Much of the trail is along old jeep tracks, such as this near the trailhead.
From Burnet, head west on Hwy 29. Turn right and head towards the northwest on FM 2341. Continue on 2341 for several miles until it dead-ends at the park entrance. After entering the park turn onto the Lone Star Road, which leads to the Eagle Eye Observatory. Park at the gate that usually blocks the road and hike towards the trailhead on the right.
The Hike: Canyon of the Eagles includes two disconnected trail systems. The
Juniper Ridge group lies on the eastern side of the preserve, largely along a ridge that overlooks
the lower portions of the preserve along Lake Buchanan's shore. Note that all of the trails in
the Juniper Ridge system are closed from March 1 through August 31 to provide better nesting
conditions for the Golden-Cheeked Warbler and the Black-Capped Vireo. Other trails in the
Lakeside portion of the preserve are open year-round.
The hike begins at the waypoint marked "Trailhead" on the topo map. This starting point does not
contain a parking area. The dirt road known as the Lone Star Road was gated at the waypoint "Parking".
From the parking area you'll need to hike towards the east until you spot the trailhead on the right.
The trail includes a pretty good incline near the start that will get the heart pumping.
The trails at Canyon of the Eagles are well marked with numbered posts at each trail intersection.
This scheme makes it very easy to determine your location and in which direction you need to go
to get to your desired destination. I highly recommend the excellent trail map, which can be
acquired at the Lodge Building.
Turn a corner and the vegetation can change in an instant. From Juniper/Oak into a Cedar Elm grove within a hundred feet.
On my outing I made a counter clockwise circle of the trails and then filled in the gaps by
doubling back now and then. Heading from the trailhead (also known as marker 19 on the official
park map) I headed southwest towards markers 20 and then 21. The trail starts off easy. The
path on a jeep trail is packed dirt with some mixed in rock.
The most strenuous part of the hike lies between markers 21 and 25. Here there's a steady
ascent up rocky slope. While not terribly difficult at only about 250 feet of elevation gain,
it represents the hardest part of the hike, so you might want to get it out of the way first.
At the turnaround point lies the Eagle Eye Observatory, a popular amateur astronomy spot.
Upon topping the ridge I followed the backside of the trail through the marker 27. Here I started
downhill towards the Eagle Eye Observatory, also known as marker 28. Upon turning a corner in
the trail I was struck by an immediate change in the vegetation. Whereas the ridge top hosted
the usual Oak-Juniper mix, a quick turn revealed a cluster of Cedar Elms and some other trees that
might have been Hickory. The cause of this abrupt change was discovered when I heard, then saw,
a small spring that trickled into the small valley that the trail entered.
The Eagle Eye Observatory
is the premier spot in Central Texas for Amateur Astronomy. In addition to the tables set up
for smaller telescopes the permanent building here includes a retractable roof that houses both a
12.5 and a 16-inch telescope.
Not all of the trail is along jeep tracks. Here a lake view is the reward for the rougher going.
Though not far removed from a jeep trail, I didn't want to hike the Lone Star Road that directly leads back to the parking area, so I doubled back to marker 27 and then headed southwest towards marker 24. At the waypoint "View" I found the best spot for looking over the western half of the park and Lake Buchanan in the distance. From this vantage point I spotted what might have been a juvenile Bald Eagle
soaring along the lake shore in the distance.
Looking towards Lake Buchanan with the western part of Canyon of the Eagles below.
My closest encounter with animals on the hike occurred on the stretch of trail between markers 23 and 22. An enormous crashing sound drew my attention to two wild pigs that exited the area in great haste and amid much noise. At just 50 feet away, it was the closest I had ever come to the introduced species.
The western side of the loop rejoins the trail leading to the trailhead at the marker 20. From here I turned right and headed back to the car. In two and a half hours of hiking I saw one family of four towards the end of my day. Much of the elevation gain on the hike consisted of the trek between markers 21 and 25, particularly if you refrain from descending towards the observatory on the north end.