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Family Adventure, Elevated: YMCA of the Rockies

When I walked inside the 100-year-old Admin Building at the YMCA of the Rockies, my first thought was “Where’s Teddy Roosevelt?” The architecture was impressive. A wide wooden porch littered with rockers and Adirondack chairs greets you. The interior is cavernous with a high rustic-beamed ceiling and stone fireplaces. It would not have been surprising to see Teddy, Molly Brown, Buffalo Bill, and Annie Oakley having a raucous, smoky conference around a fire place. Oh, to be the stuffed bison head on the wall.

Our family was invited to experience everything the YMCA of the Rockies has to offer. We’ve never been there as a family. In fact, only my husband has been and that was as a teen for a church retreat. I didn’t know what to expect, other than a few days of camp-style fun and classic outdoor activities. I hoped the kids would try new things. I hoped to avoid ticks and angry elk. I hoped to be reminded, again, how blessed we are to live in such a spectacular place.

The YMCA of the Rockies is a massive property located a few miles southwest of historic Estes Park, Colorado. It’s situated on the edge of Rocky Mountain National Park. They have natural beauty and stunning vistas covered.

View of the Rockies from the Admin Building's sprawling porch

No wonder it has become the go-to spot for group and family gatherings in the Rocky Mountain region. Every year, they host 800 family reunions, 180,000 family vacationers, 1,200 conferences, and 300 military families. With numbers like this, you might expect crowded conditions not unlike what you’d see around a Vegas casino swimming pool in July. While there were many people sharing the experience, there was still a feeling of intimacy with our family and with our group of friends. The campus is dotted with lodges, cabins, dorms, and vacation homes connected by trails. The grounds are spread out and roomy, with wide lawn expanses, forest nooks, hills, trails, and historic campus buildings.

We stayed in the Longs Peak Lodge, which was more hotel than hardcore camp experience. Our rooms had two comfy queen beds in and bonus futon-style mattress for a fifth guest. I got to stay with Aidan, Beatrix, Teddy, and Archie in one room and my husband got the four big boys in the other. One had diapers. The other teenaged-boy socks. Which would you choose? I know, it’s hard. But we were all comfortable. It was great to have a quiet place to crash after jam-packed days and at naptime. One of the best things about our lodge rooms was NO TV. The YMCA of the Rockies actively encourages families to interact, something they’ve perfected.

I know I’ve never seen my kids sway to classic camp and cowboy songs as we sat on a hillside at dusk.

Cowboy singalong swaying

I know they’ve never begged to meet a cowboy music singer who channels John Denver so expertly, I wondered if we had stepped into some sort of time machine.

Posing with Cowboy Brad

I know the Craft and Design Building makes my stash of craft supplies on the shelf above the washing machine look utterly pathetic. I totally glared at our glitter glue when we got home because:

Arts and Crafts and Crafts and Arts


Find the children!


Tie Dye to die for

If you aren’t feeling particularly Teddy Roosevelt when you visit, you could spend weeks and weeks doing countless crafts and creating masterpieces of art. They provide guidance, skill, and organized know-how. You pay a very small fee for materials directly related to the craft you choose.

I was glad to discover the YMCA of the Rockies actively wants to keep the littlest visitors engaged and busy, too. Archie and Beatrix spent time in the parachute play class, discovering the joys of making colorful caves. They also have discovery classes aimed at younger kids. They do crafts, learn about animals, plants, sports all on a level that captures their interest.

Parachute Play

Of course, big kids and parents are afforded plenty of chances to play, learn, and challenge themselves. Our big kids and my husband got to try archery for the first time. They loved it and want to do it again, ASAP, and not for the coming dystopian future but for the sheer fun and challenge of it.

Not practicing for The Hunger Games

Aidan shot through the hay, Joel got a bullsyeye!

Our family teens, Aidan and Ryley, attended a teen night activity for kids ages 13-18. They played games and got a chance to meet peers away from nosy parents and annoying younger siblings. They still talk about the games they played that night. When they arrived back at the lodge, after navigated the dark on their own, they were pink-cheeked and breathless from the fun they had. This is so much nicer than pale and sullen.

Aidan, Ryley, and my husband also got to zip line 35 feet off the ground over an 800-foot-long valley. As a pregnant princess, I couldn’t participate. In fact, I missed seeing it because certain little boys were taking an epic three-hour-long nap with me back at the lodge. But, again, they keep talking about the experience so I know they made a lifetime memory. Exhilaration will do that do a person.

We played miniature golf. We ate amazing bbq at cookout. We played BINGO with other families, which was hilarious and showed me our winning ways aren’t just when we do cake walks. Our sheer number means better odds, so we had three BINGOS. My husband and Sam hiked Bible Point. We saw elk, snake, deer, lizards, chipmunks, bluebirds and none of them bit anyone.

When checkout time rolled around, we were sad to say goodbye. There were so many things we didn’t get the chance to do. They have an indoor swimming pool, which we couldn’t take advantage of because Tommy had a no-swimming restriction after his surgery. There were sports, hikes, horseback riding, hay rides, and musical entertainment left unseen and unexperienced. This just means we need to go back!

Saying goodbye

The YMCA of the Rockies is a fantastic choice for your next family vacation. From all-inclusive family reunions to just spending a weekend in a cabin with your kids, they can provide the experience you are looking for. Some cabins include kitchens where you can cook your own meals. We ate most meals in a dining hall that caters to the entire camp.

Rocky Mountain Colorado...sing with me

You do not need to be a member of the YMCA to stay, but you do get a $15 per night discount and priority when making reservations. YMCA of the Rockies is located about 1.5 hours from Denver. If you are visiting from out of state, consider spending a few days in an affordable, authentic mountain environment. In other words, the tourist-trap western cheesiness is nowhere to be found. If you live in the area, remember it the next time you decide to staycation or need a close getaway. Explore availability and rates.

Thanks to the YMCA of the Rockies for the chance to explore your amazing property and diverse activities. We had a fantastic time and we are dreaming our next visit.

You may have heard about the tragic wildfires raging in parts of Colorado this summer. YMCA of the Rockies is unaffected by the fires. If you were planning a trip to our beautiful state, please know the fires, while devastating to their communities, aren’t everywhere. The YMCA of the Rockies still has lodging available if you need to change your plans! One great way to help people in our state is to support the economy. This will help our communities that will begin the hard work of rebuilding soon.

To view other YMCA of the Rockies experiences, visit these fun, informative posts:

4 comments to Family Adventure, Elevated: YMCA of the Rockies

  • Mom

    You sold me. I think we need to do a family reunion there.I love the pictures.

  • I’m sad we missed the John Denver tribute! I like to sway 🙂

    Seeing your range of kids all enjoying themselves is a testament to how great the YMCA of the Rockies is for families.

    Excellent review!

  • I definitely want to go to Colorado when all the kids are a little older (Husband’s patience in the car is minimal at this stage). It just looks so beautiful. I’m not a ski fan, so summer is when we could come. This looks like a great place! So glad your family had this opportunity.

  • This looks amazing! I think I might investigate this for our summer vacation next year. The environment is so different from what we’re used to. I think just waking up and seeing mountains every day would be a treat!

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