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This is likely a great time to hike this trail!  Check out "Prefered" months below, keep in mind this is an estimate.

Mount Harvard, CO

no permit
61 5 0
Guide 5 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List CO > South Central
5 of 5 by 2
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Difficulty 3.5 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance Round Trip 13.5 miles
Trailhead Elevation 9,865 feet
Elevation Gain 4,555 feet
Accumulated Gain 4,600 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 8 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 36.5
Interest Seasonal Waterfall, Perennial Waterfall, Seasonal Creek, Perennial Creek & Peak
Backpack Yes
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
13  2018-09-20 LindaAnn
15  2018-08-02
Mount Columbia
15  2012-09-16 Jim_H
18  2012-08-26
Mount Columbia
Author Jim_H
author avatar Guides 55
Routes 44
Photos 7,651
Trips 1,615 map ( 9,681 miles )
Age 40 Male Gender
Location Phoenix, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Jul, Aug, Jun, Sep → 8 AM
Seasons   Late Spring to Early Winter
Sun  5:53am - 6:02pm
1 Alternative
Named place Nearby
Harvard is hardly Hard
by Jim_H

Likely In-Season!
For being so high (Harvard is # 3 in Colorado at 14,420'), I found hiking Mount Harvard to be a lot easier than I expected. I was almost to the summit before realizing I was over 14,000 feet. I attribute this to the fabulous scenery and extremely well built trail. Granted, I haven't done that many of Colorado's higher peaks, but the trail is the best I have seen. Granite stair cases on most steep sections above treeline, and a smooth trail in the talus field made this hike a cake walk. There is a short section of scrambling near the summit, but other than that, the route is extremely easy to follow.

The trail is not named, "Mount Harvard Summit Trail". Instead, from the west side of the trailhead parking area, locate the only trail and hike it west out of the parking lot. There is a kiosk sign, so you can't miss it. The trail drops down and crosses the creek over a well built bridge, and then proceeds up the valley along the creek for about 1 1/2 miles. This section seems to contain the most aspen, and therefore the most amount of leaf color if you came for that purpose. You will then drop down and re-cross the creek over another well built bridge.

Shortly after this crossing, you will encounter a junction with a trail sign. You'll want to take the trail to the right for the Horn Fork Basin and Bear Lake. You will spend the next 2 miles hiking up a steeper trail toward treeline through the typical forest of central Colorado's Sawatch Range: Lodgepole pine with aspen transitioning to spruce-fir. As you approach treeline, views will open up and you will be able see to Mount Yale to the south, Mount Columbia to the east, and eventually Mount Harvard to the north.

Depending on the time of year, you might have a pretty decent wildflower display or a lot of color in the willows of the lower alpine zone. Water is abundant here, with a lot of small crossing. Late in summer, some may be dry, but the larger streams should have flowing water in them.

As you progress higher, there is another trail junction with a small sign. Going straight takes you to Bear Lake at roughly 12,400 feet, a nice place to relax or spend the night. Going right takes you up to Harvard itself. From this point on, you have a nice view of the summit, and should have no trouble finding your way, as there are numerous large stone cairns in anyplace the trail isn't super obvious. You'll pass through alpine meadows, a talus field with a well built trail, and then back across another alpine meadow on the south slope of the peak. The alpine vegetation extends so far up the mountain that it confused me as to how high I was. I was well over 14,000 feet yet still thought I was only in the upper 13,000.

There is a 13,588 foot peak to the south of Harvard, and once you can see over that, you're almost home. The trail in the last part is steep, but very easy to hike, and when it sort of peters out, you should be just below the summit. In the last 50 to 75 feet, the hike becomes a scramble, class 2, maybe 3 if you look for it, and just enough to be fun. Then, you are on the summit.

Some folks will want to traverse to Columbia. Just be sure you have enough daylight and good weather to do that. Otherwise, descend the way you came. I took my time and made this in less than 7 hours of hiking.

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2012-09-18 Jim_H
    WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

    Most recent Triplog Reviews
    Mount Harvard
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    This was a bigger day than I had bargained for, but it was a success. Based on the stats (13.7 mi, 5813' AEG) and relatively nonchalant description in the Roach guide, I expected a little bit tougher version of Oxford/Belford. It was considerably tougher. The stats above are from, which seem more correct to me after the hike. In addition to the bigger numbers, the terrain and level of commitment on this hike are more serious than Oxford/Belford and all of the other combos I've done.

    The trail into Horn Fork Basin and subsequent ascent of Harvard is the highlight of this hike, and IMO is ideally done as a backpack. There are lots of nice camping spots below tree line in the basin by the Columbia turnoff, and the trail is very gradual up to that point. Harvard is a BIG mountain and you feel all of those 420 feet over 14,000, but it's nice and straightforward.

    The traverse to Columbia ranges from lovely to maddening. Some of it is a clear trail, some of it is talus, some of it is an eroded mess (at least if you're like me and didn't spend enough time looking at the pictures), and a good amount of it is over snowfields this time of year. It took me about 2:45 to complete; I'd avoid starting it after 9:00 or if there's any sign of unfavorable weather. ... 4er/

    The above article is a good description of the situation on Columbia. I ended up on the crappy slopes, though I saw another party that had found their way to one of the newer sections of trail which looked really nice as I was skiing down the dirt. My advice is to wait on this combo until the trail is completed, or to do the peaks as two separate outings: Harvard via the standard route, and Columbia via one of the alternate routes from the East. Of course, if you're an insatiable peak bagger or an unprepared moron or a combination of the two :oops:, then this combo is here for the taking...
    Mount Harvard
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    With my foot injury, windy spring weekends, and monsoon season, I never got out here to hike a 14er this year, until today. My waiting couldn't have been rewarded with better weather. For being at 14,420', I had the warmest, calmest, driest, and most pleasant weather I have ever had in Colorado, or at this altitude anywhere. The hike was great, and most aspen are near peak color. It wasn't even crowded, and I had the summit to myself for a while.

    I'm glad I chose Harvard, as the basin hike was a lot nicer than clinging to some 4x4 road as you do on some of the 14ers a little further south. You do lose some distance views on the hike, but the scenery up high is so nice, you don't care. The trail was interesting, with granite stairs in many spots. Some might prefer the traverse to Columbia, but I got what I came for, and am glad I finally made it out.

    Permit $$

    Map Drive
    FR / Dirt Road / Gravel - Car Okay

    To hike
    From just north of the center of Buena Vista, CO, Take County Road 350 (Crossman Ave.)to it's end on County Road 361. Go north or right on 361 and after a mile, take a left on to a dirt road, County Road 365 and travel west on this to the trailhead. Initially you will be in a housing area, but after 2 miles or less, you'll enter forest lands. Take this road to it's end at the trailhead: North Cottonwood Creek. Park there. The dirt road may be rough, but I got my civic there easily, and there were other low clearance vehicles parked there, so you should be fine.
    page created by BobP on Sep 18 2012 10:02 am
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