After visiting Dinosaur Ridge to see dinosaur fossils and huge dinosaur bones in the side of the mountain, Brian and I headed across the street to check out Red Rocks Amphitheater. We were only in town for the weekend to go to Dead & Company‘s two-night run at Folsom Field in Boulder, so naturally we wanted to stop in and see the one of the Grateful Dead’s favorite places to play first-hand.
The Grateful Dead made their Red Rocks debut with two back-to-back concerts on July 7 and 8, 1978 and the July 8 show is widely considered one of their best ever. The Grateful Dead played Red Rocks a total of 20 times between 1978 and 1987.
Red Rocks Park is a stunning 738 acre park of geological wonders and spectacular vistas. Here you’ll find deer, dinosaur fossils, marine fossils, pines, majestic rock formations, and many hiking trails. At 6,450 feet elevation, Red Rocks Park sits where the Great Plains meet the Rocky Mountains and its rock formations have created an incredible natural music venue.
Red Rocks Amphitheatre, an open-air venue built between two 300 foot tall monoliths — Ship Rock and Creation Rock, is the only naturally-occurring, acoustically perfect amphitheatre in the world.
Located in Morrison, Colorado, Red Rocks Amphitheatre opened in 1941 and seats 9,525 people. There is a 100-foot difference in elevation from the stage to the top row. of the terraces seats and on a clear day, you can see the domes of the Denver International Airport 45 miles to the east. While Red Rocks Amphitheater is one of the most gorgeous and famous concerts venues in the world, approximately 750,000 non-concert-goers visit the venue each year to take in its beauty.
The History Of Red Rocks
The Red Rocks see in this area are part of the Fountain Formation, a long formation of the Front Range that stretches from Wyoming through Rocky Mountain National Park, down into Colorado. Other manifestations of the Fountain Formation can be found in many places along the Colorado Front Range, including Garden of the Gods near Colorado Springs, Roxborough State Park in Douglas County, and the Flatirons in Boulder.
Originally known as the Garden of Angels, Red Rocks has attracted the attention of musical performers since before the turn of the century.
In the early 1900’s, John Brisben Walker had a vision of artists performing on a stage nestled into the perfectly acoustic surroundings of Red Rocks witht he spectacular landscape stretching out behind them. Walker produced a number of concerts between 1906 and 1910 on a temporary platform, and from his dream, the history of Red Rocks as an entertainment venue began.
George Cranmer, Manager of Denver Parks, convinced the City of Denver to purchase the area of Red Rocks from Walker and convinced the Mayor of Denver, Ben Stapleton, to build on the foundation laid by Walker. By enlisting the help of the federally sponsored Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), and the Work Projects Administration (WPA), labor and materials were provided for the venture. Denver architect Burnham Hoyt designed the amphitheater with an emphasis on preserving the natural beauty of the area. The plans were completed in 1936, and the amphitheater was dedicated in 1941.
In 1947, the first annual Easter Sunrise Service took place. Today, the first performance of each season is the Easter Sunrise Service, a non-denominational service on Easter Sunday of each year.
Red Rocks Visitor Center
The 30,000 square foot Red Rocks Visitor Center, built partly underground, houses the Performer’s Hall of Fame, a full-service restaurant and bar named Ship Rock Grille, the Merchandise Center, and exhibits and murals about the history of Red Rocks Park and Red Rocks Aamphitheater. Signs also tell about the plants and animals in the park as well as the paleontology of the area.
- The Performer’s Hall of Fame features musicians like The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, The Grateful Dead, Neil Young, The Blues Brothers, Jethro Tull, John Denver, Sonny & Cher, The Carpenters, Pat Boone, Seals & Crofts, and Carole King, as well as U2, Depeche Mode, Dave Matthews Band, Widespread Panic, Blues Traveler, Rush, R.E.M., Ben Harper, Coldplay, Barenaked Ladies, Mumford & Sons, The Allman Brothers Band, and Phish — just to name a few.
- The Visitor Center Merchandise Counter offers a variety of goods from t-shirts, hats and rain gear to postcards, and trail maps. There is also a Penny Machine and a Medallion Machine for collectors!
- Ship Rock Grille is a restaurant and bar in the Red Rocks Visitor Center with breathtaking vistas. On concert nights, make reservations for a pre-show dinner to complete an unforgettable evening. Open Daily 10:30 am to 2:30 pm. Closed Christmas and Thanksgiving.
The Trading Post
The Trading Post, historically known as the Red Rocks Pueblo, was designed by W.R. Rosche and constructed in 1931. It sold hot dogs for a dime and ice cream for a nickel when it opened and today includes a Gift Shop, snack counter, and historical displays, breathtaking views of the southern valley and rock formations, and the Colorado Music Hall Of Fame.
The Colorado Music Hall of Fame inducted songwriter John Denver and the Red Rocks Amphitheater as its first honorees in 2011 and opened at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in 2015.
The moderate 1.5 mile Trading Post Trail is a loop trail that leaves from the Trading Post. It has a narrow, rough surface and winds through 10 of the park’s red rock formations, including the the Fountain and Lyons formations.
Know Before You Go
- Red Rocks Amphitheatre is located west of Denver at 18300 West Alameda Parkway, Morrison, Colorado 80465, in Red Rocks Park, a part of the Denver Mountain Parks system. The amphitheater is owned and operated by the City and County of Denver.
- The Colorado Music Hall of Fame is located in the Trading Post at Red Rocks Amphitheatre at 17900 Trading Post Road, Morrison, Colorado 80465.
- On non-event days, the amphitheater is open one hour before sunrise and closed one hour after sunset. On event days, it is open open one hour before sunrise until 2:00 pm. For all-day festivals or early concerts, the amphitheater may close earlier.
- Get The Hours for the Visitor Center, Trading Post, and Colorado Music Hall of Fame.
- Admission is free to visit Red Rocks Park, Amphitheater, Visitor Center, Trading Post, and the Colorado Music Hall of Fame.
- Both of the monoliths, Ship Rock and Creation Rock, are taller than Niagara Falls and Red Rocks Amphitheater was once listed as among the Seven Wonders of the World.
- Along with Civic Center Park, Red Rocks is one of two Denver National Historic Landmarks. Red Rocks Park and Ampitheater was designated a National Historic Landmark in August, 2015.
- Need some exercise? Red Rocks has two staircases on either side of the amphitheater that rise from the lower parking lot to the upper concession level, each with about 380 steps.
- Restrooms, drinking fountains, and a restaurant are available at the visitor center.
- Pets or other animals are not allowed. Certified service animals are permitted and admitted into the amphitheater.