Located in the charming Colorado mountain town of Telluride, the long-running Telluride Bluegrass Festival has been delighting lovers of Americana roots music for generations. Lifelong friendships have been formed in the summer festival’s famed campgrounds, and since you’ll definitely want to catch all four days of this eclectic musical extravaganza, it’s time to pack up the RV and enjoy the vibe.
There are several RV-friendly campgrounds at Telluride, but wherever you park you’re guaranteed some fresh mountain air and special scenery. The festival takes place in a breathtaking box canyon, surrounded by the gorgeous San Juan Mountains. Despite the natural terrain, most sites are relatively level, and the view from your front door is hard to beat.
Telluride Bluegrass Festival offers something for roots music purists and the more experimentally inclined alike! The festival is said by some to have spawned its own genre, and the whole event can be seen as a gleeful celebration of musicianship itself. There’s only one official stage, sure, but these tunes are contagious. It’s not uncommon to see impromptu jam sessions break out in the campgrounds or even on the town’s sidewalks, and the festival’s songwriting contests invite the audience to join in the fun. You’ll also want to check out the NightGrass events, evening concerts that fill every venue in town during the festival, and the Elk’s Park workshop stage in town, where headline acts perform more laid-back sets.
The festival is also a fantastic bet for families–not only do kids under twelve go free, but there’s also a whole host of activities for them in the Family Tent. Need to get far from the madding crowd? Take in some trail time, or hop on the gondola to Mountain View.
A lottery for camping tickets opens up in late fall, and ticket sales usually start in December. Tickets purchased by email must be printed off and exchanged for wristbands at the box office in Town Park, where will-call tickets can also be collected. To discourage scalpers, there’s a limit of four tickets per purchaser.
Day passes for the festival start at around $90, and a four-day pass may set you back about $250. Camping starts at about $65 per night, and that price is per person, not per site. Vehicle passes cost around $65. Check out the Telluride Bluegrass Festival website for additional details.
Telluride is located around seven hours away from Denver and around five hours away from Albuquerque. While the main I-70 route from Denver is pretty well maintained, Telluride is a true mountain town; expect plenty of sharps bends on your way. You may find routes that are slightly shorter in length or distance, but I-70 does come just north of Telluride and may be desirable if you choose a larger rig. If you’re coming from that direction and you have some spare time, consider taking the scenic Route 285 to soak up the Colorado surroundings.
Regular vehicle access to Telluride is cut off from five days before the festival. Shuttle-buses are available to bring festival-goers from out-of-town parking lots to the center of the action. Accessible parking is available for those with an authorized sticker. Vehicle passes allow you to bring your car into the campground, but it’ll need to stay there for the duration of the festival.
Shuttle buses are available from all campgrounds to the festival itself, as well as to the town of Telluride. You can get around town on the free, Galloping Goose bus system. The gondola from Telluride to the nearby resort town of Mountain Village is free of charge, and it’s well worth a ride for the view from the car.
None of the campgrounds at Telluride offer RV hookups of any kind, though all of them have access to running water and toilets. While you can park your RV at several of the local campgrounds, to do so requires a separate vehicle pass. There are a very limited number of these available at Town Park, and they come at a premium, around $250, with a strict 24’ max vehicle length. However, you will be very close to the festival and have access to flushing toilets. A vehicle pass for the Mary E. Ilium campground, seven miles away and with a 21’ length limit, can cost $70 or higher. This is in addition to your camping fee.
Most RV campers will be best served with a spot at the Lawson Hill RV campground. There’s a 28’ length limit, but Class A, B, and C RVs, as well as pop-up trailers, truck campers, and fifth-wheelers are allowed. You’ll find vault toilets and showers on site. All of these campgrounds require a four-day pass to the festival, which is included in the price of a Town Park camping ticket.
The area is popular with tourists at all times of the year, so there are plenty of campgrounds of all types nearby, whether you’re looking for full hookups or a more rustic camping experience. There are also several no-fee, National Forest campgrounds in the area, but many of these won’t be suitable for larger vehicles and may require a bit of creativity getting to the festival site. .
Both the single-stage festival area and the town itself are fairly compact, so most festival-goers get around on foot. While festival-goers are encouraged to cycle to-and-from camp, it’s best to leave your bike outside the grounds. Shuttle buses to and from the campgrounds run until late into the evening.
Although the festival takes place around mid-summer, usually in mid-June, each year, it’s best to come prepared for all types of weather. Weather at 9,000 feet of elevation can turn on a dime. Bring a broad-brimmed hat in case of intense sunshine, sturdy, waterproof shoes, and a waterproof jacket. It’s also good to have more changes of clothes than you think you’ll need, in case one outfit gets wet.
If you own a propane stove, this is the time to break it out; campfires aren’t allowed at any festival campground. A tarp is absolutely essential and carries its own festival tradition. Since there’s no assigned seating area, festival-goers line up for hours before the show starts, and at the sound of the bagpipes, dash forward to drop their tarp and claim their spot. It’s even more fun than it sounds for repeat Telluride Bluegrass guests. Only low-backed or creek chairs are permitted at the festival.
While there is a first aid tent at Telluride Bluegrass Festival, having your own never hurts. Bug spray is recommended, as is plenty of sunscreen. Free, filtered water is available at the northwest corner of the campground, but you may want to fill up at the campground to avoid the lines. Colorado is bear country, so be sure to keep all food in airtight containers.
Open fires aren’t permitted in any Telluride campgrounds due to a local clean air ordinance. Charcoal grills are allowed, but only if there is a metal plate between the grill and the ground. Other fire regulations will vary based on weather and risk assessments by the U.S. Forest Service. There are two small grocery stores in Telluride, but they’re a little pricey; consider shopping on your way south in Montrose, about an hour and a half away if you are coming from that direction. Remember that vehicles must stay parked once in Telluride. Outside alcohol is not allowed at the festival.
Telluride is home to a myriad of independent dining options to suit all budgets, from thin-crust wood-fired pizza to Haute-French cuisine. As an added bonus, many of the venues that host gigs as part of NightGrass events at the festival also do food. For those looking for something quick and cheap, the usual fast food options are available.
There are plenty of food trucks and stations dotted around the Telluride Bluegrass Festival grounds, many of which belong to businesses that have partnered with the festival for years. Expect the best in classic American fare like steak sandwiches and chicken and waffles, as well as mouth-watering cake pops. The festival is also famed for its dumplings.
Private security guards, as well as volunteer safety staff members, can be found at the entrance to the grounds and at various points around the festival site. There’s usually a police presence throughout the festival. Though Telluride is a reasonably safe spot, it’s still best to take all reasonable precautions when it comes to storing your belongings. Lock up your RV, and keep your phone and wallet close to you.
Weather is one of the primary safety concerns at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, as conditions at 9,000 feet of elevation can be unpredictable. Be prepared for rain or sun or even sleet or snow in this gorgeous mountain community. Even if it’s 90 degrees during the day, it can get cold at night, so be sure to wrap up warm.
There are EMTs on hand in the first aid tent at the southeastern corner of the festival grounds. Telluride Medical Center, located on Pacific Avenue, provides two-hour emergency care. You’ll also find three pharmacies in town. Barricade passes, which allow holders to drive into the town of Telluride during the festival, are available to guests with an ADA parking permit.