Editor column: Local trails offer lots of fun near Rifle | PostIndependent.com
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Editor column: Local trails offer lots of fun near Rifle

In the day-to-day grind, it can be easy to look past the beauty surrounding us here on Colorado’s Western Slope.

I am certainly guilty of this, and it’s nearly a guarantee my Catholic upbringing will resurface and I’ll feel the need to repent for this sin when I head back home to Cincinnati in August to see the family. Few things serve as strong a reminder to be grateful for what you have than when it’s gone.

Sorry, Cincinnati. I love you, but you’re no Colorado.



A couple weeks ago, Sam and I made the trek to Breckenridge to visit one of her friends who was in Denver. The resort town was our agreed-to meeting place in the middle.

It was an amazing day. No, not because of the food. Lunch was actually pretty bad and I can think of several pizzerias in Rifle I would rather have dinner at than the one we dined at that evening. No, it wasn’t the shopping or copious retail options lining the main drag. That all made the place feel fake, plus, it’s not like I have the money to spend.



What made the day was a roughly 9 mile hike up the Spruce Creek Trail to the upper Mohawk Lake. Words simply do not do this place justice, but I will say it is the most spectacular hike I’ve trekked in Colorado. If you’re in the area, I highly recommend it.

Of course, we do not need to travel to Breckenridge for a quality hike. And in the past month or so, I’ve learned we really do not need to leave Rifle.

About a year ago, in stating my uncomfortable feelings about the number of people at Rifle Falls State Park, I asked for local hiking suggestions. (Big thanks to Elaine for the suggested resources.)

For a number of reasons, though, I did not go out and explore much. My hikes were confined to a trip or two up to Rifle Mountain Park and a trail in the Clinetops north of New Castle.

Both are great places, and the trail in the Clinetops (Hadley Gulch Trail) is still one of my favorites because of its diversity. Veer to the left and you’re down along a creek. Veer to the right and you’re in for an intense up-hill climb with beautiful views of the cliffs.

One of my good friends, who actually showed me the lower route on this trail, scolded me for mentioning the Hadley Gulch Trail in a feature on local hikes in the area. We disagreed on whether or not such information should be broadly shared with the masses.

From my perspective, anyone with a computer can find these trails. And although I too like to see as few people as possible when out hiking, I’d be a hypocrite if a year ago I asked for suggestions and then did not share at least a couple of my finds.

So, for those of you looking for a scenic hike here locally, here are two of my favorites:

(Disclaimer: If you enjoy hiking, you’re likely already aware of these.)

Beaver Creek Trail

Located south of Rifle in the White River National Forest, this trail is nestled just off Forest District Road 824 in an area densely populated with vegetation, which is currently a lush green. No joke about the vegetation. Much of the first several miles is overgrown with waist-high plants. I’d recommend wearing pants, which should not be too uncomfortable because at 8,640 feet in elevation at the trailhead, the area is noticeably cooler than in the city.

I try to avoid describing the level of difficulty because I’ve never found those descriptions to be very accurate outside of the extreme cases. I will say I hiked a little more than 4 miles — I believe the trail is at least 5 miles — before turning around, and it never felt overwhelming physically (again, the cooler temperature actually made it quite pleasant).

My favorite aspect of this hike is the view of the high desert from a dense forest populated by aspens. It’s liking look down on an entirely different world.

Visit http://bit.ly/29lUNRN for more information.

Three Forks Trail

This one, located in the White River National Forest just beyond Rifle Mountain Park, is more heavily traveled. But that does not take away from the scenic views and pleasant sound of the creek that flows along much of the trail.

We’ve visited this spot several times and have yet to complete it, mostly due to poor planning. (Note: The road accessing the trail can be a little hairy in the rain; especially in a Toyota Camry.)

As far as the first 3 miles, the hike is not too strenuous. At several points, ankle-high water runs over the trail, so be prepared to gingerly hop from rock to rock or wear waterproof boots. At multiple points the trail enters wide-open, picturesque pastures that are perfect for a picnic.

Much like the Beaver Creek Trail, Three Forks is not the high desert setting some people might picture when thinking of the Rifle area.

Visit http://bit.ly/29i5MGt for more information.

Ryan Hoffman is editor of The Citizen Telegram. You can reach him at 970-685-2103 or at rhoffman@citizentelegram.com.


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