Snowshoeing and family: Two important things in life that go well together. And you can enjoy both in perfect harmony (plus much more) at Snow Mountain Ranch and Estes Park Center—two of the three YMCA of the Rockies locations in Colorado.
The beauty of the YMCA of the Rockies is mixing all things you love about a YMCA with the splendor of the Colorado mountains that reign majestic in total circumference. And you won’t find a pretentious atmosphere or overpriced accommodations at the YMCA of the Rockies; what you will find is a great cup of hot chocolate, a comfortable bed and miles of snowshoe trails.
A Snow Mountain Getaway
Perched 12 miles north of Winter Park Resort in Grand County, Snow Mountain Ranch is a sprawling 5,100 acres of raw Rocky Mountain terrain. With cabins, yurts, campgrounds and a main lodge available to rent for families and large groups, the ranch offers visitors a surplus of winter and summer activities.
Snowshoers will enjoy more than 60 miles of trails at an average altitude of 9,000 feet and a full-service Nordic Center with lessons and rentals available to visitors. If you’re trying to get started with snowshoeing—and aren’t ready to purchase—renting before buying is a proper introduction to the sport.
And Snow Mountain Ranch’s terrain is the ideal launching point for beginners. As always, prepare for the right kind of conditions; this part of Colorado is known for some fluctuating winter weather that’s highly unpredictable.
For a great day of snowshoeing, try the trails to Columbine Point, which take you through a nice forested area and some tranquil mountain meadows. As you return, you can see the ranch in all its glory from one end to the next.
For families, Snow Mountain Ranch offers more than enough. Like any YMCA, it’s built for just about any activity you can think of, no matter the season. After getting your fill of snowshoeing, try ice-skating, sledding/tubing, snowmobiling, dog sledding, sleigh rides, indoor swimming, arts and crafts, cooking classes and much more.
Even better, Snow Mountain Ranch’s accommodations are tailor-made for families who aren’t looking for premium rooms but are simply searching for comfort. Rooms in the lodge are modest and offer the warmth you’ll crave after a long day of shoeing the surrounding trails.
And don’t bother leaving the ranch for meals because the cafeteria is a more than suitable refueling area. Moderately priced and ideal for groups, your breakfast, lunch and dinner are available each day. Of course, don’t forget to cozy up to the lodge’s fireplace with a cup of hot chocolate or hot coffee; it’s the perfect ending to a perfect snowshoeing experience.
For Snowshoeing Guided Hikes:
Group (15 or less): $180 (reservation required)
Guided hikes are for all levels. Please bring snack and water. Dress in layers. Hiking/waterproof boots recommended. Call the Program Department at (970) 887-2152 x4135 to schedule.
Historic Estes Park
Known as the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park, the town of Estes Park doesn’t necessarily “shutdown” during the winter—known as its off-season. Rather, the town becomes a wonderland that invites young and old to its bountiful snowy experiences.
Moreover, Estes Park offers an amazing amount of activities for winter visitors. One of my favorite experiences is to enter the National Park and snowshoe to Bear Lake. And like any Rocky Mountain National Park experience, you’ll have plenty of sightseeing opportunities that will be bursting with grand mountainscapes and wildlife galore. The park is also a birdwatcher’s paradise for all seasons. Prepare for an assortment of weather conditions, but certainly don’t forget your camera.
The YMCA of the Rockies’ Estes Park Center is conveniently located in between the Rocky Mountain National Park and the town. While not as large as Snow Mountain Ranch, the Estes Park Center is a 870-acre property that caters to large groups and families. Even better, the property invites a plethora of elk, deer, a variety of birds and much more.
For snowshoers, rentals are available for day hikes on the property and guided hikes through the national park. Keep an eye on snow conditions before planning a snowshoeing trip to Estes Park. Certain times of the year can yield drastic snow depths—from nothing to drifts. Call ahead to see how much snow the area has received.
Similar to Snow Mountain Ranch, the Estes Park Center accommodations are comfortable and quaint. I would suggest renting one of the YMCA’s rustic cabins to house one or two families. With drive up accessibility, the cabins almost feel like a private residence and offer all the home-like conveniences. For three square meals a day, guests can rely on the cafeteria for an assortment of tastes.
For on-campus activities, visitors have the choice of an indoor swimming pool, craft center, ice-skating, campfires and more.
For more information on Snow Mountain Ranch, visit http://www.ymcarockies.org/snow-mountain-ranch-winter-park-colorado.html. For more information on the Estes Park Center, visit http://www.ymcarockies.org/estes-park-center-colorado.html.