| Mt. Harvard - South Slopes
Start time: 6:10am
Up: 5.5 hr
Down: 3.75 hr
Total: 9.25 hr
Weather: HOT! Beautiful, no storm clouds in sight.
So as it turns out, Mt. Harvard is a really long hike!! My husband and I took the day off of work to enjoy a 14er on a less crowded day. Here are the notes from our long, long journey to the top!
The road to the trailhead was in decent shape, and we did see some 2WD cars at the trailhead, so you can make it without a 4WD vehicle. There are no bathrooms at the trailhead, but there was a sign before we got there that said that, near Silver Creek trailhead. If you need a restroom, stop at this Silver Creek Trailhead restroom. This was very clean, and this is the last restroom before the trailhead. Once we got to the trailhead, we were surprised to see so many cars, however, we didn’t see anyone until we were almost 5 miles into the hike, so I don’t know where all the people were!
At 1.4 miles, you get to a bridge, and shortly after where the trail forks, be sure to go to the right.
The bridge at 1.4 miles
On our way up, there was not a sign, but as we were coming down, we noticed there was a brand new sign there, so this should be well marked now. Shortly after, there is another slightly confusing switchback in the trail (maybe it was just me!) where it looks like the trail may go straight, but you actually want to stay on the switchback to the left.
Adam pointing the way at the switchback
There are several stream crossings along the trail, some of the crossings more tricky than others.
stream crossing - one of many
Make sure to take your time, because it would be an uncomfortably long hike with a wet shoe (as my husband found out on the way down!). There are some trees on the trail, but most of the downed trees had a bypass. It was clear the forestry guys had been working hard to cut the trees that were on the path, and for the most part, the trail was clearer than expected (based on the June trip report).
Freshly cut trees, and a nice trail
As you come through the trees, there are some fabulous views of Columbia, especially with the sun coming up!
Once you are at about treeline (4-ish miles), it seems to last forever. It is pretty gradual, and just a long trip towards Harvard. The trail is very well defined and has several ginormous cairns (which seemed unnecessarily large).
example of size huge cairn
The trail remained in great shape, even through the steeper portions up to the ridge.
trail up to the saddle
The steep part of the trail was the first time we saw someone, which shows how peaceful the hike was thus far. As we approached the top, there were some other groups coming down, so we were hoping that the summit would not be crowded.
At about 50 ft from the top, I actually abandoned my poles (my husband abandoned his at about 25 ft from the top). This was a good plan, because I needed my hands to climb up that last bit to the summit.
Only look up (not down!)
Once on the top, we found we weren’t alone, but we had fun at the summit with the two guys there (if you are reading this…good luck back at school guys!!!). The views were gorgeous (as usual!) and there was only fluffy white clouds in the sky!
From the top!
Looking back the way we came with Bear Lake on the right! It is a long way!
There seemed to be some people summiting after us, including one coming from Columbia, and an ultra marathoner on his way to Columbia. After enjoying the views from the top, we started to head down. As someone afraid of heights, going back down the top 50 ft was a bit of a challenge for me, but I did make it (even though that sounds so lame…it was a big step for me!). The hike down seemed so long, but we did make it.
Overall, Harvard was a beautiful hike, and it seemed like the route gave you gorgeous views of the surrounding mountains, throughout the hike, not only at the top. The trail was very well defined and easy to follow. This was definitely one of my favorites!
A couple notes:
1. I really wish I would have applied sunscreen way more often than I did. I was very burnt when it was all over. Since the hike is so long, you can be exposed to the sun for even longer, so apply sunscreen often!!
2. I really wish I would have brought bug spray! The streams were wonderful and allowed for lots of flowers and a much prettier hike, but the bugs were super annoying and super plentiful.
3. I am very glad we decided to do this on a Friday instead of a Saturday. The summit was very small, so I don't think I would have enjoyed the summit as much if it was very crowded.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):