Rifle, Colorado: Easy on the budget

Rifle Falls State Park
Rifle Falls State Park

Emerging from Glenwood Canyon, driving through yet another CDOT construction project we motored past the Hot Springs pool and kept going. I could almost smell the chlorine and sunscreen from the shiny bodies I saw through the fence as we passed by. This time our destination was not Glenwood Springs, but its closest neighbor, Rifle.

Glenwood Springs neighbor

Rifle, Colorado is about 30 miles west of Glenwood Springs along I-70. That puts it about 5 hours’ drive west of Denver. Earlier in the week, we had contemplated visiting Glenwood again, but lack of reasonable hotel rates for the summer weekend led us a bit further away. We decided it was time to visit Rifle – normally just a rest stop along I-70 for these weary travelers.

When one thinks of Rifle, Colorado what comes to mind are shoot’em up old westerns with slightly grubby cowboys snapping matches to flame for hand-rolled cigarettes, lots of cows, and bars serving whiskey. Downtown Rifle is actually quite updated, with a few relics of its old West past. However, as a nod to its name, visit the Shooter’s Grill on East 3rd Street. The wait staff carry weapons along with your burger and fries.


A local hangout


Our very nice room in Rifle was under $100 per night, including a delicious breakfast. Lucky for us, our hotel was right across the street from the Sonic, where everyone was hanging out in the early evening when we arrived. A little ice cream really helps to top off a long drive in the mountains. The next day we would play the Rifle Creek Golf Course for a very reasonable rate. We were intrigued.

Rifle Creek Golf Course

Rifle Creek Golf Course
Rifle Creek Golf Course Hole #2

RifleCreek (1 of 1)-2

Rifle Creek Golf Course
Rifle Creek Golf Course
Rifle Creek Golf Course
Rifle Creek Golf Course

We showed up the next morning, ready to hit the links. The staff at the Pro Shop were very nice, and since we’d paid earlier through GolfNow at about a 40% discount, we were ready to go. The greens fees here are very reasonable, even if you don’t get a discount at $33 for 18 holes during the week. It was a Thursday morning, and we were playing mid-morning as a twosome.

This is a great course to play, even for a high-handicapper. It’s got some beautiful views, particularly from the back 9. The course really fits well into natural landscape of the Hogback Range. We had a blast, and decided that we wanted to come back and play again.

Rifle Falls State Park

Rifle Falls
Rifle Falls

Golf isn’t the only activity we found around Rifle. Rifle Falls State Park is a well-known in the area, and everyone we met asked if we’d been there. The park is easy to find, and visiting Rifle Falls is an easy walk. Visitors can explore the caves beneath the Falls if you like dark and spooky places, complete with bats. Folks can also walk up to the top of the Falls and look out over the park, with the roar of the water in their ears. The campground seemed very full the weekend we were there, so you might need to make reservations if you want to stay.

Rifle Gap State Park

We took a drive to Rifle Gap State Park, not far from Rifle Falls. This beautiful reservoir was being enjoyed by water-skiers, visitors on jet skis, fishermen, and boats just puttering lazily around the reservoir. There was plenty of room for everyone and for a Friday, didn’t look that busy.  There’s a campground not far from the beach that didn’t look too full on this Friday afternoon. But again, I’d check and make reservations if you want to stay the weekend.

Rifle Gap State Park
Rifle Gap State Park

The Rifle Arch

Before we set off back to Denver, we scouted out the Rifle Arch trail. This hike starts out pretty tame, and quickly advances into a steep climb. Once you get to the top, it levels out again. You can see the Arch from the trail early on, the trail ending just below the Arch. You can hike through the boulder field to get up to the Arch if you have the energy. As you hike, be sure to take in the views of the Grand Mesa and the Hogback Range.

The Rifle Arch
The Rifle Arch

The hike took us about 2 hours round trip. Take water and snacks and decent hiking footwear. There are no amenities along this trail and some steep inclines. We did see families with small children hiking the trail though I’m not sure I’d bring children under the age of eight on this hike.

Find the trail by driving north on Highway 13 out of Rifle. The trailhead is on the east side of the road several miles outside of town. For more information on hiking in the Rifle area, including the Grand Mesa and the White River National Forest, visit the Rifle Information Center, 200 Lions Park Circle, Rifle, Colorado.


A surprising number of activities


Rifle really surprised us. We have traveled through and past Rifle over the past twenty years, often stopping at the rest stop but never venturing further. For those folks that prefer fewer crowds and less chlorine, plan to spend some time discovering this old West town and the surrounding area. I’m sure you’ll be surprised at the number of activities you can find to keep the family busy as well.

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