Red Rocks Park – Denver, Colorado
Updated: Aug 23
Red Rocks Park is known for its large sandstone formations, some of which have names: Seat of Pluto, Cave of the Seven Ladders and the most visited rocks around the amphitheater - Creation Rock on the north side, Ship Rock on the south, and Stage Rock on the east. This park is world-famous for its one-of-a-kind amphitheater where many artists have performed. We watched Yanni here one time and it was great experience. Every time we had family and friends visiting, we took them here. It's close to where we used to live, pretty much at our backyard.
Red Rocks Park is a mountain park in Jefferson County, located outside of Morrison, Colorado. This 738 acres park is owned and maintained by the City of Denver as part of the Denver Mountain Parks system. The park is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. It was originally designed as a driving park, where numerous views, rock structures and the Denver skyline can be seen. There are also hiking trails, mountain biking and horseback riding around the area. Red Rocks is open to the public for free - except when there is a scheduled event.
Red Rocks was originally named “Garden of the Angels”, by a pioneer Colorado judge, Martin Van Buren Luther, on July 4, 1870. It was renamed “Garden of the Titans” in 1906 by John Brisben Walker when he purchased the land. When Denver acquired the land in 1928, it was formally given the present name "Red Rocks". There is evidence that Ute tribes used to camp in the area, but few artifacts were found. Native American artefacts back in the 19th century were not treated as important, hence the loss of many.
Make sure to visit the visitor center and check the Red Rocks Hall of Fame where famous artists and musicians that performed at Red Rocks are immortalized. It's quite interesting to read the names of those performers from way back then to today. If you’re hungry, the Ship Rock Grille offers a dining experience.
The amphitheater within the park is a world-famous venue for outdoor concerts and events since 1941, although musical performances were conducted here even years before that. It seats 9,525 people. Many of the world's most famous artists and performers representing every music genre have performed in the Amphitheatre over the years. The natural acoustics of Red Rocks, due to the monoliths, is what makes the amphitheater exceptionally “pleasing to the ears.” An Easter sunrise service has taken place here annually since 1947 - sometimes in the snow.
Thunderstorms can happen anytime in the summer in Colorado and concerts can be cancelled if there is a threat - since it’s in the open, visitors are quite vulnerable to lightning strikes. It happened to us one time and although lightning is a spectacle to watch, getting out of harm's way is a wise decision.
COLORADO MUSIC HALL OF FAME
You will find the Colorado Music Hall of Fame inside the Trading Post, located on the east side of the amphitheater. The music museum displays memorabilia, photos, audios and videos. Take a picture with John Denver’s statue outside of the store.
TO GET HERE
Coming from downtown Denver is about a 30-minute drive via US-6 West to I-70 West. Then take exit 259 to County Road 93. Turn right to W. Alameda Parkway to Red Rocks Amphitheater Entrance I, then to Trading Post Road and Ship Rock Road. You can also take the Hogback Road and then Red Rocks Park Road to the Lower South parking area.
DRIVING AROUND THE PARK
Driving around the park is an experience by itself. The rock formations are so amazing that you cannot just drive by without stopping. The red sandstone rocks found in the park were formed about 290 to 296 million years ago when the Ancestral Rocky Mountains were eroded during the Pennsylvanian period. It was gradually uplifted to the angle that you see today. Dinosaur tracks and fossil fragments from the Jurassic period, 160 million years ago, were found in the area. You can find information about it at the visitor center.
Red Rocks is at its most beautiful during winter, especially after a big snow storm. The snow enhances the red color of the rocks. At times, massive icicles form on the sides of some of the cliffs. For us, winter is the best time to explore the park, driving and on foot.
- HIKING TRAILS -
We avoid hiking here in summer, it can get too hot and rattlesnakes are active at that time of year. But there are short hikes that you can take in the park without exerting too much effort, especially if you are visiting and not yet acclimated to the high altitude. The Red Rocks Trail, the longest trail within the park connects with other trails at Matthews/Winters Park. Link below.
The Trading Post Trail - 1.4 miles
The Red Rocks Trail - 6 mile loop
The Funicular Trail - a short, steep trail that follows the path of an inclined railway which used to carry tourist to the top of Mt. Morrison
The Mount Vernon Creek Trail - 1 mile
The Geologic Overlook Trail - a short and moderate trail leading to beautiful views
If you want to seek a much longer trail, then check this link. HIKING IN MATTHEWS/WINTERS PARK (Dakota Ridge Trail, Red Rocks Trail/Morrison Slide Trail Loop) – 8 to 12 miles
Red Rocks Park in Winter. Take a glimpse.