Rifle Falls State Park | Outdoorsy

Rifle Falls State Park
Guide

Introduction

Located in the lush green wilderness of Colorado's Western Slope, Rifle Falls State Park will surprise guests with its tropical landscape in the midst of an otherwise arid environment. Guests are amazed at the thick vegetation in this deciduous riparian forest and wetland area. The moss-covered rocks, trees, and flowers blooming amidst all the moisture of the falls stand in stark contrast to other drier scenery in the region.

Many campers come to this location to enjoy the stunning views of Rifle Falls. This 70-foot triple waterfall is the only one of its kind to be found in the state. While it can become crowded with day trip guests on the weekends, those RV camping here will have the falls all to themselves during off-peak hours.

While it's tempting to just relax by Rifle Creek and listen to the pounding of the falls, there are other sights to enjoy at this state park. Hiking trails lead to limestone caves nearby, and you can spot mule deer and elk on and off the path. Be sure to reserve your spot early, as there are only 13 RV sites available at Rifle Falls State Park. Plan ahead and enjoy this unique setting for a relaxing RV camping getaway.

RV Rentals in Rifle Falls State Park

Transportation

Driving

Rifle Falls State Park is accessible off of major interstates and Colorado state highways. Just an hour and 20 minutes northeast of Grand Junction, 43 minutes west of Glenwood Springs, and only 21 minutes north of the town of Rifle, you'll have no trouble finding this park in the beautiful Western Slope.

Once inside the park, guests do not report any problems with the roads or driving larger-sized rigs back into the campground. All of the 13 campsites are along East Rifle Creek off of the paved road. There is a round-about at the end of the road where parking for the waterfalls is located.

Parking

The RV campsites are all located between the parking lots at the north and south ends of the paved road. Campsites #4-9 are pull-through sites, and the others are back-in. The surface is gravel, and campers report that they are fairly level sites.

This is a popular park for sightseeing. On weekends, it's not unusual for the day-use parking lots to fill up with people coming to visit the waterfalls and caves. Overnight campers should not have a problem parking their vehicle plus their RV at their assigned campsite. RVs up to 49 feet long can fit in the campground.

Public Transportation

Campgrounds and parking in Rifle Falls State Park

Campsites in Rifle Falls State Park

Reservations camping

RV Camping at Rifle Falls State Park

There are 13 RV campsites which include 30- and 50-amp electrical hookups and shared access to water. There are a mixture of both back-in and pull-through paved sites. Each campsite has a picnic table and a fire ring. The sites are long, with some accommodating up to 49-foot RVs. Visitors enjoy the scenery and the spacious campsites. Sites are well shaded with plenty of space between sites.

There are not a lot of amenities at this campground. Guests report no internet or cell service in the park, and there are no showers. The dump station is located at Rifle Gap State Park, which is about five miles away.

This small campground gets very busy on weekends in the summer months. Many people come in for the day to see the falls and can create traffic driving to the parking lot at the waterfall viewing area. Weddings are even occasionally held in front of the waterfalls.

When you're in a beautiful place, it's hard to keep it a secret! If possible, camp during the week to avoid crowds. You can reserve a campsite up to six months in advance. RV camping is allowed at this campground in the winter, with electricity only. Water will not be available in the winter months.

Alternate camping

Squirrel Tent Campground

This small campground has seven basic tent sites that allow up to six guests. These gravel sites provide a fire pit, food locker, and picnic table and are pet friendly. This campground is close to a creek and provides lots of natural shade. The campground is close to the parking lot and water hydrants and restrooms are nearby. Do not bring firewood from out of state, and please pack out your trash. Reservations are required at all Rifle Falls State Park campsites.

Seasonal activities in Rifle Falls State Park

Off-Season

Picnicking

There is quite possibly no better setting than a stunning 70-foot waterfall as a backdrop for an afternoon picnic at any time of year. Pack yourself a lunch in the camper and enjoy a picnic at one of the ten spectacular picnic areas conveniently located throughout Rifle Falls State Park. In the background, you can hear the roar of the waterfalls and watch the creek flowing by. Hike down by the water and perch on a rock to eat next to the water and let the misty spray cool you off on a summer afternoon in paradise.

While you're out and about, stop by one of the many kiosks scattered around where you can learn about the wildlife that you can observe in the park. Other important features of the park are described in informative displays near the picnic areas.

Photography

With spectacular views like Rifle Falls, it's no wonder that the scenery draws both professional and amateur photographers from miles around. It's easy to see how the landscape lends itself to any nature photography. The mist and spray from the waterfalls feed the vegetation in the area, creating deep green colors all around. Rifle Falls cascading over the travertine dam is stunning in all seasons, and some say it is even more beautiful blooming with the colors of autumn or draped in winter frost.

In the fall, the deciduous trees turn vivid red, yellow, and orange colors, creating a different photo opportunity. During the winter months, when the frost covers the leafy terrain, the waterfall combines ice and freshwater into more picturesque views. The trails allow for shooting from many different angles, creating different lighting conditions easily. So, make sure you pack your camera and your favorite lenses in your rig.

Visiting the Rifle Falls State Fish Hatchery

If you're up for a one-mile hike (or drive), you can visit the Rifle Falls State Fish Hatchery. All of Colorado's fish hatcheries are open 365 days a year and are committed to improving and maintaining fish populations. Rifle Falls Hatchery is one of the largest trout production hatcheries in the state.

Free tours are offered at the hatchery. You can call ahead of your visit to find out which days tour guides are available. If no tour guides are available, it's easy to do a self-guided tour with educational materials provided for all visitors.

Exploring Ice Caves in the Area

During the winter, around January, water freezes in mid-stream where it pours over the edge of the stone canyon, creating amazing ice walls. Grab your camera and hike behind the ice wall to find the caves. There are two to explore: the upper cave and the lower cave. Ice covers the bottom of the caves and blue-tinted icicles form on the roof of the cave, creating the illusion of stalactites. These caves are just three miles from Rifle Falls in the adjacent Rifle Mountain Park. You can drive over in less than five minutes, park in the lot, and the entire round trip hike is less than one mile. You won't regret the trip.

In-Season

Attending Education Programs

Ranger-led nature programs are offered at Rifle Falls State Park throughout the year. Come participate on a First Day Hike on January 1st, or catch an astronomy program on July 4th weekend. The park has a partnership with Western Colorado Astronomy Club, which provides telescopes and leads the presentations.

During the busy summer months, you can find interpretive programs on a variety of subjects open to the public. You can also check with a park ranger to find out if your child can participate in the Colorado State Junior Ranger program.

Fishing

Many anglers come to Rifle Creek to hook rainbow, brown, and cutthroat trout. The average trout length is nine to ten inches. Other species found along the East Rifle Creek include large and smallmouth bass, catfish, and muskie. Fly fishing and bait fishing will both yield results here, so wade in the creek and cast your line.

The water is cold, so you'll need good waders and a nice vest so you won't have trouble locating your gear in the rushing waters. Check online to find out what kind of flies other anglers are using to get the best results. There are even videos to show you how to tie the right flies for the area. You'll need a Colorado fishing license, so make sure to contact the fish and game office to find out where to get one.

Hiking

Hikers will enjoy the three separate trails that can be found within this state park.

Coyote Trail leads to beautiful views both below and above Rifle Falls. The lower view is a short, paved, ADA-accessible trail, leading from the campground to the bottom of the waterfalls. It is a quarter-mile long, for everyone to enjoy. The view at the top of the falls is moderate and highly trafficked. Bring along your flashlights if you want to go inside the limestone caves along this path. The trail is a total of 1.5 miles long, winding under cottonwood and boxelder trees. Pets on a leash are allowed.

Squirrel Trail is ADA-accessible for the first quarter mile. It begins at the tent-only area of the campground and wanders along Rifle Creek to an overlook point. It passes through a Gambel Oak grove and along the Grass Valley Canal. It is a total of 1.5 unpaved miles with moderate difficulty, and this trail is not highly trafficked.

Bobcat Trail is a relatively new trail, built to connect Rifle Falls State Park to the Rifle Falls State Fish Hatchery. The hatchery is on State Wildlife Lands, which means no pets are allowed once the trail leaves state park premises. The trail passes through forest and meadows.

The fish hatchery is one mile away from the campground. The trail follows East Rifle Creek passes ponds stocked with trout by the fish hatchery. Be on the lookout for your own secret fishing spot along the creek banks.

Birding

When you visit the Fish Hatchery, make sure to come back along the Birding Trail. This recently completed trail leads from Rifle Falls State Park straight through to the hatchery and is home to a large flock of white-throated swifts. This cliff area is also known to be a popular sighting spot for bald and golden eagles as well as turkey vultures. Northern saw-whet owls and many varieties of warblers are also in the area during the peak season, so park the motorhome and grab your binoculars for your wildlife observation.

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