Rustlers Hike to Rabbit Ears During a Solar Eclipse
December 01, 2023
By Deb Hicks
The Rustlers got a close-up view of the Rabbit Ears rock formation during the Solar Eclipse in late September. Rabbit Ears can be seen in the distance when traveling on SR 179 near the Bell Rock and Courthouse Rock parking lots, and from Yavapai Vista.
On a sunny Saturday in mid-October, the Sedona Westerners Rustler hiking group met to do a hike to Rabbit Ears starting from the Courthouse Vista parking lot. We carpooled from multiple locations hoping to alleviate parking woes by squeezing into as few cars as possible, but we still scrambled for the last few parking spaces available. This was a very popular day for the trails around Sedona. After introductions and rule-reading, the day’s hike leader gave a little speech about the solar eclipse that was going to happen that morning and we were advised to not look directly at the sun while it was occurring unless we had the special glasses needed to do so. Several people had obtained the required glasses from the library so, with some sharing, we would be able to take in the event during the hike. We split into two groups and headed out.
The trail named and now “Trail Signed” as Rabbit Ears is reasonably new although the rock formation which is the source of its name has been a destination for hikers for many years. In my mind, it is one of the many distinctive formations we have here in Sedona that look like their name with no explanation needed – others include Cockscomb, Coffee Pot, and Lizard Head to name a few. We have many other formations that usually require the patient explanation of an “Old Timer” to see why the name was chosen. Bear Mountain was one of these for me – which I assumed was given this name because bears once lived there but was really named that because someone said when they looked at the mountain, in their mind’s eye at least, they saw a bear lying on its haunches.
Back to the Rabbit Ears trail. This trail can be accessed at one end from the Big Park Loop trail or by crossing the road from the Jacks Canyon Road parking lot. From end-to-end this hike is about two miles, but we extended our hike that Saturday to six miles – from Courthouse to our break spot and back again.
Once on the Rabbit Ears trail, we started a steady climb up along the side of a deep ravine, which was perfect for viewing the eclipse to our east. Instead of looking up at the iconic Courthouse and Bell Rock formations as we passed by to our desired trail, we were soon looking down and out past them back towards Cathedral Rock and beyond. There are no bad views in Sedona, only good, better, and best. As we climbed, we stopped periodically to pass around the special viewing glasses to observe the different stages of the eclipse which was occurring as we hiked. Pretty special. This also gave us opportunities to swallow some water, make clothing adjustments, or just catch our breath before continuing our climb. After about another half mile, the Rabbit Ears rock formation came into view. The trail turned away from the ravine in a more westerly direction but continued going up.
The Rabbit Ears trail is very rocky and crosses through the scrub and Juniper-strewn landscape typical of Sedona. There wasn’t a lot of natural shade along here, but the eclipse was keeping the temperatures comfortable while the moon partially obscured the sun.
A large flat rock area right below the Rabbit Ears formation is where we stopped to enjoy a break and look west towards Lee Mountain. Over the years this area has been the favorite break spot for Westerners hikes, and it’s become known as the “bunny room”. Being in the first of our hiking groups, we got the first pick of the best places to sit down and enjoy our snack break. A few minutes after we got comfortable, the second group joined us and everyone settled down to munch snacks and share some stories about past hikes to this location with the people who were doing this hike for the first time. Some who had been up to the Rabbit Ears saddle discussed the different possible routes that had been used, and some of us remembered a now famous (or infamous) club hike to Rabbit Ears right around the time a new trail had been created in 2021. Not knowing about the new trail, since the new trail signs hadn’t been posted yet, the group set out on the old trail only to have it disappear, being filled in with brush and tree limbs. With a choice of going back or going around, they went around and had to bushwhack through lots of Cat’s claw vines before finally discovering the new trail. Full disclosure: I was on that hike, and it was a bit more adventurous than expected. (See the Dogies Hike Rabbit Ears via the Back Door, April 30, 2021, in the Red Rock News archive and on the Sedona Westerners website under News.)
Eventually, it was time to pack up and turn back. By this time the eclipse was finished, and we started noticing how much warmer the day suddenly was. Using a detour route back to Big Park Loop involving much rock scrambling we were able to enjoy a little shade always welcome under the bright Sedona sun. By the time we traversed the Rector Connector trail from Big Park Loop and saw some shiny cars in the distance. The trail was starting to fill up with hikers and there were lots of cars waiting for our soon-to-be vacated spots.
Regarding the hike, the feedback was, “A good time was had by all,” so this was another successful Sedona Westerners hike – with a solar eclipse to boot.
The Sedona Westerners have scheduled hikes every week from September to May for just about every ability. The cost to join is only $30 a year, and all are welcome… even short-term visitors to the region. Our website, www.sedonawesterners.org, has all the hikes listed, our history, and a handy signup link. We invite you to start your adventures in the Red Rocks with us today.