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6 of America's Best Mountain Music Festivals

7/16/16 by RootsRated

Mountains and music. There's something about these two words paired together that just feels right. It brings to mind fiddles and folk songs; old-time traditions and smiling faces; cool breezes and coolers, all set against a pastoral backdrop of rolling blue hills or towering silhouetted peaks. Add to this the fact that most mountain music festivals involve nights spent camping under the stars and some hours of the days spent venturing off into the surrounding hillsides for various outdoor adventures, and it's clear that there are few better ways to maximize your time in the mountains than with a multi-day music festival. As such, this country happens to be loaded with them. Here's a sampling of some of our favorites.

1. Telluride Bluegrass Festival | Colorado

Telluride Bluegrass Music Festival.
Telluride Bluegrass Music Festival. Rob Lee

No surprises here. Colorado's Telluride Bluegrass Festival is one of the premier mountain music festivals in the world—and it has been for over 40 years. Every June, around the time of the summer solstice, thousands of music lovers (and hundreds of musicians) descend upon the southwestern Colorado town of Telluride to partake in four days of unforgettable music and camping. The festival has drawn incredible talent over the years, featuring artists such as Robert Plant, Emmylou Harris, Bonnie Rait, and David Byrne.

And as far as a backdrop is concerned, it really doesn't get much better than Telluride—a mountain town nestled inside a box canyon at 8,750 feet with towering peaks and powerful waterfalls adorning the perimeter of town. The camping at this festival is part of what makes it so special with several campgrounds located between zero and seven miles of the festival. If you can snag a spot in Town Park or Warner Field, you'll be within earshot of all the music right from your tent. But if you're willing to drive a little ways (about 40 minutes outside of town), the primitive Alta Lakes Campground is arguably one of the most beautiful campgrounds in America.

2. FloydFest | Virginia

The mall at Virginia's FloydFest.
The mall at Virginia's FloydFest. julianmeade

Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, FloydFest is a five-day event with onsite camping and an incredible variety of music styles, including rock, reggae, bluegrass, Appalachian, and even Cajun. Since its inception in 2002, the festival has featured different themes each year, with notable themes in years past being  Rock of Ages, Out of this World Music, Revolutionary, Fire on the Mountain,  and so on. Musical acts have included artists as famous as Greg Allman and Gary Clark Jr. and as obscure as the Reeltime Travelers.

Aside from the music, one of the great traditions at FloydFest is camping and glamping out. There's onsite camping, with the prime spot being the Premium Woodsy Tent Tag—a pleasantly shaded area smack in the middle of FloydFest's 80-acre plot. And there's also offsite camping, with the Delta Lot located just ten minutes from festival grounds and featuring restroom facilities, potable water for cooking, and also a camp store. Additionally, the event organizers even encourage nearby outdoor adventures like canoeing, kayaking, and mountain biking. So, if you're looking for a music and arts festival with a dose of Southeastern adventure, FloydFest is just the ticket.

3. Mountain Jam | New York

New York's Mountain Jam music festival view from chairlift.
New York's Mountain Jam music festival view from chairlift. wcmickle

Held at Hunter Mountain ski resort in the Great Northern Catskill Mountains of New York, Mountain Jam was originally created to celebrate the 25th anniversary of WDST/Radio Woodstock. It didn't start out as a multi-day music festival, and it wasn't intended to be an annual event. But by popular demand, that's exactly what it became. Today, Mountain Jam is a 4-day music festival that draws a diverse range of acts including the likes of Widespread Panic, Steve Winwood, My Morning Jacket, and the Avett Brothers.

Nearby, there's a wide variety of camping options perfect for resting your head at the end of your music-filled days. There's primitive tent camping sprinkled along the mountainside of Hunter itself. There's VIP tent camping at the base of the mountain closer to the festival grounds. And there are also car camping sites that exist, some of which are on the mountaintop with nice views of the surrounding Catskills and others that are about ten minutes away from the festival gates on the banks of Schoharie Creek. If you're looking for adventure near Hunter Mountain, it's easy to find. Not only is it home to the largest and longest zipline tour in North America as well as the tallest firetower in New York, but there are also a number of scenic hiking trails in nearby Catskill Park and excellent paddling options on the Hudson River and in North-South Lake.

4. Mountain Music Festival | West Virginia

West Virginia's Mountain Music Festival.
West Virginia's Mountain Music Festival. Mountain Music Festival

You know you've got a good mountain music festival when it's called...  Mountain Music Festival . And with a tagline that promotes "outdoor adventures and music" as two of its "fave things," this festival truly is one of a kind. Taking place at the ACE Adventure Resort , a 1,500-acre outdoor adventure property in the heart of the New River Gorge, WV, you can't really ask for a more scenic location. And festival attendees are basically encouraged to access the innumerable outdoor opportunities—which include world-class climbing, hiking, and whitewater paddling—in the nearby New River Gorge. The inaugural year for Mountain Music Festival was 2014, so it's a relatively new kid on the block, but we'd be very surprised if it weren't here to stay for a long time to come.

As far as lodging is concerned, the ACE Adventure Resort comes fully-loaded with a number of awesome options. The Mountain Top Campground is the most primitive choice, with tent camping that's dispersed in a wide, open field adjacent to the festival grounds. But there are also bunkhouses, mountain chalets, wilderness cabins, log cottages, and 'safari-style' family tents to meet all of your rustic lodging needs.

5. Sierra Nevada World Music Festival | California

Gregory Isaacs on stage at Sierra Nevada World Music Festival.
Gregory Isaacs on stage at Sierra Nevada World Music Festival. Alyssa Tomfohrde

Peace, love, and music is what it's all about at the Sierra Nevada World Music Festival  in the Mendocino County Fairgrounds of Boonville, CA. Since 2005, this celebration of music and art has brought together friends and family to revel in the sounds of reggae and world music, and popular acts in the past have included the likes of Toots and the Maytals, Ozomatli, Rebelution, Yellowman, Thievery Corporation, and Jimmy Cliff.

In addition to the great music, this festival also has a Festival Village full of foods and crafts from all around the world. The festival’s kidzone will help families share in all the love, and there's even a special kid’s camping section for families with festival-going little ones. This is an ideal festival for enjoying amazing bands, celebrating the summer solstice, and camping out in the pastoral foothills of Anderson Valley.

6. Sasquatch! Music Festival | Washington

Taking in the incredible scenery of the Gorge Ampitheatre.
Taking in the incredible scenery of the Gorge Ampitheatre. Caroline Mkshaw

Ahhhh, the Gorge. There's no other music festival venue quite like the Gorge Amphitheatre in George, Washington. Each Memorial Day weekend, thousands of music lovers visit this breathtakingly gorgeous venue high above the Columbia River Gorge near the foothills of the Cascade Range to partake in three days of tunes, camping, and fun at Sasquatch! Music Festival . It's a gigantic festival with upwards of 20,000 festival-goers in attendance each year and about 100 acts playing throughout each day and night.

When you’re not out enjoying the music, you can head back to your campsite for a break. There are many options for camping at this festival, ranging from car camping in the campground right outside the park—which features a volleyball court, basketball court, camp store, potable water, and flush toilets—to spending the night in style at one of the park’s nearby cottages. Whatever you choose, you are in for three days full of great music and good times, guaranteed to give you memories for a lifetime.

America is truly blessed to have so many beautiful outdoor venues, and you really can't go wrong with any of these amazing mountain music festivals.

Originally written by RootsRated for Marmot.