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    This reflects the 10Adventures difficulty rating for each route. We aim to keep ratings consistent across regions.
    This reflects the total elevation gained throughout this route as measured by the GPS file. This includes all ascents and descents, and is higher than what is quoted in most route guides, which simply measure the distance between the starting-point and high-point of the route.
    472 m
    This reflects the return distance of this route as measured by the GPS file.
    8.7 km
    This reflects the estimated time the majority of users will take on this trail. If you are slower, add time to the top-end figure. If you are fast, then you may complete this route faster than this time range.
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    Directions to Trailhead

    Harvard Lakes Hike


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    Table of contents

    Not one, but two shimmering alpine lakes? Sign us up! The Harvard Lake Hike is a lovely woodland adventure up to the quaint lakes that reward conquerors with awe-inspiring vistas. Great as a conditioning trek prior to attempting a Colorado fourteener, this path will get your heart rate up without over-exhausting adventurers.

    Route Description for Harvard Lakes Hike

    The journey up to the Harvard Lakes is as, if not more scenic than the trail’s culmination. The Harvard Lakes Hike will guide adventurers through dense woodlands woven with snowmelt streams and mesmerizing cascades. Though the trail is open year-round, the trek has proven more difficult in the winter months when the terrain is icy and snow-packed. After the snowfalls, strap on some microspikes or snowshoes to safely navigate the trail. Note the altitude of the lake can sometimes warrant chilly conditions at the exposed lakes, so we suggest wearing layers as insurance. Additionally, be sure to pack plenty of water or a water filter to stay hydrated!

    Immerse yourself in the dense woodlands and let the sounds of the gurgling stream waters lull you into a state of relaxation as you climb up the base of Mount Columbia. Exhibiting the diversity of the area’s flora and fauna, you will be guided past aspen groves, lodgepole pines, fir, pine, and spruce trees before arriving at the glittering lakes. Keep an eye out for wildlife as you walk! Once you arrive at the lakes, assuming you have a valid Colorado fishing license, try your hand at some trout! If not, simply enjoy the expansive view of the Collegiate Peaks and the Arkansas Valley.

    Embark on your adventure along the Harvard Lakes Trail from the trailhead off Elk Walk. To begin, track west along Monte Escondido Drive. This trail will guide you through a meadow with sparse tree shade before encountering an intersection. At the junction, veer left, and you will be diverted onto the Three Elk Trail. This path curves south beneath the dense tree coverage of evergreen trees. As you hike, you will intersect with several alpine streams and quaint cascades. Enjoy the hypnotizing sights, and sounds of the babbling brooks and the route will soon divert west.

    Now trekking west, the terrain will become increasingly steep as you begin your final push to the lakes. Enjoy the shade of the vibrant aspens and sights of the looming peak through the tree break. At the next junction, keep left and hike south along the Colorado Trail Segment 12. Soon after turning, you will confront the first lake. Enjoy the sits of the shimmering water nestled along the base of Mount Colombia and revel in the sights of the Arkansas Valley below. Continue hiking, and you will then encounter the second Harvard Lake. A bit bigger, this pool exhibits wonderful sights of the Collegiate Peaks. Enjoy the panoramas and rejuvenate your tired feet in the chilly waters. When you are rested, and you have revelled in the scenery, retrace your footing along the path all the way back to the trailhead.

    Trail Highlights

    Mount Columbia

    Mount Columbia is a member of Colorado’s Collegiate Peaks in the Sawatch Mountain Range. Sitting at an elevation of 4,291 m, Mount Columbia is also a fourteener, ranking 35th on the list. Named for the prestigious university in New York, this summit is one of the more primitive and arduous hiking adventures, lacking a delineated route. Ironically, sitting on the southeastern flank of Mount Columbia are the Harvard Lakes. These charming alpine pools deliver postcard-worthy views of the looming peak.

    Insider Hints for Harvard Lakes Hike

    • In the winter months trade your hiking boots for snowshoes or microspikes
    • Pack plenty of water—the climb up to the lakes will surely tire you
    • Head to the Buena Vista Roastery after your hike for a warm cappuccino and sweet treat
    • Bring your fishing pole and try your hand at some trout in the alpine lakes (assuming you have a fishing permit)

    Getting to the Harvard Lakes Hike Trailhead

    The Harvard Lakes Hike is accessed via the Monte Escondido Drive Trailhead off Elk Walk near Buena Vista.

    Route Information

    • Backcountry Campground:

      Dispersed Backcountry Camping

    • When to do:


    • Pets allowed:

      Yes - On Leash

    • Family friendly:

      Older Children only

    • Route Signage:


    • Crowd Levels:


    • Route Type:

      Out and back

    Harvard Lakes Hike Elevation Graph

    Weather Forecast

    Check Area Weather


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