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Family Travel: Top 8 Colorado Family Vacations 2018

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Summer happened early this year, really early. In fact, we had to move up our deadline for this article due to all the anxious families wanting to adventure throughout Colorado. I have included my top eight choices for the summer 2018 family vacation and travel guide. Next week we will publish the extensive list of Colorado Family Travel with more than 20 Colorado towns including resorts, national parks and mountain marvels. We love that you make this the #1 read story each year. Thanks and happy journeys, Mamas.

#1 Top Adventure Pick of the Summer, Canyon of the Ancients Ranch, Cortez

My number one destination is going to take you furthest in your travels, and as the saying goes, the wait is certainly worth it. Canyon of the Ancient Guest Ranch is located in the Southwest corner of the State, Cortez, best known as the lodging choice for many visitors to Mesa Verde National Park. This spot can be easily missed and is certainly not on the typical journey of most families. Make the detour, and visit Ming and Garry Adams, owners of this extremely rare ranch. The nearly 2,000-acre spread has a roaming herd of 200 Navajo Churro sheep, 70-head of cow and a menagerie of working dogs, chickens, pet sheep and other critters. There are five guest houses to rent and they are the closest thing to Southwest luxury I can describe including stunning historical Southwest Cowboy and Indian décor matching the authenticity of the ranch, fully-equipped kitchens (you can even request fresh eggs, lamb meat, etc. from Ming), patios, swinging benches, stunning views of McElmo Canyon, pastures galore, and endless discoveries to be made by children, big and small.

Nearby Cortez has all the basics a family needs for a summer stay at the ranch, and the owners are splendid; the Adams’ make this place remarkable. This will become one of the top ‘undiscovered’ places on many high profile journalism lists to come. Go now! PS—There is an onsite archae-rock-ologist, (geophysicist working on an archeology project at the ranch) Yusef Ben-Masaud, constantly discovering artifacts and remnants from 8000 B.C. until the 1960s who can point out some special spots with unbelievable pottery, lithis, home sites, etc. (canyonoftheancients.com)

#2 Glamping

This was the number one question I got asked this year from my friends, “What is the best spot within three hours driving of Denver where we can get a yurt or awesome cabin?” Mamas, I got you covered, literally, with tarp, canvas and wood! Here are some of my favorite family yurts and cabins for a mini vacation.

Outside of Fort Collins is Never Summer Nordic that has 12 total yurts; 9 in the Never Summer Mountain Range and 3 others in the remote North Park area. Depending on your group and their needs, Never Summer Yurts can accommodate anywhere up to 12 individuals in some of their yurts. Included in the yurt is a wood burning stove, firewood, small propane kitchen with a two-burner Coleman cook top, dishes, utensils, pots and pans. Groups need to bring in food, water, sleeping gear and entertainment, although not much is needed in this theatre of wildlife. neversummernordic.com

It’s high altitude and high style cuisine at the Tennessee Pass Nordic Center, Cookhouse and Yurts. This is where I found myself away from my then one and three-year-olds for my sixth anniversary. Located at nearly 10,000 feet there is a cookhouse located just a couple minutes’ walk from the yurts and come sunset, families can enjoy beverages and adult cocktails, hoer douvres and a stunning dinner served up with the most incredible views from the vista of the dinning yurt. The yurts themselves are more than comfortable and accommodating, especially since there is cell service should you need to phone anyone back home. tennesseepass.com

Royal Gorge Cabins

I noted these cabins last year, and I can’t wait to get back in June! I have to say it again, Canon City found luxury when Andy Neinas and his family expanded Echo Canyon River Expeditions and opened nine single and double Colorado contemporary cabins in May 2017, complete with down comforters, flat screen TVs, kitchen, spacious bathroom with rain shower, dual-glass sided fireplaces for transparency inside and out, and lots of thought in design, angles and blends. These are stunning, and I was blessed to christen one of the cabins named after the local rapids on the Arkansas River. Echo Canyon resort also installed eight luxury glamping tents that sleep up to two to four guest depending on size, and share access to a new shower house and wash area. Bring lawn games and your own food, and book a rafting trip across the street or explore the Royal Gorge area just minutes up the road. PS—my favorite rock store in the nation is located next to the cabins, The Gold Mine Rock Shop. (royalgorgecabins.com)

#3 YMCA of the Rockies, Estes Park & Granby

We often feature YMCA of the Rockies on our list. It’s pretty obvious if you have been to either of their two Colorado resorts. Both offer a wonderland of activity for families, all contained in one resort. The YMCA of the Rockies has two properties, Snow Mountain Ranch in Granby and Estes Park Center. Either location offers over 100 activities, meal plans, dozens of different lodging options (we also vote for the yurts that have a lovely shower and bath house, wifi, BBQ area and views galore), and enough to make you come back for decades to explore the diversity in activity. New this year at the Estes Park Center is the Boone Family Mountain Center. This 10,125 square-foot facility provides a base camp for nature exploration, environmental education, and high-adventure activities. In addition to housing a hands-on education nature center, two-story climbing wall, and a presentation room, the Boone Family Mountain Center serves as the staging and information area for hiking, fishing, mountain biking, archery and the zipline. On the Snow Mountain Ranch side, check out the new Hanging with Huskies program where you can meet members of the dogsled team and play with them in their new dog park. Or, Lollygag with Llamas on a summer hike. However, our family always goes crazy for the Summer Tubing Hill at Snow Mountain Ranch the roller skating rink, and the arts and crafts center.  (ymcarockies.org)

#5 Colorado Field Guide—Undiscovered Gems

The Colorado Tourism Office launched the Colorado Field Guide last summer as a way to promote healthy and responsible family vacation habits. The Field Guide is aimed at inspiring travelers to explore the state’s hidden gems and carry their dollars to less-visited destinations in the state and includes an online collection of three- to seven-day itineraries along with tips on ways travelers can protect the state’s natural resources, whether by traveling like a local or taking part in “voluntourism.” (colorado.com/colorado-field-guide)

And, to really get out there and experience authentic Colorado, I recommend a dear friend and colleague’s book, Colorado Camping: The Complete Guide to Tent and RV Camping by Joshua Berman. Berman is a rocking, cool dad from Boulder who travels with his three daughters in tow. joshuaberman.net

#5 Crested Butte

Amber and I do not play favorites, however, we both feel something very special for Crested Butte. It’s a little further of a drive for Front Range families to this secluded spot. Aspen, Vail Valley, Winter Park, Steamboat Springs—these are all closer to the larger population centers. That’s the beauty, solitude and remoteness of Crested Butte. But, unlike some places, it’s accessible for a weekend. If it were up to Amber and I, you would need a week there to truly soak in the vibe. Here’s what not to miss this summer.

For a small town, they pack in some of the most family adventure. However, we always go for the hiking, arguably some of the best views in all of the state, and not to mention the wildflowers. Try the Crested Butte Mountain Resort’s Guided Hikes that include The Family Adventure Guided Hike (for up to five people), which is perfectly suited for the littlest hikers since you ride to the top of the Red Lady Lift before taking a meandering, mostly downhill hike that passes through beautiful wildflowers, aspen and evergreen groves; the Family Summit Hike is a more challenging option, great for tweens and teens. Learn about the abundant blooms you can find in the Wildflower Capital of Colorado. travelcrestedbutte.com/crested-butte-summer-activities

#6 Colorado Springs

As with Denver, I am completely in awe of the transformation of this city. Its expansion is on par with the rest of the Front Range! And, there are definitely some spectacular things to check out. First, it’s our beloved Broadmoor’s 100th anniversary this June. Both Amber and I are very loving of its expansion into Wilderness Camps and its continued objective of family-oriented vacations. The pool (featured image) is one of the best in the State, and the views and historical ambiance, one of the best in the Nation.

Second, there are a few other smaller-scale options in the Springs that bring style and splash time.  Flying Horse Lodge, a bit more boutique, boasts impeccable views of Pikes Peak – America’s Mountain whether staying in the Rocky Mountain Tuscan-style lodge or private villas. Tee-off on the course and enjoy both indoor and outdoor pools; Garden of the Gods Collection has an entire country club to enjoy (golf, tennis, pool, kids splash pool) and one of my favorite bathrooms to get work done that I reported on for USA Today’s 10Best (link). There has been added an International Health and Wellness Center late last year; and Cheyenne Mountain Resort which is larger in scale but boasts pools, and man-made beach, as well.  Third, Colorado Springs has the only kids toy store in the nation that also technically serves beer and has a bookstore attached—Poor Richards—it’s a must for everyone in the family. visitcos.com

#7 Beer Gardens

Brews, babies, and Backgammon. Grab your hacky sack, tween or toddler and growler—Colorado’s patios offer family fun at breweries and some tasty eats. Colorado is hyper focused on beer culture so it made sense to make it a destination. We have over 400 licensed breweries and that number is steadily growing. Along with an uber beer-centric culture, we are also wrapped up in raising hipster children in this quintessential craft beer movement. And with this notion, I introduce you to some of the greatest family-friendly breweries … and trust me… I’ve drank the local hops and chased three children around the Centennial State’s modern day gold mines.

  • Arvada: Spice Trade Brewing + Yak & Yeti = small patio, kids love the haunted house story
  • Boulder: Sanitas Brewing = great tacos, spacious, great view of Mt. Sanitas
  • Denver: Station 26 = Stapleton location, awesome food truck Order 26
  • Eagle: Bonfire Brewing = free popcorn, best root beer, nice bonfire pit, dog-friendly
  • Fort Collins: Funkwerks = huge patio, bright green, fun building, yard games, bike-friendly
  • Lone Tree: Lone Tree Brewing Co = big patio, food truck, bring your dog throughout the space
  • Pagosa Springs: Riff Raff Brewing Company = great space for kids to run around, live music, dog-friendly, 2 Air B&B on top or brewery
  • Steamboat Springs: Mountain Tap Brewery = spacious patio, owners encourage family gatherings; bring your growler for sure!

#8 National Wild and Scenic Rivers System

It’s the 50th anniversary for this organization that tirelessly fights for our families continued enjoyment on treasured waterways throughout the Western United States. Currently in Colorado, we have one designated waterway— Cache La Poudre River. On October 30, 1986, Poudre Lake downstream to where the river intersects the easterly north-south line of the west was designated. Remarkably, Colorado only has approximately 107,403 miles of river, of which 76 miles or one river are designated as wild & scenic which is less than 1/10th of 1% of the state’s river miles according to rivers.gov. By showing are continued participation, appreciation and responsibility to these rivers, use them with care and caution so they will be here for the future generations. Oars.com offers incredible journeys throughout the Western States on these protected rivers! Paddles up and support our Cache La Poudre

Featured photo: The Broadmoor Infinity Pool

Additional Resources

This is only the beginning of summer fun in Colorado. Don’t miss these articles:

Guide to Denver’s Splash Parks and Spray Fountains

Best Hikes for Kids in the Denver area

Great Wolf Lodge Roars in Colorado Springs

Where to pull of I-70 when you’re stuck in traffic (fun activities and restaurants)

10 Beautiful Places in Colorado You Didn’t Know About

Borrow a Colorado State Parks Pass from Your Library

Yurt Village at Snow Mountain Ranch is Star-lit Fun

Cool Off This Summer at Colorado’s Best Beaches

A Local’s Guide to Gunnison’s Magical Summers

Best Denver-area Parks for Beginner Trail Runners (and hikers)

10 of Colorado’s most scenic waterfall hikes

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