Bear Lake via Horn Fork Trail

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Collegiate Peaks Wilderness

Bear Lake via Horn Fork Trail is a 10.4 mile heavily trafficked out and back trail located near Buena Vista, Colorado that features a lake and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from March until November. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

Distance: 10.4 miles Elevation Gain: 2,536 feet Route Type: Out & Back

dogs on leash

backpacking

hiking

horseback riding

nature trips

walking

bird watching

forest

lake

river

views

wild flowers

wildlife

blowdown

rocky

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.

hiking
snow
13 days ago

Just tried this (5/17/20), but we only made it close to half way before the snow kept us from moving forward. It’s a beautiful trail (from what we got to see) with some dispersed camping along the creek. Excited to see this place once everything melts. Plenty of aspen for seeing colors throughout the seasons

hiking
icy
muddy
rocky
scramble
snow
13 days ago

hiking
7 months ago

My husband and I hiked this on 10.08 and didn't see another person. The road out to the trailhead past where Chaffee County maintains is rough! We drove our Honda CRV which is AWD but it was still a challenge. The hike through the forest was gorgeous and once you clear that the hike to the lake seems otherworldly. I would hike this again for sure.

hiking
8 months ago

Backpacked and camped at the last established site before the lake. Nice challenging hike and allows you to break up hike if you want to summit Harvard/Columbia.

hiking
8 months ago

Actually 5.7 miles from parking lot. Hiked 9.8.19 beautiful weather good trail last 1 mile is challenging you hit 2 false summits before bear lake. At the base of Harvard & Columbia indescribable

hiking
8 months ago

awesome trail and hike!

Spectacular hike. Best hike of season. RATING KEY 5 stars = spectacular hike 4 stars = lovely hike, would happily do again 3 stars = enjoyed the hike, but not inclined to revisit

hiking
10 months ago

This was a great hike up to a peaceful lake (don’t miss the final right turn). There were bugs and we learned to carry spray. Loved the water running beside several places on the trail.

hiking
10 months ago

Spectacular hike! More like 11mi round trip. Nice trail through the trees for about 2/3 of it, and then you come to a breathtaking bowl above tree line leading up to the lake (also to Mt Harvard if you choose to go up further). We did this hike carrying our 7 month old daughter (she really likes being in the hiking backpack, altho 11mi turned out to be just a bit long for her) - we live in Denver and hike a lot, but we still err on the conservative/safe side...felt comfortable the whole way on this hike. Not to say it was easy! Highly recommend this one.

hiking
muddy
snow
11 months ago

We attempted to hike this trail earlier this week. At about 2 miles, the snow covers most of the trail. Post-holing, mud, slush all the way past 2 miles in. We gave up at the 4.5 mile mark and turned around. It will be a beautiful hike in a few weeks when the snow melts. Still miserable and the trail only visible from the foot prints in the snow.

hiking
snow
11 months ago

We tried to hike this trail today, but there was so much snow on the ground! We got a third of a mile along the trail, but turned around. We weren’t prepared to hike in such deep snow - a pair of snowshoes definitely would have been useful. I gave the trail a rating of 4 for now, but anticipate raising it to a 5 the next time we’re able to hike it all the way to Bear Lake!

Mon Oct 15 2018

Did this on 10/14 after a big snow storm. Was a chilly and epic adventure. Post-holing up to the hips for the last mile. Good fun.

hiking
Sun Aug 12 2018

Beautiful half day trail. The end is worth the effort.

hiking
Sat Aug 11 2018

This was a fantastic hike! We did this as a day hike and had lunch at the lake. Magnificent views. From the time you cross the stream and enter the Horn Fork basin until slightly before the turn off for the lake, the rate of climb is very manageable. The last bit before the turn off was steeper, but not all that long. I’m not sure that I would agree with the review below about most low clearance cars being able to make it to the trailhead, at least based on the condition of the road when we were there in July this year. We did make it using a garden variety small SUV, but I would have felt a lot better in something with more clearance and a stick, particularly coming down. That being said, there were a couple of low clearance passenger cars at the trailhead and one apparently disabled SUV being hauled off on a flatbed tow truck...

hiking
Mon Jul 02 2018

I camped up here for 1 night. Getting up to the TH in my Honda Civic was definitely a little stressful, but doable. I went in about 4 miles, found myself about halfway up the trail to Mt Columbia with my 30 lbs pack and decided to tough it out. Didn't realize that the trail I was on was still in the process of being built, haha, and ended up having to cut across a slope to reach the old trail up Mt Columbia, which was terrible (I see why they're building a new one--should be done next year!). Gave up at about 13800' still with my giant pack and came back down to treeline (the descent on the old Mt Columbia trail was really rough, lots of skidding down a rocky slope) to camp for the night; lots of beautiful spots in the basin at treeline, close enough to walk for water. Plenty of people, but everyone was quiet and respectful and overall just so relaxing and gorgeous to watch the sunset over the mountains. Headed up to Bear Lake the next morning, ate some snacks, and came all the way back down. I'll have to try Mt Harvard next, but I was so pooped from Mt Columbia I didn't want to try!

hiking
Tue Jun 19 2018

This was my second visit to this trailhead. The first time I hiked to Columbia’s summit, and it was brutal. Most low clearance vehicles should be capable of getting to the trailhead. It starts off fairly easy-going and increases in intensity over the duration of the hike. There was quite a bit of post-holing going on over Memorial Day, but I would assume no issues going up now. The vegetation below tree line looks great, and there are several great campsites along the way. Next time I visit I’ll be hiking in a couple miles and stay overnight to get a head start on Mount Harvard.

hiking
Fri Sep 01 2017

Hiked 9/1/17 Beautiful trail, plenty of elevation gain and a couple creek/stream crossings. Make sure to turn left at the intersection and the lake is deceivingly high up there but very worth it. Plenty of amazing camping opportunities the whole way up but id stay at or below the treeline.

hiking
Mon Jun 02 2014

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??

hiking
Sun Mar 23 2014

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.

hiking
Tue Mar 18 2014

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. .

hiking
18 days ago

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1 month ago

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