It’s a winter wonderland….that can sting your face as the wind howls across the snow covered meadow. Sounds lovely right? It does to me! I’m talking about Rabbit Ears Pass. It’s the pass you take driving into Steamboat Springs, Colorado. In the winter, the drive over the pass can be treacherous and I always marvel at the amount of snow. There’s always tons! For years I’ve wanted to stop and snowmobile, snowshoe, or just enjoy the snowy world beyond the road. On my last drive back from Steamboat this past weekend, I finally did. Full disclosure – I’d planned to snowshoe 30 minutes then turn around in order to beat some of the Sunday ski traffic. But, the world of white in the forest kept drawing me in and I did the full 4-mile West Summit Loop 1A trail.
At the sign, I decided to go left, hiking the trail clockwise. It’s better to do it that way as the uphills are broken up a little more, plus you immediately get pulled in by the draw of the serene evergreen forest. I was snowshoeing solo, yes I love being in the woods alone. I was in between a couple ahead of me and a group of four behind me. I would see them periodically on the trail, but outside of those six people, only other folks were a family of four heading back that I saw about 20 minutes into hike, a guy with his dog, and a group of four hiking it counterclockwise that asked me to a take a pic. It was what I love – peacefulness in the forest with very few folks, if any, around.
After about a mile of winding through the forest and several short climbs, the terrain changed to an open meadow with vista views of the Yampa Valley and the Flattops. It was cloudy and windy, but that was okay with me as I love watching the clouds float across the sky. It meant less folks on the trail and a little more time to take in views with no one around. Although, I did think to myself how beautiful the snowshoe would be against a bluebird sky too.
I found the trail easy to navigate with blue diamonds on trees leading the way. Once you get to the open space, you just have to follow the trail made by others. It can be windswept so may be a little difficult to follow in spots.
I traversed in and out of open space for about the next 1.5 miles. The wind whipped, the trees creaked, and I smiled repeatedly soaking in the stunning views. I also got to enjoy my favorite tree, aspens. I love them year round, even in the stick season of winter.
After one last look from the summit, I headed down a moderately steep descent. I was thinking to myself, glad I went the way I did! The descent leads to an open meadow and covers about a half mile of the hike. You still get great views, but you do hear the cars zooming by on Rabbit Ears Pass.
With about a half mile left, I ducked back into the trees. You can still hear the cars, but not as much. Plus, you get coverage from the wind. But, the trail from here rolls, which means your tired legs are going up and down hills until you reach the parking lot after an awesome 4-mile snowshoe on Rabbit Ears Pass.
Jennifer Broome has traveled extensive in Colorado and is considered an expert on travel and outdoors in the Centennial State. For more winter fun in Steamboat, check out blogs Icy Fish Creek Falls and Breakfast in the Boat