YMCA of the Rockies: Something for Everyone in the Family, Even Fido!
posted by: Lori Holden
So many factors make living in Colorado such a rich experience, but near the top of my family’s list is the accessibility of YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park. It’s the perfect place for a family weekend or family vacation for the sheer beauty, the up-closeness with wildlife, and for the variety of activities available.
You could easily count a dozen indoor activities (such as crafts, rock-climbing, archery, escape room) and a dozen outdoor activities (like skating, sledding, dog park, hiking) for all seasons. Last month I got to attend the 4th annual Mountaineering Weekend with my family, and over three days, the four of us plus the dog got to experience just a mere sampling of all that YMCA of the Rockies has to offer.
What is Mountaineering Weekend?
Mountaineering Weekend activities include guided snowshoe hikes through Rocky Mountain National Park, dog sled presentations, ice climbing demonstrations, glow-in-the-dark rock climbing, sledding, and more.
All activities are free for guests staying in lodge rooms (starting at $89/night) or pet-friendly cabins (starting at $109/night). Three meals a day are served buffet-style in a dining hall (no meal planning for mom & dad!) and regularly-scheduled programming is available, such as ice skating on a natural pond, archery, and making tie-dyes or mosaics in the craft & design center.
— YMCA of the Rockies
If you’re a mountain-loving family, make plans to attend Mountaineering Weekend over President’s Day weekend next year. Here’s what you’ll be in for.
Plentiful views like this everywhere you look.
Winter storm on the horizon in the late afternoon.
The Wildlife & The Nightlife
We were welcomed to our cabin the first afternoon by the Deer Committee…
…and greeted the next morning by the Wild Turkey Committee.
After breakfast in the cafeteria, my husband, the dog, and I took a long hike on a gorgeous day.
Filling our bodies and souls with all the benefits of nature while our teens slept.
Don’t forget to look up — and down –while hiking. So much evidence of wildlife.
Afternoon options are chock-full of activity options over the 860-acre property. In the evenings, the YMCA of the Rockies put on events such as a lecture series that included world-class rock climber Tommy Caldwell and inspirational conservationist Quinn Brett.
Tommy Caldwell is a father, husband, professional rock climber & environmental activist. Over 19 days in In 2015, Tommy and Kevin Jorgeson climbed 3,000 feet up the Dawn Wall, a blank face on Yosemite’s monolithic El Capitan and the hardest big-wall rock climb in the world. A 2018 award-winning film, The Dawn Wall, was based on their accomplishment. Most recently, Tommy and climbing partner Alex Honnold broke the two-hour speed barrier on the 3,000-foot Nose route of El Capitan.
Quinn Brett worked as a climbing ranger Rocky Mountain National Park, technical rescuer and first responder. This intimate work within public lands also opened opportunities to spread a need for stewardship within the recreational community. October 2017 she took a big fall while rock climbing in Yosemite National Park, causing paralysis below the navel. Her drive to cover long distances over technically complex terrain continues, so does her advocacy and adventure love for wild spaces.
Our advice? Don’t be late — these high-quality offerings are likely to be standing room only!
Did you see the part about the Fido? We were ecstatic that we didn’t have to leave our beloved Dexter behind for the weekend. Our bichon-poodle got to come with us, staying in our cabin and on our bed, where he belongs (don’t judge).
Dexter watching for wildlife and excited for the day.
Dogs are welcome in cabins, on walks and on hikes, but not in the lodge, other common indoor spaces, and not on the adjacent Rocky Mountain National Park. One of YMCA of the Rockies’ newest features is a dog park, which Dexter was more than happy to inaugurate.
Lodging & Eating at YMCA of the Rockies
Check out all lodging options. If you don’t bring a dog, try a stay in one of the lodges. For large family gatherings, you can also rent a meeting cabin. If you do want to bring Fido, check out a 2- 3-, or 4-bedroom cabin. They are both roomy and cozy, with kitchens, fireplaces, and gorgeous scenery out every window.
Our 3 BR cabin for the winter weekend. Can you imagine how lovely this would be in other seasons, too?
There’s a new lodging option: a hostel for budget-oriented travelers age 18+ (no pets).
While you’re certainly welcome to prepare meals in your cabin, you are also able to purchase individual meals or meal cards in the cafeteria for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Food is healthy and with lots of options for those with dietary preferences/restrictions.
With such a wide array of activities and opportunities in this wildlife retreat, there is something for everyone of all ages. Over the years my family has spent time at YMCA of the Rockies with grandparents, parents, teens, young children, and toddlers — our kids through time. During each visit, we make invaluable family memories.
After every trip, we debrief on the way home and talk over our favorite memories. This year it was a decidedly low-tech activity that warmed my heart. And that same choice was also my husband’s, my daughter’s and my son’s favorite.
Was it a challenge like a rock climb or 5+ mile hike along Glacier Creek? No. Was it sledding, skating or the escape room? Unh-unh. The climbing wall, swimming, archery? Nope.
It was an hour when we unplugged and played a cut-throat game of cards in our cabin. Our teenagers taught us old folks a new game (new to us, anyway) called Cheat, also known as “BS” (as they gleefully and irreverently told us). Everyone got in a win or two in over several rounds.
There was so much laughter in the cabin that night in front of the fire that all our hearts were connected and warmed. Can’t beat that when you’re the parent of two way-cool teens who often have not much use of you.
If you’re looking to make family memories in the coming year, we four — and Dexter — highly recommend The YMCA of the Rockies.
Planning Your Spring Break?
Estes Park Center, Estes Park, Colorado: Located on 860 acres bordering Rocky Mountain National Park, YMCA of the Rockies is a great spring break destination for families looking for an easy, unplugged getaway and features “Frozen Worlds” weekends from March 13 – April 2 with activities for all ages including snow fort building, snowflake crafts, educational polar bear & deer talks, penguin egg races (practice carrying eggs like penguins!), winter science experiments, and more, as well as ongoing activities such as ice skating on a natural pond, archery, indoor swimming, and making tie-dyes or mosaics in the craft & design center. Three meals a day served buffet-style in the dining hall (no meal planning for mom & dad!), and lodge rooms start at $89/night.
Snow Mountain Ranch, Granby, Colorado: As a year-round destination, a stay at Snow Mountain Ranch, just outside Winter Park, brings groups and families together to relax and enjoy the outdoors this spring. With a huge selection of activities, most included at no cost for overnight guests, everyone in the family will find something to do. From young to old, there’s an activity or program that will delight even the toughest of “too cool” teenagers. Accommodations ranges from hotel-style lodge rooms (new dog-friendly rooms), cozy cabins or mega reunion cabins sleeping up to 44 guests. Plus, guests who stay in lodge rooms receive two free breakfasts for each night booked.
Snow Mountain Ranch is conveniently located between the alpine ski resorts of Winter Park/Mary Jane and Ski Granby Ranch and offers an alpine ski/snowboard rental shop on-site.
Unique on-site Spring Break activities include: dog sledding, fat snow bikes, Nordic skiing, tubing/sledding, ice skating, snowshoeing, indoor archery, indoor climbing wall, swimming pool with water slides and climbing wall, craft shop, ping-pong, basketball, roller-skating, plus creative weekly programming such as Human Hungry Hungry Hippos game and snow games. The Spring Festival at the Snow Mountain Ranch Nordic Center is set for the weekend of March 21-22, 2020 with free events and activities featuring snowshoeing, fat biking, backcountry skis and Nordic skiing for the whole family.
Lori Holden, mom to a teen daughter and a teen son, is an award-winning blogger who writes from Denver at LavenderLuz.com. Lori was nominated by Senator Michael Bennet as a 2018 Angel in Adoption®. Her book, The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption: Helping Your Child Grow Up Whole, is on suggested and required reading lists at adoption agencies around the country. It makes a thoughtful gift for the adoptive families in your life.