Mount Harvard (14,420 ft)
14er Peak Rank #3/53
Another of the Collegiate Peaks, Mount Harvard – featured on Colorado 14ers Series Map 7 of 16 – stands as the third highest peak in Colorado and the highest of the Collegiate Peaks. Often hiked in conjunction with its neighboring 14er and fellow Collegiate Peak, Mount Columbia, Mount Harvard doesn’t have nearly the bad reputation that Columbia does with it’s loose and dangerous talus slopes.
Mount Harvard was named by members of the first graduating class of the Harvard’s Hooper School of Mining and Practical Geology (which only lasted for 10 years with low enrollment, closing in 1875) in 1869 after Harvard University. This group was on an expedition with professor Josiah Whitney, whose alma mater Yale was the inspiration for nearby Mount Yale – the second of the Collegiate Peaks. The highest peak in the contiguous USA in California – Mount Whitney – was later named after him.
For many years a 14 foot pole was attached to the summit of Mount Harvard to increase its height, but this disappeared in the 1980s. The Colorado Fourteeners Initiative completed major trail construction and restoration from 1999-2002 and they still maintain the trail regularly today.
The standard route to Mount Harvard is a Class 2 (more difficult hiking) trail through Horn Fork Basin, as with Mount Columbia. Starting at the North Cottonwood Trailhead, the route follows North Cottonwood Creek for 1.6 miles before veering right/northwest away from the Kroenke Lake Trail into Horn Fork Basin. After 2 miles keep left at the junction to the Mount Columbia Trail and follow the trail north, passing the Bear Lake Trail turn-off 1.5 miles after the Mount Columbia Trail turn-off. The summit is another 1.5 miles north of this junction, making for a 6.6 mile hike from trailhead to summit with an elevation gain of 4,530′.
As with Mount Columbia, Mount Harvard can also be climbed from the east via the Frenchman’s Trailhead via the Frenchman Creek Trailhead. There is no defined trail leading from Frenchman Creek to the ridge between Harvard and Columbia, but the Frenchman Creek Trail will take you to 12,250′ elevation before running out of trail and hitting the talus on the eastern slopes up to the route between Harvard and Columbia. This is a more challenging and exposed route to Harvard compared to the standard route via Horn Fork Basin.
As the third highest peak in Colorado, Mount Harvard presents a challenge despite the Class 2 standard route. As with all 14ers, remember to be prepared by bringing plenty of water, don’t take chances with inclement weather and your own fitness and by bringing your 14ers Maps along with you. Mount Harvard is one of six fourteeners featured on Outdoor Trail Maps Colorado 14ers Series Map 7 of 16.
Directions to Trailheads
To reach the North Cottonwood Trailhead, take County Road 350 (Crossman Avenue) west from Buena Vista, CO off US Hwy 24. After 2.1 miles, this road ends a T-junction with County Road 361 where you turn right/north. After 0.9 miles, turn a very sharp left onto County Road 365 where you drive 5.1 miles to the trailhead at the end of the road.
For Frenchman’s Trailhead, travel 7.4 miles north of Buena Vista on US Hwy 24 and turn left/west on County Road 386. After 1.5 miles the road forks and here is the low clearance trailhead. High clearance vehicles can turn left/south and drive 2.3 miles to a gate in the road at the wilderness boundary which is the trailhead.