Bear Lake via Horn Fork Trail

MODERATE 22 reviews

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

birding

hiking

horseback riding

nature trips

walking

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
1 month ago

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

hiking
1 month ago

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
2 months ago

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
3 months ago

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
Friday, September 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
Monday, June 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
Sunday, March 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
Tuesday, March 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.
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hiking
20 days ago

recorded Bear Lake

hiking
23 days ago

hiking
1 month ago

hiking
1 month ago

recorded mt columbia attempt

hiking
2 months ago

hiking
3 months ago

hiking
11 months ago

Thursday, August 25, 2016

recorded Bear Lake

hiking
Sunday, August 21, 2016

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Saturday, July 16, 2016

hiking
Friday, April 26, 2013