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

Length5.4 miElevation gain1,548 ftRoute typeOut & back
CampingHikingHorseback ridingNature tripsBird watchingDog friendlyForestLakeRiverViewswild-flowersWildlifeRockySnow
Description
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Getting There

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.

San Isabel National Forest 719-553-1400 (main office)

Weather
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Reviews (335)
Photos (241)
Recordings (283)
Completed (636)
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Zachary Mokrycki
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Hiking
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Brittany Lowery
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SnowshoeingSnow

Hiked 1/23/2021 Got to the trailhead at 1100. Hiked about 1 mile in before we got to fresh powder. Doesn't look like the trail had been hiked in a least a week, maybe more. up until this point we didn't need our snowshoes, but at mile 1.5 we had to put them on. You will need snowshoes to make it to the lake. Lake is frozen over and it was very windy at the top, but having the trail to ourselves was really nice. Hiked back down and noticed someone had tried to follow our snowshoe trail, but they ended up turning around. Saw two other groups of people on our way out. All in all a pretty lightly trafficked trail.

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J F
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Hiking

Was able to get a lifted (2”) late-model Subaru Forester to the trailhead through about 6” of snow with AT tires. Don’t fear the water bars, likely a stock forester could get over them, not sure about an outback due to break over angle. Did not see other vehicles attempt to get to trailhead, only one other - a stock outback was parked down the road and belonged to a local that lived just a mile away. Glad we shaved off the road as it was pretty but not as scenic as the rest of the hike. There aren’t large vistas here: your rewarding view is up at the lakes and the surrounding peaks. We hiked when it was in the negatives outside, so the valley from the permanent steam provided the perfect shelter when the rest of the area was experiencing -10 degree weather with 60mph winds (-30F wind chills!). Snow depth increased to over a foot by the time we reached the lakes, but trail is just popular enough that we didn’t need traction or snowshoes: this is likely to change with snowfall. If you plan to do the CT trail, you will need snowshoes as no footprints broke off from the trails to the lakes. Water was available from the flowing 3 Elk creek all the way to the lake. Not too steep, only saw 2 other groups: the locals that parked their car before the trailhead and a solo snowshoeer.

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Josh Keltner
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Benjamin Schneider
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Lindsay Knight
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HikingSnow

Beautiful trail. Rewarding finish.

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rachel merry
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HikingGreat!Rocky

Used a high clearance Sequoia in 4WD to get to the trailhead and shave off a few miles. It's not necessary, but you'd have to park further out. A great fall hike. There were some icy patches, but still an easy trail. Steep at first, but the views were fantastic.

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David Southwick
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Rachel Bannister
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Hiking

Nice hike. Easy path to follow. The trail has a lot of loose rocks so watch out for that. But otherwise beautiful lakes at the end and a nice workout.

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Angela Nadler
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Hiking

Great trail!! First 1/2 -3/4 mile are on a road. This is the most boring part of the trail. If you have a high clearance vehicle (like a Jeep) you can walk to the trailhead. 3 Elks Trail is the one you will follow. Once you go past the first creek crossing, you ascend some steep, rocky inclines three times. You will walk through some gorgeous dense forest along the creek. This is when you’re getting close. This trail should be rated hard just because Of the incline and slick rocks. We ran into a local who asked us if we knew this was hard. Ha. We were fine. Just take tour time and the views are worth it

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karen plachy
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Hiking

It was okay. Better prettier trails in the area.

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Dudley yeoman
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Larry Connell
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Hiking

Starting point hard to find. The alltrails utility to send directions is good, use it. The trail head is not marked. Follow the directions and if you wind up at a T intersection with Pondersosa Dr., you have gone back too far. The parking area is about 1/5 mile back where you see a Forest Service sign on a turn oft to left. Park, or if you have a car with good ground lerance, you can go up to the "Two Elks Trail Head sign" take a left and follow the trail. There is a section that is pretty steep and very rocky, that I would give the trail Moderate++ rating. Anyway when you get to a sign for the 2 Elks\Colorado trail intersection, go left. The lake is about 200 Yds.

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Rebecca Herrera
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Hiking

Great hike. Definitely moderate to difficult there in the middle third; a bit steep and rocky. Be sure to turn left on the Colorado trail, even thought the all trails map says otherwise, that is the right way to the lakes. If you go around the lake the view is amazing!

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Rob Wilson
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HikingRocky
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Cristiano Porto
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Hiking

Amazing trail, beautiful views and definitely not for the faint of heart or beginner. Very inclined and a leg burner for sure

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Rusty Rainbolt
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Hiking

Steep climb but good hike. Diverse scenery from scrub brush, to lush forests, to alpine lake.

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Alix Caudill
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HikingIcyMuddy

Hiked this after the snow. Would not recommend. We questioned our sanity and decision making skills multiple times throughout the hike, but could not turn around without completing it. Was super difficult to hike in steep sections with the slushy snow (felt like a baby taking my first steps), but wouldn't be too bad if it was dry. When you get to the second lake, walk all the way around to the other side for the best mountain views.

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Liz Wambugu
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Hiking

Great hike harder than moderate

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Andrew Kennedy
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HikingRocky

Should have been rated Hard. Best viewpoint is actually on .5 miles in. Great Lake to eat lunch at or take a breather. The steep sections were very precarious coming down and I would highly recommend hiking boots to cover ankles and hiking poles some extra the decent is very rocky.

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Rob Hathaway
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Hiking

Hard

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Kerry McGinley
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Horseback ridingRockyScrambleWashed out

NOT RECOMMENDED FOR HORSEBACK RIDERS! The trail gets super rocky and steep with TONS of deadfall. Trailer access is not great. We didn’t make it all the way up. One of our horses didn’t have trail boots, so we turned around. Hikers seemed pretty happy, though.

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Rachel Henderson
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Snowshoeing

Rocky upward climb but worth it in the end.

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Amy Roberts
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Hiking

This was a solid hike, but the lakes were pretty low and sadly not swim able. It is rocky on the way up!

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Iris Krause
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Hiking

Love that most of the lake ist next to a river. Hot at the bottom but cooling off nicely when getting higher up.

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Leslie James
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Hiking

Great workout and ending at the lake! Don’t forget to turn left on the Colorado Trail to reach the lakes. We didn’t realize and added about a mile to our hike up the Three Elk Trail.

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