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
Outside's long reads email newsletter features our strongest writing, most ambitious reporting, and award-winning storytelling about the outdoors. Sign up today.
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.
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
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).
Hunter, New York
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
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.
Squaw Valley, California
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.
Whistler, British Columbia
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.
Summersville, West Virginia
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.