(G & M: #538)
Ogalalla Peak is sequenced with Isolation Peak and includes a backpack trip and base camp near Bluebird Lake. It is possible for strong hiker/climbers to complete this loop hike in a day, but the mileage will be in excess of 17. Our mileage and elevation gain are measured from the summit of Isolation. The round-trip mileage and elevation gain for this route starts from the Upper Ouzel backcountry campsite about .4 mile east of Bluebird Lake and the overall mileage and elevation gain including the backpack approach begins from the Wild Basin TH access. The long ridge hike from Isolation to Ogalalla is mostly Class 1 to easy Class 2, but the descent back to Bluebird Lake by way of Coney Pass is a Class 2+. The trailhead for Isolation and Ogalalla peaks is the Wild Basin TH accessible by any passenger vehicle.
Ogalalla Peak North Ridge Route
For Front Range residents, there are several ways the Wild Basin TH can be accessed. Perhaps the most direct and easiest is from Longmont to Lyons on US 36. At Lyons, take CO7 to Allenspark. The Wild Basin turnoff is about 2.4 miles north on CO7 from Allenspark. Watch for signs for the turn to the west off the highway. There are turn lanes at this intersection. You will then be on CR84 West. Follow the paved road to a right hand turn onto the road leading to Wild Basin. The road becomes graded gravel and you immediately come to an entrance station and small parking area for the Sandbeach Lake TH. After the entrance station, the road passes by Copeland Lake. It's about 2 more miles to the parking area for the Wild Basin trails. There is a ranger station here, picnic tables and vault toilets. While there are plenty of parking spots, weekends can see this fill up so earlier arrival is advised. Carpooling is advised.
Other ways to access: From Estes Park, drive south on CO 7 to the same turnoff for Wild Basin. From Nederland, drive north on CO 72 past Ward, Peaceful Valley and Raymond to the intersection with CO 7. Go left on there to Allenspark and then north 2.4 miles form Allenspark for the same turnoff.
There is no campground at the Wild Basin TH area. There are fee-based campgrounds located at "Olive Ridge," between Allenspark and the Wild Basin turnoff and the "Meeker Park Overflow" north of the Wild Basin turnoff by about a mile and a half. There is little if any at-large camping anywhere close because of all the private property.
Moderate | RT: 12 mi / 2,200’
Bluebird Lake - RMNP
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 .4 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 in .9 mile and continue left at another trail junction in another .4 mile. Now you'll be heading for Ouzel and Bluebird Lakes. The trail switchbacks up the hillside and gains a broad and open ridge. Follow the trail past the turnoff for Ouzel lake (1.4 mile from the last intersection) and continue another 1.8 mile to Bluebird Lake, or 1.4 miles to the Upper Ouzel Campsite, which we treat as the terminus to this approach. Most of the trail after gaining the open ridge gains elevation gradually, but as you approach the last half mile to the lake, you'll have some steeper sections. Copeland Mountain will offer a formidable north flank seen across the valley to the south.
All camping in the RMNP backcountry is regulated and the campsites are designated and sites are limited. Visit the RMNP website for the most current information on backcountry camping. On the Bluebird Lake trail, there is a designated site near Ouzel Lake and then about a half mile before arriving at Bluebird Lake. Camp locations last time we utilized this system could be made as early as the month of March, preceding the summer of your intended visit. Get your application in as early as possible to have any chance of getting your desired campsite. The following link takes you to a pdf map of all the designated backcountry sites.
The Bluebird Lake campsite has a few tent spots located on a shelf above a bluff that overlooks the trail. There are low conifers there. There is a sign marking the turnoff for the campsite. Water can be obtained from the nearby Ouzel Creek and there are nice wildflower meadows to visit. The coordinates below are our best guess as to the campsite location using Google Earth.
N 40° 11' 44.10", W 105° 38' 49.74"
Open This Approach in a New Window
Class 2 /
2.8 mi / 2,740’ One-Way
Isolation Pk South Ridge
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Open This Route in a New Window
If camped at the Bluebird Lake designated site, (Upper Ouzel) you'll first need to walk on up to the lake, about a .4 mile away. From the campsite to the lake, there is some steeper trail to navigate. The beautiful lake will greet you with rocky splendor. The backdrop for the lake is Ouzel Peak and a rugged looking valley on the south side of the peak. The east and north slopes by the lake we found abounding in wildflowers.
Cross the lake outlet and hike north and west along the shore before beginning a diagonal ascent on the north slopes toward Lark Pond. From the Lark Pond, we “pondered” (pun intended) over the best route to Isolation Peak. We ended up taking a slanting route, past Pipit Lake and up the east flank of the ridge that bounds this upper valley on the west and struggled through some steep and very loose talus as we approached the ridge. We emerged on the ridge perhaps near the 12,400 ft. contour south of the low point saddle below Isolation. This meant we would have to descend some to that saddle and then regain 900+ feet of elevation. Once past the saddle, it was a fairly easy stroll to the summit of Isolation with a mixture of rock and tundra, perhaps more rock than expected from the initial distant views.
Once atop the summit, we could survey the valley below and came to the conclusion that if you want the easiest route up Isolation, you should just stay in the valley hiking up past Pipit Lake, swing north to Isolation Lake and then walk up fairly easy slopes to the west to the summit of Isolation. The stroll up the valley would have been much easier than our route, especially if you stayed on the north side above the lakes. Class wise, we're talking Class 2+ versus Class 2. Neither route has any significant difficulties other than the talus.
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Year Climbed: 2007
Ogalalla Peak from Isolation Peak is nearly 3 miles south along the central ridge. Once past the saddle south of the Isolation summit and a more narrow section of the ridge, (Class 2) things open up and the walk across the vast stretch of tundra becomes easier, Class 1 walking. We skirted past the summit of Ouzel Peak, but it's easy enough to include if you want as an unranked 12er.
The stroll up to Ogalalla is easy on mostly tundra and embedded rock. Ogalalla is the southern most 13er of RMNP and actually sets just outside of the park boundary. It took at least an hour and a half to make the long trip between the two summits. The Ogalalla summit is uneventful. The best thing about going there are the additional views. The south flank of Copeland is highly visible as are the two lakes below it. If there's any possibility of going onto climbing 12ers some day, you may want to take a close look at "Elk Tooth" east of Ogalalla and connected by a ridge.
To descend back to Bluebird Lake, head north off Ogalalla and descended to Cony Pass. We had information of a route down through here, but it took us a little time to find it. Two rock cairns indicated two possible approaches through two possible gullies to the north side of the ridge over to Copeland. We chose the eastern most and carefully descended on very steep and loose conditions, loosing at least 200 feet before finding a route that contoured us out of the gully and over to the pass. From here, we descended rapidly on steep talus down to Junco Lake. This was all Class 2+. It should be mentioned that it's possible to continue east from Cony Pass to the summit of Copeland along this fairly long, mile and a half connecting ridge. A climbing friend of ours did it and reported that it was not all that difficult, but the appearance certainly seems to offer some challenges. Unfortunatley, this day that we did Isolation to Ogalalla, we were already being rained on during the descent, so it seemed most prudent to save Copeland for another day.
We passed the outlet of Junco Lake and continued hiking east, down the valley, trying to stay on a fairly narrow ridge for a while on the north side of the creek. A descending ramp on the north side of the ridge tempted us down for quite a ways before we were finally forced off it and had to descend on steep tundra and rock benches into the drainage directly west of Bluebird Lake. A difficulty on the south shore of the lake, where cliffs came right to the water line sent us around to the north side. Upon further study, we think it's possible to descend from Junco Lake and stay higher up on that same ridge overlooking the creek for a further distance east and then descend to the Bluebird outlet. This would require a little bit of additional uphill though to stay on the ridge crest. Both possibilities are shown on the CalTopo map. Once at the outlet, hike the last half mile back to the Bluebird campsite if that's where you're staying.
Links to other information, routes & trip reports for this peak that may be helpful.
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