Red Rocks 101


Red Rocks is a geologically formed, open-air Amphitheatre, unlike anywhere else in the world. With Mother Nature as the architect, the design of the Amphitheatre consists of two, three hundred-foot monoliths, which provide acoustic perfection for any performance. The dramatic sandstone monoliths serve as a history book of animal and plant life in the area for the past 250 million years. As spectators gaze at the towering red sandstone rocks, they view the ancient tales of prehistoric times. Gradual earth movement slowly raised the great sandstone ledges from the prehistoric ocean floor to form the walls of the Amphitheatre. Within these walls is contained a record book of the ages as nearby dinosaur tracks tell of the Jurassic period of 160 million years ago.

The area of Red Rocks, which was originally known as the Garden of Angels, has attracted the attention of musical performers since before the turn of the century. The majestic setting of the Amphitheatre, along with the panoramic view of Denver, makes for a breathtaking scene.

Some of the rock formations in Red Rocks slope as much as 90 degrees, while others tilt backward. The southern monolith, which bears resemblance to a ship, is named “Ship Rock.” On the opposite side of the Amphitheatre stands “Creation Rock.” Both of the monoliths are taller than Niagara Falls, and the Red Rocks Amphitheatre was once listed as among the Seven Wonders of the World.

In the early 1900s, John Brisben Walker, former owner of Cosmopolitan Magazine, had a vision of artists performing on a stage nestled into the perfectly acoustic surroundings of Red Rocks. The first documented performance at the venue, which Walker had now renamed the Garden of the Titans, occurred on May 31, 1906. In 1911, Opera Singer Mary Garden was quoted saying: “Never in any opera house in the world have I found more perfect acoustic properties. I predict that someday, 20,000 people will assemble there to listen to the world’s greatest masterpieces.” Thus, the history of Red Rocks as an entertainment venue officially began.

Denver purchased the land from Walker in 1927 for $54,133, equivalent to around $735,129 today. Plans were set in motion for renovations and redevelopment. Those plans were put on hold when the stock market crashed in 1929. Construction finally began in 1936 after enlisting the help of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and the Works Progress Administration (WPA). Modeled after the ancient venue Taormina in Sicily, the amphitheater was completed in 1941. Denver architects designed the Amphitheatre with an emphasis on preserving the natural beauty and landscape of the area. The Amphitheatre was officially dedicated on June 15, 1941. In 1947, the first annual Easter Sunrise Service took place. Since then, Red Rocks Amphitheatre has attracted the world’s best performers to its stage.

Performers such as Ray Charles and Peter, Paul and Mary played the venue in the early 60s, and on August 26, 1964, the first notable rock show at the venue took place; The Beatles! The band was the first of many to require oxygen canisters on stage, as the thin air caused shortness of breath.

If you think of Red Rocks Park as just a beautiful place to see a concert, think again! Red Rocks Park offers 868 acres of deer, dinosaurs, pines and prairie, geological wonders, and spectacular vistas. At 6,450 feet above sea level, Red Rocks Park is a unique transitional zone where the Great Plains meet the Rocky Mountains. The diverse environment allows visitors to see plants, birds, and animals of both regions. Red Rocks Amphitheatre is a geological phenomenon – the only naturally occurring, acoustically perfect amphitheater in the world. Every artist aspires to play on this magical, spiritual and emotional stage.

Believed to be the best outdoor venue in the world, the Amphitheatre is now a tourist destination and local treasure. The venue is as woven into Colorado culture as skiing and biking, as microbrews and hiking. Countless artists have described playing on the famed stage as “a dream come true”. There is something enchanting and magical about the venue that every visitor experiences, but can only attempt to explain.

Aside from the many concerts throughout the year, Red Rocks serves as a daily workout facility for many locals. It also houses movie nights, Easter Sunrise Service, and Yoga on the Rocks!

Red Rocks offers a variety of recreation options from guided tours, hiking, biking, shopping, dining, and a summer concert series. Whatever your pleasure, and no matter what time of year, make sure you visit and experience Red Rocks for yourself!