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Three Elk Trail #1445



3.2 mile 5.2 kilometer point to point
71% Runnable


Ascent: 2,012' 613 m
Descent: -50' -15 m
High: 11,264' 3,433 m
Low: 9,296' 2,833 m


Avg Grade: 12% (7°)
Max Grade: 31% (17°)


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Trail shared by Tom Mosher

Leads up to a high cirque valley above treeline with amazing views of the Arkansas River Valley and Mt. Columbia.

Tom Mosher

Features Fall Colors · Lake · River/Creek · Views · Wildlife

Need to Know

From Main St. in Buena Vista travel north on Hwy. 24 to the next stop light at Crossman Ave and turn left. Go about two miles and turn right at the t-junction with CR 361. Continue about four miles (past the Harvard Lakes TH sign) and turn left on CR 368, then left on CR 368A in a mile. Turn right in 0.1 miles on a rough and narrow FR 368, drive 0.8 miles to the TH. This section is not recommended for cars.


The trail is mostly uphill all the way and crosses Three Elk Creek just short of 0.5 miles, then generally follows the creek its entire length. There are multiple log, rock hopping and shallow wet foot creek crossings. The tread is packed earth and loose rock.

This trail can be used as an alternate route to summit Mt. Columbia via the SE ridge by turning right on the Colorado Trail (CT) intersected at 1.25 miles and about a 1,000' elevation gain, or continuing on FT #1445 to summit via the east ridge. There are a few camping sites near this junction. Descriptions can be found in Gerry Roach's "Colorado Fourteeners" 3rd edition.

A short side trip to the picturesque Harvard Lakes can be done by turning left (south) on the CT. Several spots to camp can be found around the south lake.

Returning to FT #1445 and continuing NW on #1445 leads up into a high cirque valley above treeline with amazing views of the Arkansas River Valley, Mt. Columbia and surrounding mountains. After the first creek crossing past the CT, the trail begins to climb more steeply and becomes vague and disappears all together at points. Good route finding skills are needed to continue to the trails end, but the rewards are worth the effort. The entire elevation gain to the end of the trail from the TH is around 2,100'.

Flora & Fauna

The hike is through Evergreen forest to the treeline where the views open up.

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May 3, 2019
Anne Lizabeth

Trail Ratings

  4.0 from 4 votes


in Buena Vista


  4.0 from 4 votes
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in Buena Vista


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