From the center of Buena Vista, head west on County Road 350. After 2 miles, turn right onto CR 361. In just shy of a mile, turn left onto dirt CR 361. Continue 5 miles to North Cottonwood Creek Trailhead. There is free parking and camping here, but no potable water or latrine. The trail starts to the west.
Continue up an excellent singletrack trail, low in grade and with few obstacles. In 1.5 miles, pass by a left turn toward Kroenke Lake
. Stay right. As the trail steepens there will be more roots. After another 1.5 miles the trees will start to get more spaced out and the trail will be less obvious. As the west slopes of Mt. Columbia
come into view, head right towards a boulder field, leaving the Horn Fork Basin Trail, to continue onto the Harvard and Columbia
To continue up the Horn Fork Basin Trail, hike straight through the trees, coming into a beautiful basin full of willows and streams. Mt. Harvard
is right in front of you; Mt. Columbia
to the right. Mt. Yale
can be seen to the left as you get higher up.
Navigate through some willows and continue up into the basin. There are few switchbacks, but mostly gentle grades and excellent trail up until this trail gives way to the Mt. Harvard
Upon breaking through a forest full of pines and aspens, you'll come into a basin loaded with wildflowers. Marmots and pika are around too. For some reason, the mountain goats up high are particularly sodium-deprived, to the point where they will follow you around just waiting for you to relieve yourself. The USFS has actually gone so far as to suggest hikers urinate on solid rock instead of dirt trail, thus discouraging these odd creatures from literally eating dirt.