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Why You Should Explore Rifle, Colorado in the Winter

Skip ski resort mayhem for a weekend in Rifle where mystical ice caves, nearby hot springs, and a funky inn reveal a more serene—and fantastical—side of winter.

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If the abominable snowman pulled a curtain of ice across the entrance to his cavernous home, it might look something like Rifle’s greatest winter wonder. Each November, water trickling down Rifle Mountain Park’s limestone walls freezes into crystalline ice caves. To see two of them, start down Koper’s Trail, an easy hike through a narrow, twisting canyon. In the first chamber (pictured), located near the trailhead, the sun filters through waves of icicles hanging from the ceiling. The second cavity sits a half-mile farther—and the soft blue shade of its northern wall is well worth braving the cramped quarters. Come equipped with crampons or microspikes to safely walk on the slick floors, or, for an extra dose of adrenaline, bring ice-climbing gear to conquer the outer walls, no permit needed. 13885 County Road 217

Rifle Falls State Park

Don’t spend too long re-enacting scenes from Frozen in the Rifle Mountain Park ice caves. On your way back to town, you’ll want extra time to stop at this state park. There, waterfalls flow year-round, kicking up mist that coats the surrounding vegetation in white icing. $8 per vehicle, 9859 CO 325

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Polanka

Photo courtesy of Polanka

Marzena “Marzy” Bednarz emigrated from Poland to the United States in 1988 when she was 10 years old. But—as evidenced by the homey fare at her downtown Rifle restaurant, which opened in 2018—Bednarz hasn’t lost touch with the traditional dinners of her youth. Scarf down stuffed cabbage, doughy potato and cheese pierogies, and tangy sauerkraut—all from cherished family recipes—that Bednarz and her husband make fresh upon order. 309 Railroad Ave

Rifle Gap State Park

Here, the 360-acre reservoir’s frozen surface can become 17 inches thick during the winter. Beneath that shell hides some of the best ice-fishing in the Centennial State. A diverse population—trout, pike, bass, and yellow perch—provides anglers a range of potential trophies. On the off chance the bites don’t come, the park allows snowmobiling and cross-country skiing, and there’s a snowshoe trek along the perimeter of the reservoir. $8 per vehicle, 5775 CO 325

Iron Mountain Hot Springs

Photo by Jack Affleck/Courtesy of Iron Mountain Hot Springs

Defrost from your outdoor adventures in naturally heated soaking pools overlooking the Colorado River in nearby Glenwood Springs. Each of the 16 pools offers a different mode of relaxation: Pebbles at the bottom of the reflexology pools massage your feet, for example, while the rush of the Moonstone basin’s waterfall drowns out your brain’s restless chatter. Outside the enforced quiet zone resides the 100,000-gallon family pool, where kids can splash about and order pizza from the Sopris Cafe—which also serves a delightful hot sangria made with Decadent Saint wine from Boulder. From $20 for adults and $14 for children, 281 Centennial St., Glenwood Springs

Whistle Pig Coffee Stop & Cafe

The lone independent coffeeshop in Rifle, Whistle Pig sources beans from in-town True Brew Beverage Services, a roaster of strong Arabica varieties. Plus, owner Samm Young specializes in house-made desserts and breads including a savory everything bagel, the foundation of the Timmy special: a bacon, egg, cheese, and habanero cream cheese sandwich named in honor of Young’s father. 121 E. Third St.

Ore House Inn

Defending Winterfell with the Starks. Wreaking havoc alongside Batman villain the Penguin. Sneaking into Area 51. This peculiar inn brings you a step closer to such fantasies. After nearly 20 years of running the Elk Creek Mining Company Bar & Grill, John Webber transformed the 130-year-old New Castle building’s upstairs apartments into five suites with pop culture themes. Take the Jurassic Pok room, a mashup of the 1993 film and video gaming (it features a mural by local artist Ariel Seltzer that depicts Mario and Pikachu battling dinosaurs). A video game console with 412 playable 1980s classics doubles as a cocktail table, rounding out a room sure to inspire interesting dreams. From $105; 502 W. Main St., New Castle 

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