Mount Harvard Trail

HARD 52 reviews

Mount Harvard Trail is a 12.4 mile moderately 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 June until October. Dogs are also able to use this trail.

DISTANCE
12.4 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
4,481 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Out & Back

dog friendly

birding

camping

fishing

hiking

nature trips

forest

lake

river

views

wild flowers

wildlife

rocky

scramble

snow

Scenic views of three 14ers,good fishing at Bear Lake, above timberline, and rock scrambling at the top of Mt. Harvard. Full day hike.

hiking
5 days ago

A challenging but truly epic hike & summit. The dirt road up to the trailhead was barely passable at 5-7 mph in a Honda Civic – by comparison, it was much better than the Grays/Torreys road from hell – but you’d be tempting fate in anything less than a high-clearance 4WD. Parking spots were still available at the trailhead (North Cottonwood Creek) at 7 AM on a Monday in August. Only encountered four or five other hikers all day.

This trail has basically four parts: in the forest, in the valley, ascending to the shoulder, and the final ascent to the summit. Each section is shorter but steeper and more challenging than the last; the last two sections have probably 2000-2500 feet of elevation gain across <2 miles. Beware of the two unmarked forks along this trail – at the first, it’s left to Harvard and right to Columbia, and at the second, keep right for the Harvard trail and go left for Bear Lake. Lots of marmots and pikas towards the end, and we saw some mountain goats from the summit. Goats aside, the summit views were absolutely spectacular – with minimal wind and clear skies, we spent 40 minutes up there.

Bottom line: definitely harder than some other 14ers but, with proper planning and expectations, totally worth it.

camping
9 days ago

Great climb. Camped in the basin. Summited the next morning with my 12 and 9 year old.

backpacking
28 days ago

Harvard was a great hike. We hiked up to near the tree line the day before and enjoyed great temperatures in the trees. The elevation change is mild up until the last 2.5 miles. After this it was challenging and quite steep. The only problem we had was that the trail was a little confusing at points. Look for the rock piles to guide you. The last 300 yards require you to scramble and the most obvious route is not the best and if you go
A little to the right it is easier. The way down does not require trekking poles but they do help. Great views of many small lakes and a picturesque stream. Great hike with a small overnighter

hiking
1 month ago

Amazing hike. Did this in two days, second 14er. First one was La Plata, which I thought was harder. But then again I learned my lesson and took ibuprofen and tylenol every 6 hours to prevent the pounding headache that I had with La Plata.

This was part of a bachelor party! We arrived Friday at trailhead at 11AM, hiked up the trail to the second campsite about 3.7 miles in (much better than first), and arrived around 2PM. First campsite super crowded, had about 7 groups. We had the second one to ourselves pretty much. Set alarm for 1:30AM to go outside and find a sky lit up with stars and a great view of the milky way and some sweet shooting stars.

Woke up next day, lazying around and left at 9:30AM. Summited with day packs around 2PM because we are out of shape. Tough hike with the elevation, with a small 5-10 minute technical climb at the end but definitely doable. Views on top are of course, unbelievable. Shared some celebratory scotch at the top.

Things to keep in mind:

- You need a 4x4 to get to the trailhead, Definitely. A miniSUV might make it, maybe.
- Plenty of water along the trail. Bring iodine pills, a pump, or what have you. No need to carry tons of water.
- Campfires are usually allowed, except when it's super dry in the summer and there's a fire ban in place

We did not do Columbia too, but ran into some people who summited Columbia, and hiked across the ridge to Harvard. They had said Columbia is the toughest they've ever done after 12x 14ers. Take care with attempting to bag 2 peaks in a day.

10/10 would do again

hiking
1 month ago

This was my first 14er and it lived up to my expectations and extensive research I did. Haha. Definitely challenging and I can feel it in my body days later. Initial 4 miles is a moderate level trail which only took about 2 hours. Once you hit tree line it gets a little steeper but still moderate level hiking with some amazing views and streams. The last 2 miles is where the true incline is. From start to finish adding in the lake we hiked about 14 miles in 10 hours.

1 month ago

I’ve done several fourteeners this season and so far, this one has been my least favorite and was definitely the hardest. For the first 4 miles, you’re in treeline and it’s pretty mellow and then as soon after you break out, it gets a lot steeper. Me and my friends had to take several breaks along the way. At the top, the views are gorgeous. It’s just a super long hike. It took us over ten hours to do the whole thing so be prepared for a really long day if you plan on doing this one. It’s also about 15 miles round trip, not 12.4.

hiking
2 months ago

My teenage boys and I spent several days in the Collegiate peaks Wilderness area last summer. On the 27th of July we made it to the summit of Mt. Harvard. We stayed the night along the trail at tree line and did the summit early. It was worth it. It was my 14 year old sons first 14er. Later in the week he would summit Mt. Sherman. In researching our trip for this year I noticed I didn't post anything from last year. We started at Denny Creek TH and spent our first night at Hartenstein Lake. From there we took Browns Pass over the CD and spent the second night at Kroenke Lake. The third day we went up the Horn Fork trail and camped at tree line just below Bear lake. The fourth Day we did the summit of Harvard very early then walked out past the North Cottonwood TH and picked up the Colorado Trail (Avalanche Gulch) going south back towards Highway 306. We spent the fifth night along the Colorado Trail and slowly came into the Avalanche Gulch TH the next day. I was having some knee problems by this point. This was my first multi-day backpacking adventure and although I had done extensive research and had a sub 30 lb pack, I still overpacked and didn't properly condition for the strain the descents would have on my knees. Other than Mosquitos at the lakes and my old knees the trip was great!!

2 months ago

Beautiful views and trails!

6 months ago

great views the whole way up
well worth the effort

backpacking
10 months ago

10/15/17

Challenging hike to the summit, but manageable at this time of year. Shouldn’t be much trouble during the summer. We hiked with our overnight packs to the end of the timberline and set up camp. Then, we finished the hike with a light pack to the top and returned to our camp before sundown. Amazing views. Lots of wildlife. We will definitely be back.

camping
10 months ago

Horn Fork Basin is my favorite place in the state to be.
So much can be done in a 2-3 day stretch.
Harvard is a must as well as Bear Lake nearby.
love love love.

10 months ago

Beautiful trail. We had planned on camping at Bear Lake but that high above tree line left a great deal of exposure and no wood for fire, or winbreaks. We camped slightly south of the lake, plenty of good spots.

hiking
11 months ago

Beautifully maintained trail, spectacular scenery, perfect level of physical challenge for me. But the last 20 feet of elevation to the summit requires true climbing, so be ready.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Beautiful hike. Rocky trail. Not steep until you reach timberline. Toughest part begins just after you pass bear lake and climbing the final boulders before reaching the summit. We suggest getting to the trailhead early as the hike round trip is 14 miles not 12, and the summit takes more time to reach then anticipated because of the rock climb at the end. Also, wearing good trail shoes with good traction is important.

hiking
Friday, September 16, 2016

Wonderful trail with wonderful views..leave early enough to make it to the top before the afternoon thunderstorms and hail between 12pm and 12:30pm is reasonable to summit. Took me 6 hours to get to the top and 3 1/2 hours to get down. Most breathtaking views ive seen so far hiking in colorado. The last push up to the top is the most challenging. If you want to hike mount columbia as well..i suggest camping off the trail and doing them on seperate days. Everyone i spoke to on the trail about traversing over stated its very challenging and loose rock to traverse with not much of a path. Enjoy!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Great views!

hiking
Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Did this trail yesterday. It's been my favorite 14er thus far.

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3 days ago

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6 days ago

21 days ago

hiking
22 days ago

recorded descent from camp

hiking
23 days ago

recorded harvard

hiking
23 days ago

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24 days ago

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29 days ago

hiking
1 month ago

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