We’ve always been impressed by ice sculptors—there’s real poetry in putting that much work into something that will eventually become a puddle.
But no dude with an ice pick can compare to mother nature, whose best work is on display December–March along the cliffs of Rifle Mountain Park.
In summer, the park’s overhanging canyon walls make it a world-renowned rock climbing destination. But before the rock rats came, the towering ice pillars that formed in the canyon drew ice climbers and onlookers alike.
The park’s 7,000-foot elevation and steep walls subject it extreme temperature variations over just a matter of hours. That creates the perfect freeze-thaw conditions for beautiful, blue, consistent pillars of ice.
The park’s best ice viewing hike is the .7-mile Koper Trail. It starts at the first trailhead visitors see after entering the park, and follows the canyon walls to a stunning ice cave. Signs along the way mark turnoffs to a higher set of caves.
If you go: Rifle Mountain Park is 15 miles north of town and 3.5 hours from Denver. Exit I-70 at Rifle, exit 90, and drive north on the main road through town. Continue on as it becomes Route 13. Turn on CO-325 after two miles. Pass Rifle Gap Reservoir and Rifle Falls State Park.
The road eventually dead ends and a sharp left will turn into gravel and the entrance to the park. Since the park is owned by the city, the entrance fee is only $5.