On Beyond Red Rocks

  Photo Neill Pieper

Photo Neill Pieper

Colorado’s other great outdoor music venues

By Steve Graham

Red Rocks Amphitheatre is a world-famous music mecca that boasts another amazing summer of concerts, movies and events this year. However, Colorado is also home to some great lesser-known outdoor concert venues. Here are five of our other favorites.

5. Elk Park Amphitheater

The Royal Gorge is another world-famous Colorado destination, with stunning views from the gondolas, zip line, bridge or the recently completed amphitheater. Walk across North America’s highest suspension bridge to reach the venue, which seats 2,500. A limited third concert season at the Royal Gorge opens on July 14 with Los Angeles rockers The Record Company. Other shows are slated for Aug. 11 and Sept. 8, but acts haven’t been announced yet. The views can’t be beat, but it’s a little remote and the season is only three shows.

  Photo Courtesy of Royal Gorge Bridge & Park

Photo Courtesy of Royal Gorge Bridge & Park

4. Fir Mountain

Even more remote is a solar-powered amphitheater at the top of La Veta Pass. It’s a stunning spot but it’s only accessible by train — the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad up from Alamosa. The season is also fairly limited, with six country and folk shows bookended by Chris J. Arellano on June 9 and Michael Martin Murphy on Aug. 18. Peter Yarrow, Poco, Radney Foster and Pam Tillis are also on the lineup.

3. Planet Bluegrass Ranch

After a mountaintop concert, how about watching a show from a riverbed? As the St. Vrain River gets shallow, wide and lazy through Lyons, it welcomes camping chairs with perfect views in earshot of the stage at Planet Bluegrass. We love Lyons, this excellent venue and its laid-back vibe, but the season listings are slim. There are only a couple of festivals on the schedule. Both have great lineups, including Indigo Girls, Los Lobos and Jeff Tweedy, but we would love to be able to see more music from those riverbed chairs.

2. Telluride Town Park

Telluride is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful towns in the state, and the town park is home to some amazing festival lineups every year. When are you going to see Robert Plant, Emmylou Harris and Ben Harper play in a town of 2,000? When the town hosts one of its major festivals that attract 9,000 fans to the tiny burg. For better or worse, the concert scene in this little high-altitude paradise is pretty slim for the rest of the season, but everyone in Colorado should experience either the Blues & Brews Festival or the Bluegrass Festival at least once.

 The Telluride Blues & Brews Fest. Photo Neill Pieper

The Telluride Blues & Brews Fest. Photo Neill Pieper

1. Mishawaka Amphitheatre

About 25 miles uphill from Fort Collins, “The Mish” is our favorite outdoor music venue. It even has an exclusive namesake Odell beer (Mishawaka Ale), which you can sip while you watch rafters float the Poudre and see the sunset on the canyon walls. As the sun goes down, enjoy an intimate performance in a space that holds 950 fans. Note that you should just add $22 per person in shuttle fees to each ticket price. There is virtually no parking at The Mish, so book your shuttle from downtown Fort Collins to ride an old school bus and start drinking with your friends on the way up. This year’s highlights include Cold War Kids on June 27, Devotchka on July 20 and Ziggy Marley on Aug. 23. For intimacy, views and the lineup, you can’t beat the Mish.