Right after college, my husband and I moved to New Castle, Colorado. It’s located on the western slope, nestled in the mountains, nearby larger towns Glenwood Springs and Rifle.
Upon our arrival, our time was frantically divided between wedding planning, settling into new jobs, unpacking our home, and getting the lay of the land. We didn’t have a lot of time to explore our new surroundings, and had bits and pieces of adventure rather than diving right in.
This summer, we’ve been able to get out and do more; and we are so thankful for the opportunities.
This weekend, we went to Rifle Falls. These gushing triple waterfalls are about 30 minutes from our house—a quick and scenic drive through the Colorado back country.
Rife Falls: The Lowdown
This state park (which requires either an entry fee or a car pass), includes a few hiking trails (totaling 2 miles), picnic areas, campgrounds, restrooms, an amphitheater (which can be reserved for special events), and, of course, the waterfalls for which the park is named.
It’s extremely accessible. The falls are located about 50 yards away from the parking lot, which makes for an easy walk to the base, close enough to feel mist from the water or admire the calm creek’s clear water.
Rifle Falls are three falls, each 70-feet of gushing water. They flow over a travertine dam, into East Rifle Creek. Above the falls, a hiking trail takes visitors through the other captivating features, such as lush greenery and limestone cliffs with small caves and enclaves. The surrounding has lots of vegetation and rocks peeking through the mountainside.
We joked around about a local bear named “Harvey”—derived from the nearby Harvey Gap reservoir. I teased my husband about the bear lurking in the caves, waiting around for visitors to make friends. While that might be a new taste of folklore, Rifle Falls is home to many animal friends; deer, elk, golden-mantled ground squirrel, fish (especially rainbow and brown trouts), coyotes, and bats are regularly seen, plus lots of bugs and maybe a snake here and there.
We enjoyed the two hikes. One starts at the base of the falls goes above them and wraps around, with many overlook opportunities. The trail is diverse though easy, sometimes surrounded by shade, other times exposed, with some spots that allow for pause under the falls, to feel the spray. The trail takes walkers through the caves, with many opportunities to stop, look around, and enjoy the various and varying views.
The other hike feels a little longer, though it might because there are less natural stops and the landscape is all similar. It follows the creek, and there are lots of bugs hopping around—while not bothersome, I’d recommend a douse of bug spray before heading on the trail. There are a few tricky parts, with loose gravely dirt and a very steep grade in spots. There are a few switchbacks, but once you’re clear of those, the trail is pretty low key.
Overall, both trails are worth doing if you have the energy and if the heat isn’t too extreme!
Though lesser known than Glenwood’s famous Hanging Lake, Rifle Falls are comparable. In my opinion, they are a roughly undiscovered spot that offer everything that the former doesn’t: you can bring dogs, food and beer are allowed, and the trek is safe for all ability levels (I wore Chacos during my first visit). It’s also way less crowded (though there are usually people camping and enjoying the views). In the winter, Rifle Falls are also a popular option for ice climbing, making for an all-season attraction.
Go to Rifle Falls. It’s an epic spot, great for husbands, parents, pets, neighbors, or solo trips. If the waterfalls don’t take your breath away (trust me, they will), the misty hike, romantic overviews, and lush, scenic vistas will.
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