Harvard Lakes Trail is rated moderate but be ready it gets “oh so steep and rocky”. Keep going… the thundering water cascading down the last part of the trail made up for any pain we felt!


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The trail starts out on a dirt road for about a mile before reaching the trailhead. We were stumped. There isn’t a sign anywhere that says Harvard Lakes Trail. Instead, you will find a trail sign that says 3 Elk Trail. 

Turn left at this trailhead #1445. This is the trail to Harvard Lakes. The trail heading uphill goes to Mt. Columbia.


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We are now entering a lush forest with water crossings and a slight uphill climb. 



Really pretty and easy-going with a few switchbacks. 




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Views of the higher peaks appeared and we started heading uphill all the while thinking this is a slightly moderate beautiful hike. 

Only to be surprised or I should say a bit shocked at the intense upward climb without a switchback up a rocky path for a lot longer than anticipated! No views here, lots of trees down, and we wondered if we should keep going…


A trail you want to be prepared for with appropriate hiking gear. CLICK HERE> for a look at practical gear that we love at Crazy About Colorado and have in our backpacks on every hike


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Which was quickly forgotten when rocks turned into a glorious soft pine needle path settled right next to water cascading down the mountain.

One of the prettiest areas we been too.

At the top a little signpost which says “Colorado Trail”. This is where you will go left and find the lakes… again no sign that says Harvard Lakes.

More amazing Colorado day hikes with spectacular settings..

Browns Lake Trail: an Adventurous Day Hike

Beginner Trails in Colorado’s Backcountry

Herman Gulch Trail: Adventure into Snowcapped Mountains

Ptarmigan Lake Trail is Pristine Colorado Hiking


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Arriving at the first lake was not as thrilling at first sight as other alpine lakes we’ve hiked too. But that only lasted for a moment as we stood and admired Mt. Columbia towering above. 

Meandering through a beautiful Aspen and Pine forest to find the other lake only added to our growing excitement. 


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The second lake was so lush, green and so quiet that we found a little oasis and hung out for a bit. Which is not really like me but made my other half especially happy.

Numerous Violet-green Swallows were everywhere swooping all around us looking for insects across the water. This was a first for me. They looked like overgrown hummingbirds and the colors were so vivid. 


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Oasis over, we hiked around the second lake, then ventured back to the first lake before heading back down.

Highly recommend this hike. Has a little bit of everything and gets the heart pumping. 

With abundant amounts of snow this year we had the pleasure of large runoffs and beautiful displays of Colorado at its finest.

LOCATED: Head north out of Buena Vista on Highway 24. About three miles north of the stoplight in downtown Buena Vista, you will turn west (left) onto CR 384. Continue for 1.3 miles and then turn north (right) onto CR 361. Go another 1.5 miles then turn west (left) onto CR 368, go another 1.2 miles and veer left onto 368 A. Parking for the trailhead is 1/4 mile. You park on the dirt shoulder on the road. There is a high clearance unimproved road labeled forest service road 368 that you can drive up to get right to the trailhead, however, most hike up the FSR  368to get to the trailhead. If this sounds confusing it is! But we did find it with these directions! NOTE: nowhere is there a sign for Harvard Lakes Trail as mentioned in this entire article. Trailhead 3 Elks Trail will take you to Harvard Lakes.


5.4 miles out and back (or drive up easy 4×4 road to Elk Creek Trail sign) then approx: 3.4 mile out and back.

Rated: moderate

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

San Isabel National Forest

Chaffee County

Nearest town: Buena Vista, CO

A GENTILE REMINDER: Venturing off trails damages vegetation, leads to erosion and impacts wildlife.



Note: Many of the links are affiliate links which means I receive a very small commission (at no added cost to you) and you get an awesome product, I appreciate the support.



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