Sometimes you just need to escape the heat. And luckily, those pointed peaks off in the west are the perfect place to cool down and enjoy some natural beauty and some killer festivals this summer. Colorado's colorful mountain towns are the host to tons of quirky extravaganzas that are centered around everything from beer to pirates to balloons, and tons more.
Our Summer Guide, which hit the streets Thursday inside the regular issue of Westword, has information on hundreds of events, as well as this list of ten not-to-miss mountain festivals. Keep reading for our picks.
See also: Ten things to do on a Denver stay-cation
Telluride Balloon Festival June 6-8 Telluride Free One of the most magical sights of the summer is sure to be that of colorful hot air balloons rising up over Telluride in early June. Spectators are invited to help with the launch in the early morning hours, learn about hot-air balloon photography from expert Paul D deBerjeois in the afternoon, and experience the glow of the propane at dusk while the pilots inflate their balloons along Main Street.
Colorado BBQ Challenge June 12-14 Main Street, Frisco Free Barbecue lovers can expect to get their hands messy at the 21st annual Colorado BBQ Challenge. Celebrity chefs and more than seventy teams from all over America will line Frisco's Main Street to compete in categories including pork, brisket, ribs, sauce -- and all of it is available for purchase. But it's not just about stuffing your face: You can also join the Bacon Burner 6K and dance to the sounds of Bonerama, the London Souls and the Rebirth Brass Band to clear out those arteries.
Scandinavian Midsummer Festival June 28-29 Bond Park, Estes Park Free Maypoles, flower wreaths and all things solstice will be at the center of this Scandinavian celebration in Estes Park. From Lindsborg Swedish folk dancers to Fjellborg Viking reenactors, the midsummer party in the park will offer a unique taste of Nordic culture while celebrating the longest day of the year.Paonia Cherry Days FestivalJuly 4-5 Paonia Town Park Free
Honor America's independence with a weekend in the little mountain town named after the peony flower. The outdoor fest includes a parade, a cherry-pie-eating contest, a talent show, and live music from the Starlets and the Black Timber Band.
Crested Butte Wildflower Festival July 7-13 Crested Butte Priced by event This colorful festival is dedicated to one thing: stopping to smell the flowers. Held in Colorado's wildflower capital, the week-long fest features a series of guided hikes, botanic-themed art classes, medicinal-herb instruction and more, all meant to celebrate the beauty and power of the great outdoors.
Colorado Brewers Rendezvous July 12 Riverside Park, Salida $40 The best beers from more than seventy Colorado breweries will be showcased at the eighteenth annual Colorado Brewers Rendezvous. Admission includes unlimited samples of craft beers to try while you listen to live music, peruse the food vendors, and drink alongside the Arkansas River.
Pagosa Renaissance and Pirate Festival July 18-20 Pagosa Springs Free-$5 Travel back to a time of pirates, corsets, and people who wish you "good morrow" at this Pagosa Springs celebration. From cannon firings to belly dancing to live music, the charming festival is one of the best places to chow down on a turkey leg this summer.
Gold Rush Days August 9-10 McPhelemy Park, Buena Vista Free Set at lakeside in picturesque McPhelemy Park in Buena Vista, Gold Rush Days pays tribute to the days of panning for gold through storytelling, mountain-man music from Harry Harpoon, and other fun that harks back to a time when Colorado sparkled. Lake kayaking, games and a beer garden round out this nostalgia-filled festival.Breck Bike WeekAugust 20-24 Breckenridge Priced by event, most free
Breckenridge hosts some of the best backcountry trail biking in the state, and this annual fest is a great opportunity to take advantage of the trails and hobnob with fellow cyclists. The week-long festival celebrates cycling with guided group rides, demos, maintenance workshops and bike-in movies.
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Evergreen Fine Arts Festival August 23-24 Heritage Grove Park, Evergreen Free Artists from all over the country congregate in the pine trees of Heritage Grove Park to show off their finest creations at the annual Evergreen Fine Arts Festival. Attendees can expect to wander through well-curated booths full of paintings, photography and glasswork while live music provides the soundtrack to art and shopping.