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Canyon of the Eagles - Juniper Ridge

Trail (3.00)4
(2.25) (4.13)
4.50 Miles 700 Feet
N/A No
Yes Yes
$5.00 More Info
Burnet Burnet
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Much of the trail is along old jeep tracks, such as this near the trailhead.
Getting there: 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.


Photos

My shorthair Ringo pointing quail just off the trail Ringo found and pointed quail just off the hiking trail on the lower loop. (Photo by bquarles) Vista shot from the landmark View on the topo map It was a cloudy drizzly day, but this is the shot from the landmark, View, on the topo map. As you can see in the photo, Lake Buchanan is down due to the drought in Central Texas. (Photo by bquarles)

Log Entries

Great hike, but lots of cactus
By bquarles on 2/16/2009
Rating: Difficulty: Solitude:
Distance: 3.00 Miles Duration: 2 hours

A friend and I took my three german shorthaired pointers on this hike and we had a great time.  The only down side was the prickly pear cactus and another smaller cactus.  I picked thorns out of the dogs for about two hours.   Other than that it was a great hike.  We missed the trailhead and stayed on the road to the observatory, but still found the upper loop and walked it.  On the way down we saw the trail head we missed early, so we took it and did the bottom loop as well.  Along the way we saw large numbers of red birds (cardinals).  The dogs scared up an armadillo and had fun with him for a while.  My youngest male also found and pointed some quail. We only saw four other people on the trail and that was only later in the day when we were finishing up the hike and getting ready to head home.  I would not want to do this hike with dogs in warmer weather as I would suspect that there are allot of rattlesnakes around.

Overall we had a great time and it was a great hike. I rated this a 3 star hike because of all the cactus.

Beautiful scenery
By hawaiiantaz on 3/2/2008
Rating: Difficulty: Solitude:
Distance: 4.50 Miles Duration: 2 hours, 24 minutes

Flat trails with only one slight incline on the path from the Observatory.  The path from the Amphitheater towards the lake has downhill with a beautiful view of the lake. The day we hiked, the Observatory was closed, as were 3 of the other trails.  Lots of solitude!!!  There were a few red tailed hawks flying above... and 2 armadillos.  Would love to see the other trails (closed for the season).

Great day almost all to myself
By Austin Explorer on 11/27/2004
Rating: Difficulty: Solitude:
Distance: 4.50 Miles Duration: N/A
Saw only a couple of people near the trailhead. Though windy, the weather was great and hilly terrain offered some challenge. I spotted two ferral hogs that crashed through the brush to get away. This section of the trails is only open from September through February, so plan accordingly.

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