Thursday, January 19, 2012

Eagle Mountain Park: January 14, 2012

Donna and I spent last weekend with my brother Larry, who lives in north Ft. Worth.We had a great time and great food, but the highlight of the trip was the day we spent hiking at nearby Eagle Mountain Lake Park.

Eagle Mountain Lake Park is a 400-acre park on the east side of Eagle Mountain Lake. Within the park, a system of trails weave up and down the small hills and along the shoreline of Eagle Mountain Lake. Many scenic overlooks of the lake are available on the trail. A map of the trail system is available at Maps are also located throughout the park.

Although the early morning was chilly, by the time Donna, Larry, Nancy, and I hit the trail at 11:00 AM the day was beginning to warm. It would eventually rise to the mid-60s. At the trail head, there is a covered pavilion with picnic tables, restrooms, and various informational signs.

Some of the facilities at the trail head
Posted rules for the trail indicate the trail is for hiking only -- no bikes and no dogs. Throughout our hike, though, we would see several people escorted by their 4-legged companions.

The initial section of the trail is composed of crushed stone and is lined by rocks to make a very attractive trail. However, this soon gives way to a dirt trail.

Initial section of trail near trail head
Just past the trail head, a short loop trail leads hikers to a scenic overlook of Eagle Mountain Lake. Like most lakes in Texas, Eagle Mountain currently suffers from the drought, and the lake level is down.

View of Eagle Mountain Lake from scenic overlook on Overlook Trail (see map)
After returning to the Main Park Trail from the Overlook Trail (see map), our nice level trail of crushed stone gave way to a dirt trail, often a dual track but sometimes a single track. The area had recently enjoyed a rain, and there were several soggy sections of the trail. Although the trail is what I would consider overall as an easy trail, there are still some steep ups and downs which left my shins a bit sore a day or two afterwards. Most of all, I get winded climbing hills, but the more I hike the better I feel.

Maps like this are located at all major trail junctions. This is a nice park, and the trails are well done.
After hiking 1.395 miles (not counting the .24 mile of the Overlook Trail - see map), we left the Main Park Trail and began the South Overlook Trail. At the end of this .52 mile section of the trail, we reached another scenic overlook, which allowed one of the better views of the lake. A bench and a picnic table are conveniently located here.

Island in lake. Island is there even when lake is full.

Once past the scenic overlook, the trail becomes the Shoreline Trail. Initially, it twists its way down from the hill we were on until we were near the shoreline. Most of the park is tree-covered, so hiking in summer will allow numerous shaded stretches of trail. But since much of the trail is dual track, much of the trail is exposed to the sun.

Donna near open area along Shoreline Trail. Mileage stone does not accurately reflect our distance at that point.
Shoreline of Eagle Mountain Lake, taken from Shoreline Trail

After hiking more than 3 miles, we found a bench located just up from a point on the shoreline and had lunch and enjoyed the peace and quiet. A couple of boats raced by on the lake and a few birds worked the shoreline. Otherwise, it was nice and quiet. However, in the shade it soon grew just a bit cool, so 20 minutes later, we were up and walking again.

We finished the Shoreline Trail and found ourselves back on the Main Park Trail as we returned to the trail head.

An "up and down" section of the trail. Notice that Donna is not visible in the picture; she is hidden at the bottom of the slope. These "ups and downs" are the most challenging sections of the trail; thankfully, they are moderate and few.
Back at the trail head, we took a breather. At this point, we had done a distance of 4.832 miles according to the map of the trail system. However, my brother's GPS indicated we had done 5.82. We had ventured off the trail in a few areas, such as along the shore line, so our actual estimate was probably somewhere in between these two figures.

Larry wanted to do more hiking, so he led our angry mob along the Northwest Trail. This is a 2.72 section of trail (round trip) that covers the northwestern part of the park.

Bridge on Northwest Trail
This section of the trail had a nice rest area, complete with covered picnic table and restrooms. Again, this is a nice park, and it is well maintained.

Covered picnic table at rest area on Northwest Trail
Rest room facilities at rest area on Northwest Trail
On the Ridge Loop Trail, we climbed a steep ascent. Once atop, we were rewarded with probably our best views of the day.

Larry and Donna on rock outcropping overlooking Eagle Mountain Lake. Directly above Donna's head and across the water is the point where we stopped for lunch earlier in the day.
I have to admit, I was glad to finish this hike. On both sections of the trail, some of the steepest inclines are near the end. Altogether, we hiked a total of 7.552 miles according to the map of the trail system; however, Larry's GPS put us at 8.2 miles, so we were probably somewhere in between.

There were lots and lots of people on the trail today. When a beautiful warm and sunny day comes around in January, people get out and take advantage of it. We saw many families, including one father diligently pushing a baby stroller along the dirt trails. I would conservatively estimate we encountered at least 35 or more people out on the trails, but most were within a mile or so of the trail head. Once we got deeper into the system, such as the Shoreline Trail and the South Overlook Trail, we were virtually alone.

Larry and Nancy are good trail companions. This is the second hike we've enjoyed with them; the first was almost a year ago at Cleburne State Park just outside of nearby Cleburne, Texas.

Were I to hike this trail again, I would probably pick a weekday to avoid the crowds. Regardless, it is a good hike.

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