by Amanda Geronikos
It is nearly impossible to describe YMCA of the Rockies and how special it truly is for families. It’s not your local YMCA — it’s a full-fledge resort just outside of Rocky Mountain National Park, with endless activities (including its own museum), family-friendly lodging, dining options and good old-fashioned fun.
In fact, the resort advises guests to leave their iPads and iPods at home — it’s all about disconnecting at YMCA of the Rockies. Think of it as a summer camp for families.
There’s no need to leave this destination resort once you arrive (excursions to Rocky Mountain National Park can be arranged onsite), but if you and the kids decide to venture out on your own, downtown Estes Park is just a few minutes away, offering restaurants (including a brewery), shops and an old movie theater.
Our Editor Loves
- Endless outdoor activities
- Feeling of being at summer camp
- Views of Rocky Mountain National Park
- Horse Back Riding
- Children Programs
- Family Room 5+
- Free Wi-Fi
- Game Room
- Onsite Dining
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
Lodge Rooms come in three variations: Wind River (sleeps five; balcony or patio), Alpen Inn (sleeps six; balcony), and Eastside Lodges (sleeps six). All rooms feature kitchenettes.
Cabins and Vacation Homes
Families can rent cabins or vacation homes with two, three or four bedrooms and full kitchens; two-bedroom units sleep five, three-bedroom lodges sleep seven, and four-bedroom homes accommodate 10. Most of the cabins and vacation homes also have fireplaces.
The Y was the greatest place on earth to my son and we loved getting out of town for a quick break in beautiful Estes Park. They now have a three day minimum as well as raised the rates. Unfortunately that makes it unaffordable monetarily and time wise. Too bad. Wish they would change it back. If you are taking a weeks vacation, maybe it makes sense, but for a weekend getaway for folks from Colorado they have ruined a good thing.
For the price, I don't think there is any way to beat the location and offerings of the YMCA of the Rockies. The grounds are expansive and we saw elk wandering around the fields every morning on the way to breakfast. Our kids 5 & 8 loved it, especially the playgrounds and included activities like the game room, miniature golf, and swimming pool. The staff we encountered during our stay always went above and beyond as well. The only reason I am not giving it 5 starts is that some of the features are definitely in need of some TLC. The miniature golf course had big ripped holes in the greens and the window in our Alpen Inn room would not stay open (had to prop it open with a water bottle) and the screen was practically falling out. We enjoyed our included breakfast, but the dinner cafeteria style meals were only fair to good. Plus be aware that there are a LOT of hungry camp kids sharing the dining hall with you. With that said, we'd still recommend it in a heartbeat. Next time, though, we'd like to try out one of the many cabins located throughout the grounds. Travel tip: The YMCA offers an amazing military special. Be sure to check it out if you qualify!
The resort offers specialty camps for all ages and interests, such as a Dragons, Fairies & Princess Camp for little ones, and backpacking programs for teens. Daytime programs are also offered for non-guests in the event parents would like a day to hike by themselves.
The hotel has a full schedule of programming, including guided excursions to Rocky Mountain National Park, seminars and holiday events.
In addition to its multitude of camps and programming, YMCA of the Rockies offers countless activities onsite, including the following:
- Horseback riding
- Swimming (pool)
- Spa treatments
Lula W. Dorsey Museum
Learn about the history of YMCA of the Rockies at this small museum onsite. The museum has been open since 1979, but the resort's history spans more than a century, once operating as a summer school for men. The museum is free to enter.
The resort has its own chapel, where services are hosted throughout the week. Some people also marry at the chapel onsite!
Aspen Dining Room
The Aspen Dining Room offers an all-you-can-eat buffet for breakfast, lunch and dinner, with a salad bar and desserts included. Children 5 and under eat free. Situated in a cafeteria-style setting, the restaurant is open 7 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., closing briefly between meals.
Pine Room Restaurant
Open in the summer, Pine Room Restaurant is the resort's fine dining option. On Sundays, you can enjoy a lavish brunch, and on weekdays, prime rib is offered.
Rustic CafÃ© serves soups, salads, sandwiches, and coffees -- perfect to grab and go for a picnic lunch at the resort or in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Y's Guy Pizza
This pizza joint serves delicious pies and salads in the summer months. Eat in or take back to your cabin or room.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
Complimentary Wi-Fi is provided at the resort; it may be spotty in some of the lodges, but works well in most of the communal spaces.
Up to two pets are welcome in most accommodations for a nominal nightly charge.
The Art of Smart Timing
YMCA of the Rockies and Estes Park, Colorado are most popular during the summertime, when you can take advantage of all of the outdoor activities -- particularly at the resort.
The closest airport to Estes Park is Denver International Airport, about 1.5 hours away. You'll likely lose cell service when driving through Roosevelt National Forest, but don't worry about getting lost -- there's only one main road into Estes Park. Once you reach the town, you'll have service again.
You'll want a car to get around this resort, which seems to go on, and on, and on! Plenty of free parking is available.