Explore the most popular lake 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.

beautiful late Sept hike

Lovely hike but toward the hard end of the moderate range for me
Challenging going up the steep rocky trail And we saw only one other hiker during the entire hike which we did around noon on a Friday
The lake was lovely as were numerous small waterfalls along the way
Would definitely recommend this hike!

This was as mentioned a hard moderate hike. 4 over 50 year old flatlanders in moderate condition 2 hrs to get to the top. The one mile on the road was ok, we saw 3 mule deer, the mile of loose rocks was the hardest part up and down. The mile by the stream and around the lakes was just wonderful. Take the time to circle the lake and enjoy the silence. Listen to the wind through the Aspen and the trout jump. Very peaceful. I took a star off just because a few more switch backs during the descent of the rock portion would have been nice.

25 days ago

I hit the summit of Columbia first thing this morning. Annihilated me, absolutely annihilated me. Be weary before stepping into this one as the Class II can be a tad misleading. No crazy bouldering but the sheer steepness of the slope after the treeline is insanely intense. There's a solid trail leading up the first saddle but slowly disappears, leaving one lost and bewildered, only option to continue straight up. Number 26 of 2018 and probably the most difficult. I'll take that 17 mile 6600 gain Blanca hike over this one any day. Schooled by Columbia.

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

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.

Was absolutely beautiful today as the aspen are perfect

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 not the trail we entended on taking, but the view of the Apostles is awesome. Trail is not maintained when you get to the basin. So good luck, we spent about half our time looking for Cairns and the trail. Note that you probably need FWD to get to the main trailhead. Ended up having to pack in our gear the extra 1.5mile.

Cottonwood Pass road is closed all year until Memorial Day , 2019. It’s closed at the Avalanche trailhead. The Forest Service is so underfunded that they have to rely on volunteers, no doubt that’s where the misinformation in the previous review came from.

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.

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.

Road wasn’t too bad to the trailhead. A fair amount of options for dispersed camping along the way. The first ~3.5 miles are very gentle and easy to cruise through. Great views from the top, and the last 40 feet of scrambling is a lot of fun!

Starting at South Winfield Trailhead, following the Lake Ann Trail to the The Three Apostles Trail heading to the Apostle Basin. Trail is well maintained until you begin your main elevation gain out of the trees (~10,250’). Beyond this point the trail is rarely marked and unmaintained.

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!

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.

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.

2 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.

2 months 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.

2 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...

Because of the previous review saying that the road was closed, I called the ranger district and a young lady told me the private road was closed but the public road was open. The public road was Cottonwood Pass, which is closed. We talked to many local people and they said there’s no way to get to Lost Lake Trail this summer until Cottonwood Pass opens back up.

2 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.

2 months 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

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.

I’m going tun

3 months ago

The moderate trail rating is very accurate. The majority of the trail is hiked in the woods. The trail opens up to bogs and meadows as you get close to the lake. We hiked in late July and the wildflowers were in full bloom. The lake is small but very scenic. Later in the day, on our way down, there were a good number of backpackers setting up camp around the lake. We hiked an additional 35 or 40 minutes past the lake towards Browns Pass. This portion of the trail was strenuous but afforded some really great views of the lake and meadows. The additional effort was worth the views.

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