Photos this page: Marian Aldrich
Live close enough to Rocky Mountain National Park for a quick weekend trip? Make it easy and fun!
What to do:
Prep: Pre-book the North St. Vrain (Friday night) and Upper Ouzel Creek (Saturday night) campsites with the Backcountry Office at RMNP.
Tip: Any campsite on the Tahosa short-cut trail will do as they're all close-in.
Friday: When you arrive in Estes Park, go directly to the Backcountry Office and pick up your permits.
Go back into town about a mile and stop at The Warming House to rent a bear cache. Keep in mind the only meals to be packed are Sat. and Sunday breakfasts, Saturday lunch, and Saturday dinner. If there are 2 people a smaller cache will do, otherwise take the larger. Pack the cache tightly with anything smelly and put it in your backpack above the sleeping bag (middle section). Don't let it bounce around on the outside. It might be one more thing to carry, but oh how easy to use. When ready for bed, just walk 70 paces from your site and put the cache in a depression or a bush. A bear can't pick it up. No more throwing rocks and ropes over high tree limbs and no more bears pulling down your food in the middle of the night. The cache also makes a nice stool for camp and should be reserved for the person who carried it.
Rental gear is also available at The Warming House, as well as a large selection of freeze-dried food. Keep your equipment simple by only taking food that needs boiling water. That way the group only needs a good-sized pot for boiling water and each person needs their own dish, cup and utensils. Pack sandwiches that will keep and a few snacks for Saturday lunch.
Once done, head into town for Chicago's Best for pizza. There's no atmosphere here, just real good food. When you're properly stuffed, head for Hwy 7 and the Wild Basin (southern) entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park. With the long summer days, you can start fairly late (3:30 - 5:30 pm) and still get to your campsite before dark. Take an evening treat to enjoy under the stars.
Saturday: No need to hurry. A cup of java (just add water), a few freeze-dried scrambled eggs (just add water) and a big bagel and you're good to go. You will need to backtrack a short distance to the Bluebird/Ouzel Lake Trail. Your campsite, Upper Ouzel Creek, sits above a lovely high meadow and is one of the best campsites in the Park. Set up camp, enjoy lunch, then hike without your pack up to the Lake. Return to camp for dinner and another night under the stars.
Sunday: Enjoy another leisurely breakfast before packing up and heading downhill to the car. You should get back to town in time to have a late lunch - something fattening that drips down your shirt is in order.