Harvard Lakes Trail

MODERATE 65 reviews
#9 of 109 trails in

Harvard Lakes Trail is a 5.4 mile moderately 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 and horses are also able to use this trail.

DISTANCE
5.4 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
1548 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Out & Back

dog friendly

kid friendly

birding

camping

hiking

horseback riding

nature trips

trail running

walking

forest

lake

views

wild flowers

Two small beautiful lakes hidden at the base of Mt Columbia From the trailhead go south along the old logging road. When the road takes a sharp turn right (West) you will see a path continuing south. This is the key to this trail. Once you find this trail the rest is easy. After the trail crosses Three Elks Creek it will begin to turn west and lead you up the East side of Mt. Columbia. This trail will meet with the Colorado Trail just North of Harvard Lakes. Turn left onto the Colorado trail for about 100 yards to reach the upper lake, continue on the trail a short ways to reach the lower lake.

hiking
3 days ago

The road leading up to the trail is terrible so be prepared to add about a mile both ways (2 miles total). The trail is very well managed and easy to follow. In terms of difficulty it leans more towards easy. There are a lot of bugs so bring repellent of some sort if you don’t want to be annoyed by them the whole time. Butterflies are very easy to spot by the lake. Extremely low traffic on the trail as I only saw one other person the whole time. Overall it’s a good forest trail but because of the irritating bugs and lack of a distinct feature or view I would go to other trails during the summer.

hiking
12 days ago

I will be doing this again until I can reach the summit but this trail is really the Three Elks Trail. Make sure you follow the signs for just that, there really are no other signs., until you hit the Colorado Trail segment 12. Take a left to go to the lakes. The road to where the trailhead starts is really bad and I personally would not drive it no matter what vehicle I had but folks do. So because of that you have to park on the road below which adds another 1.5 to the lakes. So count on 3 miles each way. Steep and calf killing but not as bad as others make it sound. I got to the lakes in about an hour even with the added miles. The lakes are beautiful and I preferred the smaller one to the bigger because it had beautiful reflections. There is no snow left at all. Hiking sticks come in handy for the way down with all the rocks. Enjoy!

14 days ago

I’m a little apprehensive about off-road driving, but the road to the trailhead was fine with a 4Runner. From there it took me about 45 minutes to hike to the lakes. I didn’t realize I should have turned left at the Colorado Trail sign so I overshot a bit. This was a pretty hike and would be great for dogs with the stream close. Don’t forget your bug spray!

hiking
20 days ago

My girlfriend and I did the hike today, and wow what a climb! Great workout! However getting there can be a little tricky if you have a little car! The road you have to take, isn’t much of a road. Unless you consider a bumpy rocky road! Luckily I have a cx-5 and got a little farther in on the road so we wouldn’t have to walk the road! I would plan on hiking another .5 mile to get to the trail head if you are in a little car!

28 days ago

Clear trail all the way in. Be ready for a moderate climb on the back half lasting about 45min. Views and camping we’re worth it though! Cheers :)

hiking
1 month ago

What a climb!!! Steep and a bit on the rocky side but the reward at the end is breath taking an so worth it.

1 month ago

nice quick hike. last half mile is still snow covered and icey as of 4/14. you'll need a vehicle with high ground clearance to drive to trail head.

hiking
6 months ago

hiking
7 months ago

The trail was super rocky as one reviewer pointed out. As a Floridian living at sea level even the small altitude incline was difficult for me. Definitely put my fitness in perspective but the views and the creek were worth it. Took us about 3 hours up and one down. We also had to walk to the trailhead because we weren't sure the car could make it up the uneven road adding additional distance. Trail is marked 3 Elk Trail - go that way and to see the lakes turn left at the sign for the Colorado trail which was at the top of the trail.

hiking
8 months ago

Aside from the couple coming down as we got to the trail head, we didn’t see anyone all day. This hike is great for anyone, though make sure to take some breaks on the way up- it’s a relatively steep trail. Took us a little less than two hours to get to the lakes, but only about 45 minutes to get back to the car. We had to park the extra .8 mile- the roads up to the trail head absolutely requires a vehicle with maximum clearance. All in all an enjoyable afternoon hike.

8 months ago

challenging and remote. I didn't care for most of the trail as it's like walking in a dry creek bed. Rocky and steep. Didn't complete it so I didn't see any lakes.

hiking
8 months ago

The trail started off pretty challenging, really steep. However, the views once you got past that were amazing! We went in the fall and it was beautiful
with the Aspens. The trail was really enjoyable, not too difficult the rest of the way. Once you get to the lakes, plan so spend some time so that you can enjoy the scenery for a bit. I always like trails with a pay off, this was one of those hikes. There are some camp sites off the same road as the trailhead. We really enjoyed some easy camping after our hike.

8 months ago

Very nice hike with aspens turning gold today. Almost park like at the lakes. Hike was on the easy side of moderate and I am 61 years old and chubby but I do live at 9300 feet. You don't need an extreme vehicle for the road but wouldn't take a passenger car. My Toyota Tundra did fine. Definitely worth the time.

hiking
9 months ago

Hiked this this past weekend. The road to the trail head is gnarly for sure. Need a high clearance vehicle. Trail is marked as "3 elk Trail" take that. First 1/4 mile is easy. Then it's just straight up the mountain with no switchbacks and lots of loose rock. It was a hard climb for sure. Follows a waterfall most of the way so my pup had plenty of water. When you get to the Colorado Trail go south (left) and 2 lakes are a few hundred yards away. Both are very pretty as the trees are starting to change. Hard. But worth it.

hiking
9 months ago

Nice, well manicured trail. First 1/4 mile or so is uphill switchbacks and then a pretty casual but beautiful hike to the lakes. Passed a couple that saw a little black bear on the trail that scampered off. Wish I could have seen him! Plenty of water from a creek along the trail if you have dogs. Lakes are beautiful and aspens are beginning to change.

hiking
9 months ago

Great hike. The lakes are beautiful. Worth the trek. There are 4-5 nice camping spots at the lakes. That's what I'll be doing next time. The marked trail on the app is slightly different than the actual trail. But there's really only one fork on the road. It comes early. Take the left. Labeled Elk Trail. Also there's a bit of 4x4 needed to access the starting point.

10 months ago

It was a challenging hike. At least moderate. Lots of up, the downhill was steep. We had to cross water a couple of times, and be extra cautious because we saw lots of ''Squatch sign. The trail is not marked as Harvard, but was called "three Elk Trail". When you reach the very top, turn left on the Colorado Trail to find the lakes. Most vehicles are not able to reach the trailhead.

backpacking
10 months ago

First there was no sign identifying the hike. The directions from this site took us right to the trailhead. We stopped .75 miles short of the trailhead not knowing if our Denali would make it. The first sign says "3 elk pass". Take it to be on this hike. Once at the lake region the sign says, I think, "Colorado Pass". It's in the region of the tents and take this left a short distance to the lakes. Left in mid afternoon and didn't expect to complete the trail. My brother and his 12 y/o son and I huffed and puffed and completed the hike. Beautiful and almost all uphill. Some tents at the top with some nice looking areas for camping. Well worth the sweat. The Harvard Lakes at the end of the hike were shallow but trout were visible in both lakes. Looked for Sasquatch but not identified on this hike.

11 months ago

Most cars cannot drive all the way to the trail head which adds about 1.6 miles total (there and back).

Also, when you reach the junction with the Colorado trail, go left and the lakes are about .1 miles from there. Otherwise you'll head in the wrong direction and miss the lakes -- a mistake we learned the hard way.

Overall, a beautiful hike. Much of it follows a nice stream, and the views at the lake are gorgeous.

hiking
11 months ago

Just did this hike on the 11th of June, but didn't go all the way to the lakes. First off, the road off the main road to the trail head is ugly. Don't see anyone getting up that stretch with anything but a high clearance vehicle. Once you start the hike, the trail is nice for about the first 1/2 mile or so. Then it is just straight up the mountain with no switchbacks at all. Steep as can be, and rocky too. Not my favorite trail for sure. It was pretty warm by the time we got over here that day too, so that didn't help. Switchbacks across that ridge line up there would have made this a much nicer hike. Maybe another time when it's cooler, I'll go at this again.

11 months ago

The lakes at the top were well worth the hike up. Only thing is that the road to the trail head is a service road - about 0.8mile up so keep that in mind if you have a tiny car like ours.

hiking
Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The first mile was a doozey! It was steep with cliffs that made my stomach a little oozey. But after that it was a more steady incline - not so steep. It was a nice walk in the woods. The lake was small. It only took us a few minutes to walk around it but there was not really anyplace to get close to it and rest. The road to get to the trail head was more of a four wheel drive road although we made it up there in a sedan.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Great short hike. Took us about 2 hours and got to take out time to explore both lakes. The trail head has a sign for 3 Elk trail #1445. Once you hit the Colorado trail head left to the first smaller lake then a little father to the bigger one. Nice trail around the bigger lake.

hiking
Saturday, May 06, 2017

Short but steep. Ends at two beautiful lakes. Definitely worth it. Final 1/3 of the trial was snowpacked in early May but did not require snow shoes.

hiking
Sunday, March 19, 2017

Add the county road to your hike unless you have an atv. Still too much snow to make it the whole way to the lake without snowshoes.

hiking
Sunday, October 02, 2016

So gorgeous! Mostly uphill on the way to the lakes- definitely worth it. I hiked it yesterday and only saw two other people the entire time. Quiet and so beautiful.

hiking
Thursday, August 18, 2016

Beautiful hike. Initial trail winds through pine forest followed by steep rocky trail then meandering path by Elk Creek. Lakes are small but pretty. Creek is pure alpine beauty.

hiking
Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Great hike, long and steep near the top with a fair amount of bouldering. Man who started at the trailhead with a devoted GPS device logged 7.7 miles to the top with over 5000 ft of elevation change. Took me 6.5 hours on the head (4 out and 2.5 back bout county 20 minutes up top). I passed nearly everyone who beat me to the top on the way back down, apparently I was flying to do it in this time. A sponsored Clif Bar runner named Dakota passed me running to the top, but he's clearly an elite athlete. Some of the bushes were 6+ feet tall overwhelming the trail, which was a little freaky as it limits your view and speed.

Saw a lot of marmots at the top and one BIG goat. Great hike, not super easy at the top. Lots of places to roll you ankles on the way down so be careful

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

last 0.8 mile 4x4 access to trail head.

hiking
Friday, July 03, 2015

Incredible hike. The views were some of the best that I have seen on a fourteener. The hike is a little longer than the easier fourteeners, and the elevation gain is tough, but it is totally worth it! We even had some mountain goats join us at the top. The trail wasn't too busy, but there were definitely other hikers along the way. If you've got a few fourteeners already under your belt, I highly recommend this one. If you can, leave early so you can hit Mt Columbia on your way back. Storms role in early and the trail is long, so you'll want to start extra early to get both done

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