Whether you want to explore the areas immediately surrounding Rifle, or take a day-trip to check out the Flat Tops, Grand Mesa, or Ruedi Reservoir, Rifle is located in the center of the bulls-eye for those looking for scenic drives on Colorado’s Western Slope.
About 15-minutes from Downtown Rifle is County Road 252 which can be accessed on the west end of Rifle Gap Reservoir. The road is a well-maintained gravel road that travels north through West Rifle Creek Valley to Meeker. Piceance Creek Road (CR 253) connects travellers to Highway 13 about 12 miles north of Rifle.
The terrain along the road is a classic western landscape of sagebrush, pinyon, and juniper trees with agricultural land spread throughout. The mountains of the Grand Hogback and the Flat Tops rise to aspens and fir on both sides of the valley. This drive is known to locals as a great place to view wildlife, especially from May through October. Deer and elk are commonly seen here, especially around dawn and dusk. In addition to deer and elk, there are also moose, bear, coyotes, mountain lion, eagles, turkeys and many types of birds and small mammals.
Buford Road spans 42-miles throughout the Flat Tops section of the White River National Forest. It is a seasonal road that stretches from Buford to Rifle and is one of the most scenic drives in the entire state of Colorado. It takes about 25-minutes to access the south section of Buford Road from Downtown Rifle, and another few hours to drive over the Flat Tops into the community of Buford, just east of Meeker. The Buford Road connects with the official “Flat Tops Scenic Byway” in the town of Buford and continues east to the town of Yampa. From Buford, it takes about an hour to drive back to Rifle via Highway 13. The Flat Tops make you feel like you’re driving through a scenic postcard with mountains, valleys, lakes, and wildlife. Buford Road is closed throughout the winter months but it’s an ideal scenic drive throughout the summer and fall.
Another picturesque drive that’s within close proximity to Rifle is County Road 104 that begins in the town of Basalt, approximately 45 minutes from Rifle. The road travels 16-miles along the Fryingpan River to Ruedi Reservoir. Once at Ruedi, the road continues east into the mountains and ends at Wildcat Mountain, only a few miles west of Leadville (as the crow flies!) The colors along the Fryingpan River and throughout Ruedi and the surrounding mountains are some of the most vibrant you’ll see, especially in the fall months when the leaves turn yellow, red and orange. Make sure to bring your fly fishing gear because the Frying Pan River is known as one of the best fly fishing streams in Colorado.