Mount Harvard: Climbing and Hiking Tips and Safety


Standing at an impressive 14,420 feet, Mount Harvard is the third-highest peak in Colorado after Mount Elbert and Mount Massive and the fourth-highest in the contiguous United States. This majestic mountain, part of the Collegiate Peaks in the Sawatch Range, offers a unique adventure for outdoor enthusiasts and climbers alike. With its breathtaking landscapes and challenging terrains, Mount Harvard is a haven for those seeking to explore the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.


  • Mount Harvard offers a variety of hiking and climbing routes, catering to different skill levels and preferences.
  • Proper preparation, including gear, physical fitness, and safety considerations, is crucial for a successful and enjoyable experience on Mount Harvard.
  • The best time to visit Mount Harvard is during the summer months of June through September, but winter ascents are possible with the right equipment and expertise.

Exploring Mount Harvard: A Haven for Outdoor Enthusiasts

Mount Harvard’s elevation and rugged terrain make it a prime spot for various outdoor activities. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or a beginner, this mountain has something to offer.

Hiking and Trekking

  • The most popular Mount Harvard hike is the North Cottonwood Trail, a 13.6-mile round trip with an elevation gain of 4,530 feet.
  • The trail offers scenic highlights such as Bear Lake and panoramic views from the summit.
  • Be sure to bring essential gear, such as water, snacks, and appropriate clothing, and be prepared for the high-altitude environment.

Climbing Adventures

  • The Southeast Ridge is a frequently climbed technical route on Mount Harvard. In addition, climbers often combine a Mount Harvard climb with the neighboring Mount Columbia.
  • Climbers should be well-prepared with the necessary gear, physical fitness, and technical skills.
  • Safety protocols, including weather considerations and emergency procedures, are crucial for a successful climb.

Seasonal Activities and Wildlife

  • The best times to visit Mount Harvard for hiking and climbing are from June through September.
  • Be aware of common wildlife in the area, such as moose, and follow safety guidelines when encountering them.
  • Local conservation efforts aim to preserve the natural beauty and integrity of Mount Harvard.

Practical Information for Visitors

Accommodations and Local Services

  • Camping is available near Mount Harvard, with dispersed camping spots around the North Cottonwood Trailhead area.
  • The nearest towns for supplies and additional accommodations are Leadville and Buena Vista.

Getting There and Away

  • Mount Harvard is accessible from several trailheads, including North Cottonwood, Pine Creek, Frenchman Creek, Three Elk Creek, and Harvard Lakes.
  • The most popular route starts at the North Cottonwood Trailhead, which can be reached by driving south from Leadville on U.S. Highway 24 and then taking Chaffee County Roads 350 and 365 west.

Environmental Impact and Sustainability

To minimize the impact of tourism on Mount Harvard, visitors should adhere to Leave No Trace principles and follow local regulations and guidelines. This includes:

  • Camping at least 100 feet from water sources
  • Keeping dogs on a leash
  • Limiting party size to 15 people
  • Contacting the Forest Service for organized group activities

By practicing responsible outdoor behavior, we can help preserve Mount Harvard’s natural environment for future generations to enjoy.


What is the best time of year to climb Mount Harvard?

The optimal seasons for climbing Mount Harvard are from June through September when weather conditions are most favorable and the trails are more accessible.

Are there any permits required for hiking or climbing Mount Harvard?

As of 2023, no permits are required to climb Mount Harvard. However, it’s essential to follow Leave No Trace principles and observe all regulations set by the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness.

What should I pack for a day hike on Mount Harvard?

Essential items for a day hike include water, snacks, sunscreen, a hat, layers of clothing, a map, and a first-aid kit. It’s crucial to be prepared for changing weather conditions and high-altitude environments.

How can I prepare for the altitude at Mount Harvard?

To prepare for the high altitude on a Mount Harvard hike, it’s recommended that you acclimate gradually by spending time at lower elevations before attempting the climb. Staying hydrated, eating well, and listening to your body are also important factors in preventing altitude sickness. As the third highest peak in Colorado after Mount Elbert and Mount Massive, these precautions are vital to protecting climbers so they enjoy the stunning views and handle the elevation gain safely.

Are there guided tours available for Mount Harvard?

While guided tours are not as common for Mount Harvard compared to other 14ers, some local guide services in Leadville and Buena Vista may offer guided hikes or climbs. It’s best to contact these services directly for more information on availability and booking.

Besides Mount Harvard, what Colorado 14er climbs can be found at Collegiate Peaks?

Besides the Colorado 14er of Mount Harvard, climbers can find the high-altitude summit they crave on Mount Princeton, Mount Yale, Mount Columbia, Mount Oxford, Mount Belford, Missouri Mountain, Huron Peak, or La Plata Peak.


About the author

Ransom Patterson

My expertise in Colorado life extends beyond just residing here; it’s also about living actively within the community. I spend my time cycling through Denver’s trails, experimenting with local cuisines, and immersing myself in the local music scene. These activities give me a unique perspective on the cultural and outdoor offerings of Colorado. This hands-on approach allows me to provide insider tips and personal recommendations that resonate with both locals and visitors alike.