Into the Wild Basin in Rocky Mountain National Park

A less busy, more remote area of Rocky Mountain National Park is appropriately named the Wild Basin. On our first trip, we almost drove right past the entrance station which is located 19 miles south of Estes Park, Colorado on Highway 7. Once you turn in, the road narrows and leads to dirt roads with limited parking.

Initially our goal was to scout out the area. We headed to the Wild Basin trail head and walked just .3 miles to Copeland Falls. The short, relativity flat walk through tall pine forest is lovely. There is an upper and lower falls, so make sure to go to both.

View of Copeland Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park's Wild Basin Area
This picture of Cecy with her Daddy melts my heart.

The Wild Basin trail head starts at 8,500 ft of elevation. We were pleasantly surprised by how much we enjoyed this lower elevation walk, so we came back on our next trip to Rocky Mountain National Park.

On our second excursion we wanted to push ourselves to go on to Ouzel Falls which is 2.7 miles each way. On this hike, you gain approximately 950 ft of elevation. There is a lot to see on your way to Ouzel Falls. After passing Copeland Falls we hiked to Calypso Cascades where water tumbles down against logs and boulders in a memorable display.

Copeland Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park
Calypso Cascades is located 1.8 miles from the Wild Basin trail head.

The trail follows a scenic mountain stream that you get to cross over several times on sturdy wooden bridges.

Wooden bridge crossing river in Wild Basin in Rocky Mountain National Park

We continued our adventure to Ouzel Falls which is 2.7 miles from the trail head.

Ouzel Falls in Wild Basin, Rocky Mountain National Park

When we were there in early September 2015 the bridge at Ouzel Falls that leads to Ouzel Lake was wiped out from flooding. A crew was there working to rebuild.

Trail Closed during September 2015

We hiked a little off trail to find a better view of Ouzel Falls. Our daughter seemed to enjoy the rushing sound of the falls and the soft mist that was coming off of it.

Ouzel falls splashes down boulders giving off mist

My husband hiked an additional .2 miles to the top of the falls which was somewhat technical and not baby friendly. He waved back down at Cecy and me as we played below.

Views from the top of Ouzel Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park
View from the top of Ouzel Falls

We love that the Wild Basin is typically less crowded compared to other areas in Rocky Mountain National Park. We appreciate that you don’t have to walk far to see a waterfall, but you can also push yourself and have quite the adventure.

Have you been to Rocky Mountain National Park’s Wild Basin area? What did you think?

Relaxing Stroll on Lily Lake

Beautiful Lily Lake is right across the street from Twin Sisters trailhead on highway 7. A flat .8 mile trail circles the lake. This is an easier walk for anyone who struggles with strenuous terrain. Several benches are available offering an opportunity to rest and soak in the gorgeous views. We enjoyed showing Cecy the little ducks on the lake and the pretty wild flowers that surround it.  This is a spot I expect to return to again and again, especially when Cecy starts walking. She took a few cautious steps on her own yesterday – so that might be soon!

Ducks
Baby Duck with Her Momma

Summer wild flowers surround Lily Lake
Summer wild flowers surround Lily Lake

Twin Sisters Peaks in Rocky Mountain National Park

A couple of months after our wedding my husband brought me to Estes Park, CO. The first hike we went on was Twin Sisters Peaks. When we made it to the top, I looked over at the surrounding mountains in awe and instantly fell in love with the area.

Newlyweds - Mountain Love
Newlyweds – Mountain Love

Fast forward three years and we hiked the same mountain plus a baby and a sister-in-law! We began at the Twin Sisters trail head which is located six miles south of Estes Park on Highway 7.

Me and my mountain baby
Me and my mountain munchkin

I was excited to share this summit hike with my little one, but next time we will probably leave her home with a babysitter. My husband carried her, but that meant I also carried a lot of weight in my pack so the three of us would have enough water, snacks and gear. Baby gear = diapers, wipes, sunscreen, hat, change of clothes … we could have over-packed!?

We were slowly chugging up the mountain with extra weight on our backs when we ran into the landslide area about 1.5 miles in. We navigated over loose rocks and a steeper slope.

Landslide Damage
Landslide Damage

Once we crossed, we found that the landslide wiped out several switch backs so we had to make it up three steep vertical climbs that were approximately 20-25 yards each. This was the part that I was most concerned about with our baby, even though my husband was very careful.

*2020 Update: This section remains steep, but has been improved.

Despite the new challenges, this is such a fun hike and the views of Longs Peak from the top are truly amazing. This was my sister-in-law’s first summit hike which was very cool to share with her too.

Round trip is about 7 miles reaching 11,413 ft of elevation on the West Summit, a gain of 2,253 ft. The East Summit is slightly higher, but we decided to shorten the trip this time by going up just one side. The final approach to the East Summit is a fun class 2 scramble.

View from the top
View from the top

2020 Update on Twin Sisters hike:

My husband recently hiked Twin Sisters (late May 2020). He took this video from the top of the East Summit on an early morning. Twin Sisters melts out sooner than some of the other summit hikes in the area, so it’s a great early season trail. It’s always good to check trail reports/conditions to make sure you have the right gear, especially during the spring when weather conditions are always changing. For the most part, the trail is similar to the conditions we wrote about nearly 5 years ago. We include Twin Sisters on our list of 9 hikes with amazing views.

View from East Summit of Twin Sisters – Spring 2020

What I’m (Constantly) Reading

We are heading back to Colorado in a couple of weeks and I can’t wait. Between trips I day dream about waking up to mountain vistas and research hikes. My go-to hiking resource is “Rocky Mountain National Park, The Complete Hiking Guide” by Lisa Foster.

I bought this guide a couple of years ago as a gift for my husband at Kind Coffee, our can’t-miss coffee shop in Estes Park, CO. My favorite part of the book is the ‘destination chart’ in the appendix. Foster lists basically every destination in RMNP and it’s distance, trailhead, elevation starting point, elevation gain, and rating (grade, class and snow/ice). When we are hiking with our 10 month old, I’ve been looking for hikes that are 6 miles or less round trip and have a low grade and class rating.  Foster also put together a helpful list of over 50 attractions in the book’s index under “family-friendly hiking destinations”.

Sadly, a week after I bought the guide downtown Estes Park and much of the surrounding area was hit by a devastating flood. Even though the town did an amazing job rebuilding, we’ve seen major changes in trails including one of our favorites, Twin Sisters Peak. I’ll write about our adventure with navigating the landslide damage soon!

As a supplement to the guide, we also like to check out sites like Rocky Mountain Hiking Trails.com.