An Unexpected Slice of the Tropics

Craving a tropical vacation that is close to home and doesn’t cost a fortune? Maybe you have a yearning for a small slice of the tropics in an unexpected place? Perhaps that is what makes Rifle Falls in northwestern Colorado such a great place to visit. One on hand, it is a tiny campground tucked away among the hills. On the other hand, it is a place of awesome beauty and perfect peace to relax and enjoy one of nature’s shows.

Walking down the rock-paved path, you will hear the waterfalls before you actually see them. The air is moist and cool, and extremely inviting. The bright green vegetation frames the path, and then, all at once as you turn a corner, there they are. Three waterfalls rushing from the rocks high above. The water is white as it tumbles 60-70 feet down from the cliffs to rippling pools of water below. You could stand and watch them forever. Nature is mesmerizing, and never more so than when paired with the beauty of water. However, these gorgeous falls have more surprises in store for the average camper or day hiker. There is a relatively easy climb that takes you up behind the waterfalls. Hidden from sight are intriguing limestone caves, some shallow, others deep, and any spelunkers especially will enjoy the secret feeling behind the falls. There is also a small viewing platform at the top near the creek before it splits into the three waterfalls, and it is a wonderful place to take pictures from. The noise of the waterfalls will make you have to speak to your companions very loudly as you explore and point out new discoveries. On a sweltering Colorado summer day, the lush invitation of Rifle Falls beckons.

Rifle Falls was also known to be used by the Ute Indians, so coming across Native American artifacts is not an unusual occurrence during your hikes. The Colorado state governement asks that you nicely leave them alone so that other people can enjoy them.

Rifle Falls is a great place to camp for a day or two. The campground is small and intimate, and there are usually sites available to rent. There is lots of shade and the campsites are attractive. There are twelve drive-in sites that will accommodate an RV, and seven walk-in sites that are meant for tent camping. The prices are extremely reasonable. Camping at Rifle Falls is open from April to October. During the peak summer season, fees are $14 for tent sites and $18 for RV sites. When it is off-season, the rates for both go down by two dollars each. You can stay for up to 14 days and have 6 people max at your campsite. One little reminder, you need to purchase a Colorado State Park vehicle pass for between $3-$6 if you plan to drive into any Colorado park. A pass can be purchased from the ranger station near the entrance to Rifle Falls.

Firewood is available at the campsites, so you can roast hot dogs and stuff yourself with s’mores to your heart’s content. You will definitely want to bring a camera, and some binoculars to get a better view of the top of the falls is a good idea, too. There are hiking trails located in the area, and you will find plenty to keep you occupied while you enjoy a little known place in Colorado. You can also take a 28-mile drive to nearby Glenwood Springs, which boast a huge hot springs swimming pool, an historic health sanatorium where Doc Holliday was rumored to have stayed at the end of his life, a wide variety of small stores to shop in and some tasty places to eat.

To get to Rifle Falls, you take Interstate 70 to Rifle, which is located in the northwestern corner of Colorado. In the quaint little town of Rifle, take Highway 13 for three miles. Turn right onto Colorado 325 and drive for about nine miles. For such a beautiful little place it is easy to find and the drive up the canyon to the falls is nice. It is a two-lane road with traffic going both ways, so remember to drive responsibly and keep your eyes on the road, which twists and turns.

Rifle Falls is the perfect place to visit when you want to go someplace tropical, or are looking for a new camping spot to explore. It is family-friendly and could also be a romantic getaway for two. It is easy on the budget and is usually not crowded. Think about it the next time you are dreaming of lush green and cool water.

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