Independence Pass to Rifle Falls and return to Denver

Published: July 4th 2013
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Independence pass to Rifle and then back to Denver

Independence Pass RoadIndependence Pass RoadIndependence Pass Road

Independence Pass Road looking east from an overlook
25 June 2013 – Tuesday – It was a bit brisk when I got up this morning and as I load up everything in my truck before I retire in the evening it didn’t take me long to get going up the pass again. The climb became steeper with many switchbacks but the views from higher up were awesome. I stopped several times to savor the views. When I got closer to the top I was thinking about how hard this was on my truck but I was committed and the possibility of ever turning back never entered my mind. So eventually as in all my climbs I reached the top of Independence pass at 12,095 ft. Although it was late June the ponds up here were frozen and the surrounding mountains had snow on them. As usual it was cold with a brisk wind, and as usual there were the same stupid tourist in shorts and T-shirts freezing as they climbed up to the lookout. It would seem that they would at least have sense enough to put a jacket in the trunk of their cars….I guess not.

In any case I hiked up to the top of the lookout and it really wasn’t worth it. The views on the way up from the various turnouts had been much better.

After checking out the summit a bit, I headed down the Western side of Independence Pass. The road on this side was much narrower and had sharper turns calling for slower speeds. I of course was going the posted speed limit which annoyed the heck out of people in little cars behind me so I pulled over on turnouts when I could safely do so and could slow down enough to not knock my front end out of alignment on the turnouts.

In any case the ride back down was more a matter of keeping my speeds down to a safe speed for the curves and hoping my brakes held up. I did put my transmission in “Drive” instead of “Overdrive” so that the transmission would hel me keep my speed down.

I continued down the pass and passed several National Forest campgrounds on the way. One that I wanted to check out was the “Lincoln Gulch” campground which was supposed to have a waterfall next to it. So when I got to the turnoff to the campground I took it. The sign said 4 wheel drive recommended for the road. I have 4 wheel drive on my truck but actually figured that it wouldn’t be needed for the short distance to the campground which turned out to be correct. So I headed down the road and luckily did not meet anyone as it was very narrow with a rock cliff on one side and a cliff going down to the rapids on the other. There were wider places for meeting vehicles but not much wider.

So I got to the campgrounds and looked around and checked it out for future reference and checked out the waterfall a bit.

After checking out the campground I continued down the pass and into Aspen. Aspen was a bit upscale for my taste so I just slow rolled through it. I had intended to go out to the “Maroon Bells” but I had read on the internet that I would have to take a shuttle to it now. So I passed on them. I have been to them before when I could still drive to them.

As I approached Glenwood Springs the surrounding cliffs along the road had a reddish tint which made them quite picturesque.

I arrived at Glenwood Springs at exactly the wrong time which was 12 Noon. I had intended to eat while I was there but everywhere was too crowded for my taste right now. So I drove around the town for 40 minutes of so checking things out again, and getting my gas tank refilled. At about 1PM I went to the Taco Bell and got an Enchireto and a Burrito Supreme with No lettuce so as to put something in the hole.

Then I drove West on I-70 towards Rifle. When I got to Rifle I stopped at the MacDonalds to get on the Internet. I walked all around the place but the only table that had an electric plug was in the kiddy play section, so I set up my computer there, and hoped I didn’t look like a child molester or something.

I put on my earphones and blocked out the noise while checking out a few things and sending some e-mails home.

After a bit I headed out of Rifle on Hwy 13 and a few miles north of town headed off on
climb up to the observation deckclimb up to the observation deckclimb up to the observation deck

The climb up to the observation deck at 12,095 feet wasn't worth it. The views from turnouts coming up were much better.
Hwy 325 towards Rifle Gap, and Rifle Falls State parks. In a bit I passed Rifle Gap Resorvoir which had an unusual but beautiful turquoise color. Rifle Gap State Park was beside it. After stopping at a lookout to admire the lake a bit I continue up the road towards Rifle Falls State Park.

When I got there I rented one of the two remaining campsites. It was site 12 and had a tree shading the picnic area and so I rented the site for $22. That’s a bit steep but was so high because it had electricity. I noticed that #13 next to me had a tent set up with all kinds of stuff in it and around it. This was a bad sign but with only two sites left…….oh well.

So after setting my usual low value items on the table at the campsite to show it was taken, I walked up to the waterfall.

The Falls were quite impressive and I spent quite a bit of time savoring the experience before walking back to my campground.

My neighbors in #13 came back in and the man had a backpack with a baby in it. I guess they had been hiking a bit. They seemed to be very nice people and we exchanged the usual pleasantries and then after a bit I drove up the hill to the Fish Hatchery. I got there at 4:30 and there was a sign saying they closed at 4:00 but I noticed other people milling about and so went in through the gate. Nobody ever came out or paid me any mind so I looked over the fish in the various tanks for a bit and then drove back down the hill. Most of the fish were small but they had some massive ones in some of the smaller portions of the tanks.

After I got back to my campsite I backed in and set up my camp for the evening, and ate my dinner.

After a bit my neighbor in #13 started a campfire in the fire pit. I was surprised that in view of all the fires in Colorado lately that they had been allowing campfires but they were allowing them in firepits. He must have been using green wood because although it started burning it smoked quite a bit. Thankfully the wind was
Lincoln Gulch roadLincoln Gulch roadLincoln Gulch road

The road to Lincoln Gulch Campground and beyond. As usual once I get on one of these roads I am committed. There is no room to turn around.
blowing away from my campsite. Unfortunately their baby must have kept getting smoke in her eyes because she started crying and crying, and crying and crying. After about 2 hours of this I had all I could take and tossed all the stuff I had out back into my truck and left. This really sucked because I couldn’t put up with a baby that kept on screaming, but on the other had I couldn’t blame the baby because it only knew it was hurting or its eyes hurt….so there it was.

So I just took the loss on my $22 campsite and left and headed back to Denver.

It was getting dark by now and as I passed East of Glenwood Springs it was dark and I really hated that because this section of Glenwood Canyon was one of the most scenic sections of Colorado that could be driven through. Very scenic. So that sucked too.

In any case I just soldiered on and aside for a couple of pit stops for coffee and gas kept on going till I got back to Denver.

All in all it had been a good trip : )

Additional photos below
Photos: 15, Displayed: 15


Rifle Gap ReservoirRifle Gap Reservoir
Rifle Gap Reservoir

Rifle Gap Reservoir was an unusual turquoise color. There was camping at Rifle Gap State Park next to it.
My campsite at Rifle Falls State ParkMy campsite at Rifle Falls State Park
My campsite at Rifle Falls State Park

My campground was nice but a bit pricey at $22 a night because it had electricity.

4th July 2013

Wow, big trout
Great photo!
22nd July 2013

Rifle Falls
I stayed at Rifle Falls a couple of years ago and really liked it. I parked on the creek side, explored the open caves and hiked to the top of the falls. So sorry a crying baby ruined your stay. I almost had the place to myself! I like the state parks, but do find them on the high side money wise.
22nd July 2013

Rifle Falls
Yes, Rifle Falls was nice but as you say a tad pricey, especially as I had to leave early. I did get a Colorado State Parks Pass when I came to Denver a couple of months ago and it helps that the pass takes care of admission fees. Also it is so much a simpler process getting into state parks as all they do is glance at my sticker on the windshield and usually wave me by people paying as they go. One thing that really helps in staying at NFS campgrounds and National Park campgrounds is the America The Beautiful Senior Pass. I hope you have one. If an American citizen is 62 or older it only cost $10 and is good for life. It gives free admission into National Parks, and National forest day use areas and usually a 50% discount on camping fees. I have stayed at several NFS campgrounds and they are well maintained and safe and very reasonable. For example Meadows Campground outside of Steamboat Springs only cost me $5.00 a night.
22nd July 2013

State parks and NFS campsites
I do have the Senior pass to Nat'l Parks, etc and use them often. They are also good for half price at Corps of Engineer Campgrounds and some of those are spectacular!
23rd July 2013

Kudos to you
Good. We have earned a little consideration after a long and productive life. And we are taking the time to enjoy the rest.

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