Trail Exploration: Rifle Falls |

Trail Exploration: Rifle Falls

The three waterfalls that make up Rifle Falls. | Cody Jones/Post Independent

When people set off on the trails at Rifle Falls, they are suddenly transported into a state of childlike wonder. Not only is it shocking to see three fast-flowing, 70-foot waterfalls in the often searing heat of the Western Slope, but it is also not every day that one gets to explore several limestone caves, as if you were on a wilderness television show.

The Rifle Falls trails start off with a paved trail that goes pretty much right up to the dirt path after a few minutes of walking. The short walk to the main attraction is convenient as it allows for many people, regardless of ability, to see the falls.

Start of the dirt section of the trail leading past the caves.
Cody Jones/Post Independent

After the waterfall section of the trail, hikers can go left or right; both lead back to the main waterfall area. Turning to the right, the trail goes from paved to a wide, dirt trail that leads to several of the caves. The caves were one of the most enjoyable parts of the hike. It was both exhilarating and eerie to step into the considerably deep caverns. I’d recommend that you bring some type of flashlight if you plan on exploring these natural caves, as they get quite dark.

From the caves, the trail leads up toward the top of the waterfall. The trail is mostly gradual as it climbs maybe 100 feet to the top. At the top there are multiple spots where a paved, enclosed path allows for photos of the waterfalls from the top. The spots also affords a view of the surrounding area, which was a beautiful shade of green from all of the rain the area has gotten in the last few weeks.

Some of the cave openings along the trail.
Cody Jones/Post Independent

The trail then leads back down to the bottom of the falls. There are a few steep staircases that could be a little hazardous for some, but there are handrails on one side to help ease the journey back down.

At the very bottom, hikers can get behind the falls and feel the mist as the water crashes down on the rocks below. The area also serves as a good opportunity for a photo or two before heading back to the beginning of the trailhead.

If you plan to go on the hike, keep in mind that Rifle Falls State Park does charge an entry fee into the park. For a day pass, it is a $9 fee payable with cash or card. The parking lot is also limited near the falls, so it is recommended to go early in the morning, when the park opens at 7 a.m., or late in the afternoon.

Trail Facts

Rifle Falls from observation point. | Cody Jones/ Post Independent

How to get there: From Glenwood Springs head west on Interstate 70. Take exit 90 toward Rifle and proceed north on Colorado Highway 13. Continue on Colorado Highway 13 until it intersects with Colorado Highway 325. Keep going north until you see the Rifle Falls State Park sign and parking lot to your right.

Length: 1.8 mile loop

Highlights: waterfall, caves, wide gravel path

Help us highlight our trails

This is a weekly series on hikes and bike rides throughout Garfield County that are easily accessible and can be done in roughly an hour or less. Have a trail you think we should highlight? Email reporting intern Cody Jones at

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