RockyGrass Camping Options for the Uninitiated

Ticket and camping options on sale soon!

By Jim Cloud

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Some people really like the Telluride Bluegrass Festival. It definitely offers an unforgettable experience. But the music is different. Sure, the bluegrass makes me dance, but they also present pop and jamgrass that makes me fidget. 

I’m fidgety enough as it is, so I’m partial to RockyGrass, in Lyons, where the music is as pure as the Rocky Mountain water of the St. Vrain River that literally runs through it.

RockyGrass (and especially its best camping) often sells out, so now is the time to act. Tickets go on sale beginning November 19th for the festival being held July 26-28, 2019.

Remember, getting your festival pass is only part of the battle. Camping is the real challenge. There is just one small motel in Lyons and many folks consider camping the best part of the entire experience, so it gets competitive. To my knowledge, none has died in the process of securing a site but it’s an activity not left to chance and it’s definitely not for the timid.

The on-site camping and related festival passes go on sale the morning of November 19th.  This is a lottery; give it your best shot but you may have to make other plans to camp at one of the three other areas—those passes are sold separately beginning December 4th.

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There are four RockyGrass camping areas: on-site, River Bend, Laverne Johnson Park and The Farm.

On-Site Camping

The lottery for onsite camping passes starts on November 19th. This area borders the festival venue on one side and the river on another. The road that leads to the venue separates the entire thing from the highway.

It’s an open field with well marked paths that get dusty, unless it rains in which case they get muddy. There are no designated campsites here, the land is highly coveted and the camping is dense literally wall to wall in most places. 

There are no RV passes and river access is limited because camps block the way. It’s essentially a few camping trailers amidst a mass of tents, EZ-ups and lots and lots of people. There is no on-site parking; a few vehicle passes are available in the lottery, but these are for car camping.

Port-O-Potties are provided but your only resource for cleaning is the small bathroom and shower facility inside the festival grounds.

Folks are super friendly and the music is magical for those who want to immerse themselves in the full RockyGrass experience.  It’s worth doing at least once, but a word of warning: there can be a bit of entitlement among groups who have camped together for many years. These folks can get territorial. They usually plan their strategy well in advance and claim the prime spots quickly. Also, large groups of pickers get whiskey-pickled and pick a peck of pickled tunes well into the wee hours of the morning.  Space is tight and sleep can be hard to get so patience is required and quality earplugs are highly recommended.

River Bend

Passes for camping at River Bend become available for purchase December 4th. It’s at the bend in the river. Duh. Actually, though it is indeed situated on the river, it’s across the highway from (and an easy 3-minute walk to) the venue. This is a privately owned property, secured for exclusive use by the festival and technically accessible only to those with camping passes for this area, but you can often sneak in to jam with any wristband if you ask nicely. There is no RV or trailer camping—it’s tents only—and it’s densely populated. Port-O-Potties and temporary (enclosed) showers are provided.

This area is away from the buzz of the venue and on-site camping. It’s a lush field of green grass that borders a beautiful stretch of the river (thus the name). River access for swimming and tubing is fantastic so it’s popular with families, but as with on-site, a word of warning: only a portion of River Bend is designated for “families” and it’s first come, first served so the rush for good spots is intense.   

Also, a group of pickers makes this their home-away-from-on-site-home and they often play tunes late into the morning hours, so don’t count on drifting off to sleep to the peaceful sound of the river as it flows around that bend. As with on-site camping, patience is required and earplugs are recommended.

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Laverne Johnson Park

Camping passes for Laverne Johnson Park, formerly known as Meadow Park, goes on sale beginning December 4th. It’s across the highway from the venue, closer to town. This is a city property set aside for RockyGrass camping each year. It’s an easy 5-minute walk to the venue.

There are a number of designated campsites near the river, designated trailer sites along the road leading into the park and a limited number of RV hook-up sites.  Otherwise it’s an open, green field exclusively for tent camping. It’s generally less crowded and, although refrains of music can be heard from a campsite or two, it’s a lot more peaceful than the on-site and River Bend areas. This area also offers a legit bathroom and shower facility and the river access is well designed for tubing and cooling off during those hot July days.

The Farm

Online sales of passes for The Farm, the newest RockyGrass camping site also commence December 4th. It’s across the highway and along the river and is a 5-minute walk to the venue. This property is owned by Planet Bluegrass, first used in 2018 for overflow parking and camping. Information is limited but reports indicate that it’s open, friendly and generally quiet so if you’re looking for peace away from parties and constant music, The Farm may be a good choice. However, it’s a simple and ungroomed cow pasture.  Camping is a bit primitive and river access is brushy and challenging.

That’s the rundown. Good luck! Be well! Pick on!