Rifle Falls State Park

Rifle Falls State Park is located on CO State Hwy 325 about 14 miles north of the town of Rifle. This is a very scenic little park (48 acres) with a triple waterfall as its centerpiece. The Park is always lush and green because of the continuous supply of water in the form of mist from the waterfalls. It's a popular spot for picnics, weddings, events, and of course photographers. That's my poor excuse for including so many photos of the falls.

Rifle Falls

Rifle Falls

Base of Rifle Falls

Alcove behind Falls

Side View

Alcove behind falls

Rifle Falls

Rifle Falls

Rifle Falls

A Little History

James Watson homesteaded the land in 1884 and charged people 25 cents to visit the falls and caves. In 1890 Allen Zerbe purchased the property. He built the Rifle Falls Hotel upstream from the falls that opened in 1903 and burned down in 1923. On a more practical note, the Grass Valley Ditch (Canal) was completed in 1892 to carry irrigation water from the falls to the Harvey Gap Reservoir. The gate and spillway in the first photo below diverts water into the the irrigation ditch. In 1909, a hydroelectric power plant was built on-site to provide power to the town of Rifle, which it did for 50 years.

East Rifle Creek
(Gate and spillway in background)

Part of the Grass Valley Ditch

The irrigation water flows through this tunnel

Ruins of the old power plant

The Amphitheater sits on the site
of the old power plant

Large pipe that provided water
to the hydroelectric power plant

Limestone Caves

The limestone below the falls is riddled with caves, so if you're a spelunker bring your gear. Or not, the caves are pretty small.

Cave information

Limestone Cave

Limestone Cave

Limestone Cave

Limestone Formations

One of the larger caves

Above the Falls

Pond above the Falls

Red Winged Blackbird
(Agelaius phoeniceus)

Canada Goose
(Branta canadensis)

View of East Rifle Creek from above the falls

Creek above the falls

Rifle Falls from Above


There are three nice trails at Rifle Falls State Park: Bobcat, Coyote, and Squirrel trails. Bobcat is fairly new and I have not hiked it. It leads to the Rifle Falls State Fish Hatchery. I'll do it next time. Coyote Trail is about 1.5 miles and moderate (I would say easy although it involves a little climbing). It circumnavigates the falls, starting at base of the falls, climbing past the limestone caves on the right, crossing the falls on a series of catwalks, then descending down back to the base of the falls. Along the way you can explore the caves and get great views both from above and below the falls. The Squirrel Trail starts at the end of the walk-in campsites, follows East Rifle Creek climbing a little way up the canyon, and ends at the falls parking lot. You can also reverse the hike starting at the parking lot, which I like better. The trail is 1.5 miles and rated as moderate.

Near the Coyote trailhead

Gnarly tree along Coyote Trail

Catwalks along Coyote Trail

Bridge on Squirrel Trail

Part of Squirrel Trail
(the stairs were closed off)

Squirrel trail along Grass Valley Ditch
Stephanie and Charlie


Rifle Falls State Park has 13 drive-in and seven walk-in campsites. The park provides hand carts for lugging your gear to the walk-in sites. The drive-in sites are mostly for RVs and trailers and many have electric hookups. Some are drive-through. I strongly suggest making reservations because of the popularity of the park. I have both tent camped (site #20) and taken my little travel trailer (site #9).

Campsite #20

East Rifle Creek behind campsite

Campsite #9

Rifle Gap State Park

Rifle Gap State Park is 4.5 miles south of Rifle Falls on CO Hwy 325. It has a nice visitor center with information and displays about the area. The park is built around a 360-acre reservoir with opportunities for boating, fishing, swimming, and hiking. The reservoir looked like it was only about half full the last time I was there, like most other lakes and reservoirs in Colorado (keep praying for rain).

Visitor Center

Reservoir at Rifle Gap

Rifle Gap Reservoir

Everything Aquatic

Fun on the water

Tow behind

Toys for rent?

Fishing Boats


Rifle Gap State Park has 80+ campsites spread over 4 campgrounds (Cedar, Lakeview, Pinon, and Sage) that have different amenities. Lakeview has full RV hookups, Cedar has electricity, and Pinon and Sage have only basic campsites. I stayed in campsite 63 at Cedar Campground my last visit. It's a pull-through with electric hookup.

Campsite in Pinon Campground

Tent camping at Pinon

My little Scamp

Cedar Campground

Vault toilet, bathroom with shower, dumpsters
Cedar Campground

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