Mt. Columbia
standard West Slopes
 Class 2 
Risk Factors:Exposure: Moderate
Rockfall Potential: Considerable  
Route-Finding: Moderate  
Commitment: Moderate  
Trailhead:N. Cottonwood Creek
Start:9,900 feet
Summit:14,073 feet
Total Gain:4,250 feet
RT Length:11.50 miles
Duration:User Climb Times
Weather:NOAA Forecast
Conditions:227 reports
Cell Signal:10 reports
Sheriff:Chaffee: 719-539-2596
Forest:San Isabel
Wilderness:Collegiate Peaks
Quad. Maps:Log In to View
Camping:On Google Maps
Eats:On Google Maps
Downloads:Log In to Download
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Turn west on County Road (CR) 350 (Crossman Ave.) near the center of Buena Vista. This road is less than 1/2 mile north of the stoplight in the center of town. Continue on CR 350 for 2 miles and turn right onto CR 361. After almost 1 mile, turn left onto CR 365 (dirt). Continue on this road for over 5 miles to the trailhead at the end of the road. Turn right into the wooded parking area which loops around counter-clockwise. The trail starts on the west side of the parking area.


1 and 2 show the route above tree line. Locate the trail, walk down to a bridge crossing and follow the excellent trail for 1.4 miles to another bridge. Shortly after that crossing, you'll reach a trail junction. Stay right for Horn Fork Basin and Bear Lake. Hike another 1.25 miles to a small clearing (on the trail) at 11,050' where you can see Columbia's southwest shoulder up to your right - 3. Continue on the main trail for another .25 mile to the Columbia trail junction - 4. Turn right, leaving the main trail, and follow a different trail toward Columbia.

Take this small trail northeast up through the trees. After hiking over a hill in the forest, the trail enters a linear clearing where there is a trail junction. Turn right and cross to the east side of the clearing before re-entering the trees. Reach another small, linear clearing and turn right at yet another trail junction - 5. Continue southeast through trees ( 6) and bushes to the base of a wide gully on the southwest side of Columbia - 7. There is one good landmark in this area: Point 11,853' shown on the topo map. There are cliffs above (left) the trail before you hit tree line at the base of the gully. Exit the trees and continue onto the base of the gully. NOTICE: In 2020, the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative (CFI) opened the new, upper Columbia trail that has been under construction for a few years. Swing right (southeast) and follow the new trail up onto the shoulder - 8. This route description will have photos of the new trail in July, 2020.

Once on the shoulder ( 7), follow the trail as it switchbacks up to the ridge just above 13,600' - 9. Turn left and hike along the ridge over rock bumps and several small saddles. From where you hit the ridge, it is over 1/2 mile to the summit - 10. After a few ups and downs, cross a grassy area and climb the final rock pile to the true summit - 11, 12 and 13.


IMPORTANT: This route enters the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness area. Wilderness areas have special regulations and restrictions for party size, dispersed camping, campfires, etc. Also, dog owners should read the wilderness information carefully because some wilderness areas prohibit dogs to be off-leash and/or limit how close dogs can be to lakes and streams. If you have questions about the wilderness area, please contact a U.S. Forest Service office for the National Forest(s) listed above.
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