A typical visit to Spruce Mountain Open Space in the Douglas County countryside typically involves a tour of the namesake mountaintop. That's for good reason; it's a splendid journey amid the bluffs of the modest butte, with sweeping views of other flat tops spotting the Palmer Divide.

A less-traveled trip is along the Eagle Pass Trail, a stem running between Spruce Mountain and Eagle Mountain, similarly defined by a craggy crown. The trail leads to the outer, westernmost boundaries of the open space. On this bluebird Saturday in winter, we found this side to be empty and silent. It was almost eerie — indeed, fit for a grave.

The flat trend of Eagle Pass appeals to runners and cyclists wanting to avoid the steeper, more technical nature of the mountaintop. All of the open space appeals to horseback riders. The bonus of Eagle Pass? Solitude, along with that spooky intrigue.

From the trailhead, continue straight through the meadow, passing turnoffs to the mountaintop loop. Soon over a hill, Rampart Range joins the view and remains in view, those coniferous promontories running south and north as far as the eye can see.

The trail alternates between oak and tree shade and meadow openness. On this clear day, we looked out to snow-capped peaks to the north.

Around the 1.75-mile mark, we stayed straight, splitting with everyone else who veered left toward the mountaintop. A trail marker here curiously points to a grave site a half-mile ahead.

A short, steep incline leads to a scenic ridge. At the top, we hung right, following the clear path between overlook benches and picnic tables. It leads down to a pioneer style fence, appearing to protect a resting place and marked as a modern Eagle Scout project. Our only company here were the birds and local horses.

Trip log: 5.1 miles round trip (out and back), 511 feet elevation gain

Difficulty: Easy

Getting there: 13415 Spruce Mountain Road, Larkspur. Going north on Interstate 25 from Colorado Springs, exit in Monument for Colorado 105 and follow through Palmer Lake. Stay straight for Spruce Mountain Road, coming to parking lot on the left.

FYI: Hikers, mountain bikers, horseback riders. Dogs on leash. Trails icy in winter; bring traction.

SETH BOSTER, THE GAZETTE

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