Mount Columbia East Ridge Trail

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San Isabel National Forest

Mount Columbia East Ridge Trail is a 11.4 mile lightly trafficked out and back trail located near Buena Vista, Colorado that features a lake and is rated as difficult. 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: 11.4 miles Elevation Gain: 5,091 feet Route Type: Out & Back

dog friendly

horseback riding

mountain biking

nature trips

bird watching




wild flowers


A long hike along a beautiful stream, through bristlecone pine to a fourteener. 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 cross the Colorado Trail at Harvard Lakes. These lakes are a short detour for some beautiful views. After passing these lakes the trail follows Three Elks Creek past treeline. At treeline you will have a steep slope to ascend before being able to see the large basin of Three Elks. Once in the basin the trail fades quickly. You will have to find your own route up the ridge to your left (North). Once on top of the ridge, simply follow it to the Summit of Mt Columbia. There are several false summits along the way, but keep pressing on.

Wed Jul 17 2013

Traverse from Columbia to Harvard was a bear! Took our family almost 4.5 hours including some class three well defined trail through boulder field from Columbia to just past the rabbit the future I would definitely drop a couple hundred feet to the green valley and then headed up an easy slope toward trail along ridge below Harvard summit...we could have shaved hours off our traverse!

8 months ago