YMCA Estes – Summer Travel Guide

YMCA of the Rockies main field featuring basketball courts, picnic areas, benches, and a statue.

Families of all ages will enjoy time in the Rocky Mountains at YMCA of the Rockies near Estes Park Colorado. Family travel tips and recommendations in this summer family travel guide.

About YMCA Estes Park

The YMCA of the Rockies is a sprawling property (0ver 860 acres) located just outside of Estes Park, Colorado, and surrounded on three sides by Rocky Mountain National Park.

The property itself offers wildlife viewing (expect to see deer and elk wandering through at any given moment), tons of indoor and outdoor activities, and year-round family fun for all ages.

The YMCA is a non-profit, has a sister property called Snow Mountain Ranch located near Winter Park Colorado, and is staffed primarily by volunteers. 

In my book, YMCA is a little slice of heaven in Colorado- and you’ll find out why in this summer family travel guide. I’ve been going almost every year since I was a little girl, and I am so happy to extend the tradition to my children. 

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YMCA of the Rockies Location

YMCA Estes is located about 8 miles southwest of Estes Park, Colorado- one of Colorado’s mot popular tourist towns. The property is also located 4 miles from the Beaver Park entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park.

Accommodations at YMCA Estes 

At the Estes Park YMCA you can either rent a cabin or stay in a lodge room. The cabins come with a full kitchen, some with fireplaces, and vary greatly in size. The lodge rooms have a mini-fridge and microwave. Linens and hand soap is included.

We stayed in a three-bedroom cabin called Inwood. It was near the stables and had gorgeous views of the mountains. The cabin was newly refurbished for the 2020 season and was pristinely clean, super comfortable, and slept 8 of us easily. We traveled with my parents, sister, niece, and our family to celebrate my birthday. We requested a rollaway bed 

I find it is relatively easy to book cabins and even request specific cabins if you are flexible with your dates. Since we live in Denver, this usually isn’t a problem for us. However, if you are traveling from out of state or aren’t flexible with your dates, check out the YMCA Secrets to Booking A Cabin FAQ page.

Rates for all lodging vary by season. Also, the internet is generally awesome at the YMCA of the Rockies, but note there are not televisions in the cabins.

Dining

When you are hungry, you ‘ll find lots of options for food as the YMCA of the Rockies offers several dining options.

The first is the Aspen Dining Room, a large buffet-style dining hall located in the center or the property. This is a great option for families with young kids or big appetites but is currently not available due to the COVID-19 crisis.

The Pine Room is a gorgeous sit-down restaurant offering breakfast lunch and dinner Memorial Day through Labor Day. 

We ordered Y Guys Pizza and it was so good. A large pizza was $12 and it was huge, full of delicious mozzarella cheese and tons of toppings. It was one of the best pizzas I’ve had in a long time- I highly recommend grabbing one when you are at the Y. It will become a new tradition for us!

Rustic Cafe- It’s a grab and go cafe with a small but varied menu, coffee, and more, located in the Admin Building.

Cooking in your cabin- cabins have a stove, coffee maker, microwave, refrigerator, and more. We love to cook family meals at the YMCA- we just bring our own food. In case of forgotten items (which always happens to me), there is a good selection of grocery items right in the gift shop, and a well-stocked country market on the road into Estes Park.  

Alcohol is not sold on the property, but you can bring your own. 

YMCA Estes Summer Activities

There is so much to do at the YMCA in the summer- the list of activities seems endless. Here are just a few of the things you can do on property:

  • Mini Golf
  • Basketball
  • Disc golf
  • Tennis
  • Hiking 
  • Mountain Biking
  • Scavenger Hunt (sign-up required)
  • Knots Class (sign-up required)
  • Bird Catching Class (sign -up required)
  • Craft Cabin (additional fees)
  • Indoor Roller Skating
  • Indoor/Outdoor Climbing Wall (sign-up + additional fee)
  • Archery (sign up + additional fee)
  • Ax Throwing (sign up + additional fee)
  • Library
  • Museum
  • Board Game Check Out
  • Yoga
  • Stargazing (sign -up required)
  • Horseback Riding (sign up + additional fee)
  • Fishing
  • Massage Cabin (sign up + additional fee)
  • Harry Potter Escape Room (sign up + additional fee)
  • Bingo
  • Horseback Riding (sign up + additional fee)
  • Lawn Games
  • and more! Check the schedule for the time you are visiting and make sure to 

Our Most Recommended Activities

Bird Banding Class- This class happens on Monday and Fridays only and it was so much fun. a professional birder catches and tags birds. He is a wealth of knowledge about local birds, and you even get to see birds up close and hold them. It was so much fun.

Hike Master– We did the Moraine Park loop with a hike master and she was amazing. She talked to us about the geological formation of the different regions of the park, the names of wildflower species, how to find the names of different peaks, and more. We all learned so much (even my dad!) despite having grown up around the park. 

Craft Cabin– The craft cabin delivers! Due to COVID, the Craft Cabin looked a little different but we were able to order the things we wanted to do and do them on the front porch of our cabin.

Axe Throwing – We did this as an adults-only activities as the age is 6 and up. Harder than it looks but also way more fun! 

We didn’t really like the scavenger hunt or the knots class- we won’t sign up again. My tween niece really loved the Harry Potter Escape Room!

For complete information on the activities at YMCA of the Rockies, and to book your spots, visit this link.

Note- Snow Mountain Ranch, the YMCA’s sister property, has an awesome husky dog experience you can’t miss in the winter!

Rocky Moutain National Park

Straight up the crown jewel of the YMCA of the Rockies is the proximity to Rocky Mountain National Park. Falling asleep just steps from one of the most visited National Parks in the entire country gives visitors access to some of the freshest mountain air, most gorgeous views of the Rocky Mountains and phenomenal wildlife viewing. 

If you want to visit the National Park though, you do have several options. 

  1. You can drive into the park in your own vehicle (see current COVID-19 regulations below). This is a great option if you want to drive Old Fall River Road, cross the Continental Divide via Trail Ridge Road, or drive through the park when shuttle busses are not running. Note that parking can be scarce in high season like summer.
  2.   You can grab a shuttle bus and ride it to many of the most popular trails. We did this to hike from Alberta Falls to Bear Lake, which is perfect as parking lots were packed.
  3. You can just walk into the park from the YMCA property! That’s what we did for literally hours of hiking. You can either get to the shuttle station from a trail down by the Jackson Stables or walk in from the Boone Family Mountain Center. 

RMNP Summer Family Travel Secrets

  1. You can enter the RMNP without a reservation after 7 pm in the summer. You will still have to pay the entrance fee, but you can enter the park to see the sunset. We did this in order to see Sprague Lake at sunset and it was so worth it.
  2. You can just hike into the park from the trail by the stables, grab the shuttle bus, and go to many different trails around the park, all without a reservation. Ther are several busses so consult the map when you arrive at the stop- some busses run every 15 minutes, some every 30.
  3. There are three entrances to RMNP near the YMCA property- one is the East Portal which is just a 3-minute drive from the property entrance. 

Best Hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park For Kids

There are several awesome hikes for kids 10 and under in Rocky Mountain National Park- these are the ones we did:

  1. Sprague Lake Loop
  2. Bear Lake
  3. Alberta Falls
  4. Moraine Park Loop (we did this as a guided hike with a YMCA hike master, and it was one of the best experience of our trip- the bird catching was the other)

And these are a few others I recommend:

  • Dream Lake
  • Bierstadt Lake
  • Gem Lake
  • Lily Lake or Lily Mountain
  • Bridal Veil Falls

The Boone Family Center sells Trail Tags for all of the hikes in RMNP, and when the girls were flagging a bit on our last hike I reminded them they would earn a tag for finishing. The price was excellent, the tags are adorable, and a perfect addition to their backpacks. 

What To Pack For a YMCA Rockies Summer

Temperatures vary widely in the summer, so we make sure to have lots of clothing options. Plan for below 50 degrees, above 80 degrees and rain. Sturdy shoes are a must (we love Keen hiking boots), and we always have a few daypacks for hiking.

You are also at super high altitude, so make sure to bring water bottles and sunscreen. I generally bring a Nuun Hydration pack for the adults, and dry Pedialite for the kids to make sure we don’t get dehydrated or altitude sick.

COVID-19 Policies at YMCA Estes

There are several tips to keep in mind when traveling to YMCA during the COVID-19 crisis: (these were the current guidelines at the time of publish- it is important to do your own research before traveling during the pandemic.)

  1. You must wear a face mask in public places. This order is strongly enforced at the YMCA so please don’t forget your mask. You must social distance as well.
  2. Contactless check-in is available during COVID. Check-in time is later than usual to give the housekeeping staff extra time to clean and sanitize.
  3. The dining hall is closed during COVID- but there is grocery delivery of basic food items you need at amazing prices.
  4. The number of people allowed in each activity is greatly reduced, so I highly recommend booking your activities immediately upon receipt of your lodging confirmation.
  5. If you plan to drive to Rocky Mountain National Park you will need an advance reservation for a timed entry. These also fill up quickly so make sure to book well in advance

For the latest information and updates please visit the COVID-19 information page here.

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