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
Woodlands and scrubby thickets, riparian area, open foothills, meadows, sandstone formations.
Paved roads, dirt trails, some with steep sections.
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.
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.
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.
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.