Eagle Trail in Peninsula State Park is as unobtrusive as any other trail you’ll find in this park. The only glimpse of the challenge & fun ahead is the trailhead sign labeled, “Difficult Trail.”
The Trailhead — Where to Start Eagle Trail
There are two trailheads for Eagle Trail on each side of the Eagle Tower parking lot. The Eagle Tower was closed in 2015, removed in 2016 and has raised enough funding to begin building in 2019. One trailhead is by Eagle Panorama and begins off the parking lot to the west. Eagle Terrace is the other, and the entrance is on the parking lot to the east. We always start from the Eagle Panorama, but you can begin from either parking lot.
Once you begin you have only a small clue of what is around the corner. You’ll see hardwood trees, as tall as possible, with only a hint of sky peeking in. You’re immediately submerged in the forest. Around the bend are what we like to call “Nature’s Stairs” (with a little help from park planners). You’ll descend into the forest. Grab your walking stick. You’re going to need it. You are about to abruptly descend a 200-foot limestone cliff.
Be sure to pack water too. And maybe a few snacks. If you’re with the littles, you’re going to need it. This hike will take a while. It is only about 2.5 miles, but the hike can be strenuous for some due to the massive tree roots and the falling limestone that at times you will have to navigate your way through carefully. You’ll also want to stop at the many water offshoots, a natural tangent from the main trail. Water is a magnet for my son, and we always skip rocks which helps break up the hike into smaller chunks.
The Niagara Escarpment
Eagle Trail is part of the Niagara Escarpment. Many people do not realize that one of the most geologically significant regions of North America runs through all of Door County. Only two state parks feature the best parts of this natural wonder, and one of them is Peninsula State Park! The Niagara Escarpment is a geological foundation that stretches from New York state through Niagara Falls (where it got its name) then through the Bruce Peninsula in Canada, across the lower part of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, forming almost all of the Door Peninsula and continues through Lake Winnebago and the Horicon Marsh in Wisconsin.
Below is a beautiful photo snapped from Green Bay. You can see the trail — near the water level.
At this point of the trail, you’ll want to take time exploring the caves and will come across several areas that are fun but somewhat treacherous to cross. These areas give Eagle Trail its “Difficult” classification, but skilled and adventurous families will have a lot of fun and not break a sweat at all. You may already have realized this is not a walk in the park and strollers are not going to fare well here.
After the caves, you’re only half-way home. The second leg of the hike is similar to the first leg, lots of exposed tree roots, water offshoots and a long hike back up the bluff toward the road.
As you approach the end of Eagle Trail, you’ll be able to stop at the overlook vista to rest and take in the view. And what a view it is! Enjoy some time here, you’ve earned it!
Once you’ve ascended and have taken in the view, you’ll have a short .5 mile hike back to the car. You may be tempted to walk the road instead of crossing it and staying on Eagle Trail, however, it’s a bit shorter to finish on the trail.
And now it’s time to celebrate! We often complete our cooler weather hikes with a coffee and hot cocoa, along with a card game. We drove back to Sister Bay to Analog Coffee shop for a relaxing game of Exploding Kittens! (Highly recommended!)
If you hiked this trail, we’d love to hear your thoughts about it!
Read more about Door County State Parks here.
Hiking Eagle Trail Tips
- Wear hiking shoes or athletic shoes
- Bring a walking stick or find one at the trailhead
- Bring water and maybe snacks
- Plan on 2-hours, longer if you have littles or want to stop along the way at the water
- Certain summer days the mosquito counts are high
- Take care if you go on a misty or rainy day as we did. Rocks and roots are slippery
- Give yourself a little time to check out the vista that can be reached on the east end of Eagle Trail. It is just below the road and easy to miss
- Download the Eagle Trail summer map here.