Site Details

descriptions and directions

Cottonwood Marsh photo by Peter Burke

Accessible Wild Basin - Boulder County
Aliases: Copeland Lake, Ouzel Falls
Ownership: None Listed
Description: This broad valley is one of the jewels of Rocky Mountain National Park. For better or for worse, it is a very long hike to the peaks from here, even from the end of the Wild Basin Road. But even without hiking, you've got decent shots here at both sapsuckers, all the willow specialties, and (especially in August) Black Swift.

Sandbeach Lake trailhead is just past the National Park entrance station. The first mile of the Sandbeach trail goes through the same excellent ponderosa forest you can see around Copeland Lake itself--just more of it. At about 1.2 miles the trail crests the ridge and from there to Sandbeach Lake the habitats are mostly lodgepole, mixed-conifer and spruce-fir. The birding up here can be good, if you're up to the hike.

Around Copeland Lake itself, look for all the ponderosa specialty birds, including Williamson's Sapsucker and Band-tailed Pigeon (rare). If you are here between June and early September, look high above the lake for flocks of Violet-green Swallows. You may see a Black Swift in with them, somewhere up in the stratosphere. If they are not over Copeland Lake, keep an eye out for them all the way up to the end of the road, and from there up the trail to Ouzel Falls and beyond.

Across the road from Copeland Lake are some interesting willow and aspen habitats which are fairly accessible, but often wet. Outside this immediate area, birding the road between here and its end can be problematic. The road is very windy and narrow in some places two cars may not be able to pass abreast. Park only in designated spots, and be very careful where you bird. At any rate, apart from a nice mountain meadow or two, there usually isn't much reason to stop between Copeland Lake and the Wild Basin trailhead.

The area around the Wild Basin trailhead can be fairly birdy, with an avifauna typical of the transition into a higher-elevation (but not spruce-fir) forest. The hike to Ouzel Falls is highly recommended. Especially if you are there early in the summer and early in the day, you have an excellent chance for a wide variety of montane birds on this medium-length hike. Beyond Calypso Cascades the trail passes through an old burn area, now rather too old for Three-toed Woodpeckers, but still attractive to Northern Pygmy-Owls, which nest in the snags, and which you may see if you are insanely lucky. Ouzel Falls itself has in recent years been the breeding site of the Black Swifts which now appear to be more regular in Wild Basin than anywhere else on the East Slope. Staking out the falls, however, is not a particularly good way to see the birds unless done at dawn or dusk, as they visit the nest very rarely during the day. Look for them overhead, or even below you if you are on one of the high points overlooking the valley. The wide variety of scenery and the relative ease of this hike make it a good choice for those traveling with non-birders.

Habitat: Ponderosa Forest, Aspen Grove, Stream, Streamside Willow, Mountain Meadow, Lodgepole Forest, Burn Area
Directions: The Wild Basin area is in the southeast portion of Rocky Mountain National Park. It is accessed via a signed road which heads west from CO 7 about two mile north of Allenspark and two miles south of Meeker Park.
Other Wildlife:
Other Attractions:

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Other Sites in Boulder County
eBird Seasonal Bar Chart

Latest Wild Basin Sightings from eBird


CBRC Records from Wild Basin

SpeciesAccession No.Date(s)
Pacific Wren2015-082 07/09/2015
Pacific Wren2016-050 07/04/2016
Pacific Wren2017-046 07/14/2017
Winter Wren2011-104 7/17/2011 - 7/25/2011