Horn Fork Basin, Mount Harvard and Mount Colombia Loop

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Collegiate Peaks Wilderness

Horn Fork Basin, Mount Harvard and Mount Colombia Loop is a 16.3 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near Buena Vista, Colorado that features a lake and is only recommended for very experienced adventurers. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from July until September.

Length16.3 miElevation gain5,941 ftRoute typeLoop
BackpackingHikingNature tripsBird watchingRunningForestLakeRiverViewsWildflowersWildlifeRockyScrambleWashed outOff trail
Description
Waypoints (0)

The traverse between Harvard and Columbia has NO TRAIL (no cairns either) and is confusing as all hell with the talus hopping and snowfield crossings. Whatever you do, do NOT go on the south side/west side of the traverse... everything is either clear or on the north/east side.

Weather
UV Index
Daylight
Reviews (49)
Photos (486)
Activities (38)
Completed (181)
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Peter Kubiniec
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HikingGreat!

As others have said, trail to Harvard and from Columbia are obvious, it’s the route along the ridge that gets a little tricky. Nothing too bad though, it’s clear where you have to go but you can lose the trail in the scree. I don’t think I had to drop off the ridge line as much as others although I ended up in some 4th/easy fifth terrain. I went clockwise and enjoyed it. I didn’t step a single foot in snow although there were patches covering the trail. Car to car was about 7 hrs as I ran the lower sections.

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Coco ❤️
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarOctober 17, 2020
Hiking

We got to the trailhead at 7am, parking was pretty empty. It was the coldest 14er with the most insanely windy day! The first 2.5 miles was flat and easy but the challenge started after that. Although, I don’t think this hike is the hardest one, it was hard because of the wind. I only recorded to the summit, trip total time was 7 hours and 28 minutes including break at the summit. 10/17/2020 #46

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Alix Wertheimer
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HikingOff trailRockyScramble

I think its important to leave a review on this one. The hike to Harvard is fairly straightforward but takes time. From there the ridgeline walk is not as intuitive. You dont actually cross the ridge proper, you will have to circumnavigate the higher class middle of the ridgleline, dropping down from the ridgeline by more than 1000 feet (more than you expect to) into a gully to then have to regain the elevation lost. This involves extensive Boulder hopping, which takes quite a bit of time. Once you regain the ridgeline, the low class climbing is very pleasureable to the top. On the descent from Columbia, there is loose scree before you hit the new trail - would not be a fun climb up. Highly reccomend this clockwise ridgeline loop. If youre not comfortable route finding, use 14ers.com for a clear description of the route - including pictures. There are also alternate routes to summit both mountains in a day, but we’re so happy we did this one. If you are hiking steadily, this will likely take between 10-12 hours. It was beyond beautiful, enjoyable, and also difficult so be well prepared!

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Ian Ash
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Hiking
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Ian Ash
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Hiking
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Abbie Rooney
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HikingScrambleSnow

I think this is my limit, ha! I’m a fit young gal, so I day hiked this. Started at 6am. I was at Harvard’s summit in less than 4 hours. Felt fine till about 1/2 way across the traverse to Columbia. Then it kicked in. Not as sketchy/exposed as the Sawtooth (Bierstadt/Evans) but damn, it’s a long scramble. I didn’t start heading down till about 4pm. Finished at 6pm (yes I ran to make it back for dinner, sorry knees). Equally challenging in more of a dragged out kinda way. Route finding was probably the hardest part since for the most part the talus piles are DIY. But looking out at that traverse from each summit makes it worth it, and feels like quite the accomplishment. Maybe I’ll finally go buy hiking poles lol No wildflowers but some pretty extreme views after the first snow of the season. It had about a week to melt but there were several places on the trail where the snow stuck; not a problem. I wasn’t even wearing my waterproof trail runners. Probably would have been easier and I wouldn’t have had to be so careful with my steps but it was a nice day and a few footprints had been laid for me to follow when it became absolutely critical.

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Brenan Moore
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HikingNo shadeOff trailRockyScramble

Hiked on Labor day 2020. I was surprised with how few people were out here being a holiday. It might have been the wildfire smoke still lingering or the impending snowstorm heading in. I believe I was the only other person in the traverse that day. This route is no joke and you need to be prepared for an extremely exhausting day even if you're in shape. I started the trail around 5:30AM and summited Harvard around 4 hours later. After some "lunch" I headed into the traverse. The first major obstacle was the downclimb before the large boulder field under the Rabbit. This area was very loose and required your undivided attention to keep yourself balanced going downhill. After that, the talus tedium began. It took me a little under 4 hours to get to the easier terrain past the massive boulders. The final ascent to Columbia felt particularly exhausting after having gone through all of that. I'd only recommend this if you have good routefinding skills, as the wrong move here can be very dangerous. Once you're committed to the traverse you must get back via Columbia, which can be physically and mentally draining. I'm glad that I tackled this challenge, but I probably won't do this route again.

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Scott Feeney
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Hiking
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David Boswell
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Backpacking

Hiked 8/24 -- good amount of haze over the entire mountain range. Even some fine ash falling. I'd suggest against this hike if there are forest fires ongoing

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Marlon Looez
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HikingGreat!Rocky

This is a though loop, be prepared with enough water as there no places to filter water once you start going up Mount Harvard. The traverse from Harvard to Columbia is tough check your map often to stay on trail. We went to low and ended up going trough the boulder field at the low point between Harvard and Columbia and it made the hike more difficult. Coming down Columbia is not too bad, just lots of switchbacks and loose dirt

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Nicholaus Koesters
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Rock climbingGreat!

Plan on about 4 hours for the traverse. Best route description is on 14ers.com. There’s a series of 35 photos on the route description. I took screenshots of all of them and they came in handy when there weren’t carns or trail paths...which is at least half of the traverse. If you come across any difficult class 3 moves in the boulder/talus field, then you’re probably going the wrong way. We started the traverse around 8am with clear skies, but dark clouds rolled through at 11am when we still had an hour left on the traverse. At this point, the fastest way to safety is to summit Columbia and descend from there. I’d highly recommend not starting the traverse after 8am if possible.

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Cody Giles
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Hiking

Started at 2:30am, finished just before 4pm. Summited Harvard at 7am and Columbia at noon. The first half of the traverse is not bad at all, the second half starts with a massive downhill scramble/ shuffle down lots of loose rock. We were sliding everywhere. Lots of route finding and then some pretty good elevation gain getting back up to Columbia. Took us about 4 hours to get between the two peaks. If your joints are young and you have your wits about you, I say go for it. Otherwise, if you’re trying to do both, just descend Harvard and hike the trail up to Columbia.

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Karlee Hepp
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Hiking

This route is extremely challenging to follow. The cairns are incorrectly marked in some places and there are no signs or indication of which way you should go. Plus, most of the route is not a “trail” at all. I would highly recommend just descending Harvard and going back to the basin to do Columbia. It would have saved us time in the long run with all of the route finding we had to do. I also recommend hiking in the night before and camping at the basin. It’s a long day and nice to have the first couple of miles out of the way.

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Dave Kluge
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Hiking

After reading all of the reviews and SAR warnings about the traverse from Harvard to Columbia, we decided to avoid the loop, backtrack to the junction, and climb Columbia from there after Harvard. It only adds about 2 miles and 1,000’ of gain compared to the traverse but it’s a bit less commitment (grey clouds were rolling in around 9am) and we got a defined trail the entire hike. Logged nearly 20 miles but the trail is so well manicured that it didn’t feel like it.

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Reid Anderson
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HikingOff trailRockyScramble

What a hike! We started at the trailhead right at 3:30 AM. First five miles were easy steady incline that we knocked out in the dark on the way to Horn Fork Basin. Arrived at the basin just after 5 AM and started the Harvard ascent as the sun was coming up. Views of Yale, Columbia, and the Rabbit Ears were breathtaking in the morning light. The trail up to the Harvard Summit was clearly marked and quite steep. It only required a bit of scrambling right at the summit. Unlike Columbia, the summit didn't reveal itself immediately, and I was a bit surprised we had reached it. We summitted at 7 AM, rested, and enjoyed the views for 30 min. We started down the ridge towards Columbia at 7:30. The first half mile was downhill scrambling on the ridge before we dropped down to the left. We had read the reviews about the importance of staying East of the ridge, but hadn't realized the extent that we needed to drop in order to get our bearings to tackle Columbia. We dropped to 12,500 ft when all was said and done. There may have been a trail but we didn't see one. We decided to beeline straight to the visible summit, gaining all 1500 ft in one mile. It may have been possible to stay higher along the ridge but it didn't look safe to us. We worked quickly and summitted Columbia just after 10 AM. My recording stated we had covered 10 miles to that point. We spent just over an hour on the summit, then took Columbia's SW route back to the basin. This was the most uncomfortable part of the hike for me. My legs were tired and the trail was steep and made of scree and loose dirt. It was very precarious attempting to stay upright. Two miles took us back to treeline and a reconnection with the Harvard route. From there it was four miles of easy descent back to the car, which we reached just before 2 PM.

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Brandon Brito
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RockyScramble

the trail was great until the traverse. A bunch of loose rock between the mountains.

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Han Yan
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarJune 26, 2020
Hiking

The traverse between Harvard and Columbia has NO TRAIL (no cairns either) and is confusing as all hell with the talus hopping and snowfield crossings. Whatever you do, do NOT go on the south side/west side of the traverse (steep loose gullys)... everything is either obvious or on the north/east side.

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Devin Cann
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJune 19, 2020
HikingOff trailRockyScramble
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