History & Geology
If you think of Red Rocks Park as just a beautiful place to see a concert, think again! Around you are 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 amphitheatre in the world. From Sting and The Beatles, to opera stars and U2, every artist aspires to play on this magical, spiritual and emotional stage.
Red Rocks offers a variety of recreation options from guided tours, hiking, biking, shopping, dining and a summer concert series. Whatever your pleasure, enjoy discovering Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre!
Stats & Info
Date Opened: June 15, 1941
Amphitheatre Seating Capacity: 9,525
Elevation: 6,450 ft
Red Rocks Mountain Park size: 640 acres
National Historic Landmark: 2015
Red Rocks is a geologically formed, open-air amphitheater that is not duplicated anywhere in the world. With Mother Nature as the architect, the design of the Amphitheatre consists of two, three hundred-foot monoliths (Ship Rock and Creation Rock) that 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.
The area of Red Rocks, 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 amphitheater, along with the panoramic view of Denver, makes for a breathtaking scene.
In the early 1900's, John Brisben Walker had a vision of artists performing on a stage nestled into the perfectly acoustic surroundings of Red Rocks. Walker produced a number of concerts between 1906 and 1910 on a temporary platform; and from his dream, the history of Red Rocks as an entertainment venue began.
George Cranmer, Manager of Denver Parks, convinced the City of Denver to purchase the area of Red Rocks from Walker for the price of $54,133. Cranmer convinced the Mayor of Denver, Ben Stapleton, to build on the foundation laid by Walker. By enlisting the help of the federally sponsored Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), and the Work Projects Administration (WPA), labor and materials were provided for the venture.
Denver architect Burnham Hoyt designed the amphitheater with an emphasis on preserving the natural beauty of the area. The plans were completed in 1936, and the amphitheater was dedicated on June 15, 1941, though the actual construction spanned over 12 years. In 1947, the first annual Easter Sunrise Service took place. Since then, Red Rocks Amphitheatre has attracted the best performers to its stage.
Red Rocks Park and the CCC camp received National Historic Landmark status in 2015, and received the honorary award on June 15, 2016 -- the amphitheater's 75th anniversary. The award is administered by the National Park Service on behalf of the Secretary of the Interior. The designation recognizes sites that possess exceptional value and quality in illustrating or interpreting the heritage of the United States.
Gradual earth movement slowly raised the great sandstone ledges from the prehistoric ocean floor, to form the "walls" of the amphitheater. 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. Fossil fragments of the giant 40-foot sea serpent, Plesiosaur, the marine reptile Mosasaurus, and flying reptiles captivate students and geologists alike.
Some of the rock formations in Red Rocks slope as much as 90 degrees, while others tilt backwards. The southern monolith, that bears resemblance to a ship, is named "Ship Rock." On the opposite side of the amphitheater 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.