By Trent Jonas
Colorado is renowned for its incredible natural beauty—from the soaring Rocky Mountains to the valleys of the mighty Colorado and Rio Grande Rivers. Hitting an outdoor festival is one of the best ways to explore and enjoy all that the state has to offer. Here are our picks for the best outdoor festivals in Colorado.
The Duranglers Fly Fishing Festival is an annual event that celebrated the art and sport of fly fishing—just in time for the season. The festival offers casting and fly tying clinics, education and gear demos for angles of all skill levels. Representatives from brands like Sage, Redington, Simms, and Patagonia are always on hand.
Every May, paddlers converge on Buena Vista for the CKS PaddleFest, a four-day festival dedicated to all things paddling. Jam packed with events based on land, whitewater and flat water, participants can look forward to live music, rock climbing, SUP yoga, stroke clinics and all all sorts of paddling and competitions. Event sponsors include Deerhammer, Kokatat, Elevation Beer, Ninkasi Brewing, Vino Salida Wine Cellars and House Rock Kitchen.
For more than 30 years—and with sponsorship from Subaru—Elephant Rock Cycling Festival has drawn droves of cyclists to Castle Rock. With Front Range views, mountain rides, trail roads and road cruises, the festival now attracts thousands of riders every year. In addition to riding, participants camp, enjoy live music and fuel themselves with the help of folks like Biju’s Little Curry Shop, Park Burger, Clif Bars, and Pikes Peak Brewing Co.
In May, birders migrate to Cortez for the annual Ute Mountain Mesa Verde Birding Festival. Each year, festival goers enjoy speakers, guided birding tours, astounding archaeology and awesome native art at the Cortez Cultural Center, which is supported in part by funds raised from the birding festival.
The point of Colorado Mountain Club’s annual Mountain Fest—supported by Adidas, Mont-Bell, Topo Designs, and Upslope Brewing—is to help motivate folks and get them up to speed on the skills needed to enjoy mountain adventures throughout the year. Hiking, mountaineering, fly fishing and camping clinics all take place at the American Mountaineering Center during the festival.
Adrenaline-fueled paddlers wait all year long for FIBArk—the oldest celebration of whitewater in the United States. Live music, camping, a parade, running races, mountain bike races and, of course, whitewater races will keep your blood pumping over the four days of the festival. Eddyline Brewing will help to make sure you’re never too thirsty.
Yes, Velorama is a three-day music festival, but it’s also a celebration of the cycling lifestyle that coincides with the Colorado Classic, a cycling race in four stages that takes place in Vail and Denver. The festival itself features three experiential zones, a test track and wil host a women’s criterium event.
The Into the Wild Running Festival features events like a 5K fun run, a 5K race and a 10K race—all to support the Wild Animal Sanctuary, which cares for more than 450 large apex predators like lions, tigers, bears and wolves. Vendors will be onsite ensure that participants are properly fed and watered.
Every August for almost 40 years, Telluride has teemed with fungi fans who flock there for the annual Telluride Mushroom Festival. In addition to lectures and workshops, attendees will be able to participate in plenty of foraging expeditions. Apart from mushroom-themed vendors and sponsors, you can also partake of the wares sold by the likes of Telluride Brewing Co., Between the Covers Bookstore, and book your stay at Telluride Alpine Lodging.
In October, runners dash to Castle Rock for the annual Castle Rock Trail Festival, during which participants can run any of up to five races, including a marathon and a 50K ultra marathon. There are also shorter events, as well as a family adventure race.