We regularly send visitors to Rifle Falls to enjoy a hike, picnic or even for overnight camping. Our friends and family always report back that the waterfalls and caves were the highlights of their trip to the Colorado River Valley. We decided to find out if Rifle Falls State Park was as much fun for our family as theirs.
Yes – we are here to report that we are now regular visitors to Rifle Falls State Park. Adults may love the lush scenery and picturesque triple waterfall, but spoiler alert – the caves are the most fun for the kids.
Rifle Falls State Park is a uniquely lush area for hiking, camping, picnicking in a more arid region of western Colorado. The main attraction is the Rifle Creek which falls over a 70-foot triple waterfall but the many small limestone caves are a surprise for kids and adults alike.
Hiking the Trails At Rifle Falls State Park
Rifle Falls is an oasis and you can enjoy hiking around the waterfall enjoying the refreshing spray. In the winter the trails are open for hiking or snowshoeing and you can enjoy the playing int he snow and the frozen falls.
Three hiking trails wind through the park along East Rifle Creek, around the falls, and to the fish hatchery.
The most popular trail, the Coyote Trail, will lead you along the creek right up to the base of the falls, up the hillside to the caves and over the top of the falls. You will likely spend the most time on this trail, especially with kids and in the hot summer.
Pets are permitted along the trails and I frequently see people with dogs on leashes. Although, I tried it once and it was too difficult for me to walk my big dogs and keep track of little kids.
Another one and half-mile trail, the Squirrel trail, connects the campground, the day-use parking lot and the falls. You will be walking at least part of this trail along East Rifle Creek to arrive at the base of the falls from the parking lot.
The other newly completed one-mile trail connects Rifle Falls State Park and Rifle Falls State Fish Hatchery. The trail meanders through boxelder and cottonwoods along East Rifle Creek. This trail is perfect for accessing small fishing holes along the creek.
The Fish Hatchery is an important fishing resource for Colorado and interesting stop, especially for kids and anyone interesting in fishing.
Exploring the Caves
In the limestone cliffs under the falls you will find many small caves. As you walk along the hiking path, different small entrances will appear before you. You will have so much fun exploring each little cave that you encounter.
Some of the caves are large enough for multiple people to stand in.
One time, we even had the treat of listening to a church choir sing inside one of the caves with particularity good acoustics.
Pro Tip: Bring small flashlights or headlamps for the kids. You can pick some up at the dollar store or Wlamart in town. Otherwise, you will find yourself using the light on your cell phone until it dies.
Camping at Rifle Falls State Park
Camping at Rifle Falls State Park is very popular among locals and tourists for good reason. The campground is situated in the green, lush area along the creek.
Rifle Falls Campground has a mix of tent and RV sites. There are 13 drive-in RV/tent campsites with 30 Amp electrical outlets and both back in and pull through options.
Tent campers also have the choice of 7 walk-in sites that are situated right along the creek. You can splash in the creek during the day and have the treat of falling asleep to the sound of water
Shared water is available throughout the campground.
Pro Tip: Reservations may be made up to 6 months in advance for camping between April 1 and October 31. Plan to go on weekdays for fewer crowds. The campground is open in the winter with 30 Amp electrical for a unique experience of the park.
Summer (May 15 to Sept. 14)
- Basic Campsite: $28.00
- Electric Hook-up Campsite: $36.00
Winter (Sept. 15 to May. 14)
- Basic Campsite: $26.00
- Electric Hook-up Campsite: $30.00
Nature and Wildlife
Rifle Falls is an unusual ecosystem with deciduous riparian forest, wetlands and hanging gardens. You will likely see turkey vultures, mule deer, great blue herons, eagles, fish and more at Rifle Falls State Park. Rainbow, brown and cutthroat trout (native to the area) are found in East Rifle Creek
On summer weekends ranger-led nature programs are offered by Colorado State Parks and Wildlife. A park ranger generally sets up a table with educational activities on the trail between the parking lot and the falls. In addition, educational interpretive programs are held at the Mountain Mist Amphitheater at Rifle Falls from May through September
Winter at Rifle Falls
Rifle Falls State Park is open all year. The winter is a wonderfully quiet time and a unique time to explore the area. We love playing in the snow, exploring the caves and enjoying the frozen waterfall in the winter.
Some of the trails can be a little icy, but the snowpack is easy enough to hike on.
So if you are visiting Rifle in the winter, do not discount a trip to Rifle Falls. Just make sure to bring your snow boots and winter gear.
What you need to know about visiting Rifle Falls State Park
- Location: 5775 Highway 325, Rifle, CO 81650
- The park is 4 miles north on Highway 13 and then 10 miles on Highway 325 – see map above for directions
- Hours: 7 AM to 10 PM
- Fees: Colorado State Parks Pass $8 daily or $80 annual
Pro Tip: Colorado State Parks passes are valid until noon the next day. So you can return for the following morning, or spend the next morning at one of the local state parks, Rifle Gap Reservoir or Harvey Gap Reservoir.
When to Visit:
The lush vegetation and cool spray from the falls are refreshing during the hot summer days. Splashing in the creek is fun too.
The summer is a great time to visit but it is very popular and the parking lot fills quickly in the morning. Try to visit on a weekday and arrive early for a parking spot.
During the spring and fall, you can enjoy more mild weather and the park is a little quieter. If you arrive on a particularly warm day you can still enjoy splashing in the creek and the spray from the waterfall.
The winter is a different and unique time to visit Rifle Falls. The falls freeze and are beautiful to photograph. The snow-packed trails are fun for hiking and playing in the snow. The park is very quiet and you may even find yourself in a secluded winter wonderland.
More Help Planning your Trip to Rifle, Colorado
Whether you are just making a stop off I70 or planning a longer trip to Rifle we have more resources to help you plan your trip:
- 16 Things to do in Rifle, Colorado (by local experts)
- Camping Near Rifle Colorado
- Ultimate Guide to Visiting Glenwood Springs
- Awesome Things to do in Glenwood Springs with kids
- Which Glenwood Hot Springs Should You Go To?
We are lucky to be able to spend family time at Rifle Falls State Park. We always advise visitors to visit Rifle Falls when they are in the area. The hikes are easy, the caves are a welcome surprise and so much fun, the camping. Plus it is all in an oasis in the more surrounding arid landscape.