Harvard Lakes Trail along a section of the Colorado Trail is a casual hike through the forests with intermediate views of the sensational Collegiate Peaks and the Arkansas Valley below. Looking for a quiet trail to a couple of sweet lakes situated below Mt. Columbia 14er, this is it.
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Arriving early in the morning on July 2nd, the ground is still wet from dew, and the air is slightly humid. It’s surprisingly warm for being so early, as the morning clouds break away to blue skies.
After a bumpy ride up a dirt road, we almost missed the trailhead. There is an unmarked pull-off to our left for parking, and the trail is just beyond on the right. Excited to get started.
Not a strenuous hike; however, the first mile is straight up through switchbacks and got our hearts pumping. But soon forgotten as we entered a lush forest. It’s early morning, and as we hiked up, the dew-covered terrain is sparkling in the morning sunshine along the sides of the trail.
Views of the snow-capped Collegiate Peaks are stunning as we huff n puff our way up before reaching the forest.
Here, the trail is a gentle hike through pines & aspens, with sprinkles of wildflowers and chipmunks scurrying about. Several areas were very lush, still wet from previous rains, and very misquote friendly. Bring your bug spray!
A trail you want to be prepared for with appropriate hiking gear. At high altitudes, dehydration plus fickle weather is always something to consider. CLICK HERE> for a look at Practical gear that we love at Crazy About Colorado and have in our backpacks on every hike
Just before reaching Harvard Lakes, the path becomes rugged and rocky with a slight incline, and you get the feeling you are close. The pleasant sound of water cascading downstream somewhere close by is a clue.
1st HARVARD LAKE
The first Harvard Lake is so green, almost neon in the bright sunshine. Very pretty and quiet, with only a couple of people who are fishing along the shoreline.
Hiking past the lake is captivating through the trees as we head to the 2nd lake. I’ve hiked here before from a different trailhead, and still, this lake and view through the trees grab my attention. Several dispersed campsites filtered throughout aspens along the trail between lakes were enticing.
CLICK HERE> to read Hiking to Harvard Lakes via Elk Trail #1445, which we hiked two years ago. It is completely different from this hike and just as rewarding!
2nd HARVARD LAKE
The 2nd lake is different in every way. The views of Mt. Columbia add that extra “wow” factor. The water is so calm and clear that we could enjoy all the abundant baby trout (called Parr) swimming about and jumping everywhere.
Rated moderate, this hike would be doable as a beginner hike for those acclimated to the altitude. The start is steep, yet with a few stops to catch your breath, it’s worth the effort as the remainder is gentle.
6 mile out & back
Start Elevation: 9120 ft.
Ending Elevation: approx: 10,340 ft.
Open to dogs and horses
Nestled at the base of Mt. Columbia
Located in the Sawatch Range
Nearest town: Buena Vista, CO
From the traffic light at Main St in downtown Buena Vista, head north on US-24 for 0.4 miles to CR 350 (Crossman Avenue). Turn left (west) onto Crossman and continue for 2 miles before turning right onto CR 361. Head north on CR-361 for 1.1 miles, and then turn left onto CR 365, a rough dirt road but accessible to most 2WD vehicles. Go 3.6 miles and you’ll find a small pullout on the left across the road from a trailhead for the Colorado Trail (#1776).
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