The Eagle Has Landed: Hiking Eagle Pass Trail
text and photography by Ryan Stikeleather
The Other Trail
Most visitors to Spruce Mountain Open Space will make a beeline to the top of Spruce Mountain, and that’s highly recommended, but don’t overlook Eagle Pass Trail. Eagle Pass Trail is an easy, relaxing hike; with stellar views of Eagle Mountain and is a great option if you’re in the mood for a less crowded alternative.
Just The Facts
Trail: Eagle Pass Trail - Spruce Mountain Open Space
Elevation Gain: 433 ft
Distance: 5.2 mi. (out-and-back)
Trail Use: Hiking, Trail Running, Mountain Biking, Horseback Riding
Trail Condition: Maintained, and clearly marked
Bring Your Dog: Yes (but must be on a leash)
Trail Map: https://trails.colorado.gov/@break_trail
Entrance fee: Free!
Directions: (Maps App Link) From Colorado Springs, take I-25 north to exit 163 (County Line Rd). Turn left and head west for 2.5 mi. to Spruce Mountain Rd. Turn right on Spruce Mountain Rd, continue for 3.5 mi. The entrance to Spruce Mountain Open Space will be on the left.
First Come, First Served
I’m not sure how many cars can fit into the Spruce Mountain Open Space parking area, but it’s a big parking lot. This is a popular area, and the crowds will show up early. With that in mind...it won’t take long before all the spots are filled. So plan to arrive as soon as you can.
From the parking lot, I headed along the Spruce Mountain Trail, which acts as a starting point for most of the trails within the open space. The first .5 mi. is an easy walk through a rolling meadow, skirting the base of Spruce Mountain. It won’t be long before you’ll be gazing upon Eagle Mountain.
Keep right at the first junction, and continue onto Eagle Pass Trail. If you go left, you’ll be headed to the Spruce Mountain Upper Loop Trail.
Eagle Pass Trail slips easily between the two mountains, within the open space, but it’s Eagle Mountain that commands all the attention. The golden-colored butte juts proudly out of the surround meadow, providing a timeless landmark to this area for hundreds of years.
The elevation gain is minimal; making it perfect for a relaxing walk, or mountain bike ride. The entire length of the trail is a knee-friendly, course mix of sand and soft, powdery soil. Usually, I’d be struggling to walk along a sandy trail, but since the elevation gain is so gentle, it doesn’t really slow you down too much.
This trail is heavily used, and has its fair share of...well...horse apples. The trail is wide enough that you should be able to get around any “deposits”. But If you’re like me, and can’t stop gazing at Eagle Mountain, here’s a simple reminder to look up the trail every now and then…just to be safe.
Don’t overlook the wooden benches spaced along the trail! They are particularly enjoyable if you’d like to stop for a break, and soak up the views. They often highlight an especially beautiful view of the mountains, or surrounding meadows.
The trail does have some shady bits. There are several sections that weave in-and-out of the evergreens, as well as thick clusters of Gambel oak. And there is plenty of wildlife. While I didn’t see them while hiking, the soft, sandy soil was peppered with the tracks of deer. I’m sure they were watching me, but they didn’t let me know they were around.
As beautiful as Eagle Mountain is, it’s not the only views worth stopping for. The meadows reach all around the buttes, and stretch all the way up to the foothills. The morning sun—filtering through the clouds—cast dappled light onto the rolling hills and warmed the golden tones in the grasses.
Eagle Pass Trail ends at the third junction, where it merges with a service road. If you continue another .1 mi. you’ll find yet another junction for Eagle Ridge Trail. Eagle Ridge is a short, .7 mi. section that leads to a picnic area. It’s definitely worth continuing on.
The picnic area sits nestled in a shady spot, overlooking the meadow below, and has a good view of Windy Point—which can be reached from the Spruce Mountain Trail Upper Loop. If you’d like to know more about that trail, check out my blog post here.
This Hike is Good For…
Beginners, and anyone looking for an easy hike. This is a busy trail which is used by horseback riders, and mountain bikers alike. Be sure to know the rules of the trail: Mountain bikers yield to hikers and horseback riders, hikers yield to horseback riders, and horseback riders...you get the right-of-way in every situation.
Lay of the Land
Eagle Mountain Ranch has been an enduring fixture in this area for more than 125 years. Isaac Jegirtha Noe—I.J. to those that knew him—arrived in Colorado, in 1878, with his wife. I.J.’s brother, William, had already been living in Colorado, and had a homestead nearby.
Within a few years, I.J. partnered with C. B. Kountz, and the two purchased the Greenland Ranch, forged their futures in the cattle business. I.J. took on the responsibilities of foreman, and later became the ranch superintendent.
In early 1890, I.J. purchased 160 acres; which became the start of Eagle Mountain Ranch. The success of I.J.’s shorthorn cattle breading expanded the ranch to 1,400 acres. The ranch also provided varied crops of wheat, oats, alfalfa, and potatoes.
The Eagle Mountain Ranch is still in operation today, and is registered as one of the Colorado Centennial Farms & Ranch. This designation honors a farm, or ranch, which has been continuously operated by the same family for 100 years, or longer. The Noe Family achieved this recognition in 1990.
The Larkspur Historical Society has even more information about surrounding towns, people, and histories that make this area so valuable and interesting.