< Left Panel   Colorado Summits and Passes   Areas   Tables   Maps   All Favorites  
Main Panel:   Main Page   Map+Profile   Colorado Map  

Rabbit Ears Pass

Rabbit Ears Pass is named after a rock formation above its summit, resembling - you guessed it - rabbit ears. They can be spotted on the horizon from as far as Kremmling to the north, and Walden to the east. This fact also gives a clue to the surrounding landscape. Other examples of volcanic outcrops like this can be found in the surrounding hills, if you look for them. Still - the "rabbit ears" stand out like two sore thumbs in a landscape of gentle forested hills. They make a superb orientation landmark from three directions. In contrast - say in southern Utah for example - you would be looking at an entire rabbit colony, and rocks like this don't get the privilege to serve as landmarks. The rabbit ears on this pass however are remnants of a volcanic flow in the form of Basalt and also a volcanic outburst that left a layer of angular rocks fragmented together (known as Breccia). The rabbit ear colonies of southern Utah are in majority eroded sandstones.

click on profile for more detail
1.(7570ft,mile00) START-END SOUTH: junction Co134 and US40 to Muddy Pass
2.(8710ft,mile) Muddy Pass, turn left to Steamboat Springs
3.(9426ft,mile) TOP: Rabbit Ears Pass
4.(6810ft,mile) START-END NORTH ALTERNATE: Co131 leaves on left
5.(6740ft,mile) START-END NORTH: Steamboat Springs


From West.  Leaving Steamboat Springs, a shady bike path follows the Yampa River out of town. On a hot day in June it may be hard to trade the shade and comforting sound of nearby flowing water to the shoulder of a four lane road, however spacious it may be.

But during cool weather this is a great workout, with not much to distract you from getting as much out of yourself as possible. So maybe the lack of scenic distractions can be beneficial to the workout ( -maybe for some people). All it is - a single ramp with a few curves working its way up the breadloaf shaped northern end of the Gore Range. As the road gains elevation, Lake Catamount below and the regularly curving roads around it, take on a geometric design of their own.

Finally enveloped in high forest, the road passes the "West Summit", but after a negligible drop, keeps climbing anyway. The highest point is reached shortly after the unsigned turnoff to "Old Rabbit Ears Pass".

From East. (also described upwards) The Rabbit Ears pass road leaves from the top of Muddy Pass, an even lower continental divide crossing. The route shown on the profile includes the southern approach of Muddy Pass, which is the the route I followed in the three day tour below. Crossing the two low passes this way, one only spends about three miles east of the continental divide. That is the section between Muddy Pass and Rabbit Ears Pass and it is a single climb. Rabbit Ears Pass is marked with a sign and elevation. But the road keeps on climbing.

At a jct with FR100, a forest road stays at above 8700ft to connect with the Gore Pass Road near its summit. In the opposite direction the Muddy Creek Trailhead provides a short connection to Old Rabbit Ears Pass on foot or with a mountain bike. Continuing on the paved road, a few large radius bends and ever so slightly rolling hills reach the unmarked highest point.

A Dayride with this point as intermediate summit is on page: Old Rabbit Ears Pass

Three Day Road Tour: A supported camping tour, done by the Denver Bicycle Touring Club in past decades, went like this: Day 1: Steamboat Springs to a campsite on top of Gore Pass, 50 miles measured distance. Day 2:  Gore Pass to a campsite near Granby, 52 miles. Day 3: Granby over Willow Creek Pass, then over Muddy Pass as shoulder point leading to Rabbit Ears Pass, and back to Steamboat Springs, 90 miles. All mileages were measured with a now antique, Schwinn approved, pinwheel driven odometer, guaranteed to be accurate to within aproximately 15 percent, when not going too fast for a misfunction to occur (r1:83.09.03).

A later modified motel version of this DBTC tour went as follows: Day 1: Kremmling > Rabbit Ears Pass > Steamboat. Day 2: a dayride to the Hahn's Peak area and returning to Steamboat. Day 3: Steamboat Springs > Gore Pass > Kremmling. The distances measured 62, 78 and 79 miles (m1:88.09.03-05).

One Week (very) large Group Ride (<Monarch Pass | Poncha Pass>): The pass has been on "Ride the Rockies" during  90 93 95 98 01 and 04. The stage has been Steamboat Springs to Granby or reverse, and once a long 98 miles between Steamboat Springs and Frisco. ( Statistics compiled up to 2005 ).


Hayden Survey: The Rabbit Ears Pass area was visited by the Hayden Survey in their mammoth project to map the American west in 1876. The first primitive road following prospector trails over the pass was also built in that year.

Railroads: A route over Rabbit Ears Pass was surveyed for Moffat's Denver Salt Lake and Pacific railroad. But instead the route was finally laid below Trough Road Pass through Gore Canyon

Modern Highways (<Berthoud Pass|Red Mountain Pass>): Following WW1 a frantic road building program got under way in the US. Road builders now tried to adhere to a standard of a 6 percent grade - I am sure some would say less than really interesting climbing workout on a bicycle. Modern long roads were still few and far in between - enough so that they were given names, that people actually remembered. Colorado's Victory Highway crossed Berthoud Pass and Rabbit Ears Pass on its way between Denver and Salt Lake City. Between 1957 and 1859 the road was paved and relocated from the Old Rabbit Ears Pass road to the current route.

Rabbit Ears Pass (Summary)

Elevation/Highest Point: 9426ft

Southern Approach:
from junction Co134 to Muddy Pass (7570ft)
24+1/2 miles
from top of Muddy Pass (8710ft)
3+1/2 miles

Northern Approach:

from Steamboat Springs (6740ft)
22+1/2 miles