The Best Fests in the West


6 Can’t-miss Summer Events + Adventures

Summer means adventure: road trips, camping, concerts, bikes, hikes, boats. You name it; summer has it all. Heck, there’s even skiing into July this season (I’m looking at you Snowbird, Squaw, and Mammoth). I like to combine as many adventures into each of the 13 summer weekends as possible. With several music festivals around the West, more than one of my road road trips will feature mountain tunes with sports gear in tow. Here are my top picks:

Snowbird – Brewfest

June 15–16

That Father’s Day BBQ you may have been planning? Cancel it. Instead take the crew up to Snowbird. Their “backyard” includes things yours does not: skiing, 30+ local breweries, live music plus a BBQ featuring ribs, doner kebabs, and garlic fries!

Park City – Deer Valley Music Festival & Concert Series

Deer Valley Music Festival: June 28–August 10
Grand Valley Bank Concert Series: Wednesdays, June 19–August 21 (free)
Deer Valley Concert Series: Select dates, June 30–September 7

Deer Valley brings the heat every summer when it comes to music. Three summer-long festivals take place concurrently at this Park City resort, so let us discern the difference for you. Every Wednesday there’s free music as part of the Grand Valley Bank Community Concert Series, while Deer Valley Concert Series’ second season brings in the likes of Michael Franti, Ben Harper, and the John Butler Trio.

From Utah Symphony | Utah Opera playing the music of the 1969-era Rolling Stones to Disney tunes, The Deer Valley Music Festival has been a stalwart at the resort that pairs world-renowned artists and symphonic music with a different concept each week.

All shows allow coolers, blankets, and low chairs with way more elbow room than other BYOB venues to spread out. Activity-wise, Deer Valley has dozens of miles of singletrack trails for hiking and biking with several chairlifts to get you to the top quickly.

Logan – Utah Festival Opera & Musical Theatre

Utah Festival Opera: June 22–August 3
Special Performances: July 9, 10, 15, 23, 31

At only two hours from the Wasatch Front or Pocatello/Idaho Falls, why not load up bikes or boats and boards and spend a weekend in Logantown? The quaint Main Street features throwback dining options, and its eponymous canyon begins just outside of town and leads to Beaver Mountain and ultimately, Bear Lake—known as the Caribbean of the West for its emerald waters. Plus, one of Utah’s finest performing arts groups: Utah Festival Opera calls Logan home. Enjoy the likes of Mary Poppins, West Side Story, as well as Mozart’s Figaro at the historic Ellen Eccles Theatre.

When it comes to adventure, visit Logan Canyon’s many biking and hiking trails, with several great routes starting at the foot of Beaver Mountain. Try Stump Hollow, part of the Great Western Trail that traverses the entire state. If camping is your thing, Beaver Mountain offers tent, RV sites, and rentable yurts.

Crowd and stage at Grand Targhee Bluegrass festival

Grand Targhee Bluegrass Fest.

Idaho/Wyoming – Grand Targhee Bluegrass Fest

Targhee Fest: July 12–14
Bluegrass Fest: August 9–11

The Targhee Fest is one of the stops on what I call the “touring New Orleans Jazz Fest.” It’s too hot on the Bayou in the summer so many all-star acts hit the road to fill the mountain air with tunes on the festival circuit. Check out Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, Galactic, Dumpstaphunk, Anders Osborne, Los Lobos, and many more at this outdoor event.

August’s Bluegrass Fest brings Greensky Bluegrass, Del McCoury, The Infamous Stringdusters, and about a dozen pickin’ and grinnin’ favorites. What better summer combo is there than bluegrass, beer, and big mountains? None. The answer is none.

banjo player

Photos Courtesy of Grand Targhee Resort

With so much to do on this little slice of the Idaho/Wyoming border, why not plan on heading up to Grand Targhee twice this summer? The resort offers disc golf, a bike park, and lift-served trail access to over 2,000 feet of vertical and 14 miles of downhill trails. Nearby Driggs and Victor easily multiply available trail miles and offer Teton River paddling, world-class fly fishing, and several golf courses. Activities for kids include face painting, a crafts zone, bungee trampoline, climbing wall, gemstone panning station, and Summit Nature Center.

And we haven’t even talked about the Jackson Hole area—gateway to Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. Sticking to the west side of the Tetons, you’ll avoid the summer Winnebago and minivan crowds and can enjoy the quieter Teton Valley. Except of course, during two weekends full of funk and bluegrass music.

crowd at a music festival

Photos Courtesy of Grand Targhee Resort

Telluride, Colorado – Telluride Blues & Brews

Telluride Jazz Festival: August 9–11
Telluride Blues & Brews Festival: September 13–15

If jazz and blues are your thing, head to the Rocky Mountain High town of Telluride for a pair of weekends in the San Juans: Jazz in August and Blues & Brews in September. Our pick of the two is the latter: start off with the Grand Tasting with over 107 beers and ciders, add in headliners Phil Lesh and Boz Scaggs, and you have a winner.

Telluride is an alpine dream. B.B. King once remarked, “Out of the 90 different countries I’ve been to, I’ve never seen anything more beautiful than what you have here.” Hard to argue with that. If your lungs can handle it, venture onto the nearby hiking and biking trails. Cool off with whitewater rafting and kayaking on the San Miguel River, or test your mettle on the Via Ferrata, climbing across small iron foot and handholds hundreds of feet above Telluride’s box canyon.

Nevada/California – High Sierra Music Festival

July 3–7

You can catch many of the same bands playing High Sierra at the venues and festivals mentioned above (Galactic, Greensky Bluegrass, Del McCoury), but one thing that sets this Quincy, California festival apart are its intimate late-night shows. Dancing away to Karl Denson or Skerik after midnight with just a few hundred people is worth the trip across the Great Basin. If you have reason to be in or around Reno during 4th of July weekend, add High Sierra to your list.


About Author

Nick Como escaped the skyscrapers of NYC for the tall peaks of the Wasatch. Climber, skier, canyoneer, mountain biker, and lover of food. Just don’t think of offering him pizza with pineapple on it.

Leave A Reply