Winter Wonderland: Top 4 Ice Caves in Colorado to Explore

This time Kelvin did not want to take me for a romantic getaway in Colorado Springs rather he told me he has planned a surprise for me. It was winter and upon that it was my birthday.

I thought he is planning to take me to Christmas towns in Florida. Florida is my hometown, so what can be a better spot than that? I wondered!

Best Ice Caves in Colorado

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The day before my birthday when I was packing my bag, putting on flip-flops, tank tops, and shorts, he looked at me and said he will take care of my packing. I can go and rest. I was shocked, did he go crazy?

Okay, so, after a few minutes, I left the room and went to sleep because I thought the next morning we were going to Florida. At least, that is what I thought!

I was in Denver, Colorado, and obviously, I was wearing hoodies, jackets, woolen socks, and boots. Colorado is so freezing cold in the winter. I was excited about the trip!

Then I saw him taking the road off the I-70 W highway. He was driving pretty straight. It was at that time I realized he is taking me somewhere else. Still, he did not respond.

It’s not Florida. I was sure. I knew it. We drove 4 hours straight to reach Rifle Mountain Park. It was then he told me that we’ll see Rifle Mountain Park ice caves.

I looked at him and then at the sign board which was covered with snow and snow. I do not know, at that moment I felt like I’m Elsa, the princess of my ice kingdom. 

We explored beautiful ice caves in Colorado. Since then, it’s been our winter ritual to visit and explore all the Colorado ice caves. 

This blog is the ultimate guide telling you every detail of information and knowledge on the ice caves of Colorado. The wondrous display of nature which can never bore you!

Things to Know Before Visiting The Colorado Ice Caves

  • Download Google Maps and follow your GPS to reach the Colorado ice caves
  • Remember, to carry your stuff because services on the way are very limited
  • Always follow the signboard or if you see any kiosk, ask them for the directions
  • Please do not litter the place. Read the 7 principles of no trace.
  • At some Colorado ice caves, you can bring your dog. So, read the policies before heading. Make sure, you protect him from the cold
  • Always inform your parents, friends, and loved ones about your plan of hitting the trails of ice caves in Colorado
Colorado Ice Caves
Colorado Ice Caves

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Best Time to Visit the Colorado Ice Caves

Winter is the best time to visit Colorado ice caves. January is the 6th snowiest month. The average temperature can be as low as -8 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Ice caves of Rifle Mountain Park are formed in winter between December and February, due to the natural freeze and – thaw process when the temperature drops.

Are there Ice Caves in Colorado?

Yes, there are some beautiful ice caves in Colorado. Through this blog, I’ll take you around the best. My all-time favorite is the ice caves of Rifle Mountain Park.

Ice caves like Grottos Trail near Aspen, Piedra Falls, The Spiral Staircase in Vail, and ice sculptures in Cripple Creek are some amazing ice caves in Colorado too. 

Icicle, Ice caves Colorado
Icicle

Best Ice Caves in Colorado

1. Rifle Mountain Park

  • Elevation gain: 100-500 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy to moderate
  • Fee: $5

Rifle Mountain Park is 4 hours from Denver, 1.5 hours northeast of Grand Junction, 1 hour west of Glenwood Springs, and north of downtown Rifle, about 40 minutes drive. 

Ice Cave Mountains are inside Rifle Mountain Park. You can park your car outside.

There are a total of four caves. Once you enter, keep on walking and make sure you look for a signboard stating “Kopers Trail”. Yes, that’s the trail, you’ve to take.

I recommend going to 4 caves. I did it. Once you hike along the Kopers Trail, very soon you come across the first and lower ice cave known as Ice Palace.

It is this road that also takes you through Coulter Lake Guest Ranch, at end of the park. The Ice Palace cave is around 30-40 yards in length with a thick ice cave floor.

As the sunlight hits the icicles, the ice shines blue, making the place no less than Frozen Hollywood set.

The place feels like a different world, no matter what your age is, your inner child cannot stay far away. I was not able to resist sliding into the caves.

The massive turquoise sheet of ice and the fine texture of the ice sculpture against the limestone walls looked incredibly beautiful.

From Ice Palace keep on walking to reach Soul on Ice, Stone Tree, and at the end the Final Curtains. Such a beautiful icy fantasy land, I ever visited. 

Do you know what the most beautiful thing is? Not only the peace but the sound of water trickling beneath the ice is amazing! The cave becomes narrower as you go further.

The Final Curtains is something unexplainable and beautiful. I saw there is a small horizontal opening between ice and limestone. There was no other way!

I stood there for a few minutes. Then Kelvin and I decided to squeeze our bodies and our bellies like a penguin to get inside. It was hell adventurous!

The ceiling was touching my head. I realized I cannot stand, I felt like I was in the bed of an ice sheet and the deeper I was going, I was covering myself in darkness.

It was then, Kelvin and I decided to come out and enjoy the frozen view. Rifle Mountain Park is home to amazing ice caves in Colorado in winter.

Tips: 

  • The icicles are very dangerous. It’s sharp and if it breaks, you might have to run to the hospital. So, please be very careful
  • If you want to spice up your adventure, come to Rifle Falls State Park to see the triple waterfall. You can hike up to the top for some mesmerizing views. The entrance fee is $10 per day
  • In the afternoon come to Iron Mountain Springs, it has 16 soaking tubs to chill and relax in peace. You can also visit Glenwood Hot Springs
  • Leashed dogs are welcome at Rifle Mountain Park
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Rifle Mountain Park
Rifle Mountain Park

2. Grottos Trail Ice Caves near Aspen

  • Elevation gain: 300 ft
  • Difficulty: easy

It’s not a drive that you’ll forget soon, that 20-minute drive away from Aspen, Grottos trail looks magical. The landscape in winter looks so different from summer.

After crossing the bridge, you’ll see a huge slab of granite which is called erratic. Glaciers transported these big stones and later it got melted.

I remember, the first time I drove here it felt unbelievably gorgeous. People of any age are most welcome to come here. It’s not difficult. I brought my mom here too!

Hence, Grottos Trail is one of the family-friendly ice caves in Colorado. The trail is 6 feet long down into the cave. Also, during spring, it looks beautiful.

The view of two boulders trapped on a knoll of granite makes it so Instagramable. You’ll see boulders, an ice cave, and cascading waterfall. 

Also, you’ll be amazed by the smooth walls, which are called whaleback. From here you’ll see the signboard pointing ice cave. There will be small trees with a boulder.

Trust me, it feels like another world inside the cave. I thought I was on Planet B. You’ll hear the sound of the water, and the walls fell ultra-smooth.

The temperature of the place keeps on changing depending on the time of the day you come. The Sound of the Roaring Fork River is so refreshing.

While coming back from the trial, please follow the signboards. Reach the slick rock then quickly detour over the large crack. Please, be careful.

Tips:

  • Come to the trail as early as possible. I was here around 6:45 am with no crowd just us and the nature
  • The ice cave has ice throughout the year. In summer the floor might be wet as the ice melts
  • Dogs are welcome at Grottos Trail. Keep him leashed always

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Grottos Trail Ice Caves near Aspen
Grottos Trail Ice Caves

3. Piedra River Falls Ice Caves near Pagosa Springs

  • Elevation gain: 7708 ft. at the trailhead
  • Difficulty: Easy-moderate

My long-time dear friend Harry and his family came to my place in Colorado in December. First, we thought of exploring the charming mountain towns of Colorado.

Then we dropped the idea and planned to hike to get to Colorado’s ice caves. The spot is a 30-minute drive from Pagosa Springs, south-central Colorado.

Disclaimer, it Is not a cave, but deep fissures. The hike also rewards you with sweeping views of the San Juan Mountains, Weminuche peaks, and Piedra River.

Coming to the trail, Ice Cave Ridge trail is uphill, worry not, it’s not steep. You do not need a gym physique to do this hike. Relax! Also, you can bring your dog.

Mostly the hike takes you through tree cover. On the left side of the trail, you’ll find the fissures. Just remember, to walk keeping your eyes wide open.

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You can go inside these fissures, it’s cold, dark, and holds snow till summer. Moreover, they are hundreds of feet long and 1 to 8 feet wide. 

After exploring the ice caves, walk to the Upper Piedra River Trail through the mixed confiner shades, and rocky trails. Throughout the area there are fissures.

Tip: Please wear a ski helmet while hiking

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Piedra River Falls Ice Caves near Pagosa Springs
Piedra River Falls Ice Caves

4. The Spiral Staircase – Vail

  • Elevation gain: 9,000 ft
  • Difficulty: medium to difficult

I bring you a difficult Colorado ice cavethe Spiral Staircase. My friend, Harry, and I planned to go climbing, but he bailed on me at the last moment, and I was left alone.

But, as you know, it takes one second for life to change everything. I called three of my friends and everyone agreed to join me. I was no more alone.

You’ll be amazed by the vertical frozen columns of ice and stone. For beginner ice climbers, it is an amazing start stated by MountainProject.com.

We approached through the Rigid Designator amphitheater. Initially, after a lot of kicking, and swinging, I hiked to The Pencil and The Eraser, above Spiral Staircase.

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Your Colorado Ice Caves Packing List

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Colorado Ice Caves Packing List
Colorado Ice Caves Packing List

Where to Stay Near the Ice Caves in Colorado

You cannot put up your tent on the ice caves and stay for the night. You need a hotel with good-quality amenities. 

So, the best option is to go to Rifle, Colorado. It has some great hotels, cafes, restaurants, and grocery stores. You’ll have no problem residing.

During our visit to ice caves in Colorado, we stay in Comfort Inn and Suites Rifle. The rooms are spacious with an indoor pool. Importantly, it’s close to the Colorado River.

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FAQ: Ice Caves in Colorado

1. How do I get to an ice cave in Colorado?

A. Put the address on your mobile Google Maps and keep on driving to reach the park. Once you’re in the park, you’ve to hike to reach the spot. It’s pretty easy to find, just follow your GPS.

2. Are dogs allowed at Rifle Gap State Park?

A. Yes, dogs are welcome at Rifle Gap State Park but you should keep him on a leash. Remember, he should be on a leash all the time no longer than 6 feet.

3. Do you need a reservation for Rifle Falls?

A. Yes, you should have a reservation for Rifle Falls. It means you’ve to pay in advance to book your spot. You can contact 800-244-5613, ASPIRA Call Centre for further information.

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One Comment

  1. You have some great information, really helpful.

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