Rocky Mountain National Park. No other permit is necessary; however, special regulations exist. It's your responsibility to know and obey them. Due to the dynamic nature of fisheries management, fishing regulations can change at anytime. Special closures may be put in place above and beyond what is listed here. Contact the park before heading out for current information.
  • Method of Capture: Each person shall use only one hand-held rod or line. A 'second rod stamp' is not honored in park waters. Only artificial lures or flies with one (single, double, or treble) hook with a common shank may be used. "Artificial flies or lures" means devices made entirely of, or a combination of, materials such as wood, plastic, glass, hair, metal, feathers, or fiber, designed to attract fish.
  • This does not include: (a) any hand malleable material designed to attract fish by the sense of taste or smell; (b) any device to which scents or smell attractants have been externally applied; (c) molded plastic devices less than one and one-half inch in length; (d) foods; (e) traditional organic baits such as worms, grubs, crickets, leeches, minnows, and fish eggs; and (f) manufactured baits such as imitation fish eggs, dough baits, or stink baits. Fly fishers may utilize a two hook system, where one hook is used as an attractant.
  • While in possession of any fishing equipment, bait for fishing (insects, fish eggs, minnows, or other organic matter) or worms is prohibited. Children 12 years of age or under, however, may use worms or preserved fish eggs in all park waters open to fishing except those designated as catch-and release areas.
  • No bait or worms are allowed in catch-and-release waters.
  • Use of lead sinkers (or other lead fishing materials) is strongly discouraged.

Rules and Regulations

  • A $20 Day Use Fee is required to enter Rocky Mountain National Park (or $30 for a 7 Day Pass).
  • Dogs are not permitted on hiking trails in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Directions to Trailhead

From Boulder, take Highway 36 north 14 miles to the town of Lyons. Remain on 36 to the Highway 7 intersection. Turn left onto Highway 7 towards Allenspark. Remain on Highway 7 and look for the Wild Basin Trailhead entrance on the left (approximately 37 miles from Boulder). Turn left on the dirt road to the entrance station .15 miles ahead. The Wild Basin Trailhead is located 2.3 miles from the entrance station.

Contact Information

Rocky Mountain National Park
Visitor Information:

Backcountry Office:

Campground Reservations:

Trip Reports

There are no trip reports on this trail.


"Continuous snow starts when you re-enter the forest just past Ouzel Lake. It completely covers the trail, so you'll need to be pretty proficient with route finding and/or GPS from this point. There are many outcrops and little ridges that pop up as you head up valley, splicing the route and forcing you to make left-or-right decisions. Sometimes these can lead to dead-ends or get you cliffed-out, so stay as close as possible to the trail to avoid these pitfalls. I used yak tracks and poles. Poles were most helpful, and the extra traction came in handy on some of the last very steep sections. The snow was fairly firm (even once warm), but there are some deep cavities under fallen trees that are hard to see. Careful crossing the creek - snow bridges will be the first to lose stability and the water is flowing heavily right now."
Alex Baher  -  Superior  -  Date Posted: June 19, 2017
"The hike is pretty easy up until Ouzel Lake, and then after that the ground is almost completely covered with snow. Because of the snow, the trail isn't visible, but there are footprints which you can follow up to the lake. The last 1/4 of a mile to the lake is pretty steep, and requires lots of kicking into the snow to make footholds. Hiking poles are recommended. "
Adrienne Jacobi  -  Longmont  -  Date Posted: June 16, 2017
"Perfect hike at this time of year, with a snow-free Upper Ouzel campsite (though a bit of snow stomping up the remaining 0.5 miles to Bluebird Lake). When solo backpacking with 2 days worth of food and clothes, keep in mind that it is 5.6 miles and 2100' up to the camp, with the second and last quarters of the hike being the most strenuous. Plenty of water along the way to fill up on (and enjoy, generally!). Wildflowers abound in the last third of the hike. There are three higher lakes than Bluebird: Lark Lake, Pipit Lake and Isolation Lake. Getting to them requires boulder field navigating (carefully but not without obvious orientation) and, at this time of year, some equally careful snow stomping. A gorgeous place for sunrise and late afternoon light."
Brendan Bombaci  -  CO  -  Date Posted: July 8, 2016
"Fantastic flowers between Ouzel turnoff and Bluebird. One tiny snowfield near top."
Paul Harvey  -  Boulder  -  Date Posted: July 2, 2012


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