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Although this small town in northwestern Colorado has a peculiar name reminiscent of the old west, it offers many modern activities. Mostly known for its outdoor recreational opportunities in the surrounding mountains and along the Colorado River, you can find many fun things to do in Rifle, Colorado.
In fact, Rifle is home to attractions and activities that will appeal to families with kids of all ages. As locals to the Colorado River Valley, we spend family time in Rifle and have created this guide for you.
This is part of our series on northwestern Colorado. You will find many more resources for planning your trip to Rifle
- Rifle Falls State Park
- Camping Near Rifle, CO
- Guide to Glenwood Springs
- Hiking Hanging Lake
- 16 Things to do in Glenwood Springs
As one of the towns that were founded as part of American westward expansion, Rifle has a fascinating history.
How Did Rifle, Colorado Get its name?
Rifle, Colorado, population 10,000, has grown up on both sides of the Colorado River in Garfield County. This small town along I70 lies between Grand Junction and Glenwood Springs.
The origin of the town’s name is something of a mystery, and there are multiple legends about it. One of the most popular is that Rifle was named after a trapper who left his rifle leaned against a tree at a creek near the site of the town. No one knows for sure, but Rifle has kept its original name long after other towns founded during the Westward expansion changed theirs.
The land on which the town of Rifle now exists originally belonged to the Ute Indian Nation and was first settled by Europeans during the expansion of the railroad. The city was founded by Abraham Maxfield (who asked that the town not be named Maxfield) in 1882 and it was incorporated in 1905.
Historically, Rifle has been a center of ranching, and the town still takes pride in its cowboy heritage. Today, Rifle is best known for its beautiful outdoor scenery.
Things to do in Rifle, Colorado
1. Rifle Gap State Park
Rifle Gap State Park is a scenic Colorado State Park featuring a reservoir and surrounding mountainside. The 350-acre reservoir is especially attractive for camping and water sports, ranging from jet-skiing to fishing. Even during the winter, the reservoir is open for ice fishing, although the ice conditions vary from year to year.
Camping is popular at Rifle Gap State Park. The campgrounds have amenities for tent camping and RVs. If you are interested in camping in the Rifle area we list Rifle Gap State park as one of the best places to camp.
You can even rent an RV! We have been sharing our travel trailer with our Family Travel Fever community for a discount! Check out our trailer listing number 167545. Just for our blog, we created a 10% discount for you, just use the code TravelFever during booking. Oh, and use this link for a big discount for any RV in the area: $50 off Outdoorsy at checkout
- Rifle Gap State Park Website
- RV rental: listing 167545
- Location: 57 Highway 325, Rifle, Colorado, 81652
- Fees: $8 daily Colorado State Parks pass, annual pass $80 Discounts: Senior Aspen Leaf Pass, $70
2. Rifle Heritage Center and Museum
This is the largest museum in Garfield County and is a good stop for learning about the history of the town and the region. The two-story building’s exhibits include (but are not limited) the largest collection of Native American artifacts in the region and the historic photographs by Fred and Ola Garrison.
Unfortunately, the building has no elevator, which limits its accessibility.
- Rifle Heritage Center Website
- Location: 337 East Avenue, at the intersection of 4th and East, Rifle, Colorado, 81650.
- Cost: Adult admission is $5.00
- Discounts: Reduced admission for teens, military, and seniors; free for under 6
3. Centennial Park
Centennial Park is the main public city park with Rifle Creek flowing through it. The park has biking trails, a bridge over the creek, picnic shelters, and a large green space. Kids of all ages will enjoy the newly expanded playground and splash pad in the summer. The park has been described as a “work in progress,” thanks to public and private grants towards improvement.
Don’t forget to check for special events including the 4th of July fireworks celebration. We look forward to sitting on the grass, listening to the orchestra and watching the fireworks.
- Centennial Park website
- Location: 300 W. 5th Street, Rifle, Colorado. 81650.
- Cost: Free
4. Rifle Falls State Park
Best known for its triple waterfall and limestone caves, Rifle Falls State Park is a favorite of, photographers and kids alike. (Not to mention one of our favorite places in the area.) But the park is also great for fishing, camping, and picnicking, as well as exploring the many caves underneath the falls.
When anyone visits the area we suggest Rifle Falls as the best thing to do in the area. In fact, we have a guide to visiting Rifle Falls State Park to help plan your trip.
Pro Tip: Don’t forget your flashlight or grab a cheap one at the dollar store or Walmart before you go – read our post to find out where to use the flashlight at Rifle Falls.
- Visiting Rifle Falls
- RV rental at Outdoorsy $50 off
- Location: 5775 Highway 325, Rifle, CO, 81650
- Cost: Daily Colorado Parks Pass $8, and annual pass $80
- See the website for information on camping fees.
- Discounts: The Senior Aspen Leaf Pass is $70
5. Rifle Falls Fish Hatchery
To feed the fish at the state’s largest trout-producing hatchery, head north of Rifle to the Rifle Falls Fish Hatchery. This facility managed by the Colorado Parks and Wildlife produces rainbow, cutthroat, brook, and brown trout to release in lakes and streams all over Colorado. The hatchery was built during 1953 and now has 40 raceways or concrete troughs for the fish to grow.
Pack a picnic and combine Rifle Fish Hatchery, Rifle Falls and Rifle Mountain Park for a fun day out. You can drive further past Rifle Mountain Park to White River National Forest access some great hikes and splash in the creek.
Fun fact – you can collect a fish sticker for the Colorado Passport Program if you visit all 15 fish hatcheries. I actually just found this out looking up the address for the Rifle Fish Hatchery.
The kids don’t care about the importance of the facility, they just love watching the fish all jump when they throw handfuls of food in the water.
Pro Tip: Bring quarters for the food dispensers.
6. The Roan Plateau
The Roan Plateau overlooks the Colorado River Valley, offering beautiful views from 4,000 feet up. The area is famous for waterfalls, canyons, hanging gardens, unique vegetation, and native Colorado Cutthroat trout.
It is also known for unique geologic formation with layers of kerogen in the oil shale (you can see fossils and smell oil in the dark rocks).
You can hike, bike, ATV, or drive to the top of the plateau on one of its multiple roads and trails. We have driven both roads to the top and enjoyed camping and hiking in the summer.
The historic JQS Trail, zig-zags up the cliff face is an adventure in itself. The standard Cow Creek Road takes you around the north side to reach the top.
Pro Tip: Stop by the local BLM office for maps, road conditions and the best places to see. The office is located just south of the I70 Silt Exit at 2300 River Frontage Rd, Silt, CO or call (970) 876-9000
- Best Places to camp near Rifle
- Roan Plateau website
- Location: County Road 244 via the Rifle Bypass, Rifle, Colorado, 81650.
- Cost: Free
7. Rifle Arch Trail
This easy 3-mile hiking trail takes you up an elevation of 550 feet to the impressive Rifle Arch. Along the way, there are many things to see, as the terrain goes from desert scrub to mountain.
We enjoyed this hike with toddlers, big kids, and our family dogs. We went in late fall and enjoyed the cool weather. The toddler only walked part of the way and was in a carrier the rest.
The hike is lovely in fall and spring but can get hot in the summer. Winter is beautiful and can be accessed by hiking the packed snow or snowshoeing. Don’t forget to pack plenty of water and snacks as there is nothing available on the trail. .
Pro Tip: Dogs are welcome but must be kept on leash. There is no water along the ay so you will need to carry water for the dogs too.
- Rifle Arch Trail website
- Location:11124 Government Road. Rifle, Colorado, 81650.
- Cost: Free
8. Rifle Mountain Park
North of Rifle, just past Rifle Falls is a narrow limestone box canyon that Rifle Creek Runs through. Rifle Mountain Park is best known for the world-class climbing on the vertical cliff walls.
The road is worth a drive as the kids peer up at climbers halfway up the rock face. The winter also has some spectacular ice caves that can be viewed from the road or expired up close.
There are camping and picnic areas available along the creek. If you would like other camping suggestions we have a Guide to Camping Near Rifle here.
9. Harvey Gap State Park
Harvey Gap State Park, located between Rifle and nearby Silt, Colorado, is home to a 198-acre lake that is great for swimming, fishing, and boating. Smaller than Rifle Gap Reservoir and still fun. We enjoy this area on hot summer days for a picnic, swimming and the beautiful scenery.
The lakeside includes a designated swim beach, and the park facilities are all ADA compliant. In order to better preserve the natural beauty of Harvey Gap, no camping or pets are allowed.
Pro Tip: In late summer the swim beach can become muddy especially in very dry years. Another option is the Rifle Gap Reservoir. Check with CPW and the locals for conditions.
- Harvey Gap State Park website:
- Location: 7 (Harvey Gap Road), Silt, Colorado 81652
- Cost: Colorado State Parks daily pass $8, annual pass $80
10. Garfield County Fair and Rodeo
If you want to experience the best of Rifle’s Old (and new) West heritage, there is no better place do to so than at the Garfield County Fair and Rodeo. The Fair, an annual event, held between late July and early August, features familiar country-and-western popular entertainments like rodeos, car shows, concerts a demolition derby.
The parade to kick off the fair is a big hit where kids line the streets to see the floats and get candy.
Pro Tip: arrive early and snag a spot in the shade to watch the parade. Make sure to bring a bag for the candy and toys the kids will get.
Although some of the Fair’s events require paid admission, there are plenty of free things to do and see. If you prefer classic county fair displays, I recommend the 4-H/Future Farmers of America livestock exhibitions. Also, the rides and entertainment for the kids vary by year.
- Garfield County Fair website:
- Location: Garfield County Fairgrounds, 100 Railroad Avenue, Rifle, Colorado
- Cost: Free entrance. Ticket prices vary according to events.
- Discounts: Admission to all events is free to kids 3 and under.
11. Midland Arts Company
If your interests run to the fine arts, check out the Midland Arts Company, a local art gallery. This gallery, which features the work of locals, is owned and managed by local artists.
The art on display is in a variety of mediums, so there should be things that appeal to different people. In addition to traditional artwork, the Midland Arts Company also has many crafts for sale, ranging from soaps to textiles.
- Midland Art Company website
- Location: 1 East Third street, Rifle, Colorado, five minutes from I-70
- Cost: Admission is free, and art and crafts are available for purchase.
12. Ute Theater and Events Venue
The Ute Theatre and Events Venue is a popular theater and performing arts center in downtown Rifle. Originally built in 1947, the theater was renovated and restored in 2010 by a local group.
Today this historic Art Deco building decorated with the1940’s hosts a variety of events, ranging from popular music concerts to the local animal shelter benefit. The Ute Center is especially busy during the Christmas season!
- Ute Theatre website
- Location: 132 E. 4th street, Rifle Colorado, 81650.
- Cost: Ticket prices vary according to the event, see website for details
13. Rifle Branch Library
As a family, we love to check out the local library wherever we go. Rifle library is impressive for the size of the town and offers families a free thing to do on a rainy day.
The library has a large collection of books, quiet reading areas, study rooms and a children’s section with books and toys. Check the calendar for events for the kids. The second floor has a large meeting room that they have story time and activities such as lego build and Harry Potter days for older kids.
“One of the unique features of the Rifle Branch Library is the stained glass window that commemorates Theodore Roosevelt’s visits to this area around the turn of the century. “Garfield County Libraries
- Rifle Branch Library Website
- Location: 207 East Avenue Rifle, CO
- Cost: Free
14. Silt Historical Park
If you’re interested in looking a little beyond Rifle, the Silt Historical Park, located in nearby Silt, Colorado, can be an interesting side trip. Described as “a real Old West experience,” the Silt Historical Park is both a park and museum devoted to the early history of the town of Silt.
The museum complex includes a cluster of small historic buildings, such as the Salee House and the Austin Schoolhouse. The Silt Historical Park is presently developing and improving but is still worth a visit, especially for one of the many events it hosts throughout the year.
- Silt Historical Park Website
- Location: 707 Orchard Avenue, Silt, Colorado, 81652.
- Cost: Admission is free.
15. Hiking in the White River National Forest
Covering 2.3 million acres of public lands, the White River National Forest surrounding Rifle is home to numerous natural wonders. Some of the most famous include the Flat Tops Wilderness Area and Hanging Lake. It is also the most visited national forest in the U.S.
You will find it an attractive destination for a variety of outdoor activities.
Hunting, fishing, mountain biking, horseback riding, ohv experiences, picnicking, hiking and driving for pleasure are a few of the activities the district has to offer with plenty of areas for dispersed camping. Winter brings snow and a variety of cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobile trails with it.WRNF Rifle Ranger Distict
- White River National Forest website
- Location: Between Rifle and Glenwood Springs Colorado
- Cost: Free
16. Shooters Grill
A list of things to do in Rifle would not be complete without mentioning this internationally-known restaurant. Rifle has been become well known across the country for this unusual place with a 2nd amendment theme.
Although this Diner is praised locally for award-winning barbecue, many visitors come to experience being served by a waitress with a pistol on her side. Some tourists travel thousands of miles to check out the restaurant.
- Location: 120 E. 3rd St. Unit C Rifle, CO 81650
- Fee: See the menu for prices
Places to Stay in Rifle
If you are planning a trip to the area or just passing through for the night, Rifle offers a variety of accommodations for families. Below are a couple of suggestions for hotels and other places to stay in Rifle.
Hampton Inn and Suites
Our favorite place to stay with the kids is the Hampton Inn. This hotel is quiet and has plenty of room in the eating area for breakfast. The warm breakfast is good and the hotel has always been clean. Our kids love the warm pool to swim in.
- Hampton Inn and Suites Reservations
- Location: 715 Megan Ave, Rifle, CO
La Quinta Inn & Suites
Another option is La Quinta. We have not stayed here personally but have heard this hotel is nice for families. Plus we like staying at La Quinta elsewhere. They offer a free breakfast, warm pool and kid stay free.
Pet-Friendly: La Quinta Inn & Suites Rifle welcomes two pets of any size for an additional fee of $20 per pet, per night
- La Quinta Inn & Suites Reservations
- Location: 600 Wapiti Court, Rifle 81650
Camping Near Rifle
If you are visiting for outdoor recreation, camping is an excellent option. You can choose from beautiful State Parks, free dispersed camping and private RV campgrounds. See our Complete Guide to Camping Near Rifle
Visitors love renting out our 35-ft travel trailer with a bunkhouse! It’s perfect for a family so we have been sharing it with our Family Travel Fever community for a discount! Check out our trailer listing number 167545. Just for our blog, we created a 10% discount for you, just use the code TravelFever during booking. Oh, and use this link for a big discount for any RV in the area: $50 off Outdoorsy at checkout
Plan Your Visit to Rifle:
The best time to visit
The weather in Rifle, Colorado is typical for its Rocky Mountains location, and the high altitude means that you will experience an overall dry climate. In summer, the temperature can climb into the nineties and the nights cool to the fifties.
Winters, not surprisingly, can get very cold, with temperatures sometimes going below zero. Overall, the best time to visit Rifle depends on the things you want to do. If you are interested in hiking and camping, between June and early September is best. Hunting is mostly in the fall and snowmobiling in the winter.
Pro Tip: Mud season is considered March and April, where the weather in town is lovely but the hiking and OHV trails can be very muddy.
Getting to Rifle, Colorado
Rifle, Colorado is located along I-70 West, and you may need to drive at least part of the way there, even if you fly or take the train to the region. Most people add Rifle as a stop on a road trip through Colorado.
The nearest regional airports are Grand Junction (1 hour), Aspen Airport (80 minutes) , Eagle/ Vail (70 minutes). Denver International airport is 3 1/2 hours east and Salt Lake City airport is 5 hours west.
There is also an Amtrak Station located in Glenwood Springs, thirty miles of the town. In addition, Greyhound offers bus service from Denver.
When you are planning a trip to Rifle you will likely ask how far is it from other places in Colorado
- Denver is 150 miles or 3 hours and 10 minutes
- Colorado Springs is 250 miles and 4 hours and 2 minutes
- Glenwood Springs is 25 miles or 30 minute
- Grand Junction is 61 miles or 1 hour
Additional Resources to Plan your Trip
Our family is local to Northwestern Colorado and so we have been writing a series on the area. To help plan your trip to the Colorado River Valley and choose which things to do near Rifle see some of our articles.
- Rifle Falls State Park
- Camping Near Rifle, CO
- Visiting Silt, CO
- Guide to Glenwood Springs
- Hiking Hanging Lake
- 16 Things to do in Glenwood Springs
As a mix of the old west and modern town, Rifle is an interesting and fun place to visit. Whether staying in town or just passing through, you will find many fun things to do in Rifle, CO.