I start training for the marathon in just a few days! Despite having a rough time with my stamina over the last few weeks, I’m really excited and ready to go. I took 3 days completely off this week and today was the first day that I’ve run since last Thursday. Albeit an easy run, this morning and I hit my zone. That spot where you feel like you can and want to keep going. I cut today’s run off around 4 miles but I’m feeling good!
Starting next week I’m probably going to nerd out about running and nutrition so I thought this was a good time to write a post about Red Rocks Park & Amphitheater, which I’ve been thinking a lot about lately.
I know I said before that Red Rocks isn’t my favorite venue. It’s because it is something so much more than that. From the moment I knew that Red Rocks existed I knew that I HAD to see it. I never dreamt that I would live less than 20 miles away from it!
I’ve been lucky enough to spend a lot of time at Red Rocks over the last few years and have already been four times this summer. Every time I go I’m inspired and that’s what prompted this post. The excitement I feel as I take the Morrison exit off of I-70 and start to see the landscape turn from the brown of the foothills to green and then build up to the jutting red rocks that make up the amphitheater and surrounding park – that excitement never fades.I’m gonna be honest, there are times when we drive all the way out into the mountains and though we try to always be grateful of our surroundings, the majesty becomes an afterthought because we’ve seen it so many times. Maybe it’s because I’m a huge music venue nerd, but Red Rocks to me every time is going to be one of the most amazing things I’ve ever experienced.
When we were thinking about moving to Denver and came out for a visit it was in March. Pretty much the only thing that was on my list of things I HAD to do on our exploratory visit was to see Red Rocks. That March morning was one of those rare, overcast days and we were peppered with rain and sleet. Visibility was zero. We set out anyway. As we headed out I-70 we could physically feel that the landscape was changing but couldn’t see anything. It was an eerie feeling as we drove up the long driveway to the park. You could barely see the prestigious red rocks for which it is named. I, quite frankly, was devastated. Did I over anticipate? Was this the only time I was ever going to see Red Rocks and this is what it looked like??
With many more Red Rocks experiences now under my belt I look back on that day fondly and realize that it was a rarity to see it in that state. We were the only people there.
We went back the next day and the sun was shining. It was like watching a ship sail on calm water after weathering a storm that almost sunk it. There was a dusting of snow and the sky opened up to reveal a view that stretched from the skyline of Denver to a perspective shot of the mountains, all framed in the eponymous red rocks.
Red Rocks is so many things. A mountain park where you can roam and play among natural wonders and wildlife. A perfectly placed by nature amphitheater where you can see your favorite bands and old rock legends. A staircase with close to 400 steps from bottom to top that you can run up and down if you are a masochist, or if you are training for the Rim Rock marathon…
Here are some of my favorite ways to see Red Rocks
Of course music.
Yes, it rains ALL the time. Sometimes it hails. Sometimes the wind whips down from the back of the venue and reminds you that even though it’s summer, you’re playing by nature’s rules. The best piece of advice I was given about moving to Denver is “If you’re going to Red Rocks, bring a rain coat”. I stand by that. Sometimes it kind of sucks.
Until…Until you see Jack White perform barefoot on a glossy white stage that is covered in 2″ inches of water, risking electrocution in the name of rock and roll. Until you huddle together with your friends while trying to eat your burrito bowl before the rain soaks through your tortilla chips. Until you see lightning that has moved off into the distance become a part of the band’s performance. Seriously, check out this video my friend shot at Phoenix a few weeks ago. Until you have those amazing days when it doesn’t rain.
Fun fact: The day after the Red Rocks show, Jack White shot the video for Would You Fight For My Love at the Cruise Room, an historic cocktail bar right around the corner from my office in downtown Denver. The lights in Cruise Room are normally all tuned to red but they made it all blue for Jack’s video. I’ve sat in that booth behind him 🙂Red Rocks is kind of an odd venue in that it is small for outdoors (9,500 capacity), but they have a killer lineup each season because everyone wants to play there. There’s no open space to move around so if you have a GA ticket you need to get there early to grab a spot. Though there really is not a bad seat in the house, I like to be close at concerts. My eardrums may disagree.
If you don’t care about being close, reserved seating is a good option. You will be somewhere in the middle rows and you can come and go at any time and your seats will be waiting.
Bands love Red Rocks too. The Avett Brothers play there 3 times every year! It’s really inspiring when you can not only see your favorite bands but see them knowing that they’re putting on their best show because they are so inspired to be playing in that space, in front of you, at that moment.
I saw Portugal. the Man there a couple of weeks ago with Local Natives and Car Seat Headrest. It was the last show of their tour. I’ve seen PTM at Red Rocks a few times and they, like every band, are openly grateful to be playing there. This time they gave us something special. An 8 piece brass and string section joined them on stage and played with them on every song, adding another dimension to their already fervent sound. At the end of the show they told us that they haven’t even practiced together. You would have never known.
This is the kind of thing you see over and over again at Red Rocks, and just another element of it’s magic.
Every summer Yoga on the Rocks provides the opportunity for yogis to come together and practice as the sun rises in this spiritual place that has been here for millions of years! There’s a great write up on the geological history on the Red Rocks website.
The eight Saturday morning Yoga on the Rocks sessions are split between The River and Core Power yoga studios. The classes sell out at 2,500 people and are designed for all skill levels in mind. I find the Core Power classes a bit more challenging and thus preferable but both are great. The instructors, much like what I talked about with bands, are always grateful to have the opportunity to guide practice at Red Rocks. These events are good vibes all around.
Class starts promptly at 7am. It’s an early rise on a Saturday morning – even for us 5am warriors! I think Pig Train is the only coffee shop in Denver that opens before 6:30am on the weekends, but it’s super easy to find parking that early in the day in front of Union Station and also a great place to meet up if you want to carpool with friends.
If you’re late to Yoga on the Rocks you will likely have to run up about half of one of the staircases (200ish steps) which is a good work out but not a stressor you want to deal with before yoga class. I speak from experience.
It is transcendental to be among so many people and sharing movements and breath in total silence. You can hear the birds chirp and the wind as it whispers a soft breeze to cool the rays of the hot, early morning sun.
I honestly can’t think of a better way to start a day. Bonus, I’ve never seen it rain at Red Rocks in the morning.
I didn’t realize until I thought about moving here but Red Rocks is owned by the City of Denver and it’s a part of the Denver Mountain Parks system. Red Rocks is actually a 738 acre park with trail systems that you can hike, bike and run. You can see wildlife including deer, foxes and some really awesome birds.
The rocks themselves are something to be seen. Red Rocks was originally called Garden of the Angels and it’s easy to see why.
During the day you can also visit the on site museums and walk through the amphitheater – even on stage if you want.
Whether you’re visiting for any of the three reasons I discussed or one of the countless events that take up the walls of the red rocks – movie nights, weddings, beer fests, fitness on the rocks, etc. it’s an astonishing feeling.
There is no question that this naturally formed park and amphitheater is a piece of geological perfection. A material symbol of fate. There is nothing like it in the world and I am so lucky to be able to be in a time and place in the universe where I can enjoy it.