Mount Columbia and Mount Harvard: Collegiate Peaks Backpacking Combo

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A fabulous, moderate and less crowded way for Denverites to spend a weekend bagging 2 of Colorado’s 50-some 14ers.
Type: two-summit lolliloop
Length: 2 days, about 15 miles
Day 1: Leisurely drive to the North Cottonwood Canyon trailhead outside of Buena Vista, about 2.5 hrs. It’s at the end of county road 365. From there hike about 4 miles up Horn Fork Creek on a good trail, passing a left fork to a small lake at mile 1. Camp near the next intersection in the trail, an unsigned junction of the trails that lead to Harvard (straight) and Columbia (right.) Water is readily available as of July 11.
Day 2: You can summit either peak from the junction, but if you’re doing both it’s much easier to do a counterclockwise loop. That way you ascend the loose scree slopes of Columbia, descend to the peak to peak traverse with the valley you need to cross almost in full view, and finally descend back to camp on the well built trail and steps of Harvard. From here camp again, or descend an hour back to your car. If you’re camping two nights it might be nice to bring a fishing pole and camp a little closer to Harvard at Bear Lake, which is purported to have good cutthroat fishing.
Packing List: hat, gloves, insulating layer and rain jacket – we were cold! Plus your usual backpacking and peak bagging gear. Happy Trails!

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