Photo courtesy: YMCA of the Rockies Estes Park CenterWhen you hear “YMCA,” most think of the popular Village People song which describes the Y’s concept of a local community center with gym, swimming pool and after school programs. Few consider that YMCA lodges and cabins are also the best-kept affordable secret for vacations, where families can unplug and get active together.

Near my Denver home are two distinct year-round conference and family vacation centers, YMCA of the Rockies, both located in the heart of the Colorado Rocky Mountains with access to nearly 6,000 acres.

Estes Park Center is minutes from Rocky Mountain National Park, and Snow Mountain Ranch is just a short distance from Winter Park. Both locations offer family friendly cabins and lodges (some with wrap around porches), free-roaming elk and deer, and mountain vistas that stretch as far as the eye can see. No matter the season, your family will have more than enough activities to keep them busy.

For my recent family winter getaway, we stayed at a 4-bedroom family cabin at the Y.M.C.A.’s Snow Mountain Ranch, 80 miles west of Denver and a short drive outside of Winter Park, a few miles from Granby. This getaway offers a variety of affordable accommodations, including 170 lodge rooms, 50 cabins (family and reunion) with fireplaces, and even a campground for tents and RVsWinterParkSkiResort_Family

Our cabin included a full kitchen, so we cooked many of our own meals. I liked the disconnect from the bustle of the ski resort and the feeling that we really are away from it all. (Bonus: free WiFi!) The added bonus was complimentary family activities: tubing, ice skating and swimming. Others available were cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. We also stopped by their on-site craft shop to create a tie-dye shirt, quilted Photo Diana Rowe YMCA Snow Mtn Craftpillows and painted statues to remember our trip. Read more about our winter family vacation.


During the summer, Snow Mountain Ranch’s on-site summer activities include horseback riding, hiking, biking, canoeing, a zip line and a variety of family programs, plus easy access to nearby fishing, boating and rafting. For more information on the YMCA of the Rockies Estes Park Center or Snow Mountain Ranch, visit

Last summer, my daughter and her husband took a weekend vacation to the Estes Park Center. My granddaughter caught her first fish and now she’s hooked on fishing! Located 70 miles northwest of Denver, the Estes Park Center is the smaller of the two run by the YMCA of the Rockies, spread out over 860 acres and surrounded by Rocky Mountain National Park.

Families with younger children will love that the center’s facilities are all within easy walking distance of the guest accommodations, which range from rustic cabins and larger vacation homes to hotel-style lodge rooms. Climbing, hiking, rafting, fly-fishing, mountain biking and horseback riding are top draws. You’ll also find a swimming pool, basketball courts, skate park, tennis courts, and an 18-hole mini golf course.

Prices at these not-for-profit camps sometimes start at less than $700 a week for a family of four. Please note that both these affordable YMCA getaways book quickly. In 2006, Estes Park Center and Snow Mountain Ranch welcomed more than 250,000 visitors and hosted more than 800 reunions. Those numbers have grown in the past few years as more and more families look closer to their home for an affordable getaway.

What’s your favorite affordable family vacation that’s close to home?