Summer is in the air and for us, that means hiking season is here. The “sunshine” portion of my identity is ready to go! After a pretty active (unusually so!) winter, we’re excited for warm temps and fresh air adventures.
The Rifle Arch Trail, which is just miles away from us in neighboring Rifle, Colorado, seemed like a great hike to ease back into the summer swing of things. It’s pretty short, listed as beginner-level, and allows dogs on leash (Wally was thrilled).
So, we loaded up on water and sunscreen and hit the trails, met by killer desert views and a great workout.
Rifle Arch Trail
Rifle Arch is located north of Rifle, on Highway 13/789. Upon arrival, there’s a parking lot and a gated entrance to the trail, which begins to ascend toward the Grand Hogback sandstone formation, which is immensely popular for rock climbers. The arch is a feature of the formation, at about 60-feet tall and 150-feet wide. Though takes a while to see the formation from the trail, there are expansive surrounding desert views along the way that make the entire hike enjoyable.
During our trip, the sky was overcast but it was still hot and dry outside. We felt the heat throughout the entire hike, and couldn’t imagine doing it in the middle of a true summer heat wave.
There are a few places where the trail inclines and climbs, with a sandy style of dirt. These parts make for an interesting and engaging challenge, without being too technically difficult.
The trail eventually opens to more of a dirt road style, where signage asks bikers to please dismount. It’s a little more of a casual walk from here, with a few uphill spots. After a while, you reach the base of the arch, which has several rocks and a bench to enjoy the view. Beware: there is not a ton of shade or tree cover, so be mindful for hot and sunny summer days where the temperatures can be brutal.
If you’re up for more of a challenge, you can scramble up the rocks further to the arch, where there are incredible valley views and there’s more of an up-close look at the immense size of the formation. Since we had Wally with us, we decided not to go further—many reviews recommend having your hands free to navigate through the rocks.
I’d love to try this hike again and make it to the arch, preferably earlier in the spring or later in fall and definitely in the morning. We’ll be back!
- Expansive desert views, along with cool rock formations at the top
- Lots of native desert vegetation and wildlife up close and personal
- Short and sweet
- Good early season / late fall hike
- Multi-use: can bike, hike, run, and even rock climb
- Dogs (on leash) are welcome
- There are a few inclines. Great for working out, a little hard on the lungs if out of hiking shape (me!) or unprepared
- It’s pretty bare-bones maintenance-wise. Signage isn’t that great, and there are no trash cans in the parking lot. We had to take our bagged dog poop with us in the car, which was pretty gross.
- No map at the trailhead (goes along with little maintenance)
- It can get hot! Not a ton of shade coverage in parts.
- Hard to find the rest of the trail at the base of the arch
My Overall Rating: 4/5 Stars
You can watch my brief Rifle Arch Tik Tok here.
Trail name: Rifle Arch Trail
Length: 2.8 miles round trip
Type: There and back
Elevation: 5,826 to 6,528′
Usage: Low to moderate
Dogs Allowed: Yes, on a leash!
More information: https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/colorado/rifle-arch-trail
Trail map: https://www.alltrails.com/explore/trail/us/colorado/rifle-arch-trail?mobileMap=false&ref=sidebar-static-map
Note: Beware of the gorgeous (and prickly!) cacti everywhere alongside the trail—especially with pups.