J. Dawg Journeys

Two Cool Places on Colorado’s Western Slope

After leaving Fruita the Beautah and Country Jam, it was time for us to make the turn and start heading east.  We’d been in Colorado for about 5 weeks and unfortunately, it was time to start our journey home.  Instead of just blasting east on I-70 for 5 long days, I picked out a few new places along the route to explore so we could travel at a more moderate pace.

While still on Colorado’s western slope, there were two new places that I wanted to see – The Grand Mesa and Rifle Falls.  Last year, while staying in Monticello, UT, I met a fellow RVer who encouraged me to check out The Grand Mesa.  That’s the way it is with my travel planning.  I get a referral from another RVer, read a blog post about a place, or just see something interesting on a map and the place can easily get on my itinerary.

The Grand Mesa

The Grand Mesa sits just east of Grand Junction.  It’s aptly named – a giant monolith of a mesa that dominates the eastern horizon.  It’s the largest flat top mountain in the world rising to over 10,000 ft.

We’d been in the high 90’s heat for the past week and it was still with us as we drove south through desert scrub terrain on Route 50 to Delta .  At Delta, we turned northeast and started climbing the southern slope of the Grand Mesa up to the small town of Cedaredge.  As we gained elevation, we left the brown desert scrub and welcomed green meadows and trees.

We spent the night in Cedaredge at Shady Creek RV Park.  It’s just a small place in the back of a residence. But, the place is nicely maintained and the owners are very friendly and accommodating.  Cedaredge seems like a nice small town up and away from the valley floor.  It bills itself as the Gateway to the Grand Mesa.

Cedaredge

Main Street Cedaredge

From Cedaredge, my plan was to take it slow and do a scenic drive up and over the mesa and come back down near I-70.  A total of about 60 miles.  From Cedaredge, which is at 6,200 ft, we climbed steadily up to the top of the Mesa along Route 65.  It was pretty dramatic looking back over my shoulder at the valley below.  The temperature became noticeably cooler (in the mid 70’s) as we got above 9,000 ft.  The terrain also became more alpine.

Here’s a dashcam video of our drive up an over the Grand Mesa.

Much of the top of the Grand Mesa is a National Forest.  As protected land, it’s now a play ground for fishing, hiking, camping, hunting, off-roading, and snowmobiling.

We stopped at the Visitor Center managed by the USDA.  Here you can info on camping and hiking trails.  The Mesa is loaded with over 200 lakes.  It’s a trout fisherman’s paradise.  While we were at the visitor center the nearby lake was being stocked with 2,000 rainbow trout.

With all the woods and water, it’s also a mosquito breeding paradise.  There are several National Forest campgrounds on the top of the mesa.  These are primitive type campsites not well suited for large RV’s.

Here’s some pictures.

Grand Mesa

Lake by the Visitor Center

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The Grand Mesa is a cool place to get away from the desert heat down by the Colorado River.  Route 65 over the Mesa is a nice scenic drive.  Just make sure to bring bug spray if you plan to stop during the spring or summer.

Rifle Falls

The next cool spot that I wanted to check out was Rifle Falls State Park.  Rifle Falls is about 65 miles east of Grand Junction on I-70. Once off the highway at Rifle, the falls is just another 16 miles north of I-70.  The key attraction is the 80 foot triple falls.  It’s billed as one of Colorado’s best water falls.  I had seen some pictures and want to see it first hand.

Rifle Falls State Park is a very small state park,  There is a small 13 site campground and some hiking trails in and around the falls.  We decided to stay at the much larger Rifle Gap State Park which is just 8 miles south of the falls.  Rifle Gap sits on the north side of Rifle reservoir.  Like all the Colorado state parks, it’s a nice picturesque place to camp.  The are 4 camping areas, a marina, and swim beach.

Rifle Resevoir

Rifle Reservoir

Riffle Gap State Park

Campsite at Rifle Gap State Park.  A spectacular “fire on the mountain” sunset.

We drove up to Rifle Falls one morning to visit.  Parking is very limited for cars and it’s even more limited to large vehicles.  The park attendant was gracious to let me park my RV in an open campsite.

The lack of parking limits the number of people who can visit the falls.  It’s a intimate setting and you can get right up close to the falls.

Here are some pictures of the falls.

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Rifle Falls

While at the falls, I happened to meet a lady fly fishing in the stream below the falls.  The stream was full of trout that I could see in the water, but few were biting.  I was once a serious fly fisherman and had all the gear.  But this lady just had an old antique bamboo pole.  There were no hip waders, no fishing vest, no net, and no hat for this angler.  But, in my opinion, she was wearing one of the Best Fly Fishing Outfits.  How many people go fly fishing wearing a  dress?

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Rifle Falls is another cool spot to visit.  As I was standing near the falls, I found it easy to get soaked from the cool mist.

We spent two days at Rifle Gap State Park and then continued our easterly trek towards our next stop at Granby.

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