Rifle Falls

Rifle / Glenwood Springs / Grand Junction, Colorado, USA

About Rifle Falls


Hiking Distance: 1/4-mile round trip or 1 mile loop
Suggested Time: 15 minutes or 1 hour

Date first visited: 2017-04-18
Date last visited: 2017-04-18

Waterfall Latitude: 39.67757
Waterfall Longitude: -107.69854

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Rifle Falls was an impressive three-segmented waterfall where each drop plunged some 70ft over travertine formations within the namesake Rifle Falls State Park.

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.

Hanging_Lake_473_04182017 - Rifle Falls
Rifle Falls

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 our daughter 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.

Rifle_Falls_028_04182017 - Tahia dipping her feet into Rifle Creek before the Rifle Falls
Tahia dipping her feet into Rifle Creek before the Rifle Falls

Further adding to the recreational feel to this place, Rifle Falls was definitely one of the easier waterfalling excursions to boot.

Experiencing Rifle Falls – the front of the waterfalls

After parking at the day use parking area (see directions below), we walked on a short paved path leading right to a bridge.

That bridge was where we could view the triple-barreled Rifle Falls in full.

From there, we saw that there were multiple trails branching from the bridge.

Rifle_Falls_004_04182017 - Looking out from behind one of the segments of Rifle Falls towards the profile of its remaining segments
Looking out from behind one of the segments of Rifle Falls towards the profile of its remaining segments

The trail following East Rifle Creek to the base of the falls on the left also ascended some steps.

At the top of those steps, we got a profile view of the falls as well as the ability to go behind its leftmost segment.

The trail to the right of the bridge followed along the so-called Coyote Trail.

There was also a trail that came in from the far left side closer to the day use parking lot, which ended a loop hike that encompassed the Coyote Trail.

Experiencing Rifle Falls – the loop trail to its top

Rifle_Falls_044_04182017 - Exploring some of the caves or grottos around the right side of Rifle Falls as we followed the Coyote Trail
Exploring some of the caves or grottos around the right side of Rifle Falls as we followed the Coyote Trail

Initially, the Coyote Trail went by the far right side of Rifle Falls, but then it meandered before some travertine caves as the trail veered along the base of the travertine formation giving rise to the falls in the first place.

Beyond these interesting (albeit small) caves, the Coyote Trail then looped past the Bobcat Trail junction before climbing up to the top of Rifle Falls.

There were a couple of protruding overlooks allowing me to look at Rifle Falls from a few different profile angles.

From this lofty vantage point, I also managed to take in the view further downstream above the trees.

Rifle_Falls_059_04182017 - Looking downstream from the lookouts at the brink of the Rifle Falls
Looking downstream from the lookouts at the brink of the Rifle Falls

Something that caught my eye about this perspective of the Rifle Falls was that one of the three segments was shooting out of a pipe!

That made me question whether that (rightmost) segment of the waterfall was legitimate or not as a result of the appearance of this man-made 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.

Rifle_Falls_066_04182017 - Looking down across Rifle Falls from one of the lookouts on the rim of its travertine cliff
Looking down across Rifle Falls from one of the lookouts on the rim of its travertine cliff

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.

Authorities

Rifle Falls resides in the Rifle Falls State Park near the town of Glenwood Springs in Garfield County, Colorado. It is administered by Colorado Parks & Wildlife. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.

Hanging_Lake_464_04182017 - Julie and Tahia walking past the gate and onto the short paved path to Rifle Falls
Hanging_Lake_466_04182017 - As you can see, the paved path was literally a leisurely stroll to Rifle Falls
Hanging_Lake_469_04182017 - Julie and Tahia getting their first glimpse at Rifle Falls
Hanging_Lake_477_04182017 - Here's one guy who was fishing at the base of Rifle Falls
Hanging_Lake_478_04182017 - Closeup nature look at the entirety of the Rifle Falls from its front
Hanging_Lake_480_04182017 - Context of the steps to the left of Rifle Falls, which led up to a profile view of waterfalls as well as an alcove where we could look out from behind one of the segments of the falls
Rifle_Falls_002_04182017 - Looking towards an overgrown view of the three segments of Rifle Falls from the short walk to the backside of one of its segments
Rifle_Falls_017_04182017 - Profile view of the three segments of Rifle Falls from a lookout with an interpretive sign
Rifle_Falls_011_04182017 - Broader look out from behind one of the segments of Rifle Falls towards the scenery further downstream
Rifle_Falls_012_04182017 - This was a cave-like opening within the alcove behind Rifle Falls
Rifle_Falls_019_04182017 - Looking up towards the trees growing behind the top of Rifle Falls after having descended back down to its front
Rifle_Falls_021_04182017 - Back at the bottom checking out Rifle Falls with anglers fronting it
Rifle_Falls_032_04182017 - Checking out Rifle Falls from the other side of the bridge over Rifle Creek
Rifle_Falls_034_04182017 - The Coyote Trail starting to skirt alongside the interesting travertine formation holding up Rifle Falls
Rifle_Falls_035_04182017 - Looking back across Rifle Falls from the opposite side of its creek along the Coyote Trail
Rifle_Falls_041_04182017 - Looking into some interesting travertine formations in one of the caves further along the Coyote Trail past the Rifle Falls
Rifle_Falls_042_04182017 - Context of another one of the caves or grottos along the Coyote Trail past the Rifle Falls
Rifle_Falls_045_04182017 - This particular grotto or cave had some of its travertine shaped into bench-like things you can sit on further along the Coyote Trail
Rifle_Falls_046_04182017 - It was possible to branch off from the Coyote Trail to the Bobcat Trail if one were so inclined to spend more time here and go to the Rifle Falls Fish Hatchery
Rifle_Falls_050_04182017 - Walking along the top of the travertine dam responsible for Rifle Falls
Rifle_Falls_054_04182017 - This was one of the protruding overlooks at the brink of Rifle Falls
Rifle_Falls_055_04182017 - Another profile view of Rifle Falls, but this time it was from a higher vantage point at the protruding lookout over the brink of the falls
Rifle_Falls_061_04182017 - Checking out the boardwalk above Rifle Falls
Rifle_Falls_062_04182017 - Looking upstream from Rifle Falls at some minor cascade on East Rifle Creek
Rifle_Falls_069_04182017 - Continuing along the trail descending the other side of Rifle Falls and eventually returning me back to the day use parking lot at Rifle Falls State Park
Rifle_Falls_071_04182017 - Descending back down these steps to complete the Coyote Trail loop and return to the parking lot

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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.

Driving from Glenwood Springs to Rifle Falls State Park

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.

Hanging_Lake_463_04182017 - Looking ahead at the parking area for Rifle Falls State Park
Looking ahead at the parking area 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, we 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.

Driving from Grand Junction to Rifle Falls State Park

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.

Rifle_Falls_074_04182017 - Looking back towards the parking area for Rifle Falls State Park from the start of the short trail to the waterfall
Looking back towards the parking area for Rifle Falls State Park from the start of the short trail to the waterfall

We’d then proceed 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.

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

Trip Planning Resources


Tagged with: rifle, grand junction, glenwood springs, colorado, waterfalls, rocky mountains



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Johnny Cheng

About Johnny Cheng

Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
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