The Beauty in Red Rocks Amphitheater

The Beauty in Red Rocks Amphitheater

After describing the natural monstrosity that is Red Rocks Amphitheater countless times to my East Coast-ers, I realized that it’s really a little-known geological miracle sitting 6,450 feet above sea level in Morrison, Colorado! I also realized that I only knew of it because of downloading multiple songs randomly with “live at Red Rocks” in the title, and I guess I must have Googled it somewhere down the line. I knew immediately that a blog post was imminent so I could share this super cool natural structure with my readers and learn a bit more about it myself.

Oh, and to have a reason to go sit inside it! (More to come)

Red Rocks Amphitheater 4
Copyright: naughtynut / 123RF Stock Photo

It wouldn’t be a Kurious Kaleidoscope-worthy post if I didn’t go through a brief history lesson, so I’ll start at the very beginning. Let’s talk rocks!


A long, long time ago on an Earth we’d barely recognize… was a geological time period called the Precambrian. The Precambrian is considered a supereon which can further be split into several eons on the geologic time scale. It stretched from 4.6 billion years ago (the time of the formation of our blue planet) to 541 million years ago. Due to the volatile nature of our early planet’s inner processes and tough atmospheric conditions, much of the rock left from Precambrian times has either eroded or metamorphosed, but even still this rock underlies the North American continent.

This Precambrian rock formed the base of the Ancestral Rocky Mountains. During the Paleozoic time period spanning from 541 to 252.17 million years ago, western America was actually covered by a shallow sea. Fossils of marine plants and animals have even been found right in the Rocky Mountains! In time, this sea left behind layers upon layers (kilometers deep) of sedimentary deposits like limestone and dolomite. 

Though the exact beginning and end of the sub-period is accepted as hard to pinpoint, about 323.2 to 298.9 million years ago existed the Pennsylvanian sub-period of time on the geological scale. This sub-period is defined in North America as being marked by the rock bed formation of marine limestone, or simply a timeframe characterized by lowland continental deposits.

It was later named so because of all the coal-forming rock beds found in the Pennsylvania area.

I’m telling you all this sciencey stuff so we can better understand why this section of the Rocky Mountains looks the unique way that it does. And there’s a quiz at the end. Better study up! 😉

So, we had our Precambrian igneous rock already established in this area. Over huge spans of time, parts of this rock were roughly eroded or metamorphosed.

The region then received layers of sedimentary rock formation during the Paleozoic era and the Pennsylvania sub-period.

Also during the Pennsylvanian, the ancestral Precambrian rock was disturbed by the natural mountain building processes of the Ancestral Rocky Mountains. This uplift of land and rock created two distinct mountainous “islands” that are currently divided into the Front Range of the Rockies and the San Juan Mountains. The metamorphic rock underneath was forced upward through the limestone left over from the time when this area was underwater. The mountains further eroded through time leaving even more sediment exposed.

This overall process created the Fountain Formation, a bedrock along the East side of the Front Range of the Rockies. The Fountain nonconformably covers that ancestral Precambrian rock I just talked about, much of what remains consisting of granite and gneiss.

Wikipedia describes a geological nonconformity as follows:

A nonconformity exists between sedimentary rocks and metamorphic or igneous rocks when the sedimentary rock lies above and was deposited on the pre-existing and eroded metamorphic or igneous rock. Namely, if the rock below the break is igneous or has lost its bedding due to metamorphism, the plane of juncture is a nonconformity.

To show what this means in real time right here in Colorado,  here is a picture.

By Jstuby at en.wikipedia - Own workTransferred from en.wikipedia, CC0,
By Jstuby at en.wikipedia

See the difference in the rocks on the right side vs. the left side? This demonstrates the nonconformity between the Pennsylvanian Fountain Formation (left) and Precambrian gneiss (right) at Red Rocks Park.

Because of the mountain forming and erosion, in Colorado there are tons of jagged red rock structures especially hanging around the Front Range of the Rockies. The red color comes from the granite and gneiss from which the Fountain Formation was eroded.

The Fountain Formation left us with the monoliths that a smart man with a vision once looked at and realized they were the perfect, NATURAL acoustic setting for an amphitheater with a one-of-a-kind view.

The Vision

Copyright: inyrdreams / 123RF Stock Photo
Copyright: inyrdreams / 123RF Stock Photo

In the early 1900’s, a man named John Brisben Walker, a magazine publisher (he owned Cosmopolitan magazine from 1889 – 1905!) and automobile entrepreneur, had a vision to create a perfect natural amphitheater nestled in amongst the red rocks. Walker eventually set up a temporary stage platform and enticed many artists to perform between the years of 1906 and 1910.

Later on in 1927, a man named George Cranmer, the Manager of Denver Parks, made a wise decision in convincing the City of Denver to purchase Red Rocks from Walker at a price of $54,133. Cranmer then convinced the Mayor of Denver to agree to build upon Walker’s platform to make Red Rocks into something bigger. His pitch was a success, and in 1936, architect Burnham Hoyt was hired to design the amphitheater. Actual construction took 12 years to complete, but carved into the sandstone now exists an awe-inspiring entertainment venue that attracts some of the best artists to its stage each and every year.

Trail into the Amphitheater, Copyright: chr1 / 123RF Stock Photo
Trail into the Amphitheater, Copyright: chr1 / 123RF Stock Photo

The views, nature and wildlife that can be experienced at Red Rocks Amphitheater and the surrounding Red Rocks Park, a total of 868 acres, are truly one-of-a-kind! The amphitheater is the only natural-occurring perfect acoustic amphitheater in the world, and road signs here label it a landmark in geological formation. Obviously! One can hike, bike, shop, dine, hear concerts and watch movies here. They are even doing a special showing of Purple Rain on May 12th! May 30th is the Big Lebowski; ANYONE?! Groups and individuals also gather here to exercise by using the tall stairs leading down into the amphitheater. There seems to be a flourish of activity at almost any time of the day. The park is an area of land where the plains meet the mountains and this introduces a nice variety of landscape views.

And lucky me, all I have to do is drive a couple miles down the road until Red Rocks comes into view! But I’ll stop bragging…

When we visited Colorado in October before we moved here, we attempted to explore the Amphitheater but were one of the first people to be denied entry that day due to concert preparation for a show later that evening. But we did decide to do some hiking in Red Rocks Park and that was just as beautiful. These are a couple of my pictures from the trail:

Red Rocks Amphitheater 3

Red Rocks Amphitheater 2

I will include that we didn’t explore a WHOLE heck of a lot because we played the touron card.

Reminder: Tourist + Moron = TOURON

That’s right.

We made an irrational decision in an unfamiliar placed based on irrational fear.

We heard that in the warmer months, a rain in the mountains can result in landslides and general chaos leading a person into danger. Or death.

The particular day we hiked Red Rocks Park, it rained. I’m talking a sprinkle where every few seconds we’d say, “I just felt a drop!” We freaked out and decided to head back so we could be the smart ones who escaped imminent death and would later live in infamy.

But, needless to say, the “rain” stopped five minutes into our hike back to the car and all hikers that day lived safely and soundly in the end.

But that’s okay. We relocated to Colorado and gave ourselves another fighting chance.

We’ll be back. 

The Schedule

Besides filling my peeps in on what Red Rocks is and just how freaking cool it is, I’ve taken a couple ganders at their concert schedule through the summer. I’m just sayin’, this makes it enticing to put all my money toward musical entertainment this year.

Let’s just take a quick look.

May Sched 1 May Sched 2

Notable: JJ Grey and Mofro with the Dusters and [not mentioned] bluegrassy band Fruition!! Bad Company and Joe Walsh?! The Flaming Lips???? Holy bank account!


June is just so good, I CAN’T EVEN.

June Sched 1June Sched 2

Notable: They aren’t even mentioning that the OPENER for Steely Dan is the one and only STEVE WINWOOD, folks! Bob Dylan. Rebelution. Lumineers. Sublime. Ben Harper. Modest Mouse. I don’t even know Zeds Dead but judging by the name, I can guess, and I’d say yes, I’m in. Pick me!

Come AHN! Can I just find a hole and camp in there for the summer?


JULY is so good, I don’t have any EVENS left that I can’t do anything with.

July Sched 1 July Sched 2 July Sched 3

Pretty much all of these. Blues Traveler and Killer Queen, take me home.



August Sched 1 August Sched 2

The EPIC amount of Bluegrass and badassery in the month of August just makes my heart flutter.


Tedeschi Trucks band. Trampled by Turtles. Ryan Adams. Old Crow. Dirty Heads. Nathaniel Rateliff. STYX.




Sept Sched 1 Sept Sched 2

The Queen of the Blues, Bonnie Raitt herself. Railroad Earth. Ray Lamontagne. Gregg Allman.


Well guys, I’m sorry I can’t finish this for you.

I have to go literally die of excitement now.

It has really and truly been nice knowing you all but that was just the end for me. My musical heart blew up and exploded and I am now done.

I think you know where to find me 🙂


Any of these catch your eye? Tell me about it or a time when any of these artists were your best show ever!

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One thought on “The Beauty in Red Rocks Amphitheater

  1. Deborah Sweeney

    Very interesting and well researched. Isn’t Nature amazing? Oh, and I am interested in Knife Party-jus kiddin’!

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