Rifle Arch (5.5 to 5.11)

Page Type: Mountain/Rock
Lat/Lon: 39.62970°N / 107.8128°W
County: Garfield
Activities: Hiking, Mountaineering, Trad Climbing, Sport Climbing, Scrambling
Season: Spring, Fall
Elevation: 6800 ft / 2073 m


In addition to being a natural arch, Rifle Arch is a nice climbing area north of Rifle Colorado. The features and rock here are similar to what you find in the much more crowded and popular Flatirons near Boulder Colorado. The rock here is sandstone, but by sandstone standards is pretty solid, at least on the lower sections of the crag (higher up the rock is said to be sandy). It is a pretty scenic area as well.

The slabs are rather massive, are about 500 feet tall, and impressive. They lie on the southwest face of what is known as the Grand Hogback.

The climbs here range from 5.5 single pitch sport routes to 5.11 seven pitch trad routes, so there should be something here for everyone.

From the arch itself, going north the main crags are Piñon Slab, Juniper Slab, Mitten Slab, and Keyhole Slab. South of the arch is Pothole Rock.

I am only familiar with the Piñon Slab, Juniper Slab, and Mitten Slab, so the emphasis on the page will be on those slabs.

Rifle Arch
Rifle Arch.

SmilingKimberly smiles while enjoying the good climbs on the Mitten Slabs.

Arm and HammerKessler leading P1 of Arm and Hammer.

Getting There

Getting to the Rifle Arch Trailhead is very easy. From Rifle, head north along Highway 13 for about seven miles to a parking lot and trailhead on the east side of the highway. This isn't much farther north than mile marker 7.

Rifle Arch SlabsSlab layout as seen from near the trailhead. Click for full size.


From the trailhead, follow the trail towards the arch. Once you are near some log benches and fairly close to the rock walls and arch, take the climbers trail which heads left from the main trail and to the base of the slabs.

When the climbers trail reaches the cliff, this is the Piñon Slab. It is identified by the piñon tree about 90 feet up.

To get to the Mitten Slab, continue left from the Piñon Slab for another 150 feet or so.

I have not been to Pothole Rock, but it is located across the gully from the arch and to the east of Rifle Arch.

Grand Hogback and Rifle Arch
The trail to Rifle Arch.

Routes Overview

Routes are listed from right to left since that's how you approach them.


 Methane Mic  5.8 80 feet 1 8 draws  Good
 Jimboliar 5.8 85 feet 1 9 draws Good
 Ladies First 5.10a 85 feet 1 10 draws  Not Recommended (soft rock and holds breaking) 
 Andy Wants Some Candy  5.10a 85 feet 1 9 draws Fair
 Sok Rot (optional pitches 2 and 3 from the right hand of slab)  5.9 270 feet  3 ?, 70 meter rope Fair
 Opcion Dos (slightly better option to the above) 5.9 110 feet 2 ?, 70 meter rope Good

Sok RotSok Rot.


 Icon 5.10 R ~500 feet 5 Standard rack, long slings, and 70 meter rope  Good
 Arm and Hammer P1  5.5 75 feet 1 8 draws Good
 Arm and Hammer 5.10b ~500 feet  5 12 draws, long slings, extra biners, small rack optional  Good
 Illusions P1 5.6 R 90 feet 1 5 draws Good
 Illusions 5.11- ~500 feet 7 Medium to large nuts, single set of cams to 3.5 inches, #4 Camalot, 12 draws, 8 long slings, extra biners, 70 meter rope  Good
 Smitten by the Mitten  5.10+ R ~400 feet 4 10 medium to large nuts, single set of cams to 3.5 inches, 12 draws, 8 long slings, extra biners, two ropes Good

Arm and HammerThe upper part of P1 and the lower part of P2 on Arm and Hammer.

Illusions and Arm and HammerThe left pair of climbers are on Illusions and the right pair are on Arm and Hammer.


 Primavera II  5.10 (possibly un-repeated since 1st ascent)  300 feet?  3 Standard rack to 3.5 inches Good

Red Tape

Climbing on Rifle Arch itself is forbidden.

There is no other red tape here, so please treat the area with respect.

P2 Arm and HammerPlease take care of the area.

When to Climb

These slabs tend to be sunny and brutally hot in summer, Spring and Fall are the ideal times to climb here.

Summer climbing is not recommended, but might be tolerable in the very early morning hours.

Winter weather can be nice, but the approach trail can be and probably will be very muddy in the winter.

KimberlyA nice April day on Arm and Hammer.


There is no camping in the immediate vicinity, but there are several places with excellent camping only a few miles away. Click on the links for more details.

Rifle Gap State Park Camping

Rifle Falls Camping

Rifle Mountain Park Camping

The town of Rifle also has several hotels, motels, and RV Parks.

External Links


The following book mentions 12 different climbs at Rifle Arch (the book does not mention the climbs at Pothole Rock), but this is the best and most comprehensive climbing source on the area:

Western Sloper

Western Sloper Guidebook

Online Sources

Rifle Arch on Mountain Project

Mountain Conditions


Weather and climate data for Rifle is below. *National Weather Service Data 1910-2007. Rifle is only a few miles from Rifle Arch.