Why camp here? The 350-acre reservoir is a big draw as one of the few options for power boating, sailing, jet skiing, windsurfing and water skiing in the region. Anglers come to catch rainbow and German brown trout, walleye, pike, smallmouth and largemouth bass and yellow perch. There’s also a swimming area with a sandy beach and volleyball court, plus trails for hiking and access to BLM trails. The park is surrounded by undeveloped, green mountainsides and is a great place to watch wildlife on Colorado’s Western Slope.
How is it? Like most of the Colorado State Parks we’ve visited, Rifle Gap is well-maintained and has large, clean bathroom and shower facilities. Rifle Gap State Park has five campgrounds — Cottonwood, Lakeview, Cedar, Sage and Pinyon — providing 89 campsites. They’re open all year, but only reservable from May 1 through Oct. 31. Options range from hike-in tent sites tucked away in the trees to large, paved pull-throughs easily big enough for our fifth-wheel toyhauler and pickup.
We camped in the Lakeview Campground, which is just a few years old and sits on top of the hill with a spectacular view of the reservoir and the mountainside. It includes paved RV sites and walk-in tent sites. The RV sites can accommodate tents, small trailers, large motor homes and pickup campers with pull-through sites and back-in sites. Many of the sites have a shaded picnic table and fire ring in a pea-graveled patio area that keeps the mud to a minimum, plus full hook-ups. We enjoyed watching the sun set from around the campfire.
OHV enthusiasts, including our family, enjoy the sites in the Sage Campground because you can access Colorado Parks and Wildlife and Bureau of Land Management trails right from the campsite. Cottonwood Campground sits on the water’s edge, and can accommodate tents, small trailers, large motor homes and pickup campers. Cedar Campground sits up on the hill along the water’s edge, and can accommodate tents, small trailers, large motor homes and pickup campers with pull-through sites and back-in sites. Pinyon Campground sits up on the hill overlooking the water, and is nestled within pinion and juniper trees, providing some privacy. Campsites are basic and can accommodate tents, small trailers, and pickup campers with pull-through and back-in sites.
Other amenities: There’s a dump station for registered campers, which is always a plus, along with nature trails, a boat ramp and day-use and group picnic sites.
Connectivity: We did not have wifi. AT&T coverage was just strong enough to randomly receive texts and emails, but not strong enough to make calls or to surf the web. There’s better coverage closer to the boat ramp. Verizon is supposed to work better here.
Fun fact: Wondering why Rifle Gap sounds familiar? In August 1972, artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude unfurled a 250,000-square-foot orange “Valley Curtain” across the 1,250-foot-wide Rifle Gap, where it rippled over Colorado 325 north of Rifle for about 27 hours before shredding in high winds. (Read more in The Denver Post.)
Would we camp here again? Absolutely!
What’s nearby? Harvey Gap State Park , Rifle Falls State Park and the Rifle Creek Golf Course are all just a few minutes away. I recommend a trip to Rifle Falls to see the triple waterfall. There are some small caves to explore and a trail that leads up to the top of the falls. Glenwood Springs is about 40 minutes to the east. Grand Junction is a little more than an hour to the west.
Heads up: The reservoir was created to supply water for agriculture. Depending on the time of year and the amount of precipitation received the previous winter, the water levels sometimes drop off and the boat ramp and swimming beach close.
Getting there: Take exit 90 from I-70 and head north; follow the signs for Highway 13. There’s a bypass or you can drive through downtown Rifle and scope out the shops and restaurants on your way to the campground. (Rifle boasts the newest multiplex theater in the area.) Then turn east (right) on Highway 325. You’ll drive by the golf course as you head towards the gap in the rocks for which the park is named, then along the dam. You’ll see signs for the entrance on your left.