Peak(s):  Mt. Harvard  -  14,420 feet
Date Posted:  08/08/2020
Modified:  08/17/2020
Date Climbed:   08/08/2020
Author:  Brake414er
 Harvard from N Cottonwood Creek TH   

Drove up to Cottonwood Creek TH after grabbing some hot coffee and a boxed dinner at Brown Dog Coffee Company in Buena Vista. Excellent sandwiches. And their scones… !! Arrived TH around 7 pm. Tossed up a tent and enjoyed the cool breeze and evening air. And the traffic. Wow, that’s a busy road this year – cars continually coming up until I finally drifted off after 10. Bring your earplugs.

Up at 3:30 for a long day. Hit the trail at 4:15. It appears that CV has driven everyone outside. I have never seen a trailhead so crowded with cars. There must have been 150+ cars at the TH. Oddly, didn’t encounter that many people on the hike.

It is a solid trail all the way to the summit. This time of year the water crossings are easy. The challenge is taking the correct turns. Of all the summits I’ve been on in CO, this one has the most challenging signage (or lack thereof). Watch your route. Intersection-wise – right, then left, then right.

The first intersection has a sign pointing to Brown’s Pass to the left and Bear Lake to the right. Someone has painted “Harvard” onto the sign with an arrow. Take a right.

The next intersection has a newer looking sign with “Mt. Columbia”, “Mt. Harvard”, and “Bear Lake” on it and two arrows. The challenge is, at first glance, Mt. Harvard (in the middle) could go with either arrow. Go left, to Bear Lake.

The third intersection has no sign, only a small cairn. I wasn’t paying attention and almost missed this turn. Go to the right. If you go to the left you’ll hit Bear Lake pretty quickly and not go too far out of the way. See picture with cairn – trail to Harvard summit is the trail to the right, Bear Lake to the left.


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The small cairn on the trail on the right marks the way to Harvard


Not too far after the last intersection you hit the first boulder field. I only mention this because the trail through this boulder field is impressive! Who did this? It is a feat of engineering and work of art.

The trail remains strong all the way to the summit cap. If you lose the trail, just look around, the correct trail is obvious (spoken from experience).

The little bouldering problem at the summit is a fun end to the climb up. The natural line leads you up to a massive drop-off. Start bouldering just to the right of that line and the solution is a zig zag up. If done correctly, it never exceeds a Class 2.

The summit is a small bundle of slabs, big enough for six or seven people with no real exposure. Six others joined me after I summited on this beautiful day. The guidebook says the trail is great for dogs until the summit cap. Didn’t stop two dogs from summiting (with some assist). Four of the six headed off for the Columbia traverse. Not for me – I plan on doing that from Frenchmen’s Creek to see the other side. Scramble down and head back.

This hike, from the trailhead, is long. I clocked it at exactly 14 miles RT. A little under 4 hours up and 2:30 down. The last couple of miles back to the trailhead dragged. It’s a long, beautiful hike w a warm return this time of year, take lots of water or a filter (plenty of sources).


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Bear Lake


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Horn Fork Basin


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Drop off the back side of the ridge


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View from summit








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