The Ultimate Guide: Best Fests Of The West
WHY BEST FESTS?
There was an editor once who told me she didn’t take stories about events. Because I was the lowly freelancer pitching tales of fun mountain events in the hopes of experiencing them firsthand, I took that stinging response and slithered away. Of course, I silently (and vehemently) questioned her judgment; after all, the calendar and events lists in magazines and online are the first things I look at. Always. Who wants to sit home on a beautiful day because there’s nothing to do? So I set about creating my own Best Fests of the West list and editors be damned!
WHAT’S THE DRAW
Events- especially multi-day ones- give you reason to get moving, get outdoors, find your community, experience something new- or hone skills you already have- and get joyously grubby. If no one’s writing about them, then how would you possibly know they are happening? A stumble into the local coffee shop and a browse on the bulletin board leaves too much to chance.
Luckily, there’s the Internet and there’s still little ol’ me- hunting and attending these festivals so you don’t have to worry about missing something cool taking place this hot summer. Here’s the rundown. Feel free to comment if I missed something. This list isn’t about every fest; just the best!
FYI: Coachella or Burning Man are not included. They’re both too cool to be cool anymore. This list also does not include “fests” where the general public sits around and watches elite athletes compete (ie. The GoPro Games and Royal Gorge Whitewater Fest). Below are festivals where you can be fully engaged; where you say you can’t wait to do it again. Enjoy!
GoFest, Whistler, B.C.- Four days of family fun doing everything outdoors like standup paddling, fly fishing, trail running, cycling, sailing, even snowboarding polished off with yoga, photography and film exhibits, fine food, live concerts. May 19-22.
Bottlerock, Napa, Calif.- Like a fine wine, Bottlerock keeps getting better with age. The three-day festival in California’s stunning Napa Valley features 70+ bands and indie acts, amazing food, and of course, lots of the region’s wine. Ani DiFranco, Foofighters, Live, Maroon 5, Macklemore,Ben Harper. May 26-28.
California Roots, Monterey, Calif.- It’s not all about California bands, nor is it just about roots reggae. It is, however, about quintessential California living—and dreaming: Imagine a laid-back experience with sunshine (if it’s not foggy), smiles, and good vibes. NAS, Thievery Corp, Matisyahu, Jurassic 5. May 26-28.
CKS Paddlefest, Buena Vista, Colo.- If you’re looking for a way to get involved in river sports, ready to hone your skills, or just want a good party that involves playing on water; this is the place to be. Clinics, competitions, races, and concerts make it a weekend not to miss. May 26-29.
Telluride MountainFilm, Telluride, Colo. – An epic festival of films, people, stories, and ideas that celebrates spirit, educates and inspires audiences, and motivates individuals and communities to advance solutions for a livable world. Parties, book signings, film premieres, concerts and food. May 26-29.
Sasquatch Music Festival, The Gorge near Seattle, Wash.- The premiere rock/alternative indie music fest. Camp out all three days so you don’t miss a beat from up and coming artists. There’s also a comedy tent that morphs into a dance party late at night for you and your 25,000 friends. Don’t miss The Head and the Heart, Twenty-One Pilots, The Shins, Frank Ocean. Memorial Day Weekend.
Campout for the Cause, Rancho Del Rio, Colo. Live music, camping, yoga, lifestyle workshops, a stand-up paddle boarding invitational and sup workshops for all levels. 100% of net proceeds benefit local non-profit organizations. June 2-4.
Eagle Outside Festival, Eagle, Colo.- Free consumer demo, women’s mountain bike clinics, kids clinics and fishing derby, group rides, Firebird XC and LoFi Super-D races, and music. June 3-4.
Telluride Bluegrass Festival, Telluride, Colo.- Woodstock of the West. Four days of bluegrass-based acoustic music that’s been going strong for nearly 40 years. Dispatch, Sam Bush Band, Margo Price, Yonder Mountain String Band, Béla Fleck, Nora Jones, and Jason Mraz. Kids get their own tent and music at the back and late night concerts at local clubs throughout town rock after the field winds down. June 15-18.
Four Peaks Music Festival, Bend, Ore.- An intimate, family friendly fest with over 20 bands on two stages. Throw in free camping, yoga, craft beer, and late night music and you are set for a killer time with the likes of moe., Karl Denson, Infamous Stringdusters. June 15-18.
Great Eldorado, BBQ, Brews and Blues Festival, Reno, Nev.- Reno’s outrageous barbeque block party with acts including the Gin Blossoms and Everclear sharing nonstop rock and blues on two stages with day-long microbrew tasting. June 16-17.
Aspen Food and Wine Classic, Aspen, Colo. – Celebrity chefs, renowned winemakers, and epicurean insiders from the culinary world’s elite bring you three days of cooking demonstrations, wine tastings and panel discussions. June 16-18.
What The Festival, Dufur, Ore.- A four-day, outdoor bohemian rave featuring big names in electronica and EDM, pool parties, landscape-sprawling activities, hookah lounge, yoga, large scale art installations, lectures and trippy light shows. June 16-19.
Crested Butte Bike Week, Crested Butte, Colo.- A 4-day celebration of all things mountain bike in the Gunnison Valley. Clinics, races, a film festival, the Chainless World Championships, good beer, and a great party. June 22-25.
Flaming Gorge Days, Green River, Wyo., Flaming Gorge Days is an annual celebration which originated in 1956. Named after the Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area and the Flaming Gorge Reservoir, which is almost equally divided between Wyoming and Utah, there are games, live concerts, and much more! June 22-24.
Bonanza Campout, Heber, Utah- Set to the picturesque backdrop of Jordanelle State Park, the boutique music and camping festival will feature over 30 live performances by renowned headliners and emerging artists like Cut Copy, Airborne Toxic Event, Duke Dumont, Cherub, Method Man, Redman, plus local breweries and eateries, a variety of onsite activities, and more. June 23-25.
Blues from the Top, Winterpark, Colo. The Front Range will rock with the sounds of the Fabulous Thunderbirds, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Anders Osborne, food and craft vendors, and the famous Future of The Blues stage for kids. June 24-27.
High Sierra Music Festival, Quincy, Calif.- The eclectic sounds of jazz, newgrass, bluegrass, jam bands, funk, electronica and world music can be heard about 80 miles north of Reno, Nev., There are also workshops, classes, and family-oriented activities. Galactic, Greyboy Allstars, Trey Anastasio Band, and more. June 29-July 2.
Park City Food and Wine Classic, Park City, Utah. Experience more than 100 food artisans, wineries, breweries, distilleries, epicurean purveyors, and locally-made products with tastings, seminars, cooking demonstrations, and outdoor adventures with food & wine influences. July 6-9.
Ride Festival, Telluride, Colo. – The two-day fest features renowned rock and roll icons like Beck and ben Harper along with some of current music’s finest emerging talent. July 8-9.
International Climbers Festival, Lander, Wyo., – Celebrate the climbing lifestyle with competitions, clinics, art, food, music, beer, and one hell of a party. Some of the top sport climbers in the world show up for this. July 12-16.
Timber! Outdoor Music Festival, Carnation, Wash.- More than 20 emerging rock bands, yoga, swimming, kayaking, biking, camping, s’mores and an evening stage for spooky storytelling. July 13-15.
Winter Park Jazz Festival, Winter Park, Colo. A fan favorite for over 30 years, share the mountains with world class jazz artists in Hideaway Park. MAZE featuring Frankie Beverly, Marsha Ambrosius & Eric Benét, Brian Culbertson. July 15-16.
Targhee Fest, Alta, Wyo.- Family friendly rock fest framed by the Tetons. North Mississippi Allstars, Karl Denson, Galactic, Leftover Salmon and more are scheduled to perform. July 14-16.
Cheyenne Frontier Days, Cheyenne, Wyo., – Celebrating Cheyenne’st Old West roots with the world’s largest outdoor rodeo, trick riding, a Native American Village, an old frontier town, a saloon, dancing, a chuck wagon cook-off, pancake breakfasts and an art show, a carnival midway, an air show, top-name entertainment, and parades. July 21-30.
Rockygrass, Lyons, Colo. – Known internationally as one of the great traditional bluegrass festivals, Rockygrass becomes the center of the bluegrass universe under the red rock cliffs of the St. Vrain River. Del McCoury Band, Sam Bush Bluegrass Band, Earls of Leicester, Infamous Stringdusters, and many more play while kids can do their own planet-minded activities throughout the day in the family area. July 28-30.
Red Ants Pants, White Sulphur Springs, Mont. – The festival brings in more than two dozen different artists playing grassroots, honky-tonkin’ music performing on separate stages. Local food and craft vendors, agricultural and work skills demos, and a kids tent. A portion of the profits go to the Red Ants Pants Foundation to develop and expand leadership roles for women, preserve and support working family farms and ranches, and enrich and promote rural communities. July 27-30.
Arise, Sunrise Ranch, Loveland, Colo.- Seven stages of live music, yoga, workshops, theme camps, art gallery & installations, children’s village, speakers, films and camping on 100 beautiful mountain valley acres. Atmosphere, Tipper, Ani DiFranco, Rising Appalachia, Brother Ali and more acts will keep the party going for three days. Aug. 4-6.
Outside Lands, Golden Gate Park, Calif.- Launched by the people who created Bonnaroo, this mainstream (think Metallica, Tribe Called Quest, The Who), 3-day celebration of music, food, wine and art brings together more than 70,000 people. Aug. 11-13.
Faerieworlds, North Plains, Ore., – If Middle Earth had a Bonnaroo it would look and sound like this. Faerieworlds is largest mythic, fantasy and faerie themed event in the US. Now in its 16th year of providing music and art-based entertainment, Horning’s Hideout, outside of Portland captures three days of extraordinary live music and performance, amazing art and crafts, and fantasy fun for the whole family. Aug. 25-27.
Salt Lake Climbing Festival, Brighton, Utah.- Get down and dirty with your best new climbing buddies with gear demos, great food, music, yoga and of course climbing workshops lead for all abilities. Children are welcome! Aug. 25-27.
Wydaho Rendezvous Teton Bike Festival, Grand Targhee Resort, Driggs, Idaho. Mountain Bikers from all over the west gather for a weekend-long fest of fun including: guided rides, clinics, demos, raffles and music. Sept. 1-4.
Bumbershoot Arts and Music Festival, Seattle, Wash.- 250 performers at over 20 unique indoor and outdoor venues. There’s music, comedy, film, performing and visual arts, dance, theatre, and events for the kids. Lineup TBA. Sept. 1-3.
Russian River Jazz and Blues Festival, Johnson’s Beach & Resort, Guerneville, Calif.- Vibrant jazz acts and the grittiest blues players in the nation share two days of music, wine, food and paddling. Sept. 9-10.
Zion Rendezvous, Zion NP, Utah- Workshops, guided canyoneering in the most magnificent place in the west, adventure planning, presentations, parties, food, demos and raffles. Sept. 13-17.
Colorado Mountain Winefest, Palisade, Colo.- Ffood and wine pairings, chocolate and wine tastings, educational seminars are part of the state’s largest and oldest wine festival featuring dozens of Colorado wineries, live music, a grape stomp, chef demonstrations & seminars. Sept. 14-17.
Salida Bikefest, Salida, Colo.- Celebrating bicycles of all kinds with free group rides, bike films, bike from work mixer, a chainless race, pump track competition, a bike parade, the return of the Banana Belt Mountain Bike Race, the 17th Annual Monarch Crest Crank and free live music in Riverside Park, plus much more. Sept. 14-17.
Kaaboo, Del Mar, Calif.- A completely curated, three-day sound voyage that combines world-class rock-n-roll music from the likes of Jackson Browne, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Alanis Morissette, tastemaking socials, craft libations, comedy acts, contemporary art, dancing and premium amenities. Sept. 15-17.
Yosemite Facelift 2017, Yosemite, Calif. – Ha ha, tricked you! This isn’t a crazy party but a time to give back. More than 1,000 people each year volunteer to spend a day or more cleaning up Yosemite Valley. Participants are eligible for free camping, nightly raffles and presentations from slideshows to films. Sept. 26- Oct. 1.
Idaho Mountain Festival, Castle Rocks State Park, Almo, Idaho
(right next door to the ever-so-popular City of Rocks National Reserve). – A 4-day all-inclusive outdoor event encompasses rock climbing, trail running, and a solid collection of entertaining attractions like the premiere of Reel Rock 10 films, live music, swag giveaways and community meals. Sept. 21-24.
Outerbike, Moab, Utah.- Skills clinics, bike demos, guided rides, food, fun and beer. Oct. 6-8.
Telluride Blues & Brews Festival, Telluride, Colo., Three days of music with a lineup that includes Bonnie Raitt, Steve Winwood, TajMo, and many more, plus yoga and a standup comedy session, along with 56 craft breweries. September 15 – 17.
Austin City Limits, Austin, TX- Book your hotel or campsite early. Austin’s version of Bonnaroo grown to become a two-weekend event draws crowds around 100,000. This American music event draws artists from the LCD Soundsystem to the Willie Nelson. Kids under 10 get in free and have their own “Kiddie Limits” event- crafts, sand play, School of Rock workshops, DrumZone and rocker hairdos. Oct. 6-8 & Oct. 13-15.
ClimbSmart, Joshua Tree, Calif.- A value-packed weekend of education, inspiration and celebration all to support the Friends of Joshua Tree and Access Fund. Climbing clinics, swag, entertainment, food and camping. Oct. 13-15.