At 12,716 feet of elevation, Ouzel Peak
is only the 35th named summit in Rocky Mountain National Park
. Considering that the approach from the closest trailhead is over 8 miles, it shouldn't surprise that this summit along the Continental Divide sees few visitors each year. Ouzel Peak, however, cuts a very elegant figure against the sky when seen from the east, and offers to the determined hiker great views
from its top. The two miles of the Continental Divide that form the western border of Wild Basin between Isolation Peak to the north of Ouzel Peak and Ogallala Peak to its south allow one to make a very long day even longer by combining a visit to Ouzel Peak with one to either (or both) of its neighbors. The difficulties along this stretch of the Divide never exceed class 2.
There are several ways to attain the watershed from southern Wild Basin. To reach it to the south of Ouzel Peak, one can climb to Cony Pass
and from there to the Divide (class 4), or ascend one of the two steep couloirs known as Cony Express. The southern one is approached from Cony Lake
, while the northern one from Junco Lake
. To reach the Divide to the north of Ouzel Peak, the easiest approach is to climb from Pipit Lake
directly to the lowest point of the ridge that connects Ouzel Peak to Isolation Peak
. Reaching the Continental Divide from the west requires a very long hike. Given the ban on camping in Paradise Park, not many will feel up to it. Finally, there are the direct routes to Ouzel's summit, which, besides the northeast ridge
described here, include the east ridge
and the north slopes
. In summer conditions, the former should be class 3 and the latter are class 2.
The two most common approaches to Ouzel Peak are from the Wild Basin Ranger Station trailhead and from the Finch Lake trailhead, both located in Wild Basin, Rocky Mountain National Park. The Wild Basin entrance
to the Park is located on Colorado Highway 7, between Allenspark to the south and Meeker Park to the north. After turning west from Colorado 7, go for less than half a mile until you turn right at a sign indicating the Wild Basin entrance station. The Wild Basin Ranger Station trailhead (8480 ft) is located at the end of the dirt road that starts at the entrance station. The Finch Lake trailhead (8460 ft) is along the same dirt road, about a quarter of a mile from its end. The trailhead is on the left (south) side of the road, indicated by a sign that is well visible. If you reach the bridge on the St. Vrain Creek you have gone too far. The dirt road is passable by passenger cars.
No permits are required for day hikes and climbs in Rocky Mountain National Park. There is no parking fee. The entrance pass to the park is $20 per car and is valid for 7 days. The fee, however, is not collected before 6:30 AM. All park visitors should follow the Leave No Trace
When To Climb
Spring to Fall. During the summer months, an early start is strongly advised to minimize the danger of lightning. (More people are killed in the U.S. each year by lightning than by hurricanes.) An ascent during the winter would be substantially more challenging than one during the summer: One should expect ice, strong winds, sub-zero (Fahrenheit) temperatures, and frequent storms. Spring and Fall present the most variability. Summer conditions may prevail until October, or may be already gone by late August.
There are several camping sites within the park and specifically in Wild Basin. It is usually easier to get permits for Wild Basin than for the rest of the park. Details on locations, facilities, reservations, and fees can be found at the camping page
of RMNP. Bivy information
can also be found on the park's site.
The park's contact information page
lists useful numbers. Two webcams
, one pointed at Longs Peak and the other at a stretch of the Continental Divide, allow one to get an idea of the conditions not far from Ouzel Peak. Detailed forecasts are provided by NOAA
Never forget that the weather may change very rapidly in the high country. The temperature may drop by 50°F or more in a couple of hours. Those who have been caught out by such sudden changes without proper equipment and preparation have not always survived.