Harvard Lakes Trail

MODERATE 88 reviews
#9 of 114 trails in

Harvard Lakes Trail is a 5.4 mile lightly trafficked out and back trail located near Buena Vista, Colorado that features a lake and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking, camping, nature trips, birding, and horses 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

birding

camping

hiking

horseback riding

nature trips

forest

lake

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.

4 hours ago

The lakes at the top were crystal clear and really neat to look at.

8 days ago

Was absolutely beautiful today as the aspen are perfect

hiking
17 days ago

nice trail but on the high side of moderate. Not for old out of shape guys like me. I had to turn around about half way because it was too steep for me and my pug.
make sure your app is active as the trail could be better marked.

hiking
1 month ago

Well we woke up late but had originally planned a 14er so we had that mentality going into this hike that we chose super last minute without much research, just to put this review in perspective. We got to the monte Escondido road around 9:30 and got hiking up the road around 9:45 due to us driving a corolla we knew we wouldn’t make it up the road. Definitely requires an suv. Hiking up and back down the road was the worst part for us. Once we got to the clearly marked trailhead there’s a while where it is relatively flat and shady which is a nice break from the uphill and sunny road. Soon after the creek crossing you start heading straight up the mountain that is steep and almost completely rocky. We took plenty of water breaks and had the same amount of water we were planning for the 14er. Hiking poles also helped a ton. At the Colorado wilderness trail you go left and within a short distance you see a small lake on the right and then a little further down the trail you get to the large lake. We walked around to the far side for our lunch break which offered beautiful Mountain Views and shade. We set up our hammock - bring one! We made it here around 1, remember we were taking plenty of breaks and I was fighting a chest cold so if you hauled straight up it wouldn’t take you nearly this long. Headed back down around 2 and made it back to the car at 3:15. Very steep and slippery heading down on the rocks again hiking poles were super helpful. Overall, we enjoyed the trail. A lot of comments about it being dead and boring but we saw plenty of aspens, birds, even some wildflowers. Recommend and would do again!

hiking
2 months ago

I took my mother who is visiting from the east coast on this hike as an intro/easier hike at altitude so she could acclimate. We started around 8:30am on a Sunday morning and there was no one around. For the duration of the hike, we only saw 4 people total, which is rare for this time of year and type of hike.

Specific directions and tips:
— If you don’t have a high-clearance vehicle, I would park at the base of the road and walk up the 0.9 miles to the sign reading “3 Elk Trail.” I have a Honda Accord and didn’t want to risk it.
— Nowhere on the hike will you find any signage saying “Harvard Lakes trail.”
— At the sign reading 3 Elk Trail, turn left and continue along the logging trail.
— You’ll cross the creek a few times and meander through the woods, before the trail intersects the Colorado Trail. This is about 1.7 miles from the 3 Elk Trail sign.
— Turn left (West) onto the Colorado Trail, and you’ll hit the first, smaller lake on your right. Continue along the trail and you’ll soon see the second, larger lake on your left.
— There’s an unofficial trail that loops the lake, with a few remnants of campsites.

There weren’t many wildflowers along the trail since the climate has been so dry. Still a wonderful, beautiful hike. I recommend getting an early start since it gets hot quite quickly.

2 months ago

There is a lot of contradictory information about this trail in reviews. Here is the truth. Number one, the road to the trailhead is less than a mile and drivable if you have a high-clearance vehicle. Just go slow. If you do not it's a pretty short walk. The distance is 5.4 out and back with the road walk. Number two, the trail name is 3 Elk, not Harvard Lakes, and you do need to go left at the Colorado Trail sign. The vast majority of the trail is a fairly steep incline and not at all scenic. There are tons of dead trees and juniper bushes and no wildflowers or wildlife. There are a couple of short stretches where you are along a stream that is very pretty. The lakes at the top are pretty with a nice view of Mount Columbia but I would say not worth a subpar hike to get to them. If you want a good workout that's pretty short this is ok. If you're not in good shape, this will not be fun. If you are doing this as a substitute for Ptarmigan Trail because the road is closed you may want to reconsider. I am from Colorado and this is a very meh trail.

hiking
2 months ago

Great hike along creek to the lakes with some Colorado ladies! At times it was steep and rocky. Definitely make sure you turn right up the road to the 3 Elk Trailhead so you don’t have to hike the extra mile in and out.

hiking
2 months ago

6/30/18. Great moderate hike for weekend hikers. Uphill all the way and rocky in places. Follows a stream in the beginning for just a brief time then again during the last 3rd of the trip. It’s hot and dry currently so get an early start; carry plenty of water. The road up is pretty rocky but any higher clearance vehicle should be fine.

hiking
3 months ago

A group of five vacationing from Iowa enjoyed this hike! Parked on the County Road suggested in earlier comments. Took our crew about an hour and 10 to get to the first lake, and it was worth the incline up to view it! Overall, all enjoyed this hike. Bring water and prepare to do some heavy breathing as you work your way up.

hiking
3 months 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
3 months 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!

3 months 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
3 months 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!

4 months 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
4 months 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.

5 months 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
9 months ago

hiking
11 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
11 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.

11 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
Monday, September 18, 2017

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.

Monday, September 18, 2017

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
Thursday, September 14, 2017

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
Tuesday, September 12, 2017

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
Sunday, August 27, 2017

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.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

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
Wednesday, July 26, 2017

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.

Monday, July 03, 2017

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
Tuesday, June 20, 2017

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.

Monday, June 19, 2017

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.

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