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  • Writer's pictureAmy Leggett

Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre-the Best Place to Hike or See a Concert!

Updated: Dec 7, 2022

Most people have heard of the iconic Red Rock Amphitheatre and have a Bucket List item to see a concert there. But Red Rocks is also nostalgic for me. I grew up in Colorado so I was fortunate enough to go to many concerts there. I took the experience for granted and didn't realize that I was setting the bar so high that any future concert venues would pale in comparison. Since my early concert going days, there have been many changes to the Amphitheatre that have improved the visitor experience whether you make it to a concert or just take a trip to see the famous red rocks.

Back in the Day...

When I used to go to concerts at Red Rocks, the whole place was General Admission. We would arrive SUPER early in the morning and line up at the gate. The doors (at the top of the Amphitheatre) opened at 11:00 am and everyone would run down the stairs (carrying their blankets and coolers) to grab their spots. I had great seats to a lot of concerts and made a lot of concert friends waiting in line and sitting in Red Rocks all day waiting for the concert to start. I also learned some hard lessons about day drinking in the sun! Back in the day, Red Rocks was a BYOB venue and you could pack your cooler full of drinks for a day of partying until the concert began. It should go without saying that drinking alcohol all day in the intense Colorado sun is not a good combination, but...YOUTH. I still can't drink Rum and Coke to this day. I learned it is VERY important to hydrate with water along the way AND to space out your drinks.

At some point the venue switched to have mostly assigned seats with a small area of General Admission seats in the middle of the seating area. That changed the way people experienced Red Rocks. However, you can still snag good seats on the side of the seating area in flat planting garden areas if you get there early enough.

Present Day...

The Red Rocks Amphitheatre has been upgraded in many ways. As noted above, most seats are assigned so you don't have to arrive at the crack of dawn just to see your favorite band. My younger self wouldn't think this was an improvement, but my older self definitely appreciates this change. Another change occurred in 1997 when in-house concessions for wine and beer opened and ended the BYOB era. Red Rocks has also added a Red Rocks Museum at the top of the Amphitheatre which highlights the history of the park and documents all of the acts that have performed at Red Rocks over the years. It was interesting to learn that Red Rocks was named best performance venue so many times by Pollstar (a professional journal for concert promoters) that they finally removed Red Rocks from the yearly competition and named it the "Red Rocks Award". It was also fun to look at the list of shows at Red Rocks each year (especially for 1981-1987) and check off all of the shows I attended. Memories....

Not Just for Concerts...

Here are some other ways to spend a day at Red Rocks in case you don't make a concert there:

  • Head up for a work out on the Red Rock stairs. There is a 100 foot elevation difference from the stage to the top row.

  • Go for a hike. The Red Rocks Park has several hiking trails around the area that provide heart-pumping climbs and beautiful views. We did the Red Rocks and Morrison Slide Trails and I took several Insta-worthy pics. Find a map and a description of the Red Rocks and Morrison Slide Trail from All Trails here.

  • Eat lunch at Ship Rock Grille.

  • Check out the Red Rocks Museum at the top of the Amphitheatre.

  • Go the Trading Post just outside the Amphitheatre for Red Rocks souvenirs, apparel and historical memorabilia. You can also visit the Colorado Music Hall of Fame exhibit here.

Other Interesting Facts...

Check out this article from The Denver Post from June 2, 2016, for 75 interesting facts about the Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre. Some historical info as well as some tidbits of gossip about acts that have played at Red Rocks.

A Red Rocks Story That Involves One of My Biggest Regrets...

In 1983, I was a young college student at CSU. My friend Shelley was a big fan of this up and coming band named U2 and she asked me if I wanted to attend their concert at Red Rocks. I think I initially said yes, but on the day of the show it was pouring rain. I didn't really know the band and didn't feel like sitting outside in the downpour so backed out at the last minute. Shelley, being the superfan that she was, went anyway and experienced rock and roll history. According to the exhibit at the Red Rocks Museum, U2 couldn't cancel the show without losing money on the film crew they had hired to film "Under a Blood Red Sky" so they played the show in the pouring rain and asked all the faithful fans who had shown up (only about 4,400 of the 9,000 ticket sold-out show) to crowd to the front so the venue looked full when they filmed the video. That video is iconic and rocketed U2 and Red Rocks to international acclaim. U2 has not ever played at Red Rocks again. Shelley will never let me forget this lapse in judgment and my missed opportunity to be part of a historic rock moment. Ironically I became a huge U2 fan after that and have huge regrets about that decision.

You should definitely try to plan a visit to Colorado around a concert you would like to see so you can experience this premier music venue. But if the scheduling doesn't work out, still make time to take a trip to Morrison to explore all that Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre has to offer. There is a lot more to see and do then just the awesome music!

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