Hotspots Near You

117. Red Rocks Park, Morrison, Colorado

This concert venue and park in metro Denver is a great spot to find Peregrine and Prairie Falcons, American Dipper, Bullock’s Oriole, Say’s Phoebe, and Golden Eagle.
By Doris Cruze | Published: 6/24/2011

I have fond memories of great concerts at Red Rocks Park. Its natural amphitheatre formed by spectacular sandstone formations is probably unique in all the world. Musicians of all stripes, from Willie Nelson, Jimi Hendrix, and Stevie Nicks to opera stars and U2 have performed on this acoustically perfect, amazing stage.

But for birders, Red Rocks is much more. The park sits in a transition zone where the Great Plains meet the Rocky Mountains. Plants, animals, and especially birds of both regions occur here.

Expect to see scrub-jays, magpies, Black-capped and Mountain Chickadees, Prairie Falcons, White-breasted Nuthatches, Spotted Towhees, and many more species. Peregrine Falcons nesting high in the rocks are thrilling to see, while at the park’s eastern boundary, in season along the drainage, American Dippers bob on the rocks or Bullock’s Orioles weave their hanging nests in the boughs of the cottonwood trees.

To me, Red Rocks offers the chance to get away from the crowds and admire the scenery. As I linger, the cascading notes of a Canyon Wren’s song echo among the rocks, and I am enchanted by a tiny bird with a voice that rivals the greatest singers on the amphitheatre stage. — Doris Cruze

Doris Cruze is past president of the Audubon Society of Greater Denver. She also wrote about Bear Creek Regional Park, Colorado Springs, Colorado, Hotspot Near You No. 140.

117. Red Rocks Park, Morrison, Colorado

Directions

Red Rocks Park is a famous concert venue and natural area located just west of Denver. From east- or westbound I-70, take exit 259 and head south on Hwy. 26. Drive about two miles to the park entrance at Red Rocks Park Rd. From South Denver, take Hwy. 470, exit at Hwy. 8, turn left, continue onto Hwy. 74, and follow the signs to the park entrance.

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At a Glance

Click on the coordinates below to view location:
39°39’49.59″N 105°12’10.46″W

Habitat

Woodlands and scrubby thickets, riparian area, open foothills, meadows, sandstone formations.

Terrain

Paved roads, dirt trails, some with steep sections.

Birds

More than 200 species. Summer: Peregrine Falcon, Broad-tailed, Calliope, and Rufous Hummingbirds, Violet-green Swallow, White-throated Swift, Lazuli and Indigo Buntings, Yellow-breasted Chat, Yellow Warbler, Western Kingbird, and Say’s Phoebe. Winter: Townsend’s Solitaire, Northern Shrike, White- and Golden-crowned Sparrows, Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch, juncos. Year-round: Scrub-jays, Mountain and Black-capped Chickadees, Spotted Towhee, Golden Eagle, Prairie Falcon, Canyon Wren. Migrant raptors follow thermals along foothills.

When to go

Year-round. Spring and fall have more variety with migrants adding to the mix.

Amenities

Visitor Center has restrooms and water fountains. The Ship Rock Grille features a full menu. Feeders at the nearby Welcome Center and Trading Post attract birds in abundance. Guided tours of the geological and musical history are offered daily from June 1 to October 1.

Access

City park. Open 5 a.m.-11 p.m. every day. Entrance is free, as is parking and visits to the trails. Trails close one half hour after sunset. Access may be limited on days when concerts or other events are scheduled.

Tips

Early morning or late afternoon hikes produce the most sightings. Bring water and a hat and dress in layers for changing weather conditions. Winter weather can change quickly, with warm days and chilly nights. The altitude (6,450 feet) can be challenging for some visitors.

For more info

Red Rocks Park, (720) 865-2494
Audubon Society of Greater Denver, (303) 973-9530

Sites nearby

Matthews/Winters Park
Located just north of Red Rocks off Hwy. 26. Offers 2,257 acres with 8.5 miles of trails, picnic facilities, and scenic views. Golden Eagle, Lesser Goldfinch, Brewer’s Blackbird.

Bear Creek Lake Park
East of Red Rocks Park on Morrison Rd. More than 220 species, including pelicans, egrets, night-herons, and White-faced Ibis (occasional).

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