Rifle Falls State Park is a 48-acre pocket-sized park that hides in a canyon north of Rifle Gap State Park. The area’s main feature is Rifle Falls, with three 70-foot waterfalls plunging off a limestone cliff. The water thunders off rocks below, filling the air with a fine mist that transforms the arid canyon into a verdant oasis. Park rangers call it “Colorado’s Hawaii” with ferns growing in moist cracks, spray-drenched rocks cloaked in moss, and the smell of water perfuming the air. Visitors come to enjoy the scenic falls, stay in the campground, hike park trails, and picnic under shady cottonwoods and box elders. Several small caves in the cliff below the falls entice spelunkers to squirm underground. Rifle Falls is also a popular spot for weddings.
- Rifle Falls is extremely busy in the summer, especially on weekends. Parking is limited so plan to arrive when the park opens at 7 a.m. to grab a spot. If the lot is full you will be turned away. Consider visiting from Monday through Thursday to avoid the crowds. The park is a fee area.
- The 1.5-mile Coyote Trail makes a lollipop loop around the falls, although the 0.1-mile paved trail section from the parking to the waterfall base is ADA accessible and makes a fun out-and-back hike. Other park trails include the 1.5-mile Squirrel Trail along Rifle Creek and one-mile Bobcat Trail, which heads up the canyon to Rifle Falls State Fish Hatchery.
- The Rifle Falls campground, open year-round, is popular in the summer. It offers 20 campsites along Rifle Creek, with 13 for drive-in RV and trailer camping and seven walk-in tent sites. Some can be reserved from May 1 to October 31 while others are first-come first-served.
- North of Rifle Falls is Rifle Mountain Park, a deep gorge lined with limestone cliffs. The park is one of America’s premier sport climbing areas, with hundreds of difficult routes up the vertical and overhanging walls. Down the canyon is Rifle Gap State Park, a fine lake for fishing, boating, hiking, and camping, while Harvey Gap State Park lies to the east.
Recommended season(s): May to October is best.
—Stewart M. Green