Bear Lake via Horn Fork Trail is a 10.5 mile heavily trafficked out and back trail located near Buena Vista, Colorado that features a lake and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, nature trips, birding, and horses and is best used from March until November. Dogs and horses are also able to use this trail.
A high altitude lake with views of many mountains. From the trailhead follow the obvious path west along North Cottonwood Creek. After a mile and a half the trail will cross to the north side of the stream and take you into the Horn Fork Basin along Horn Fork Creek. The trail is well traveled and easy to follow. As you near treeline there are many established camping sites and this trip makes a great overnighter. About 3/4 of a mile after treeline you will come to an intersection labeled for Bear Lake. Take the trail to the Left and follow it a short distance to the Lake.
This trail is very easy to get to from Buena Vista and is more than a pleasant drive through a winding back road. I definitely tried this one too early in the season this year (June 1st), but I was able to make it very close to the juncture of bear lake and the summit of Harvard, at that point I began post holing up to my waste. I still managed to keep a smile on my face even as my legs went relatively numb. As they say, the first post hole is the deepest...right??
This is a long trail that takes all day if you go to the top of Mt. Harvard, but it's worth every hour of it. You hike up N. Cottonwood Creek for 2.5 miles, then take the fork to the right and start climbing. When you get out of the trees you get great views of Mt. Yale, Mt. Columbia, and Mt. Harvard. There is also places to camp here.Hike on up the trail and you come to a fork, the left trail goes to Bear Lake, the right one goes to the top of Mt. Harvard, were you get an awesome view of the valley you came up, and Bear Lake way down below.
An awesome hike up Cottonwood Creek for a couple miles, then forks to the right to climb a hill. The trail finally breaks out of the trees and you get great views of three 14ers. Mt. Yale to the south,Mt. Columbia to the east, and Mt. Harvard to the north. There are some places to camp at this time if you'd like. If you follow the trail to the lake it takes you up a valley to where it levels off. The trail then comes to a fork, the trail to the left goes to Bear Lake,where there is good fishing for cutthrout trout. The trail to the right goes to the top of Mt. Harvard, the 2nd highest 14er. in Colorado, where you get some rock scrambling at the top and an awesome view of the valley you just came up, and the ocean of mountain tops in most every direction.