Gear, Grub, and Good Times: 5 Ultimate Outdoor Music Festivals

For outdoor enthusiasts, there’s nothing better than gathering with friends new and old to enjoy good music, tasty food, cold drinks, and fresh mountain air at an outdoor music festival. Outdoor music festivals have exploded in popularity over the last decade as millennials and Gen Z seek unique experiences that combine their passion for activities like hiking, biking, and climbing with their love of bands that speak to their adventurous spirit.

These multi-day events with lineups of roots, Americana, and indie folk performers are the ultimate base camp for the outdoor lover – allowing you to dance under the stars, sleep in a tent or RV surrounded by nature, and fill your days with everything from yoga classes on outcrop rock formations to guided fly fishing trips in a pristine river nearby. Not to mention the vibrant open-air market showcasing local artisans and the food truck alley slinging farm-to-table plates and craft brews from dawn to dusk.

Telluride Bluegrass Festival

Nestled high in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado lies one of the most scenic and legendary outdoor music festivals for roots music lovers – the Telluride Bluegrass Festival. Since 1973, “Festivarians” have gathered for a 4-day extravaganza celebrating the past, present, and future of bluegrass music blended with Americana, folk, and country influences.

The festival traces its origin to a small group of passionate pickers seeking a picturesque setting to jam in the off-season summer months. Today it has ballooned into an internationally renowned celebration attracting over 10,000 fest-goers annually to the mountain town of Telluride. But despite its growth and fame for landing exclusive band reunions and album debuts, the event maintains an intimate feel and privileges acoustic instruments and songwriting.

In addition to main stage performances with Rocky Mountain backdrops so stunning they’ll take your breath away, you’ll find impromptu jams echoing from every street and park around town. Legendary musical moments include the Sparrow Quartet (John Denver, Vince Gill, Ricky Skaggs) in 1975, Bob Dylan going electric in 2002, and last year’s reunion of Nickel Creek and debut album release with special guest Brandi Carlile.

The festival offers luxury camping options like RV hookups and glamping tents to roughing it self-contained camping where you BYO everything. Multi-day ticket prices usually fall around $60/person/day and sell out months in advance as folks flock to soak in the downhome melodies floating on crisp alpine air.

When your boot-scootin’ feet need a break, explore nearby hikes to cascading waterfalls or high alpine lakes. Try your hand at gold medal fly fishing on the San Miguel River or test your lungs mountain biking along the iconic San Juan Hut System. Then refuel with local craft brews, wine, BBQ and vegetarian fare from dozens of hometown food trucks and vendors set up onsite.

Learn more at the official Telluride Bluegrass Festival site:

Kate Wolf Outdoor Music Festival

For an intimate outdoor music festival that feels more like coming home to family than a rowdy festival, make your way to the majestic redwood groves of Laytonville, California for the annual Kate Wolf Music Festival. Named for the late beloved folk singer/songwriter Kate Wolf, this all-women lineup carries on her legacy of stirring lyrics and sweet harmonies that feel as timeless as the mighty redwoods surrounding the stages.

The festival began in 1996 when several of Kate’s closest musician friends decided to honor her artistry and community spirit with a gathering in the very Northern California forests that inspired her most iconic songs and album art. That first year, artists like Chris Webster, Nina Gerber, and Rosalie Sorrels performed for a few hundred fans and families.

Today the gathering has grown to thousands who flock to the area to set up tents beneath the 300-foot tall trees, make new friends, and nurture their souls with healing melodies and the restorative power of nature. Tickets usually come in around $175 for 3 days of music, camping and family-friendly entertainment. Beyond the two rustic stages, you’ll find open mics, songwriting workshops, a Fiddle Kids music camp passing on the folk tradition to children, as well as plenty of crafts and activities, especially for families wanting to pass on their love of music.

You can expect to sway and sing along with indie folk heroes like Amy Speace, Anna Tivel and Alice Gerrard mixing seamlessly with local Mendocino performers and up-and-coming acts waiting for their big break. Past lineups have included renowned artists like Joan Baez, Brandi Carlile, and Indigo Girls. The intimacy of the festival means you never know who might show up to sit in on a songwriting circle or add their sound during an impromptu campground jam.

And while the swooning guitars and pastoral poetry take the main stage, you’ll also want to explore experiences like guided meditation walks beneath thousand-year-old redwood giants, participatory workshops on how to care for the threatened northern California watershed, and bites from an array of veggie-centered food vendors and wine or local microbrew tastings that capture the flavors of the region.

Get lost in the timeless grove of trees and soothing songs by visiting the Kate Wolf Music Festival website:

Form Arcosanti Outdoor Music Festival

Imagine a mystical desert gathering born from the Burning Man ethos of radical creativity, community, and self-expression. Where costumes become wearable art, circles of strangers soon feel like family, and music reigns supreme. Welcome to Form Arcosanti – a uniquely curated arts, camping, and outdoor music festival held annually amid the high desert landscape of Arcosanti, Arizona.

The avant-garde event began in 2015 as a collaboration between the Los Angeles-based record label Hundred Waters and their parental label Skrillex’s OWSLA brand. They envisioned a festival that transcended a typical show, using Arcosanti’s architectural ruins and desert scenery as a blank slate for artistic experimentation at the intersection of nature, music, and communal experience.

What started as a single-stage festival for 3,000 attendees has since blossomed into a 5000-person camping extravaganza across multiple ornate venues showcasing everything from EDM and Synthwave to indie rock and electronic funk. Past lineups featured acts like Florence + The Machine, Lauryn Hill, Skrillex, Bonobo, and Hundred Waters. 2023 promises equally envelope-pushing artists and an ever more immersive slate of art installations, wellness workshops, food vendors, and safety practices as Form Arcosanti grows.

Tickets run approximately $300 for a 3-day pass including camping in your tent or vehicle alongside the open desert landscape. During the day, embark on epic sound healing journeys, watch interactive theater unfold spontaneously, and learn juggling or poi spinning from the festival’s circus and flow arts stage. Participate in clay workshops utilizing the indigenous earth under your feet or meditate in ancient native dwellings nearby.

Sound like your kind of weird and wonderful? Visit the Form Arcosanti site:

Harvest Music Festival

What do you get when you mix foot-stomping bluegrass picks, Americana jams, Ozark autumn foliage, and a battle between the South’s top chefs? A wholly unique outdoor music festival experience dubbed the Harvest Music Festival held each October in Mulberry Mountain, Arkansas, and hosted by legendary jamgrass band, The Yonder Mountain String Band.

What began as a small 420-friendly gathering of string bands and roots music lovers in 2004 has blossomed into a 5,000 person fall music tradition spanning multiple stages and four days of top-notch performers from genres ranging from folk rock to zydeco blues. Nestled amid the soaring rock formations and sugar maple trees displaying nature’s annual technicolor show, Harvest Fest offers a backdrop for musical moments not soon forgotten. With over-the-top costumes encouraged, it’s no wonder Harvest Music Festival was recently voted as one of the country’s top 10 favorite fall music festivals.

Past lineups have featured influential artists like Railroad Earth, Trampled by Turtles, Greensky Bluegrass, Infamous Stringdusters, and of course festival founders Yonder Mountain String Band. Mandolins and fiddles soar through vivid autumn air as some of the nation’s top progressive bluegrass and Americana rock bands take the stage. When your feet need a break from dancing, participate in community art projects, learn new instruments at one of the workshops, float down a lazy river, or get lost in the disc golf course scattered amid the scarlet oaks.

And that’s not even the best part. Each year, Harvest Fest hosts the Main Street Food Fight, where visiting restaurants and local chefs compete to offer the most coveted bites and food truck delicacies. Imagine banh mi sandwiches or southern BBQ tacos served alongside Amish doughnuts, vegan gumbo, and craft beer from dozens of local breweries – all sourced sustainably from neighboring farms.

More details at the official Harvest Music Festival site:

Bergenfest Outdoor Music Festival

And finally, for the international traveling folk music fanatics – add Norway’s Bergenfest to your bucket list for a truly Nordic outdoor music festival experience. This 3-day international folk, country, and world music festival is held annually in Norway’s idyllic coastal village of Bergen.

Since 2008, the 3-day event has celebrated both locally beloved and internationally renowned artists across genres like Nordicana, Americana, folk, country, blues, and world music representing over 10 nations. The international flavor mirrors the harbor city of Bergen’s history as an essential trade port and Norway’s cultural diversity.

Bergenfest unfolds on a stunning peninsula flanked by seven mountains, seven fjords, and Norway’s second-largest city framed by wooden wharf architecture, vibrant exploding-color buildings, and sparkling harbors. Attendees sway to award-winning songwriters against backdrops of glaciers, vast valleys, and gushing waterfalls.

Past lineups have attracted influential acts like John Prine, Iron & Wine, Conor Oberst, The Lumineers, Of Monsters and Men, and Norwegian favorite Amarillo. Intimate songwriter circles, open mics, and workshops let fans connect more deeply with talented musicians from around the globe eager to soak in Norway’s inspiring landscapes.

When your feet need a break from kicking up your heels, explore Bergen’s Walk of Gold artisan market, sample local aquavit spirits or craft beer, and fuel up on traditional open-faced sandwiches from street food vendors. Luxury glamping sites and eco-friendly cabins nestled in the hillside forest offer lodging options for when you need to crash after one too many fiddle-induced dance parties.

Tickets average 1500 kroner for 3 days of folk frolic including camping – a steal for the chance to tap your toes amid Norwegian heritage while discovering talented new troubadours. Ready to folk out with new friends against some of the earth’s most sublime vistas? Get your dancing shoes on for Bergenfest!

Check upcoming lineups and get trip planning details at the official Bergenfest site:

Now Gear Up and Get Jammin’

As you can see, opportunities overflow for uniting breathtaking natural landscapes with foot-stomping jams and good times galore. Whether you choose to pitch your tent under a canopy of redwood giants, let loose around a desert bonfire, or take an afternoon paddle alongside a Norwegian fjord, outdoor music festivals check all the boxes for memorable adventures with strings attached.

So grab your hammock, backpack, camp stove, and bandana – then tune your ears to the sweet mountain melodies calling you into nature’s open arms this outdoor music festival season. We’ll see you out there!