From the Wild Basin parking area, head out west on the trail on the north side of North St. Vrain Creek. The trail passes Copeland Falls after .3 mile and continues another 1.2 mile to an intersection. This first section of trail has little elevation gain on a wide and heavily used trail. At 1.5 mile from the TH, head up left for .3 mile to Calypso Falls and join another trail. This new trail if taken east will lead back to meet the Finch Lake trail. Instead, head west to Ouzel Falls. A little over half the distance to Ouzel Falls, depart the trail by heading uphill to the west. Best location to do this will be in the vicinity of where the trial takes a sharper turn to the NE to round a small ridge.
We thought this course would be a shortcut to the eastern ridge and flank of Copeland. The USGS map showed that we could head WSW, climbing steeply up a wooded slope for about 800 feet in elevation before coming to a long meadow in a relatively flat section. After that meadow, there would be a tree-bashing mile of more forest before hitting another opening at about 10,600 ft. From there, we would have clear sailing to the summit of Copeland. Of course, not everything on a USGS map is as easy as it appears. The initial steep gain of 800 feet is indeed steep. Fortunately, a forest fire from many years before has opened up the forest through here, but there are numerous fallen trees to hike over.
We found the first meadow with little difficulty right at 10,000 feet where the map indicated, but an easy stroll down the middle of the meadow is not to be had, except perhaps later in the season. That long meadow is mostly a marsh and so you may need to follow alongside the meadow, on the edge of the forest on the north side. We made fairly good headway along the meadow area, but when we had to enter the forest again for a good mile of tree-bashing, progress slowed considerably. Constantly thwarted by fallen trees, your path may alter frequently as you fight your way through. You will have no clear views of Copeland through all of this stretch, so you must rely on instinct to guide you through. (GPS with preset coordinates would be very helpful here.) There were numerous little rivulets from melting snow to avoid, more marshy areas and countless fallen trees to climb over. This was in later June.
We finally arrived at the bottom of the next clearing at 10,600 ft. We were somewhat amazed to have managed to stay on track and come out anywhere close to this clearing, considering how we never had a clear view of Copeland until just before arriving here. There were also large drifts of snow all around at this elevation. It had taken us two hours to progress two miles. In retrospect, we would have been better off hiking up the Bluebird Lake trail and climbing Copeland from Ouzel Lake and the northeastern flank. But now, out of the woods, we could easily hike on to the summit. With outstanding, unfolding views of the head of Wild Basin opening up, hike on up tundra and scree/rock slopes of fairly gentle gradient. We had some snow to work our way over or around as well. In the distance, the clouds were clearing off of Meeker and Longs, and we enjoyed this different, high altitude view of one of Colorado’s most well-known peaks. As we gained elevation, the winds increased considerably. As expected, the final summit section is mostly smaller rubble.
For the descent, we anticipated an easier and swifter return. We still headed back along the broad east facing ridge of the peak, but stayed on the north edge and then gradually turned north heading for Ouzel Lake where we planned on picking up the Bluebird trail. Things went easily at first, hiking down through tundra and minimal rock and entering open trees at timberline. But from about 10,600 feet on down to the lake is another difficult stretch of descending to complicate the day. We found ourselves in a narrow gully, with some snow, but also filled with avalanche debris to stumble over and across as we plunged our way down. The only alternative was the forest to the side which contained many more fallen trees. So we fought our way on down staying in the gully. As things began to level off on the south side of the lake, we found ourselves once again fighting through the forest, then suddenly, we stood at the shore and outlet of Ouzel Lake. We had hoped to come out on the west side of the lake, but instead were on the east end.
The next and hopefully final obstacle is wading across the lake outlet to get to the trail. In later June the water is quite frigid, but refreshing to tired feet. Once across, strap your boots back on and begin the long hike back to the trailhead along the now familiar, Bluebird trail. Pause at Ouzel Falls for some photos if you have not done so before and continue hiking down, arriving back at the parking area, likely later than you originally anticipated.
Links to other information, routes & trip reports for this peak that may be helpful.