Cadets, hikers get birds-eye view atop Eagle Peak

  • Published
  • By Amber Baillie
  • U.S. Air Force Academy Public Affairs
If you're looking for an alternative hike to the Manitou Incline or a Colorado fourteener, Eagle Peak here is a scenic one-to-two-hour climb hikers say will leave climbers breathless with its steep terrain and majestic, 360-degree view from the summit.

In just more than a mile, hikers ascend 1,900 feet on a rugged trail along Goat Camp Creek, through Aspen groves and boulders, to reach a panoramic scene atop the 9,368-foot peak revealing the Academy campus and the Pikes Peak Region.

"I would definitely encourage others to climb Eagle Peak," said Cadet 4th Class Turner Holcombe. "I climbed it for the first time as a freshman after basic training. The view that you get from the top is unbeatable."

Lt. Col. Marcus Roberts, an assistant professor in the Computer Engineering Department here, has scaled the peak 10 times. He said his first trip was with faculty and cadets as a team-building activity.

"It was a combination of camaraderie, exercise and the excellent views that brought people out," he said. "The reasons I continue to climb Eagle Peak, whether alone or with friends, are for the exercise and challenge of the ascent and the amazing 360-degree view at the top."

Roberts' advice to potential climbers: bring water, wear comfortable shoes and don't climb the peak when a thunderstorm is near.

"If someone has never climbed it before, I recommend they bring someone along, as there are areas of the trail that can be confusing," he said.

Hikers should follow a series of white and yellow spray-painted arrows as they head south and up the steep route. Climbers should also be aware of loose rock.

"As you leave an Aspen grove and turn upward to the left, it becomes really steep for several hundred yards until you reach the boulder field," Roberts said. "There are other ways to the top, but the most common takes you through a steep section and if there is loose gravel in spots, you need to be careful."

The summit offers hikers an aerial snapshot of the Academy and Pikes Peak.

"You can see the mesas that line I-25 leading up to Castle Rock," Roberts said. "You can see Pikes Peak, all of the Academy, the continental divide far to the west and Monument down into northern Colorado Springs."

The summit is rather large and has several areas where you can relax, Roberts said.

"There are some Pine trees and rocks at the top," he said. "There are some items there that harken to Eagle Peak's patriotic location, including a U.S. Flag and rocks painted from a spirit mission."

Eagle Peak is a step below the Manitou Springs Incline in terms of hiking difficulty, Roberts said.

"While you gain almost the same amount of altitude as the Incline and start at a higher elevation, you ascend over a 1.25 mile trail versus a 1 mile trail for the Incline," he said. "There are no parts of the hike that endanger you by putting you in a precarious situation next to a drop-off or anything, but the hike is very steep and your heart will be pumping."

Holly Brower, an exhibit specialist for the Civil Engineering Department here and an avid hiker, said the peak has the feel of a fourteener.

"Getting to the top always feels like a reason to celebrate," she said. "Eagle Peak has beautiful views. My first hike was in the fall and the colors were popping."

Cadet 2nd Class Shannen Kelly was on a sunrise hike with her squad when she first summited the peak.

"It's incredible and totally worth it," she said. "It's a very isolated place, but you can see everything. I thought it was better than the Incline because the Incline can get redundant. Eagle Peak is much more interesting."

The trail up the peak via Goat Camp Creek is approximately three miles round trip. Hikers can park near the trailhead at Arnold Hall or the Visitor Center.

Academy trails are open every day to Defense Department ID holders, 5:30 a.m. to sundown and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. to visitors.