Alpine Ridge Trail

The drive up to the Alpine Ridge Trail is an adventure. If you begin on the East side of Rocky Mountain National Park, you have the choice of driving up Old Fall River Road or Trail Ridge Road. Both routes are inside of Rocky Mountain National Park, so you need to purchase a park pass.

Old Fall River Road

We opted for the Old Fall River Road route where you can go one-way, and that is up. The road begins near the Endovalley picnic area and leads to the Alpine Visitor Center and the Alpine Ridge Trail. The gravel road is eleven miles long. You can expect tight turns and slow speeds. (The speed limit is only 15 mph.) The road is open seasonally and can close at any time for poor weather conditions. It’s a good idea to check the National Park Service’s Road Status Report before heading up. You can avoid crowds and afternoon storms by starting early.

Chasm Falls

One of the highlights along the road is Chasm Falls which is hidden from view. There is a small pull-out with enough room for a handful of cars to park. The trail leading down to the viewing deck is short and steep. If you can find a spot, Chasm Falls is worth stopping for. I included it as one of our best waterfall hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Chasm Falls off of Old Fall River Road

above tree line

Old Fall River Road takes you above the tree line. The views from this road are spectacular. Many times on our journey we have spotted elk. Eventually you connect to the parking lot of the Alpine Visitors Center where parking is competitive.

Alpine visitors center

The Alpine Visitors Center is a great place to use the restroom, shop for souvenirs, take pictures, grab a snack, and ask park rangers any questions you have about the tundra. It’s usually noticeably colder and windier at this altitude, so we add on a layer of clothing before walking around.

If you are looking for a fun and inexpensive activity/souvenir, my girls enjoyed picking out postcards for their friends back home at the gift shop. There is a post office in downtown Estes Park where you can purchase stamps and send them.

Alpine Ridge Trail

alpine ridge trail by alpine visitor center in rocky mountain national park

I’ve always noticed people hiking up the Alpine Ridge trail, but this was the first time we decided to make the hike up. It helped that we had a warm day with low winds.

trail ridge road leads to alpine visitor center and alpine ridge trail in rocky mountain national park

The hike is only .3 miles each way. Concrete stairs climb to the top. You start at high elevation and end up at even higher elevation, so even the short distance is a cardio challenge. My 4-year-old was able to make it on her own, but my 2-year-old got to ride on her Dad’s shoulders. I appreciate that the National Park Service places educational signage along the trail to help explain what you are looking at, why you are out of breath, and what they are doing to protect the natural environment surrounding us.

old fall river road leads to alpine visitors center

From this perspective, you can see Old Fall River road winding up the mountain.

wildflowers in rocky mountain national park tundra

The wildflowers were blooming on the tundra which is a delicate landscape. This area is roped off to encourage crowds to stay on the path.

views from alpine visitor center and alpine ridge trail

There were several groupings of large rocks that my girls enjoyed climbing on.

elevation is 12,005 feet above sea level on alpine ridge trail

The elevation at the top is 12,005 ft. above sea level. You can see for miles! I’m happy we took the time to take the small trek up the trail. It was something our whole family enjoyed. If you like this tundra hike, I also recommend reading our post on the Ute Trail.

Trail Ridge Road

We took Trail Ridge Road back down the mountain towards Estes Park. This trail is far less rustic than Old Fall River Road. We enjoyed views of the mountains and spotting a herd of elk playing in the snow.

Family Friendly Waterfall Hike in Rocky Mountain National Park’s Wild Basin

Rocky Mountain National Park’s Wild Basin Area is the setting for some of our favorite waterfall hikes. Located 19 miles south of Estes Park on Highway 7, the Wild Basin is more remote. There is no shuttle service to this area of the park. The roads are narrow and in places pretty rough.

The bumpy drive is worth it.  We love this area of the park – it feels like an adventure and the hike to Copeland Falls is only .3 miles from the Wild Basin trailhead. There is an upper falls and lower falls, go to both!

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It’s amazing how much beauty you can see on such a short hike. I love the waterfalls and towering trees. I enjoy the contrast of the different color tree barks and spring leaves. It’s a short, relatively flat hike so I try to notice every detail. My husband was patient while I tried to ‘capture’ the beauty of this moss type plant. Then I remembered he was carrying a 2 year old on his shoulders, so I hiked a little faster for him.

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After Copeland Falls we decided to continue our hike towards Calypso Cascades, but we stopped a little short when we felt a few rain drops and noticed gathering dark clouds.

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This picturesque bridge is located just beyond the trail sign and made a great stopping point at 1.5 miles in. Calypso Cascades is stunning, so if you have time to go I highly recommend it.

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Our sleepy little one gives this waterfall hike a thumbs up! 

What are your favorite waterfall hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park? Do you ever stop a little shy of your goal destination? 

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?