Rifle Falls

Rifle / near Glenwood Springs / near Grand Junction / Garfield County, Colorado, USA

Rating: 3     Difficulty: 1
Rifle Falls

TABLE OF CONTENTS



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INTRODUCTION

FRifle Falls was an impressive three-segmented waterfall where each drop plunged some 70ft over travertine formations. While we've seen other three-segmented waterfalls like Triple Falls in Oregon and Waipunga Falls in New Zealand, the Colorado version had a bit more of a recreational feel to it. After all, we saw some people fishing at the plunge pool, some kids were out and about playing in a picnic area around the falls, and there was even the ability to explore some travertine caves and alcoves. Even Tahia got in the act by dipping her feet into the cold waters while also tossing twigs or leaves into East Rifle Creek and watch them flow beneath the bridge. Indeed, it was just one of those relaxing experiences that contrasted the more strenuous excursion at Hanging Lake further to the east of Glenwood Springs. Instead of spending the better part of a half-day doing a physical challenge, this particular waterfall allowed us to veg out for a similar amount of time.

Further adding to the recreational feel to this place, Rifle Falls was definitely one of the easier waterfalling excursions to boot. After parking at the day use parking area (see directions below), we walked on a short paved path leading right to a bridge where we could view the triple waterfall in full. From there, we saw that there were multiple trails branching from the bridge. The trail following East Rifle Creek to the base of the falls on the left also ascended some steps for a profile view of the falls as well as the ability to go behind the leftmost segment. The trail to the right of the bridge followed along the so-called Coyote Trail, which went by the far right side of Rifle Falls, then meandered before some travertine caves before looping past the Bobcat Trail junction and climbing up to the top of Rifle Falls.

There were a couple of protruding overlooks allowing me to look at Rifle Falls from a couple of different profile angles as well as taking in the view downstream above the trees. Something that caught my eye about this perspective of the falls was that one of the segments was shooting out of a pipe! That made me question whether the third segment of the waterfall was legitimate or not (due to the appearance of diversion). In any case, the Coyote Trail then continued its loop by descending past the leftmost of the drops before rejoining the paved path near the day use parking lot. Overall, I had spent about an hour to do the entire (optional) loop as well as taking family shots with Julie and Tahia with a tripod. That said, I could totally envision spending even more time here had it not been so late in the afternoon on the day of our visit.

Finally, the difficulty rating I'm giving this waterfall presumes only taking in the waterfall's front, which was just a couple minutes walk from the parking lot. Since I treated the Coyote Trail as optional, it did not figure into the score and thus did not raise the difficulty level as far as this writeup was concerned.




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PHOTO JOURNAL

As added motivation for doing the optional Coyote Trail, this was the view downstream from the top of Rifle FallsAs added motivation for doing the optional Coyote Trail, this was the view downstream from the top of Rifle Falls
This was the inside of one of the caves or alcoves within the travertine dam holding up Rifle Falls. This cave appeared to have 'seats' inside though I'm not sure if they were genuine or notThis was the inside of one of the caves or alcoves within the travertine dam holding up Rifle Falls. This cave appeared to have 'seats' inside though I'm not sure if they were genuine or not
Roughly less than an hour drive from Rifle Falls was the start of the hike for Hanging Lake, which featured this colorful yet clear lake perched high above Glenwood Canyon at 7,000ftRoughly less than an hour drive from Rifle Falls was the start of the hike for Hanging Lake, which featured this colorful yet clear lake perched high above Glenwood Canyon at 7,000ft
The day use parking lot at Rifle Falls State ParkThe day use parking lot

Julie and Tahia walking past the gate and onto the short paved path to Rifle FallsJulie and Tahia walking past the gate and onto the short paved path to the falls

As you can see, the paved path was literally a leisurely stroll to Rifle FallsAs you can see, the paved path was literally a leisurely stroll to the falls

Julie and Tahia getting their first glimpse at Rifle FallsJulie and Tahia getting their first glimpse at the falls

Here's one guy who was fishing at the base of Rifle FallsHere's one guy who was fishing at the base of the falls

The steps to the left led up to a profile view of Rifle Falls as well as an alcove where we could look out from behind one of the segments of the fallsThe steps to the left led up to a profile view of Rifle Falls as well as an alcove where we could look out from behind one of the segments of the falls

Profile view of the three segments of Rifle FallsProfile view of the three segments of the falls

Looking out from behind the Rifle FallsLooking out from behind the falls

Broader look out from behind one of the segments of Rifle FallsBroader look out from behind one of the segments of the falls

This was a cave-like opening within the alcove behind Rifle FallsThis was a cave-like opening within the alcove behind the falls

Back at the bottom checking out Rifle Falls with anglers fronting itBack at the bottom checking out the falls with anglers fronting it

Tahia was dipping her feet into East Rifle Creek before the Rifle FallsTahia was dipping her feet into East Rifle Creek before the falls

Checking out Rifle Falls from the other side of the bridgeChecking out Rifle Falls from the other side of the bridge

The Coyote Trail starting to skirt alongside the interesting travertine damThe Coyote Trail starting to skirt alongside the interesting travertine dam

Looking back across Rifle Falls from the opposite side along the Coyote TrailLooking back across the falls from the opposite side along the Coyote Trail

This was one of a handful of caves that the Coyote Trail went in and out ofThis was one of a handful of caves that the Coyote Trail went in and out of

It was possible to branch off from the Coyote Trail to the Bobcat Trail if one were so inclined to spend more time hereIt was possible to branch off from the Coyote Trail to the Bobcat Trail if one were so inclined to spend more time here

Walking along the top of the travertine dam responsible for Rifle FallsWalking along the top of the travertine dam responsible for the falls

This was one of the protruding overlooks at the brink of Rifle FallsThis was one of the protruding overlooks at the brink of the falls

Another profile view of Rifle Falls, but this time it was from a higher vantage point at the protruding lookoutAnother profile view of Rifle Falls, but this time it was from a higher vantage point at the protruding lookout

Checking out the boardwalk above Rifle FallsChecking out the boardwalk above the falls

Looking upstream from Rifle Falls at some minor cascade on East Rifle CreekLooking upstream from the falls at some minor cascade on East Rifle Creek

Descending back down these steps to complete the Coyote Trail loopDescending back down these steps to complete the Coyote Trail loop

Returning to the day use parking area at Rifle Falls State ParkReturning to the day use parking area at the state park


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VIDEOS OF THE FALLS


Video starting off with a full view from the bridge then ending right at the falls base


Video starting off with a profile examination of the falls before climbing up to an alcove allowing me to check out the falls from its backside


Checking out various vantage points along the top of Rifle Falls


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DRIVING DIRECTIONS

Rifle Falls was northeast of the town of Rifle. The other nearest major cities along the I-70 were Grand Junction to the west and Glenwood Springs to the east. We'll describe the driving routes from both of those cities since that was how we did this drive.

Coming from Glenwood Springs, we drove west on the I-70 for roughly 26 miles to the exit 90 towards Rifle and Meeker. Once we left the interstate, we then turned right and went north on the Hwy 13 for just under 4 miles before leaving the highway and turning right onto Route 325. We then followed the Route 325 for about the next 10 miles before turning right onto the signposted turnoff for Rifle Falls State Park.

Once we were in the park, we paid $7 for our vehicle in the self-help envelope and drop box, then continued to drive past the campsites towards the dead-end where there was the day use parking and picnic area. Overall, this 28-mile drive would take under an hour without stops.

From Grand Junction, we'd drive about 60 miles east to the exit 90 for Rifle and Meeker. Once we were on the offramp, we'd then take the third exit at the roundabout to go north onto Hwy 13 for the next 4 miles (passing through downtown Rifle along the way). Then, we'd take the 325 for the final 10 miles to Rifle Falls State Park on the right. Overall, this 73-mile drive would take under 90 minutes without stops.

For context, Grand Junction was 243 miles (under 4 hours drive) west of Denver, 167 miles (3.5 hours drive) north of Durango, 113 miles (under 2 hours drive) east of Moab, Utah, and 284 miles (4.5 hours drive) southeast of Salt Lake City, Utah. It would be 775 miles (12 hour drive) from Los Angeles.




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ITINERARIES

For more information about our itineraries involving this waterfall, check out the following links.


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MAP OF THE FALLS



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TRIP REPORTS

For more information about our experiences with this waterfall, check out the following travel stories.




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TRIP PLANNING RESOURCES




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NEARBY WATERFALLS




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