Bear Lake via Horn Fork Trail

MODERATE 12 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.

10.4 miles
2536 feet
Out & Back

dogs on leash




horseback riding

nature trips






wild flowers




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.

3 days 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.

9 months ago

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.

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??

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.

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.

8 months ago

Thursday, August 25, 2016

recorded Bear Lake

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Friday, April 26, 2013