Millions of years ago, a volcano spewed pyroclastic debris onto a peak in northern Colorado. The material cooled and solidified, leaving a rock formation that early trappers thought resembled rabbit ears.
Today, the pair of rocky spires on the 10,500-foot peak beckons visitors driving over U.S. 40 toward Steamboat Springs and greater Routt County. Though most admire the peak from the car, a moderate trail can lead visitors to the famed formation in just under 6 miles.
From the trailhead on CR 199 off of U.S. 40, the trail winds through meadows of vibrant wildflowers flanked by ponderosa pines. The hike is low-grade until about the last half-mile, when it ascends rapidly. Be careful on the loose dirt.
Hikers can scramble 10 feet up the rock to stand at the foot of the ears. Note that the western ear looks a bit floppy. In June 2017, the ear lost a chunk to what’s believed to have been natural erosion.
The formation always has been precarious, geologist Tom Delancey told the Steamboat Pilot & Today. On a formation such as Rabbit Ears Peak, water can build inside cracks and holes, and the rocks can break free when the water freezes and thaws.
Despite the blemish, the hike is well worth experiencing the ears up close, even if only for the view of Grand and Summit counties to the south.
Trip log: 5.4 miles, 1,030 feet of elevation gain, 10,477 feet max
Getting there: From Silverthorne, drive north on Colorado 9 for 37 miles. In Kremmling, turn onto U.S. 40 west toward Steamboat Springs. Continue on U.S. 40 west for another 33 miles. Turn right onto County Road 199 toward Dumont Lake Campground. Turn right onto County Road 311. The parking lot for the trailhead is less than a quarter-mile from CR 199.
FYI: A day use fee can be paid at the trailhead. Cash or check only. The trail is a Jeep road, so it is very easy to follow on foot.