Out here in the west, we do things a little differently. And we’re okay with it. Sure, you’ve got your Lollapalooza and your Bonnaroo on the east coast, but we’ve got plenty of music—and, not to mention, mountains, rivers, deserts, and some of the most breathtaking landscapes in the country.
Whether you’re turned off by the fashion show that has become Coachella, or are more into festivals that include camping, hiking, and other outdoor adventures, there’s something for everyone out here in the Rocky Mountain region. From celebrating whitewater rafting and community in central Colorado to jamming out to the nation’s best bluegrass acts at the base of a ski resort in Wyoming, consider some of the best mountain town summer festivals.
Music on the Mesa
Located across from the Taos Regional Aiport, between sagebrush and the Rio Grande on its namesake mesa, is Taos Mesa Brewing, HQ for the second annual Music on the Mesa. Resembling the funky, eco-inspired architecture of neighboring funky earthships, and featuring two outdoor stages, the brewery itself is a spectacle—and the beer brewed on site and food ain’t so bad either.
Due to its rather isolated location, and its inevitable cosmic vibes, the festival is admittedly going to be out there. However, those looking for a truly unique location will be more than impressed with the desert sunsets over the Sangre de Cristo mountain range.
River’s Edge, Heber, Utah
Nestled near the old mining town of Park City, River’s Edge is a secluded area perfect for the brand-new Bonanza experience. The weekend will merge live music and local art installations with local breweries and eateries.
Telluride Bluegrass Festival
One of the nation’s premier bluegrass experiences, Telluride Bluegrass Festival is an unforgettable four days of music, mountains, and magic. Nestled in in the historic mountain town in southwest Colorado, the Telluride Bluegrass has evolved into one of the crown jewels of all summer festivals.
Need proof? Every June, droves of festivalgoers make the annual pilgrimage to the isolated but breathtaking box canyon.
River rats unite! FIBArk is the nation’s oldest whitewater festival. Located at the base of the Rockies and on the banks of the mighty Arkansas River in the charming mountain town of Salida, the unique festival features all sorts of river and land events. Above all, the family-friendly event highlights the tight-knit Coloradan community.
Not sure what to expect? Competitions such as the Downriver Race—the longest, oldest, and perhaps toughest whitewater race in the country—and Freestyle Kayak competition test participants’ athleticism and fearlessness. Events such as the Raft Rodeo, which hands out awards “for nothing but silly moves,” and the Hooligan Race, open to anything that floats and is not a boat, highlights ingenuity and innovation with a healthy smattering of absurdity.
International Climber’s Festival
A celebration of the climbing lifestyle, the International Climber’s Festival draws dirtbags (we use that term lovingly, of course) from all across the world for a weekend of climbing clinics and competitions, art, food, music, and beer. Never been to a climbing-specific event and unsure what to expect? Climbers of all abilities can find something, from classes on gear and strength training to more intensive bouldering and lead climbing clinics.
To keep festival-goers busy between getting vertical, the dog-friendly festival features morning yoga, trail runs, live music, and happy hours. The weekend also features talks, panel discussions, and some of the climbing community’s well-known athletes.
Targhee Fest and Grand Targhee Bluegrass Festival
Anyone who has ever laid eyes on the imposing, jagged Teton mountain range knows that the place has a magical draw to it. And for the past several decades, Grand Targhee Resort has been giving music lovers two reasons to revisit the northwestern corner of Wyoming: for both Grand Targhee Bluegrass Festival and Targhee Fest. Drawing on the spirit of music, mountain-town charm, and sustainability, these festivals bring together food, music, and outdoor culture for two separate occasions.
The Grand Targhee Blue Grass Festival is considered the grand daddy of bluegrass festivals in the Northern Rockies. No matter your musical preference, the festivals are one of the prime escapes to hang out in the shadows of the Tetons. (Video is from the 28th Annual Targhee Bluegrass Festival in 2015)
Divide Music Festival
Winter Park, CO
Located a short drive from Denver in the ski town of Winter Park, Divide Music Festival uses the splendor of the Continental Divide as a background and highlights some huge national acts. The outdoor festival features some of Colorado’s best craft beers, local food selections and artisans and promises to be one hell of a party.
Reserve a camp spot, and be sure to pack up your mountain bike and hiking shoes—thanks to flowing rivers, scalable mountain peaks, and lush valleys, Winter Park is a veritable summer playground.
Buena Vista, CO
This festival aims to create “a modern-day frontier where anything is possible.” Surrounded by snow-capped 14,000-foot mountains at the foot of the Continental Divide on a sprawling ranch, Vertex definitely has prime real estate. However, its eclectic array of hip-hop, DJs, and rock bands will convince music fans that the festival boasts more than a pretty location.
Above all, community-minded Vertex plans to showcase the best of Colorado, including music, art, and outdoor adventures.