North Slopes of Hogback Trail
Length: 5 miles out-and-back
Elevation Gain: 1700 feet (starts at 6,100 feet and ends at 7,800 feet)
This hike is perhaps the least known yet most pristine example of the classic Rifle landscape of sagebrush and cactus hills, dry washes, mature pinyons and juniper forests, and the craggy Grand Hogback. A crossing of West Rifle Creek at the beginning of the hike prevents most vehicles from continuing up an old two-track trail. The trail winds through State game lands and into BLM public land before ascending the ridge line of the Hogback for spectacular views of the Colorado River Valley, the Flat Tops, and the Roan Plateau. The trail is closed from October 1st to April 15th for winter wildlife habitat protection.
Coming from Rifle, turn left at the Rifle Gap Dam onto County Road 252. After two miles take a left turn on a gravel road to stay on CR 252. Missing this turn will take you to the Rifle Correctional Facility. From this left turn the trailhead is only ½ mile further on the gravel road. It will be the first two-track trail encountered on the left (BLM Route 8072). Park across the street on the right side of the road in a little pull off.
On BLM 8072, hike down to cross West Rifle Creek which can be leaped across once spring runoff is over. Cross the creek and hike the trail for a mile, where the trail crosses a wash and bends to the left. After the bend, the trail splits—take the right leg (8071B) to continue heading southwest towards the Hogback. At 1.8 miles the trail reaches a viewpoint. From here the trail gets steeper as it climbs to the Hogback ridge. After passing an old coal mine the hike tops out at 7800 feet on the ridgeline of the Hogback at 2.5 miles. This spot is just above the Rifle Arch on the south side of the Hogback. Trails lead along the ridge in either direction for short distances—the right (northwest) path leads to a better lookout.
Legend has it that a traverse of the Hogback is possible from this point by bushwhacking down the south slopes gully to connect to Rifle Arch.