In 2017, when my husband asked where I’d like to go to brunch for Mother’s Day, I paused and thought about it. I told him that I’d like to take a family hike with no complaining. Even though he agreed, I wasn’t quite sure the kids would cooperate once we got going. I did a little research and learned of Rifle Falls State Park.
It sounded perfect for young kids. Our youngest is 4-years-old, and I can’t imagine would get far yet on a tough hike. With three trails that loop 1 to 1.5 miles through waterfalls, limestone caves and ponds Rifle Falls sounded perfect. Well it was. And, since it has become of favorite of the amazing Colorado state parks.
Rifle Fall State Park is not to be confused with Rifle Gap State Park. They are very close in distance. But very different in landscape. Rifle Falls is a hidden oasis of triple waterfalls and cool caves. Rifle Gap is a reservoir full of fun water sports.
Getting to Rifle Falls State Park
Rifle Falls State Park is located at 5775 Highway 325, Rifle, CO 81650. It is just off of I70 between New Castle and Rifle, Colorado.
We had breakfast at home, packed our Camelbacks and snacks. Then we picked up sandwiches on the way. Getting out somewhat early is key. It is about an hour to an hour and a half drive from Eagle, or about 45 minutes from Glenwood Springs.
But it is a beautiful drive with unexpected surprises the closer we got to the park. After you turn off of I-70 and go a ways through Rifle and beyond there is a nice little golf course. And then you see a dam. As you come over the dam, there is a beautiful reservoir with boaters out enjoying the water.
Or, you can take a short cut through a new neighborhood in New Castle. Either way you are sure to see farmland, goats, horses and cows along the way. All with snow capped peaks in the distance. That is Colorado for you.
Cost & Parking at Rifle Falls State Park
Rifle Falls State Park is open year round. Though you may want to check before you go for random closures. There is a small entry fee of $9. The parking lot is small and parking spaces are limited on a first come, first served basis. We managed to get there after the lot had filled to get the first parking spot on the road.
We have also gotten out there and been turned away because the parking area was full. Up the road just a bit further is another area with just a handful for parking spots. It is a fairly good hike down from there from the fish hatchery.
Also, Rifle Gap park is a good back up if you can’t find parking at Rifle Falls. The visitors center there is interesting.
Hiking Rifle Falls State Park
The 4-year old at first tried to get daddy and then mommy to carry him. But as soon as we reached the falls which were only steps away from the parking lot he showed a little more enthusiasm. Soon he was climbing the steps up to the top of the falls and then on to exploring the limestone caves.
Randomly enough one of his best friends happened to be there at the same time we were. So he really became enthusiastic. He and one of his besties ran back and forth on the trail, into caves and up to ponds. They possibly may have done the loop twice.
The hike around the falls is not quite as vigorous a workout as I like to get on hikes. But that was more than made up for by the fact that our entire family really enjoyed themselves. It was beautiful and there was so much for the kids to explore and see. We did spot a wild turkey and a Goose with her babies. We stayed clear of them.
Picnicking at Rifle Falls State Park
There are plenty of picnic tables at the base to relax and enjoy lunch or a snack after the hike. We picnicked as we talked about how it is the perfect spot to bring our siblings and their young children when they come to visit. I suspect we make make it back out to Rifle Falls a couple more times this summer.
Camping at Rifle Falls State Park
This Colorado State Park has 13 drive-in and seven walk-in campsites that sit to the south along East Rifle Creek. There are both RV sites and tent sites. Campsites are available year round. But do require reservations.
Is Rifle Falls Dog Friendly?
Dogs are permitted in the park, and on the main trail while on leash. As always, pet owners must clean up after their dogs. Dogs are not permitted on Coyote Trail and on the Colorado Division of Wildlife’s Fish Hatchery at the upper portion of the park.
Note: This is an updated version of a post originally published May 2017.
For other beautiful spots in Colorado, be sure to check out Colorado National Parks, including Rocky Mountain National Park.