The season for high-elevation hiking is drawing to a close, but hikers still can squeeze in an outing to the Rabbit Ears rock formation and enjoy views from above 6,000 feet before snow blankets the mountains.
The granite spires of Rabbit Ears rise up along a ridge line that runs west from Mount Ashland's summit.
The Time Warp Trail, popular with mountain bikers but also used by hikers, leads past the rock formation.
Hikers can choose anything from a short visit to Rabbit Ears to a family-friendly, two-mile, out-and-back walk along the trail, to an arduous eight-mile, out-and-back trek.
To reach Rabbit Ears from Ashland, take Interstate 5 to the Mt. Ashland Ski Area exit and follow the signs to the ski area.
Drive through the ski area's parking lot onto U.S. Forest Service Road 20. The road will fork, but continue to the right to remain on Forest Service Road 20.
You will eventually reach a sign that states that the Grouse Gap Shelter is ahead if you continue on Road 20. It also points to a road traveling uphill to the right, which accesses Mount Ashland's summit.
Take the road to the right and continue until you see a dirt parking area to the left not far from the large outcropping of granite known as Rabbit Ears.
Park in the parking lot and follow the Time Warp Trail, which has a spur trail leading up to Rabbit Ears.
Rabbit Ears is part of a jumble of giant granite boulders that provide fun climbing opportunities. The highest rocks and the Rabbit Ears formations themselves are treacherously tall, so keep an eye on any children in the group.
The formation provides stellar views of Oregon to the north and California to the south.
To enjoy a hike, follow the spur trail back to the main Time Warp Trail and continue walking west along a ridge line.
The trail passes more granite formations, winding in and out of open and forested areas.
Lingering snow in the shadows is a reminder that recent rainstorms down in the Rogue Valley brought a dusting of snow to the mountains.
The trail enters an open area, providing views of Mount McLoughlin and a string of more Cascade peaks running north on the Oregon side of the ridge, and views of Mount Shasta to the south.
Along the ridge line, the trail has relatively gentle uphills and downhills.
After about one mile, it veers off to the right and begins a long plunge into a dense forest.
This is the place to turn back and return to Rabbit Ears and the parking lot if you want to avoid a difficult hike.
If you do continue on, a long descent of about three miles follows — a descent that draws mountain bikers from throughout the Northwest as they drop from nearly 7,000 feet in elevation to the trail's intersection with Forest Service roads at 4,577 feet.
Mountain bikers who shuttle up to Mount Ashland can plummet down the Time Warp Trail, connect to the Forest Service roads and continue downhill to Ashland, but for hikers who parked by Rabbit Ears and went out on the Time Warp Trail, what goes down must come up.
Keep the rule in mind that hiking back uphill will take twice as long as the time spent walking downhill.
Also, hikers and mountain bikers should watch out for each other to avoid a mountainside mishap.
The Time Warp Trail was previously considered by the Forest Service to be an unauthorized trail.
It was largely the hard work of mountain bikers and Ashland Woodlands & Trails Association members — who teamed up on labor-intensive maintenance projects on the trail — that allows all users to enjoy the Time Warp Trail legally today.
Reach Ashland Daily Tidings reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-479-8199 or firstname.lastname@example.org.