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7 Summer Festivals You Don’t Want to Miss

From music and film to mountain biking and yoga, here are our favorite jamborees celebrating the outdoors this season

Wanderlust is a four-day yoga festival at the base of California’s Squaw Valley ski area, but even if you’re not a hardcore yogi, there are plenty to do including guided hikes, body painting, slacklining, community cookouts, and meditation clinics. (Ali Kaukus)
summer festivals

From music and film to mountain biking and yoga, here are our favorite jamborees celebrating the outdoors this season

Summer festival season is right around the corner, and that can feel overwhelming. Every other weekend, there’s a concert series or a food-and-wine tasting or a yoga gathering, and it’s tough to know which are worth splurging for. So whether you’re a biker, surfer, film buff, or just someone who likes fun parties, we’ve done the homework and narrowed it down to seven can’t-miss fiestas across North America. Get busy booking—many of these events sell out in advance.

Mountainfilm

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(Ben Eng)

Telluride, Colorado
May 25–28

This Memorial Day weekend, the best athletes, activists, and documentary filmmakers in the environmental and outdoor worlds will converge on Telluride, Colorado, for Mountainfilm. The theme for this year’s event is migration, and some promising screenings include a film on Army vets ski touring Iraq, a drug-running Honduran islander who discovers fly-fishing, and a biopic of climber Steph Davis. The four-day fest also features art shows, book signings, and community talks. Hotel Telluride (from $274 a night) is dog friendly and can arrange guided outings to climb nearby 14ers or forage for mushrooms.


GoPro Mountain Games

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(Logan Robertson)

Vail, Colorado
June 7–10

There’s something for everyone at the GoPro Mountain Games, taking place this June in Vail, Colorado. Watch some of the best mountain bikers, freestyle kayakers, and Olympic-bound rock climbers battle it out for hefty prize money. Or get in on the action yourself by signing up for events like a 10K trail run, fly-fishing contest, and downriver kayaking sprint. Go all in and sign up for as many events as you can for a chance at ranking in the Ultimate Mountain Challenge, a competition to crown the best multisport athletes. If that’s not your style, there’s a slew of other activities, including art and photography shows, a silent disco, and free concerts from the likes of Chris Robinson, former frontman for the Black Crowes. Book a room alongside pro athletes at the Sonnenalp (from $285), park your RV near the Lionshead garage ($25 a night), or grab a spot at the Bunkhouse Hostel ($40 per night).


Mountain Jam

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(Joshua Timmermans)

Hunter, New York
June 15–17

For three days this summer, at the base of New York’s Hunter Mountain ski area, you’ll find the likes of Jack Johnson, Alt-J, the Decemberists, Father John Misty, and a host of other big names playing at the Mountain Jam rock-and-roll music fest. While you’re there, hop on the Scenic Skyride chairlift for 3,200-foot summit views of the northern Catskills and beyond. You can camp on the festival grounds or splurge on an upscale tent, complete with breakfast and sunrise yoga, from Terra Glamping ($918 for a three-night stay), eight miles away.


Vans U.S. Open of Surfing

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(World Surf League/worldsurfleagu)

Huntington Beach, California
July 28–August 5

The pros come to the Vans U.S. Open of Surfing for one of the most coveted prize purses in the sport. Everyone else? They come for the party. This nine-day, raucous, no-ticket-required event on California’s Huntington Beach Pier features fashion shows, live music, skate and BMX competitions, movie screenings, and more. Stay within walking distance from the pier at the surf-themed Kimpton Shorebreak Hotel (from $314) or the Huntington Surf Inn (from $229). Don’t miss the beers brewed at Beachwood BBQ or the cool paraphernalia at the town’s International Surfing Museum.


Wanderlust

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(Ali Kaukus)

Squaw Valley, California
July 19–22

Wanderlust is a four-day yoga festival at California’s Squaw Valley ski area, but there’s still plenty to do even if you’re not a hardcore yogi, including guided hikes, body painting, slacklining, community cookouts, and meditation clinics. You can pitch a tent at 8,200 feet atop Squaw’s tram-accessed High Camp (from $65) or book a room at the village’s PlumpJack Squaw Valley Inn (from $301). Don’t miss a visit to nearby Lake Tahoe while you’re there—you can rent paddleboards from Tahoe City Kayak or hop on a sunset cruise aboard Tahoe Sailing Charters’ 50-foot sailboat.


Crankworx

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(Boris Beyer)

Whistler, British Columbia
August 10–19

This weeklong knobby-tire festival has expanded to four international locations over the past 15 years, jetting to New Zealand, Austria, and France before returning each August to its spiritual home in Whistler, British Columbia. Crankworx has free admission and features the world’s best enduro, downhill, and freestyle riders competing around the mountain. You can participate by taking a lesson in Whistler Bike Park, signing up for mountain bike clinics, doing trail work, taking yoga classes, and checking out film and photo contests. Aava Whistler Hotel (from $223) has a free bike valet and loaner GoPro cameras.


Gauley Fest

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(Courtesy Mark Singleton)

Summersville, West Virginia
September 13–16

Whitewater enthusiasts of all types descend every year on the Gauley River in Summersville, West Virginia, for Gauley Fest, a raging party and fundraising event for the nonprofit river conservation organization American Whitewater. The weekend is filled with live music, food carts, camping, gear raffles, and en masse river running. Day passes cost $20, or stay for the whole weekend, including camping, for $50. If you don’t want to pitch a tent, you can rent a log cabin at Carnifex Ferry Cottages (from $145), where you can hike to the water. Be sure to watch the action as boaters navigate the Class V Pillow Rock Rapid, dubbed the best ten seconds in whitewater, and visit the nearby New River Gorge Bridge, the longest steel span in the Western Hemisphere. The Secret Sandwich Society in nearby Fayetteville has tasty sandwiches and beer.

Filed To: Travel / Kayaking / Climbing / Yoga / Mountain Biking / Film / Surfing / Music / Best Summer Ever / GoPro
Nicolas Henderson/Creative Commons )

San Marcos, Texas

Billed as the world’s toughest canoe race, the Texas Water Safari, held each June, is a four-day, 260-mile jaunt from the headwaters of the San Marcos River northeast of San Antonio to the small shrimping town of Seadrift on the Gulf Coast. There’s no prize money—just bragging rights for the winner. Any boat without a motor is allowed, and you’ll have to carry your own equipment and overnight gear. Food and water are provided at aid stations along the way. Entry fees start at $175 and increase as race day approaches.

The Ring

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(Courtesy Quatro Hubbard)

Strasburg, Virginia

The Ring is a 71-mile trail running race in early September along the entire length of Virginia’s rough and rocky Massanutten Trail loop. To qualify, you need to have run a 50- or 100-mile race before the event and win a spot through the lottery system. Entry is free. Complete the run and you’ll become part of the tight-knit Fellowship of the Ring and be eligible for the Reverse Ring, which entails running the trail backwards in the middle of winter.

Plaza2Peak

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(David Silver)

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Each spring, competitors gather in Santa Fe’s historic plaza with a simple goal: be the first to reach 12,308-foot Deception Peak, 17 miles and 5,000 feet of elevation gain away. Competitors run or bike the first 15 miles to the local ski area before transitioning to their waiting ski-touring setups for the final push to the top. Time stops only when they’ve skied back down to the tailgate in the resort’s parking lot, which is funded by the modest entry fee of around $25. To add to the sufferfest, some participants sign up for the Expedition category, in which they strap their skis, skins, boots, and poles to their bikes for the long ride up. Start dates vary depending on snow conditions, but look for the event page to be posted on Facebook in late March or early April.