Approx 12.5 Miles Round Trip with 4550 Elevation Gain
North Cottonwood Trail
A very scenic trail that offers a well worn trail through beautiful flora and fauna to attain either Mount Harvard and or Mount Columbia.
This trail is well used and appropriately maintained. There are many water crossings and you can rest assured you will probably not be alone in your journey. The grade of the climb is such to not destroy your legs or knee’s while in approach to the meadow of Harvard or Columbia.
Travel Southwest on the trail and cross the first bridge, you will begin your ascent here (Sign the trail register). Climbing on the narrow path through the valley can be muddy and would probably be quite slippery if not careful, this is not a flat trail as it slopes towards the 100’ gully on your right.
You will be near Cottonwood Creek for a fair amount of time (approx 2 miles) and in a quite lush area with many Mushrooms, Moss and other lush veggitation.
Once you enter come to a trail marker trek right towards Bear Lake.
At this point the trail will start to gain elevation and your muscles will start to work a bit, continue to tree line at approx 11,500’ where you will gain your first views of Columbia (on your right) and Harvard (directly in front), this is a broad open expanse with many remote camp sites available and many sub peaks awaiting “Bagging”. From here it is approximately 2 miles to the summit.
When you reach the Moraine ledges with Bear Lake to your left, you will start at the “Head Wall” of Mount Harvard. You will travel with many very well made rock Cairns over a boulder field with still easy class 3 hiking.
Near the ridge to Harvard you will come upon some switchbacks that are still easy climbing but are the steepest scrambling you have done today, continue your ascent towards the summit there will be a fairly large area of boulders to play some Class 4 upon, No rope should ever be needed here but there can be a bit of route finding issues to attain the actual summit.
When we went we decided to climb very close to the west ridge and found there was a nice line almost straight to the summit.
There is no USGS marker (that I could find) but there is a large Zip Lock bag with MANY papers and a small bottle to register your name onto.
Descend any way you prefer
Essential GearStandard 14’r kit
Hydration Bladder (I used 100oz and had more than enough)
Rain Gear (I had my butt handed to me by mother nature for a brief time)