Play it cool at one of Colorado’s waterfalls

By Linda DuVal

Colorado Explorer
Rifle Falls. © Carrie Patrick/AAA Colorado

Not far from Interstate 70, about 14 miles north of Rifle, there’s a stunning sight. Rifle Falls is the gem of Rifle Falls State Park, shimmering in the morning light, sparkling with miniature rainbows. Three distinct waterfalls shoot out of the side of the cliff, merging into a lushly lined pool below.

Who knew? Not a couple from Aurora, who took the side trip on a whim on their way to Grand Junction for the weekend. Not a photographer from Littleton who found it on the Internet by accident.

It’s one of those places where you just sit and stare at the unexpected loveliness of this damp oasis in northwestern Colorado.

Your first clue that there’s something special at the end of the road is broad green fields with grazing horses—a pastoral scene worth photographing. Then you might run into a flock of wild turkeys wandering around on the road, flanked by a couple of deer grazing alongside it.

Once there, visitors also can hike up and over the falls, passing rough limestone caves on the way. It’s a tiny paradise and one of the most accessible falls in Colorado.

What a great place to cool off on a hot summer’s day! But it’s not the only place.

In Ouray, the Box Canyon Falls are hard to see, but they’ll drench you with a fine misty spray that takes your breath away, if you get close enough. The town now charges a small fee to hike up there, but consider it money well spent. When you turn around to come down, you can see the long silver thread of Cascade Falls across the valley.

In Telluride, the Bridal Veil Falls plunge 365 feet into a box canyon–and you can see it from the rough road that extends slightly beyond town. Or you can hike the area and get a closer look. See the house at the top of the falls? It was built as part of the Bridal Veil Power Plant nearly a century ago, then stood vacant for some years before being restored by a local resident, who lives there with his family in the summer.

(Actually, there are several Bridal Veil Falls in Colorado—all smaller than this one. One’s in Rocky Mountain National Park, one’s near Glenwood Springs, and one’s near Colorado Springs.)

In Steamboat Springs, be sure to visit Fish Creek Falls, easily accessible and a great spot to cool off on a summer day. You’ll take a short hike from the parking lot to the falls, where a fine spray will melt away the day’s heat. Watch for butterflies; they’re everywhere!

In fact, wildlife of all kinds might be attracted to water—so keep a sharp lookout and your camera ready.

There are so many others, from small Helen Hunt Falls in Colorado Springs to the secluded Zapata Falls near the Great Sand Dunes. Do a little exploring on your own. And whatever you find, wherever you hike, take a moment and just cool it.

Around the state


When hiking the Santa Fe Trail, take a moment to stop at the Madonna of the Trail statue at the train station in Lamar. It was erected by the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1928 to honor the pioneer women who traversed the trail in covered wagons. 719-336-3483.

If you happen to be in Gunnison for Cattlemen’s Days (July 9–18), let Tenderfoot Outfitters give you a real taste of the West. They offer trail rides, horse packing trips, high alpine fishing excursions, tent-and-breakfast trips and horseback hunts. 800-641-0504,

Mountain biking looks like such fun! If you want to learn, head to Breckenridge for Breck Bike Week, July 5–11, when there will be lots of “learn to ride” opportunities and someone to steer you to the beginner trails around town. 877-593-5260.

Need a laugh? Next time you’re in northeastern Colorado, stop by Grandpa Jerry’s Clown Museum in Arriba (near Sterling). What started as a small, personal obsession has become a bona fide museum that includes 3,000 pieces—clown music boxes, cookie jars, banks, tea sets, whiskey decanters and coffee cups. Don’t miss the clown made from a hairball that came from a cow’s stomach! Open daily in summer. 719-768-3257.

Summertime means lots of folks head to Glenwood Springs. While there, be sure to check out the Spa of the Rockies, a holistic wellness center that uses all natural products. This place will rub you the right way! Call for appointments. 970-947-3331.

Celebrate the history of mining in Colorado at the annual Boom Days Celebration, Aug. 6–8 in Leadville. There’ll be contests of mining skill, a gun show, softball tournament, street fair and live entertainment. A motorcycle rodeo kicks things off on Friday. On Saturday, there’s a parade, car show, 1880s costume mosey and kids’ activities. The 21-mile International Pack Burro Race happens Sunday. 888-532-3845.


It’s small, but has a big reputation. Victoria’s Tiny Tea Room in Eaton serves breakfast/brunch teas, cream teas, afternoon teas, high teas and royal teas, all at reasonable prices. The quaint shop is in a fully restored 1927 house. You’ll need a reservation. 970-454-1516.

Seeking the better burger? If you haven’t tried Larkburger, a Vail Valley-based gourmet burger bar, consider these interesting options: a tuna burger with wasabi-ginger sauce or a Tillamook grilled cheese sandwich for adults. Don’t forget the truffle fries! They have locations in Edwards, Boulder, and the Denver Tech Center. Check them out at


Golden Gate Canyon State Park is just west of Denver, but it might feel like the wilds of Mongolia if you stay in one of their yurts. They also have cabins and campgrounds, all with access to showers and toilets. So if you want to get away for a night, try this place. Reservations required. 800-678-2267 or 303-470-1144.

The Peck House, once a stagecoach stop in Empire, is one of the oldest hotels in Colorado. Established in 1862, it still has some original furnishings, hauled there by ox cart. Its location puts it close to historic Georgetown, Blackhawk and Central City—but it’s way quieter than the latter two! It reportedly has a great restaurant, to boot. 303-569-9870.


Colorado Springs now has two flea markets. The well established Colorado Springs Flea Market has been around for 30 years and has as many as 500 vendors each weekend. The Spot just opened and has about 50 vendors so far. It’s smaller, but there’s not as much walking to do! 719-321-9152 for The Spot;

Linda DuVal is a freelance writer and former travel editor in Colorado Springs.

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