By Cami Sauder
Have you read our Ultimate Guide to Rocky Mountain National Park and added this beautiful park to your bucket list? If not, let me give you EVEN MORE reasons to!
In fact, I’ll give you 30 reasons to make the YMCA of the Rockies your home base for your trip to the Estes Park, Colorado, area.
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30 Brilliant Reasons to Stay at YMCA of the Rockies
1. Location, Location, Location
Not only is the YMCA of the Rockies a complete destination unto itself with more than 800 fabulous acres, it’s a mere 3 miles to the Beaver Meadows entrance of Rocky Mountain National Park.
In fact, if you can’t get a timed entrance pass, as is required during the pandemic, no worries! You can hike right into the park from the Y! How’s that for location?
With downtown Estes Park only 4 miles away, it’s your own little slice of heaven completely away from the crowds, yet close at hand.
2. Choose From a Variety of Accommodations
You’ll have the flexibility to choose either a lodge room or a cabin for your stay. A lodge room can sleep 5-6 guests and includes your own private bath, all linens and ranges from $89-$194 a day, depending on the season.
When choosing a cabin, you can opt for the basic 2-bedroom, 3-4 bath with kitchen but no dishwasher or fireplace option, which sleeps 4 and starts at $109 per night. Or you can go all the way up to a 4-bedroom, multiple-bath, kitchen with dishwasher and a fireplace option, sleeping 10 people, that tops out at $519 in high season and everything in between!
The cherry on top is that you can bring your furry family member along if you follow their pet policy.
3. Get a Massage
Yes, you read that right! They have turned one of the cabins into a relaxing and therapeutic massage center.
Serviced by Home Grown Yoga & Massage, you can partake in a Swedish, hot stone, prenatal or even hiker’s foot massage. Doesn’t that sound wonderful?!
4. Join in Free Family Programs
Each day at the YMCA of the Rockies is absolutely chock full of activities for the whole family to participate in free.
These include games, hikes, story times, bird banding and more. Just take a look at what they had to offer the week we were there above.
5. Eat Good Food
If you’re staying in a lodge, there are no cooking facilities or even a small fridge available in your room. So you’ll want to opt for their take out Family Pick-Up Meal Options, which are available 7 days a week. One day advance notice is required. Pizza is also available from Y’s Guys Pizza and take out and to-go items from The Rustic Cafe.
Under normal circumstances (not during the pandemic), you can choose from their buffet service in the Aspen Dining Room or sit-down service in the Pine Room, as well as Family Cookouts and Campfires when they’re not under a fire ban.
If you’ve opted for a cabin, you’ll have a full-size refrigerator and stove where you can cook all of your meals. Don’t want to grocery shop? Try their easy Grocery Ordering & Pick-up by request, which is available daily.
6. Get Moving at the Roller Rink
I can’t remember the last time I laced up some roller skates, but the Bob Ecker Roller Rink is open daily if the mood strikes to take a few spins around the floor.
Skates are provided and roller blades are welcome.
7. Take a Guided Hike
Don’t feel comfortable hiking on your own or with your little ones? The Y has you covered!
They offer several guided hikes daily. Choose from the easiest Moraine Park Nature walk at 3 miles and only a 400-foot elevation gain to their most strenuous, all-day hike to Dark Mountain via Bridal Falls at 11.5 miles and an elevation gain of 3060 feet.
8. Participate in Free Classes
Now that you’re on vacation, you might actually have the time to learn Bridge, take a yoga or photography class or learn how to use your iPhone or iPad ;-).
These classes and more are offered at the Y. Who knew?
9. Go Horseback Riding
Have your kids been bugging you to go horseback riding? Jackson Stables within the YMCA of the Rockies has you covered.
You can opt to take your very littlest on a pony ride, get the whole family on a hayride complete with marshmallow roast or for the more adventurous, sign up for a several-hour ride.
10. Gaze at the Stars
Whether you join in one of their free stargazing activities, bring your telescope like we did or grab your jacket and blanket to get away from ALL the lights by driving to Overlook Chapel, the night sky at the Y will amaze you with views of the Milky Way, constellations, satellites and hopefully a falling star or two!
11. Imagine a Dream Wedding
Speaking of Overlook Chapel, ever thought about hosting a wedding at the Y? Bet you didn’t know they have this venue.
Even with some smoky haze on the day we were there, the setting is still spectacular!
12. Rent Bikes
Whether you’ve brought your bike from home or want to rent one from Boone Family Mountain Center for a half-day, full-day or 24 hours, there are plenty of places and terrains to ride at the YMCA of the Rockies, including the opportunity to enjoy mountain biking.
13. Take Advantage of the Chapel and Bible Studies
Don’t want to miss church while you’re on vacation? Not an issue with weekly non-denominational services right on site, as well as two ongoing Bible studies during the week. Very cool!
14. Play Games
You’ll most likely find some games in your cabin, or you can bring some from home or borrow some from Sweet Memorial.
One of my best memories from game-playing with our kids comes from playing Mad Gab in a cabin right here at the Y. Can you guess this one: mess ago sit he? I’ll give you the answer at the end. 😊
15. Try Archery and Axe Throwing
Did you know that there’s currently an “axeplosion” of people who like to throw axes for fun? 😃 Yes, it’s truly a thing.
Lauded as the replacement for bowling, you’ve chosen the right place to try it out. It’s also noted to “bring out your inner mountain man/woman.”
Not quite so adventurous, but still into launching sharp things? Try their archery range conveniently situated adjacent.
16. Go for a Swim
Don’t forget to pack your swimsuit, so you can visit the Dorsey swimming pool. Heated to 83 degrees, the pool offers water exercise classes, open swim and lap swim times. And for the young or young at heart, try their great waterslide!
17. Try Your Hand at the Escape Room
Hopefully you and your fellow sleuths will be able to escape after interpreting clues, solving puzzles, deciphering riddles and unlocking doors.
These themed escape rooms are known to build camaraderie between members, so it just might be the thing you need to get all ages working together for a fun adventure.
18. Spot Wildlife
You’re not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy, when you step foot on the grounds of the YMCA! I’ve seen elk, bear, deer, stellar’s jays, hummingbirds and more. The first time I was there, staying in the Hummingbird cabin, a bear decided to go under it, which was amazing.
There are signs that say you are in bear country, and they’ve taken better precautions to keep them away since then. The trash cans are all bear-proof, and they no longer hang hummingbird feeders at the cabins.
The deer, however, are in abundance and seem fearless, and the elk are always nearby. In fact, I caught two of them sparring when I was out for my morning photo opps as you can see in the video above. I stood behind a tree just to be safe! 😃
19. Visit the Dog Park
For those not-so-wild furry family members, who are actually welcome in the cabins, they’ve created an area with great amenities for dogs and humans named Murphy’s Mountain Dog Park.
With agility stations, seating, a shade shelter and water fountains, man’s best friend will have fun exploring here, as well as the new 5+ mile trail that follows the boundary of the entire YMCA property. WOOF.
20. Play Disc Golf
If you’ve never tried disc golf before, here’s your chance. With a $10 deposit, you can rent discs and try your hand at their 18-hole course.
While learning, you’ll get in a good walk and be able to enjoy the beautiful scenery that surrounds you as you play.
21. Relax at the Library
Have a bookworm in your family? They’ll love perusing and checking out the titles from the Maude Jellison Library. After a long hike, you might want to prop your feet up, pop some corn and watch a movie on your laptop (there are NO TVs at the Y!), which are available here as well.
They even have a poem share and book lover’s hour once a week!
22. Get Crafty
Enter the fun world of arts and crafts at the Mootz Family Craft and Designer Center where you can indulge your crafty side in a variety of mediums, including wood, leather, ceramics, tie dye, silk painting, glass fusing, basket making or beading to make and take.
It’ll be a souvenir of your wonderful visit to the Y.
23. Snap a Professional Photo
Would you like to have a professional family photo taken in this stunning setting for your Christmas card?
Sky Pond Photography, the official photographers of the YMCA of the Rockies, would be happy to photograph you with absolutely no obligation to buy.
24. Go Fishing
Situated at the entrance to the grounds, Dorsey Lake (catch and release only) is a beautiful location to throw in your line along with Glacier Creek, Mill Creek and the Big Thompson River, which all flow with clear mountain water on Y property at some point.
One year when my husband was fishing, three bull elk walked into the water just a few feet from him. That was an unexpected thrill and a bit scary! This year, he was able to snag a few trout from Glacier Creek to have for breakfast.
Want to learn how to fly fish? Contact Sasquatch Fly Fishing to set up a lesson. They have a convenient location right on the property.
25. Watch a Nature Film
Shown daily in the Mountain Center, join local producer Nick Molle as he shares his documentaries about the Rocky Mountains in two films. Choose from either “Nature of the Beasts” or “The Living Dream: 100 years of Rocky Mountain National Park.”
26. Learn While Traveling
With the current situation, social distancing while having dependable WiFi is a must. If you are working from home and your kids are remote learning, why not take advantage of the situation and head to the Y? Some are terming this “road-schooling”! We like it :).
Not only can they do all of their regular schoolwork here easily, the Y has DIY Outdoor Education Kits. Check out these titles: Water Ecology, Montane Forest Ecology, Outdoor Living Skills, Orienteering (our kids tried this when we were there a long time ago; it was so fun!), Night Hikes, etc.
27. Visit the Museum
The Lula W. Dorsey Museum, housed in a 1924 guest lodge, has several gallery exhibits on the history of the area, as well as several period room settings. They also have a staff alumni cabin you can visit.
28. Discover Seasonal Activities
Are you able to visit sometime other than summer? How about fall? The Y has many different seasonal events like a Fall Fest, Halloween Spooktacular and more, depending on when you visit.
In winter, you can enjoy sledding, ice skating, snowshoeing and lots more in the midst of Rocky Mountain snow! Check out their seasonal activity guides.
29. Win at Mini Golf
Who doesn’t love a quick free game of mini-golf to get their competitive juices flowing?!
Try their short 9-hole course (It’s the one we tried that says it is “perfect for preschool children!” No wonder we got so many holes-in-one!) or be a grown-up and try their more challenging 18-hole course. Whichever you choose, you’re sure to have a lot of family fun. 😃
30. Find Golden Nuggets
And last but not least, follow their hiking trails and look for shiny, golden rocks that are hidden on the property. Find one and turn it in at Sweet Memorial for a special prize.
There are so many more things to do at the YMCA of the Rockies that I didn’t list, but I’ll let you discover those for yourself. Did this list make you want to plan your trip to the Rockies soon?
And I know you’ve been wondering if you got the answer to the Mad Gab clue correct or not. It was MEXICO CITY. Did you guess right? 👏