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YMCA Camp of the Rockies: The Perfect Family Vacation
A few weeks ago, we took our family of five on a trip to the YMCA Camp of the Rockies Estes Park Center, a place I grew up going to as a child with my family. Even after over twenty years of going to this spot for vacation, it still holds its magic. Yes, some of it is probably nostalgia over revisiting wonderful childhood memories, but honestly, the YMCA Camp remains absolutely incredible. We started going to this camp with family friends when I was in elementary school and continued for many summers through my high school and college years. As adults, we took our oldest daughter when she was a baby, but this was the first time we returned with all three of our kids and we promised ourselves it wouldn’t be the last! It’s a really fun spot to go with multiple family friends or other extended family members as we did many times when I was young. The combination of the stunning mountain views, plentiful activities, affordable lodging, and easy access to family-friendly hikes, makes the Y Camp a haven that we have tirelessly enjoyed for many years.
So what makes it so special? First of all, the setting.
The YMCA Camp is located about ten minutes from Estes Park, Colorado which is an adorable mountain town. There are ice cream shops galore, an adorable coffee shop with a spot to feed ducks and sit outside, and a fun little theme park we loved going to as kids. The Y camp itself is nestled in Rocky Mountain National Park and the views are absolutely glorious. Upon arrival, you drive up and immediately see several quaint buildings, one being the Administrative building where you check in. This building has a massive front porch with rocking chairs where we’ve sat and enjoyed many a large soft-serve swirl ice cream cone that you can buy right inside at a little cafe. The view from the porch is that of colorful flowers kept up by camp staff and of course, the mountains.
The options of where to stay are either a hotel-like lodge or personal cabins. Growing up we always stayed in the more affordable lodge option, where you then eat your meals at the cafeteria. Although I haven’t been to the cafeteria as an adult, I have fond memories of overflowing my cup with every kind of soda and choosing from the all-you-can-eat meal situation. The past few times we’ve been, my parents have generously treated us all to a cabin where we can cook our own meals and have a little more space to ourselves. The cabins come in a range of sizes and our family of ten adults and four children fit nicely in a four-bedroom cabin with an incredible mountain view. They are pretty low-key and some may say outdated, but they are clean and spacious and we love the simplicity of it all. Sitting on the porch in the cool mornings watching the sun rise and drinking coffee was one of the highlights of the trip.
The Y Camp activities are incredible. First of all, you can easily drive further into Rocky Mountain National Park for a variety of hikes ranging from kid friendly to more difficult. My dad has done the 14er, Longs Peak, twice and as a family, our favorite is the three lakes. There are also several hikes that you don’t even have to leave the Y camp to do. We love packing picnic lunches and enjoying the stunning scenery. You’re bound to see both elk and deer on hikes as well as on the campgrounds.
In addition to hiking, there are tons of family-friendly activities. The craft building is a personal favorite of mine where you can do jewelry making, ceramics, tie dye, basket weaving, and so many more options. There is a swimming pool, a putt-putt course, tennis and basketball courts, an adorable library with children’s story time, a wonderful kid’s playground, and an old school basement with ping pong and other games. In addition, there are all kinds of things you can add to your stay like horse back riding, guided hikes, and even a kids’ day camp. Staff also host different events throughout the week like a Sunday chapel, campfire sing-alongs, and a variety of nature explorations. After five days at the Y camp, we were wishing for weeks more time to enjoy all the amenities and the beauty of the mountains.
It was such a joy to share my love for the Y Camp with our kids and also to soak in the wonder of it myself. Eating dinner on the porch with a sunset view of the mountains just cannot be beaten in my opinion. That fresh mountain air and riverside adventures are deeply refreshing and create an atmosphere to slow down and disconnect from the busyness of regular life. This spot is truly a gift and I highly recommend checking it out for your family!