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  • Meagan Butler

Hanging Lake and Rifle Gap State Park

Rifle Gap, Rifle Gap State Park, State Park, Camping, RV, T@B

Rifle Gap State Park

At the end of summer, I wanted to hike Hanging Lake near Glenwood Springs before the weather turned cold. This hike is one of Colorado’s most popular hikes. The hike is so desirable, it is almost impossible to go on a weekend because the parking lot and trail can’t handle the high volume of traffic. Because of the popularity, I knew that going on a weekend was out of the question. I’ve had friends drive to Glenwood just to do the hike, and they’ve been stopped at the entrance and told to turn around because of a full parking lot. I knew that if I drove four hours and was told to turn around, I’d lose my mind, so I decided to plan a trip where I could camp and hike. 

hanging lake, Colorado, Glenwood Springs, Hanging Lake, Hike

I got the itch to do the hike a few days before Labor Day. In Colorado, Labor Day is usually the last weekend to camp. After Labor Day, RV parks close and camping becomes a little dicier because it can snow or freeze after this point in the year. Since it was Labor Day, I knew that getting a campsite would be impossible. I decided to take my camper to my cabin in Como for the long weekend, and instead of going back to Denver with the family, I’d head the opposite direction and camp near Glenwood. This was brilliance on my part because the traffic was terrible heading toward the city and it was quiet and easy heading west.

Because I was feeling adventurous, I decided to stay at a Colorado State Park campground. Since I travel alone a lot, I tend to camp in places where I feel secure. Private campgrounds offer me that security, so I’ve never looked to camp outside of private campgrounds. While I was not ready to boondock alone, I knew that I could try a public campground with full hookups. I found an available site at Rifle Gap State Park. The park was almost completely empty since everyone was leaving on Labor Day, so I had my pick of the camping spots.

Park Rating (1-5)

This was my first time staying at a state park. For a state park, I rate this park a 5. There wasn’t anything (in the park’s control) that I didn’t like about my stay here.

Rifle Gap State Park

Rifle Gap State Park is located on the Rifle Gap Reservoir behind the Grand Hogback. The park is about a fifteen-minute drive from the town of Rifle, Colorado.

Seasonal or Year-Round Camping

The campground is year round. Reservations can be made online between May 1- October 31. If you want to camp outside of these dates, it is first-come, first-served basis. 

Cost: Electric Site: $24.00 per night

Parking: 7 dollars per vehicle per day

My Travel Dates: September 4-7 2017

Which RV did I take?

I towed my 2016 T@B 320 S Outback. The T@B is a single-axle, 15-foot long teardrop-style camper. The total length of the camper is about 17 feet when considering the additional length of the trailer.

T@B, Rifle Gap, State Park, Colorado State Park Campground, Camping

Spaces/ Facilities / Amenities

Rifle Gap State Park has 89 camping sites. Some campgrounds have full hookups and other campgrounds have basic or electric-only hookups. I stayed in the Cottonwood Campground because it was close to the water and it had a shower and toilet within walking distance of my camper. When I take my T@B, I like to be near showers since I don’t shower inside my camper. I stayed in site #7 which had a clear view of the reservoir. This is a back-in site and offers water and electricity only.

Note. I am an idiot when it comes to backing in my camper. I always stay in pull-through sites if I can help it. I really struggled to get my camper in its spot. The lightweight camper isn’t easy to back in and let’s be honest, I don’t know how to do it without help. I struggled for a good half an hour. People just looked at me and went on their way. Finally, a nice couple a few sites over came to my rescue and helped me back in. I’m not proud that I can’t back up my camper. It’s on my to-do list this summer. I figure in the grand scheme of things, I can do a lot with my RV, so the things that I can’t do yet are just works in progress. 

Rifle Gap State Park. Rifle Gap Reservoir, Camping, Colorado State Park, T@B

Bathrooms / Shower / Laundry

Right behind my space within a three-minute walk are the bathrooms and shower houses. The bathrooms and pay showers are CLEAN.

Wifi and Cable

There aren’t any services in this park. In fact, I didn’t even have a cell phone signal. I had to unhook and drive to the Sonic in Rifle to get a cell phone signal, and I had to eat McDonald’s if I needed wifi. For some people, being off the grid is ideal. For me, a solo RVer, I was uncomfortable not having my phone or computer work. My husband always checks in with me when I travel. We have a deal that I call him when I get to my space for the night, and I check in periodically. It’s the safe thing to do. Since I didn’t have a way to communicate with him, I ended up drinking a lot of Sonic sodas that week.


The office is small. It’s really a facility to pay fees and learn about the creatures that inhabit the area. A park ranger runs the station, and she is there to help you with any questions you might have while staying at the park.

I went into the office to ask about the cell service. I wanted to know how far I had to drive to get a reliable signal. While waiting to talk to the ranger, I saw stuffed rattle snakes hanging on the wall. Yes, these creatures are native to the area, and yes I knew they might be hanging around. But because I saw these snakes on the wall, I became paranoid about walking to and from the restroom, especially at night. Yes, that’s the second thing I’ve admitted that I am not proud of on this post. Let’s face it. I am a girl. There are things I’ll always freak out about. Snakes are one thing I will never like.

Other Information (road noise, etc.)

This park is quiet. Once the sun set and the day-use people left, it was silent. I was one of two RVs in the campground, and there was a couple camping in a tent in the site next to me. This quiet added to my fear about being alone in an area where I didn’t have a cell phone signal. I ended up hanging out in my camper a lot. Besides feeling weird about the isolation, there was a pretty bad fire burning in the area. The air became hot and smokey, and my RV was cool and smoke-free.

The day I went to hike Hanging Lake, I took full-advantage of Glenwood Springs. After hiking, I went to Iron Mountain Hot Springs and spent the day soaking in the pools and using the facilities. I ate lunch, used the wifi, and showered. Since I felt weird alone at my campsite, hiking and soaking got my mind off the feeling of isolation.

Would I go back and stay at Rifle State Park again? Yes. The next time I will bring the GPS device that will allow me to text, or I’ll take someone with me! Rifle Gap is the perfect spot to stay on an reservoir or to stay if you don’t want to stay in the city of Glenwood Springs. Hanging Lake and Iron Mountain Springs are two places I would like to visit again, so I know I’ll be back!

Glenwood Canyon, Colorado, Hanging Lake


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