Harvard Lakes Trail

moderate 201 reviews
#11 of 147 trails in

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.

Distance: 5.4 miles Elevation Gain: 1,548 feet Route Type: Out & Back

dog friendly

camping

hiking

horseback riding

nature trips

bird watching

forest

lake

river

views

wild flowers

wildlife

rocky

snow

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
muddy
snow
3 months ago

hiking
snow
3 months ago

hiking
4 months ago

Rocky trail with some steeper sections. Nice stream on the right towards the top. Lakes are alright but not sure they are worth the effort to get there. .

hiking
rocky
4 months ago

Really gorgeous hike overall. The Mountain View’s and lakes at the top, especially the lower lake, are worth the steep and rocky trek. What started as an open landscape quickly turned into a aspen and pine dense trail that follows a clear stream for most of the hike. You’ll be breathless after a few rocky climbs but so worth it!

hiking
4 months ago

The lakes were ok. Not a bad hike but not the best.

hiking
5 months ago

absolutely great hike!

hiking
6 months ago

Gorgeous! The lakes were stunning. A tough uphill, but it had a nice stream running alongside. Runs adjacent to the Colorado trail, so we got to meet some hikers from that.

hiking
7 months ago

Great trail for a first backpacking trip. Just hard enough with a pack for kids to tire them out for the night ;)

hiking
bugs
rocky
7 months ago

This was a good trail to a couple natural lakes. The steeper part that is described as “rocky” in the description really seemed more like a rocky rain wash than it did a trail. It took me an hour and 15 minutes to get to the upper lake and I am middle-aged and in moderate shape. I would definitely do this trail again, but I would start a little earlier in the day than noon. It was pretty warm going up and there was no breeze.

hiking
7 months ago

Maybe I’ve become spoiled with the amount of beautiful hikes I’ve done since moving to CO, but I was very unimpressed by this one. It’s very crowded and basically just a rocky steep incline, that leads to two small lakes, neither of which are that great. The bigger of the two is just a brown lake surrounded by trees with a bunch of fallen trees inside of it. The smaller lake has a tiny view of mountains behind it. The best part of the hike is once you get past the major incline and follow along the river, this part was very pretty and why I gave it 3 stars.

hiking
7 months ago

Beware of fork. When you get there go left towards the 3 Elk trail. If you miss that take a left whenever you see the next fork. If you don’t you will end up taking the longer hike twice the distance and more difficult. Overall the trail was pretty difficult and steep. Beautiful lakes and scenery once you get to the top.

fishing
7 months ago

Beautiful trail! Dog-friendly! Pretty steep rocky incline, but overall it was a moderate hike. The lakes are gorgeous! I was able to catch a couple trout in the lower lake. Very pretty cutthroat, brookie, and rainbows!

hiking
bugs
rocky
washed out
7 months ago

Great day hike. The trail has a good combination of steep rocky sections and flat areas. Well worth the trip to the top!

hiking
bugs
rocky
7 months ago

Started hiking the trail at about 11 20 AM.  The first leg of the hike is through a logging road surrounded by beautiful redwood pines.  Follow this road for about a mile, and then veer left onto 3 elk trail.  A short way onto this trail, you will cross a river.  After the river, the trail becomes significantly steeper as you begin to gain elevation quickly.  You will eventually comes to a crossroads with a sign that says Colorado trail.  Take a left here and follow it to the upper lake (the better one in my opinion), and then continue on a bit further to reach the lower lake. We stopped and had a snack at the higher lake.  It had plentiful trout that you can see through the very clear water.  There is also a wonderful mountain view and a cool avalanche gulch. The pictures attached are the view from the upper lake.  Took my girlfriend and I about 65 minutes to reach the upper lake.   We are in shape but definitely not avid climbers/hikers.

hiking
7 months ago

Beautiful day out with my wife, daughter and son. I second guessed myself a couple times getting to the trailhead but we found it. It’s not exactly marked. Besides that it was a great hike. Definitely challenging in some of the uphill rockier sections but well worth it. Completely free of any snow and both lakes are wide open. Saw a bunch of small brook trout swimming and rising - amazing to watch them work in such clear water.

hiking
rocky
7 months ago

Definitely more on the difficult end of “moderate.” Nearly straight up for the 3 mi to the lakes. Very rocky in a few areas that make going up and going down difficult. Great rewarding hike after you get to the top and enjoy the lakes (they’re kind of more like big ponds but they’re still pretty). Very good workout! NOTE: the sign to 3 Elks Trail is easy to miss if you’re not paying close attention. My group and a few others missed it and continued on the county road where it was significantly steeper and harder for about .5 mi before realizing we should have turned earlier. 3 Elks Trail is a little over 1 mi up on the county road, which is where most people start. Someone said in the reviews prior it’s .25 mi up....it’s not!

hiking
bugs
rocky
7 months ago

Decent trail with plenty of elevation gain to get your heart rate up. Several long stretches of steep trail with loose rock. Lakes were clear and we saw plenty of fish and a snake. Other than the lakes not much to see. Keep in mind "moderate" is relative in Colorado :)

hiking
8 months ago

Awesome trip up today. Got an early start with a dusting of snow left on the ground. Creek was running so high and icicles everywhere. Absolutely gorgeous!

hiking
rocky
8 months ago

6/23/19 Took us about 4 hours round trip *because* we didn’t take the fork labeled “elk trail” about a quarter mile up the trail. We took the other fork and it led us up County Road 368 until we met the Colorado Trail and looped back onto the trail that led to the lakes. Didn’t realize we should take elk trail so definitely do that if you don’t want to climb almost 2,000 feet in elevation! Don’t get me wrong, it was a good workout and a nice hike, but not really what I was in for today. Lakes were so clear though

backpacking
8 months ago

Group of 4 hiked and camped Saturday night. No snow on the trail, and we had on and off light rain on the way up. Two patches of snow up by the lakes remaining. It was too windy and starting to snow at the lakes, so we camped at a nice campsite a little ways back down. Saw 4 other groups in total camping. Beautiful hike and experience despite the inclement weather! Hike portion, up and back, took about 2.5 hours total including several stops to swap gear on the way up as the weather was varying.

hiking
8 months ago

Got a later start than intended (after 10AM) but made it to the upper lake in a little less than 80 minutes. There were two of us with above average fitness levels. Could hear thunder along the way but never had any threatening weather until we got back to the car around 12:30 when the skies opened up. Very minimal to trace amounts of snow left.

hiking
8 months ago

nice moderate hike! we did it with a puppy for her first hike and she loved it. trail was clear and dry except for a couple tiny patches of snow near the lakes.

hiking
rocky
8 months ago

Definitely a moderate hike, especially for those with less experience and are slightly out of shape. Most of the first half is not too rocky, however once you cross the creek the trail is very rocky. When it is steep the rocks made the hike more difficult. This also affects the trip back down. The creek is running high from the snow melt, and you will encounter some snow still on the trail (6-16-19). The lakes are beautiful and a great place to have your lunch. If you are willing to pack your fishing gear you might catch a few fish. Saw a lot of dogs on the trail as well.

hiking
8 months ago

Steady incline. Best part was hiking along the creek. Not much scenery overlooking.

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