Rifle 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.
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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