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"The park's steep and colorful canyons  and bluffs are the breathtaking result of
this powerful natural process [of wind and water erosion over 280 million years]."
~ from the park's interpretive guide

Another trail that drops from the caprock escarpment down into the canyon is the Eagle Point Trail, which runs for two miles from either Lake Theo or the interpretive center north through a scenic canyon to the far side of the park road near the Little Red River.

Here's a portion of the park  map that shows the trail marked in gold:

Click on this link for a large pdf. version of the whole park map to see this trail in context.

Eagle Point is another trail that is easy to access from the RV campground (lower right in map). It's a short run, walk, or bike ride to the interpretive center, which is the trailhead we've always used.

There are grand views of the canyons to the north on the way to the trailhead. In the next photo I've drawn an arrow to show Eagle's Point:

That was my destination the day I took these photos. Then I turned around and came back.

Both Jim and I have gone out and back on this trail for a five-mile trek from our campsite. Jim has also included the Eagle Point Trail in either direction in large loops he's run that incorporated several other trails.

Eagle Point Trail starts out as a flat, sandy single-track path along the rim for about 1/2 mile. This is one of the areas where the rangers did a controlled burn over the winter:

There are more excellent views of the canyons along this part of the trail. Once you know where to look, it's easy to see parts of the trail that lie ahead:


After the intersection where the trail from Lake Theo meets the trail from the interpretive center, Eagle Point Trail starts an abrupt roller-coaster ride down into the canyon, sometimes rather steeply, on a wider, mostly sandy trail. There is some loose rock and deep sand in some places but the trail is fairly smooth in general:

Notice in the picture above that the burn area is to the right toward the rim, and the unburned area is to the left toward the canyons. This is another example of what I jokingly refer to as "schizoid" trails. Because of their contrast, they can play a number on your mind as you're running or hiking.

The layers of rocks in the canyon and the variety of bottomland plants are very interesting as you look around during the descent. There's even some prairie grass down there:




Once down in the canyons the trail continues its roller-coaster ride up and down small hills. It affords nice views of Eagle's Point in the outbound direction and close-up views of 280 million years of rock layers:





The trail crosses two or three small streams that were dry this week:

It also climbs to a natural bridge, which we crossed several times last year without seeing the cool opening underneath it.

We both noticed the ravine on either side of the trail but didn't think we could get down to it very easily. This is the rock wall on the east side of the bridge:


Turns out, there's a little trail on the other side of the bridge that rather easily accesses the opening. I would have missed it again this year if a couple I talked with on the trail hadn't told me about it.

Eagle Point Trail goes across the top of the "bridge" where I drew the arrow below. A short side trail to the west takes curious hikers down here:


Because of all the large boulders in the opening I didn't try to walk through it but folks who enjoy rock scrambling would have fun doing that.

The northern trailhead is about one-third of a mile uphill from the natural bridge.

At this point you're in the shadow of Eagle Point. There is a parking area about one-fourth mile west on the park road from that trailhead.

I took the remaining photos on the way back to the campground:




Near the end of my hike Jim surprised Cody and me by running up from behind us. He was finishing up one of his long loops through the canyons:


You can see other photos from this trail in an entry I wrote about it last year. I've tried to include some different views this time.

Next entry:  exploring the Lower Canyon Loop

Happy trails,

"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, and Cody the Ultra Lab

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2011 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil