You know that expression “room with a view”? That’s what I kept thinking of about everything I saw while spending a springtime weekend at YMCA of the Rockies Estes Park Center. Everything we did, from our lodging, dining, lounging, mini-golfing and hiking, all came with wonderful views of forest, mountains, wildlife and a big, open sky.
How could we not have beautiful views, though, since the Estes Park Center is located at the entrance of Rocky Mountain National Park? Although we did go on a morning hike in the Park (thanks to a map of recommended trails provided by the Estes Park Center), we didn’t even need to take a hike to appreciate the scenery all around us.
YMCA Estes Park Center is open year-round but we just couldn’t wait until summer to have some unplugged time in nature. A beautiful spring weekend gave us an ideal Colorado Staycation.
Except for a couple of big-screen TV’s and Wi-Fi availability in the main lodge and in some of the cabins, YMCA promotes actually spending time with others. You know, talking, face-to-face, electronics-free. What a concept. At first, sitting in our 3-bedroom cabin, our group sat around looking at each other. A soft, spring rain had descended, along with some exciting lightning and thunder. House-bound on our first evening, we thought we were going to go crazy. But with a fireplace and a closet full of games and puzzles to encourage some socializing, we got to know each other again – un-tethered to electronics. It was great!
Rooms with a View
Although the Estes Park Center has lodge rooms and cabins close to the center of the action (near most of the facilities), there are also lots of cabins that accommodate various numbers of guests. The cabins have a rustic charm but with all the necessary amenities. We stayed in the Melrose cabin, up the road and uphill from the main facilities. The wrap-around porch had Adirondack chairs and picnic tables and views almost all the way around. A fully-equipped kitchen (you provide the food if you want to cook), large dining table, livingroom, three bathrooms and three bedrooms kept us all comfortable but allowed some space too.
Dining with a View
If you don’t want to do your own cooking, the many restaurants of Estes Park are nearby but there are food options galore for just about every taste and dietary concern right there at the dining hall. The reasonably-priced breakfast, lunch and dinner buffets offer sides (including fruit, baked goods and salad-makings), vegetables and multiple entrees. Our favorites were the BBQ Brisket, Mustard Pulled-Pork, Grilled Tofu and Fried Chicken, steamed yellow carrots and string beans and make-your-own breakfast burritos.
Crafts with a View
Do something artsy in the Craft & Design Center. Even from afar, it’s easy to see this is a space for creativity from the multi-colored elk statue and rocks outside the building. Inside, choose from a variety of arts and crafts geared toward different age groups including tie-dye, jewelry-making and ceramics. Some projects need to be dried or kiln-fired and are better-suited to people staying a few days. But the activity guides at the Center will help you choose the best project for your interests and timing.
Sports with a View
Indoor or outdoor basketball, roller blading, volleyball and beach volleyball, a challenging and large mini-golf course are all available to guests (or non-guests for a day-pass fee or additional but nominal fee like in the case of Archery Lessons). Guests can check out equipment for the day for free from the Sweet Memorial Center. That building is also where guided hikes take off from, where you can touch animal pelts, feathers and horns and play some pool in the Game Room.
Daycamp with a View
Although the YMCA of the Rockies encourages family togetherness, they also encourage kids to be able to do their own thing (and therefore also the adults). The Day Camp offers fun-filled days of play, crafts, learning and adventure for kids from grades 1-12. There’s also a camp for kids ages 3-4 that includes a little nap time. We can all use that!
While the kids are having their day, parents can do any of the activities at the Y including hikes, horseback riding and even therapeutic massage from on-site Homegrown Yoga & Massage. Focus on tired tootsies with the Hiker’s Feet Heaven on up to full-body massages.
Horseback Riding with a View
Tucked at one, pretty end of the property is the Estes Park Center YMCA of the Rockies Livery. Sign up for the path and duration of your choice and the friendly wranglers will assess your riding ability and comfort level and match you with just the right horse. Prices for rides start at $40 for an hour’s ride. Family Hayrides with marshmallow roasts are offered throughout the summer.
The Drive with a View (going up and back and into Estes Park)
From the heart of Denver, the drive to YMCA Estes Park Center is about 1 ½ hours. It’s an easy and beautiful drive. It’s at once heartbreaking and reaffirming to see some of the damage still remaining from the 2013 floods through the area. However, businesses and homes are rebuilt and the floods didn’t take away from the beauty of the area.
We spent a few hours of our Y time in Estes Park, strolling in and out of shops, walking along the riverside path that goes along the back of shops and restaurants for blocks and blocks. We had lunch at Mama Rose’s Italian Restaurant with its large patio overlooking the water. And one night, we went to The Rock Inn Mountain Tavern for happy hour and enjoyed live, acoustic music and artistic atmosphere. The Stanley Film Festival was running during our visit (another reason to head up in spring) and there were rumors that some big stars were in town, staying at the historic Stanley Hotel. But we never saw them.
Expanding our View
Although we would have loved to have spent more time at YMCA Estes Park Center, even a Friday night through Sunday afternoon felt like we’d had a true escape, right in our own state. There was so much to do and so much to see. We could be as active or inactive as we wanted (we mixed some of both).
Spring and summer are great times to visit but fall brings the Elk Rut and several fall festivals. Plus, cold weather means snowshoeing, ice-skating, hot cocoa/marshmallow roasts and back country skiing in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Visit YMCA of the Rockies Estes Park Center’s website to see what’s coming up. Choose the lodging and activity options of your choice, creating an easy getaway and enjoy the views!
Note: You can also visit the sister property, YMCA of the Rockies Snow Mountain Ranch, also an easy and beautiful drive from Denver. We’ve been there too! See what our experiences were.