Explore the most popular backpacking trails near Buena Vista with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

Did this on 10/14 after a big snow storm. Was a chilly and epic adventure. Post-holing up to the hips for the last mile. Good fun.

The views made it all worth it! A steady climb from the beginning to a rocky last 45 minutes of the hike.

A nice start in the woods. Trail was clearly marked. Beautiful vistas!

Haley P nailed that synopsis below, incredible! Hiked under the full moon and started right outside of Winfield (the lower trailhead; Winfield is super cool, old little mining town you can explore) - tons of dispersed camping along the road to the upper trailhead. Great little dispersed spot right outside of Winfield as well. Definitely a great beginner 14'er! The trail is wonderfully defined the entire route and tough to get off track. #27 & definitely one of my favorites! Views at the summit were all-time. Enjoy!

Incredible! This was my first 14er and I’m hooked - a great first one to try if you haven’t hiked one yet. Some tips for folks to help you gauge time, distance, etc.

Everyone says to “start early” but that doesn’t really explain much. I found that you should be off the peak and below the tree line before noon on account of afternoon lightning storms. We started at 5:30 am (1.5 hours before sunrise) to give us ample time. The trail was super easy to follow, even in the dark. We made it almost half way up (to the plateau) in 1.5 hours. The last half took us another 1.5 hours, so 3 hours total to make it to the peak. We are regular hikers, but were not rushing it. We’re not a fan of blitzing a hike. We spent an hour at the top before descending in about 3 hours. Down by around 1 pm. Tons of people were ascending at that time - not sure if they planned to do the whole thing or not.

We drove in the Friday night before and car camped at the 4x4 trailhead. There were still plenty of places to park and camp, although we got there at 10 pm. You do need a 4x4 car or truck with at least 8-10 inches of clearance. A Toyota suv was hitting bottom in front of us on the way up.

Bring water, snacks, and layers! We saw some people hiking in a long-sleeved shirts and shorts and carrying one water bottle. I can’t advise against that enough. Maybe I’m just paranoid being a WFR, but honestly, I’m the one who will have to help when you get hurt, so please bring some supplies! Better to be prepared at 14,000 ft than to skimp on a little bit of extra weight.

Do it, you’ll love it!! 

The incline to Harvard is relatively easy but long. Maybe two or three class 3 moves right at the summit. The traverse and incline are to Columbia are easy physically (obv if u aren’t fit u are going to be dying) the route is difficult to find. I used my gps on phone. The descent is very steep w scree but gets u back quickly. I recommend going up Harvard. It took me 9 hours but I’m on the faster side. Average will probably be 12/13 hours. Def make sure u have done longer hikes w a lot of elevation gain and be confident w route finding.

This was my third 14er and by far the best 360 degree views. You NEED a 4WD vehicle to get to the upper trailhead; if you have to park at the lower trailhead plan to add about 4 miles round trip to your hike.

I’m in good shape and it took me about 5 active hours round trip to complete.

Beautiful hike today! We parked at the lower trail head which made the hike about 11 miles round trip. The aspen trees are at peak right now, great views and not too crowded for a weekend!

This is a great combo to summit two 14ers in one day. It also makes a nice backpacking trip because there is camping about 3.5 miles in where the trail splits off to Mt. Colombia. If you hike in, camp, do the loop and then pick up your gear on the way out it makes for a nice overnight trip. There is water easily accessible as well.

The boulder field between Colombia and Harvard is a little challenging to navigate. There are not too many cairns and it's easy to get off track. Stay as high as you reasonably can as you go through it and you'll be OK. It is a little slow going through there, so just give yourself some extra time.

This was my first 14er. It took me 5.5 hours of active time, not including the half hour I spent at the top. The peak had a nice little pile of rocks that creates some coverage from the wind. AMAZING 360 degree views. Every angle was breathtaking. Would definitely do again. And the cute little pikas everywhere were probably my favorite. I have no idea how but I saw some insane person mountain biking too.

When reading 14er reviews, I always find it helpful to know a persons skill level. That being said, I’m a regular hiker and this was my second 14er. I can easily say this was the most difficult hike I’ve ever done. Don’t let the “lower” summit height fool you. This thing is steep! You climb roughly 1000 ft per mile for the full 3.5 mile ascend. Once you’re past the tree line (and the wonderful, but short, flat reprieve), this is where the true challenge begins. But what a view! I can see why a lot of the reviews say this is the most beautiful 14er. It was stunning!

Not hard but pretty steep! Parking lot at the top (that requires 4wd) fills up quick. There were 6 or 8 cars parked there Friday night for the next morning.

Easy hike from a popular trailhead. Would be interested in backpacking here on a weekday in shoulder season (since it was pretty busy) to camp/fish.

Awesome hike! Get there early to beat the rush. very busy on a Saturday as we are descending. This is a great 14’er for beginners because it’s not technical at all, but it gets pretty steep over the second half of the hike from about mile 1.8 and on. Definitely allow yourself 3-4 hours if you’re a slower hiker. Also, the google maps link in AllTrails stops in the middle of the forest and says you’ve “arrived.” You haven’t. Keep driving until the 4WD road dead-ends at the trailhead in a big valley out of the trees. 4WD or AWD are necessary because of the rocks and ruts and make sure the vehicle clearance is high. It’s not that sketchy of a road otherwise though. Great hike!! We made it up in 1 hour and 51 minutes. DO IT!

Very nice trail, with excellent views, especially of the three Apostles.Pretty easy for most of the part, but more challenging on the ridge. Very well maintained trail. Recommended 4wd for reach the top trailhead. We start from the lower trailhead because our rented car has a very worn tires.Nice wilderness area to see walking.

backpacking
2 months ago

Be advised the trailhead has been moved 1.1 miles south from the location marked on All Trails. The old roadbed up to the old trail head has a pretty good grade, but is smooth and covered in small gravel. Really easy to hike! All my distances are from the new parking lot. I didn't hike all the way up to the loop, but I did upload a track from the new trail head for reference.

Rating this trail as moderate is generous. It is largely smooth and flat, with a couple of rocky patches. Easy grade with exception of miles 0.0 to 1.1, and 3 - 3.75. The latter is fairly steep, BUT switchbacks have been added at the top making the last 0.25 mile or so a gentle grade. The switchbacks are also not shown on the All Trails route, but are on my track. Once on top you again face easy grades and smooth trail.

You will follow a creek between mile 1.1 and 2.75 providing easy access to water, and a surprisingly lush gulch. A surprise given how dry the overall area is! The trail meanders through a few aspen groves, overlooks a beaver pond, and winds it's way through open pine forest. Good camping spots up around 2.5 miles. You will depart water at about 2.75 miles when you start your way up to the plateau.

Once you reach the plateau you are greeted by low bushes and grassland, with pine forest along the shallow valley walls. You will encounter reliable water at about mile 4 and again follow a stream and beaver ponds to the north. The upper plateau is relatively flat and loaded with good camping spots.

Really enjoyed this trail. It was a nice easy overnighter and hooks up with a loop on the north end. You could easily make a 2-3 day there and back trip with the loop added in.

Truthfully, this hike isn’t that special and the experience is dulled by all the folks near the lake this time of year. Look for other hiking opportunities from the trailhead: I.e Bear Lake.

Stunning hike!! This first couple of miles are switchbacks up the side of the mountain. The views are beautiful the whole way. You’ll go through an alpine meadow right before the final climb to the summit. We had to turn back about 3/4 of a mile from the top due to a big storm coming in, but it was still a worthwhile hike! As other reviews have mentioned, 4wd is a must to get to the trailhead.

Took a few friends here who have never been backpacking at it was great. Easy in and out and they loved it. The lake was great. I wouldnt really recommend trying to hike Mt. Yale from this location. It was all bouldering and sheer cliffs with no trail. That's not to say it wasnt do-able. We made it to the top in about 3.5 hours, and had to scramble down bc of an incoming thunderstorm. Overall, it was a great introductory trip and we were able to get some adventure in trying to conquere Yale.

hiking
3 months ago

We never saw any signs for this on the road until the actual trail head. Really enjoyed it though. Hit the trail about 1pm and saw pretty heavy traffic early on, but thinned out later, everyone was super nice. Had 4 or 5 creek crossing and several river/creek access points prior to lake access which our dog enjoyed. Road in and out made me a little nervous but was totally doable.

Gorgeous views and well maintained trail. Super popular too and pretty easy for a fourteener. You need a high clearance 4wd vehicle to get to the trailhead unless you want to add about 6 miles to the hike.

backpacking
3 months ago

I just got back from a backpack trip to Kroenke Lake August 12th. kroenke is no longer the pristine alpine lake it once was. it is over used and trampled with little fire wood. People are camping and building fire rings within a few feet of the lake. What is more distressing is that there is used toilet paper everywhere in the forested areas along the east and south sides of the Lake. When did the hiking/backpacking community decide its ok to just leave their toilet paper behind? Come On People! Its easy to pack out your toilet paper with your other trash, or burn it in your fire pit. If you love the outdoors enough to drive to a trailhead and hike somewhere, you should care enough not to degrade the environment and diminish the experience of others.

Beautiful half day trail. The end is worth the effort.

This was a fantastic hike! We did this as a day hike and had lunch at the lake. Magnificent views. From the time you cross the stream and enter the Horn Fork basin until slightly before the turn off for the lake, the rate of climb is very manageable. The last bit before the turn off was steeper, but not all that long. I’m not sure that I would agree with the review below about most low clearance cars being able to make it to the trailhead, at least based on the condition of the road when we were there in July this year. We did make it using a garden variety small SUV, but I would have felt a lot better in something with more clearance and a stick, particularly coming down. That being said, there were a couple of low clearance passenger cars at the trailhead and one apparently disabled SUV being hauled off on a flatbed tow truck...

One of the prettiest 14er climbs I’ve done. Really amazing views. One of the best maintained 14er trails I’ve seen too, bottom to top. As always, get started early. See too many folks starting too late in the day when afternoon lightning is a danger. Definitely need good clearance 4x4 to get to upper trailhead. Recommend camping in the plentiful dispersed campsites along the road to trail. Magnificent outdoors experiences.

My first 14er and it was tough but rewarding. Hiked it with my dad and we both loved it. Switch backs seemed never ending on the way down. Beautiful views all the way up and the summit is so rewarding!

Backpacked in a few miles Thursday night and woke up at 330 Friday to hike Mt. Columbia. The trail is being worked on and I wouldn't recommend using this route until the new trail is finished. Hiking up and down the gulley at the bottom of the mountain was definitely dangerous and very slippery, steep and filled with loose rocks and dirt. The summit was beautiful and the views were amazing!

backpacking
3 months ago

Nice a steady climb to the lake. It was little hard for me coming straight from Illinois to the mountains. But i would say this is a good one for Plenty of campsites along the lake. We camped on a Sunday night in July and there were 3 other campsites along the lake. Even with the other campers it was very quiet, and scenery was beautiful Seemed like there was good fishing too. I don't fish often, but I caught a couple. It got pretty chilly at night and in the morning, so bring some layers if staying overnight.

Nice hike with good fishing at the end. Went mid-July, so there were plenty of other campers around the lake, but my campsite was definitely peaceful and solitary. You can bank on having afternoon storms and rain, so bring an extra tarp to sit under and plenty of warm clothes.

Just finished today and the views are incredible!

Stunningly beautiful hike. The 4WD road can be scary for beginner 4x4 drivers (like me), but it's very doable if you go slowly and pick your line carefully. 4WD and at least 8" clearance are a must for that road.

The hike starts with a series of switchbacks in the woods, then crosses a beautiful basin, then ascends across many switchbacks up the side of the mountain, and finally ascends a steep, rocky boulder field. It's very doable, though challenging for beginner 14erers, yet oh so worth it at the summit. Probably the most beautiful 14er summit I've seen.

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