Rabbit Ears Pass

Rabbit Ears Pass (Steamboat Springs)

  • It is an off road trail rated at a 3 to 4 – meaning that only high clearance stock SUV with a clearance of about 9+” could handle it granted the driver is comfortable taking the risk of off roading.  A stock wrangler would prove better than stock high-clearance SUVs, but they can likely manage the trail with some negotiating around the rocks.
    • The trail is rated a 3 to 4 (out of 10) mostly for its rock crawling and climbs/descents.  This means that the trail can theoretically be done with a rating of 3 (stock SUVs could handle it) but there are ways to make it a 4 (high clearance SUVs minimum)
  • 6.8 miles RT with very few (if any) turn around spots.
  • Attempted 7/20/15

My dad and I had just refereed a soccer tournament in Steamboat Springs over the weekend, so we decided to take half of a day to do some mountain biking and offroading around Rabbit Ears Pass.  The OR trail begins in the main parking lot that is just behind a large rock with a plaque titled “Rabbit Ears Pass” on it.

This is the stone with a plaque you are looking for to locate the MTB trail as well as the OR trail
This is the stone with a plaque you are looking for to locate the MTB trail as well as the OR trail

Seldom does my dad get to offroad in his 2003 Toyota 4Runner, so he decided to give this trail a try.  We knew that the trail was rated at a 3-4 going in, so we knew that it would be unlikely we would finish the trail, but we decided to give it a shot.  The trail is called 291 and will present a challenging section rather quickly.  Steep and rocky sections prevent most people from taking SUVs up there.  You’ll see a plethora of people hiking up the OR trail, most of whom will be impressed with anyone offroading on the trail.

A shot of the first rocky section - there is a turn around spot right before this where a lot of people likely turn around
A shot of the first rocky section – there is a turn around spot right before this where a lot of people likely turn around

We had to pass numerous groups of hikers, but that wasn’t a big issue.  We ended up turning around once we were very close to Rabbit Ears (probably within a mile on the OR trail) because hikers told us that there was a steep section at the end that we probably didn’t stand a chance on.  Given that it was my dad’s first time offroading on something at this level with his 4Runner, he decided it wasn’t worth taking the risk and turning around at a section that was relatively flat.

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Another steep and rocky section - there were lots of these
Another steep and rocky section – there were lots of these

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The Rabbit Ears
The Rabbit Ears

This was certainly one of the harder things that the 4Runner could handle.  While I think we could have attempted to make it the whole way, my dad was beginning to get concerned and wanted to turn around.  Also given that there would be traffic, we wanted to get going.  A powerful engine is needed to get up some of the sections and 4wd is a must, we had to engage 4lo for multiple sections.  There was even one section we locked the differentials when we were expecting to run on 3 wheels.

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This picture just couldn’t capture how difficult that small hill was to tackle. Nearly hit the nose in our approach to it.

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Overall I would definitely attempt this trail again with multiple cars in case something broke down on a car.  It was beautiful up there and a lot of fun on the trail.  It did require me spotting my dad’s driving for about half of the trail because of how big the rocks were and how skinny the trail was.  It made for a great learning experience for my dad and was a fun trail, despite having to pass hikers every now and again.  The trail didn’t have many turn around spots though, so passing vehicles or turning around was difficult!

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