Rifle Creek cuts through a deep notch called Rifle Gap in the up-turned Grand Hogback, one of Colorado’s most defined geographic features, eight miles north of Rifle and Interstate 70. A dam fills the gap, creating a 360-acre reservoir in 1,341-acre Rifle Gap State Park. The clear water allows for superb fishing, boating, windsurfing, and water skiing in a gorgeous mountain setting, with sharp peaks surrounding the long, narrow lake. Fisherman find walleye, largemouth and smallmouth bass, rainbow and brown trout, and pike in the deep water and campers stay in four campgrounds with 89 sites year-round. Hunters often use the park in autumn as their base camp for hunting in the adjoining White River National Forest.
State Park Maps
- Rifle Gap is considered one of Colorado’s best state parks for winter fun. The park usually doesn’t get loads of snow and is known for warm winter days. Fishermen say the ice fishing is excellent, while cross-country skiers and snowshoers explore the surrounding hills. The campgrounds are also open all winter, with electric sites for plugging in a space heater.
- Rifle Gap is famous for its unique geology as well as diverse foothills ecosystems. While the park has no established trails, it’s easy to roam the area looking for wildlife, including elk, mule deer, owls, hawks, and occasional bald eagles fishing in the lake.
- Rifle Mountain Park, a few miles up state highway 325, is a renowned rock climbing venue. Climbers from around the world come to Rifle to climb its overhanging limestone walls. Some of Rifle’s most famous routes are Slice of Life, Pump-a-Rama, Vision Thing, and Simply Read. If you’re not a climber, come and watch elite climbers monkey up the steep cliffs.
- Rifle Falls State Park is a slice of Hawaii transplanted to Colorado. The park’s dense vegetation and plunging triple waterfall is simply one of Colorado’s best unknown attractions. Rifle Falls is almost four miles northeast from Rifle Gap on highway 325.
Recommended season(s): Year-round.
—Stewart M. Green