Trail Length: 13.5 miles
Trailhead Elevation: 9,900’
Elevation Gain: 4,600’
Difficulty: Class 2
Trailhead Location: 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.
Climbing Colorado 14ers is one of my passions. Colorado has 54 14ers (peaks over 14,000 feet high) and I have been slowly checking them off my list. Mt. Harvard is quite a lengthy hike with a lot of elevation gain. You gain 4,600’ of elevation in 6.75 miles! You definitely have to be in good physical condition and in a good mental state of mind to conquer a 14er. I’ve climbed 29 of them to date.
Mt. Harvard is a relatively easy 14er as 14ers go. Each 14er is given a Class rating (1-5) and an exposure rating (0-6). Mt. Harvard has a Class rating of 2 and an Exposure rating of 2.
Class 1 – Easy hiking, usually on a good trail.
Class 2- More difficult hiking that may be off-trail. You may also have to put your hands down occasionally to keep your balance. May include easy snow climbs or hiking on talus/scree.
Class 3 – Scrambling or un-roped climbing. You must use your hands most of the time to hold the terrain or find your route. This may be caused by a combination of steepness and extreme terrain (large rocks or steep snow). Some Class 3 routes are better done with rope.
Class 4 – Climbing. Rope is often used on Class 4 routes because falls can be fatal. The terrain is often steep and dangerous. Some routes can be done without rope because the terrain is stable.
Class 5 -Technical climbing. The climbing involves the use of rope and belaying. Rock climbing is Class 5.
All of the 14ers I have climbed have been class 1-3.
0 = No exposure in the area. Gentle terrain.
1 = Mild exposure in the area but not along the immediate route.
2 = Mild exposure very close to the route. Route options may be limited but you should be able to walk past the exposure area.
3 = Moderate exposure along the immediate route. It should be avoidable with some slow hiking or scrambling.
4 = More serious exposure that could result in serious injury or death if you fell. Moving past the area will require some scrambling or short technical moves.
5 = Dangerous exposure that requires careful, technical moves to navigate around. A fall would likely be fatal. Big, sheer drops.
6 = Vertical exposure. Technical, roped climbing route.
All of the 14ers I have climbed have had an exposure rating of 0 – 3.
My son and I headed out early in the morning (between 4:00-4:30am) from home for the 2 ½ hour drive to the trailhead. We always want to get an early start to get up to the summit and back down before any afternoon thunderstorms move in. We were on the trail between 6:30-7:00am for our trek up Mt. Harvard. It was a beautiful, bluebird sky day. We headed up the trail about 3.5 miles and finally reached tree line at 11,500’ for a view of the peaks.
We continued our climb up the trail with Mt. Harvard in our sights.
I didn’t take a lot of pictures on our way up. I guess I was too focused on getting to the top and making the summit. We summited at around 11:25am. Beautiful views from the top! The weather was perfect with no signs of any storms moving in. In the picture below, if you look closely, you can see Snowmass Mountain clear off in the distance, the completely snow-covered peak.
Another view from the summit.
Josh taking a rest on the summit.
A shot to the south with Bear Lake in the foreground and 14ers Mount Princeton and Mount Yale closest in view with the tops of other 14ers Mount Antero, Mount Shavano and Tabeguache Peak behind. Mt. Columbia (another 14er) sits to the left.
A shot of 14ers Mount Belford and Mount Oxford to the north.
A couple more summit shots.
A view of Mt. Columbia.
Some summit shots of Josh and I.
After spending about an hour on the summit, it was time to head down. A shot looking back up at the summit of someone else who had made it to the top.
Josh heading back down the trail.
Some beautiful wildflowers along the trail.
Josh crossing a snowfield on the way down.
A view looking down the trail.
A close up view of Bear Lake.
Josh continuing on down the trail with Mt. Columbia in the background.
More wildflowers along the trail.
Back down in the meadow. A couple of shots looking back up the direction we had just come from.
A shot of Josh continuing on down the trail.
A couple of final shots looking back up the Horn Fork Basin at Mt. Harvard in the background. The Horn Fork Basin was very lush and green.
We got back to the car exhausted but happy that we had summited another 14er!