One of the best parts of traveling is stumbling upon hidden gems that far exceed expectations. For me, the YMCA of the Rockies-Estes Park Center was exactly that, a hidden gem (and gym). Chalked full of value, amazing views, memories and wonderful people, this YMCA resort should be on every travelers bucket list. Best of all, you do not have to be a YMCA member to book a stay at amazing property.
I booked my trip April 14th, one day prior to summer or peak season bookings becoming available. There was a note on the site that on April 15th, the site would run dramatically slower and some browsers might time out due to the high traffic volumes. If you are planning on booking off-season, book prior to April 14th. If you are planning to book for a summer session, especially a holiday, plan some time on April 15th and expect the online traffic.
I had some flexibility in my travel dates so I played around until I was able to secure one of the last weeks in May to capitalize on the cheaper off-season room rates but have decent weather. I opted to check in on a Sunday Night, and check out on Friday morning meaning I avoided the busy (and likely more expensive) weekends. The property offers all sorts of lodging options which you can see pictures of here. You do not have to be a YMCA member to book or stay on the property, but if you are a member, there is a $15 per a night discount available.
When you pull up the online listings, most lodges will be listed twice. One option is for standard rooms and the second option is for ADA or handicap accessible rooms. Additionally, each listing will specify if there is kitchen/cooking amenities or not.
I opted to stay in the East Side Lodges, specifically Twin Sisters because it was one of the cheaper options. Due to the off-season dates I selected, the room was only $79 a night. The room can sleep up to 6 people between the one queen bed and 4 twin beds (2 sets of bunk beds). The beds came with comfortable linens and one pillow per a bed space. If you are a pillow hog like I am,plan on brining some with you. Overall, the room was clean and well put together.
Like most mountain resorts, this property does not have central AC in the rooms. The higher elevation and cool nights keep conditions comfortable. Additionally, each room comes with a window that easily opens and a box fan. Most nights I did not even leave the window open due to the coolness in the room.
There was a private bath in the room which was simple but functional. The water closet had a small standup shower and toilet. The sink was out in the main room which allowed for easy access. The shower had good water pressure and though small, was big enough to shower and move around in. Like the room, the bath setup was exceptionally clean. Each bed space was provided with one full length towel, one hand towel, and one wash cloth. Additional supplies were available in the lobby of the lodge.
This room did not have any sort of kitchen or cooking available but there was a small table I set up as headquarters for my makeshift kitchen. There were ample outlets for cooking or charging devices.
Once I arrived in Estes Park, there were signs directing me to the property. About a quarter-mile before the property entrance, there is a sign letting you know you are almost there which was helpful to know when to start looking for the main drive. As soon as you pull on to the property you are greeted with two small pounds, trails, and picnic areas. The first night I was there, a beautiful mature elk was grazing by one of these ponds.
All visitors will proceed up the hill and follow the signs to the administration building to check in for their stay. At check in, visitors are given a folder with property maps, activity guides, safety information and anything else visitors need to know during their stay. A few things to note about check in/out:
- Guests can check in any time on their check in day and take advantage of all the things the property offers. However, rooms are not guaranteed to be available until 6pm. I checked in early and was granted immediate access to my room and most people I talked with were able to do the same.
- Check out time is 10am but if you need a bit more additional time, it is available for a fee. The front desk opens at 8am and they do recommend checking out with them to settle your bills and pay any room charges you accrued while there. However, if you need to get an earlier start, they do allow you to check out the night before and then just leave your key in the room.
Planning Your Adventures
One of the great things about the YMCA property is that they offer a verity of activities on property including hiking, story telling, crafts, fitness classes, yard games, swimming, and educational opportunities. Most activities are free for guests but there are a few like horseback riding that were very reasonable priced. One of the best resources for planning your adventures is the weekly activity guides.
The are two ways to access the activity guide: online or wait for the one in your welcome folder. If at all possible, check out the online guide the week before you arrive. Through the online guide, you can make reservations for any activities that require them such as guided hikes, tours, or spa packages. The guide will also let you know which activities have additional fees ahead of time so you can budget. I highly recommend booking your activities in advance. I went on a guided sunset hike and the guide had to turn people away because the event reached max participation. Check out a review of my sunset hike to Chasm Falls with the YMCA here.
On property, Sweet Memorial is considered activity central. This building is full of knowledgable people ready to serve the guests. I opted not to pre-book my guided hike so these guys helped me schedule that and fill out the needed paperwork. This is also the building where you can rent equipment such as mountain bikes and hiking supplies. If you are not an avid hiker, I highly recommend renting equipment rather than buying it. Their rental prices were fair and the equipment was in great condition.
This building is also home to the hike masters. I visited these experts several times and they provided valuable knowledge to plan my Rocky Mountain National Park hikes. Rather then just recommending on property hikes, these guys helped me plan most of the hikes of the park and specifically advised me on what hikes to skip since I was pressed for time. I sought advice from the hike masters multiple times and had nothing but amazing experiences from them. Best of all- this resource is free!
YMCA of the Rockies Estes Park Center is a full service resort and that includes food. There is a dining hall, snack bar, on site restaurant and the gift shop has a small selection of food for purchase. Some facilities come with kitchens but tend to cost more per a night. Depending on your party size, the higher per a night cost may be off set by saving on eating out.
When I booked my room I received 2 tickets for complementary breakfast every morning of my stay. I expected the breakfast to be similar to most hotels and lack luster. However it was a full service dining hall with multiple options including dishes for common food allergies. Check out a few of the spreads I had above.
While talking with other guests they shared some challenges they ran into regarding the breakfast. First, regardless of how many are in your party or room, you only get two tickets. This means a family of 4 will have to pay for the kids to eat each day. Second, if your room or cabin comes with a kitchen, breakfast tickets are not included. Regardless of the situation, tickets are available for purchase. During my visit they were $9 for adults and $5.50 for children.
Other Helpful Information
The property is incredibly well maintained and breathtakingly beautiful. To be honest, the website pictures do not do the property justice. Hands down one of my favorite spots on property was the rocking chairs on covered porch of the administration building. I sat there reading and watching the sunset one night and was so refreshed from this simple activity.
The property has many onsite amenities such as:
- Chapel open 24/7 with multiple worship options throughout the week
- Free Wifi throughout most of building on property
- Common areas to sit and socialize throughout the property (both inside and outside of the buildings)
- Free fitness center (with decent hours)
- Multiple fitness classes offered throughout the week including yoga and a guided trail run
- Indoor pool that is temperature controlled
- Microwaves in the lobby of East Side Lodges
- Free coffee available at multiple sites on property
Two Potential ‘Cons’ to Note:
Overall I was extremely pleased with my stay at YMCA of the Rockies-Estes Park Center. In full disclosure I did want to share two potential cons to this property. First, as I said, I stayed in the budget lodging. While the room was nice, it was completely open and light sleepers may have a hard time staying asleep if someone else is awake. Second, this property is very family friendly which means there is and likely will be a lot of little kids roaming around. It also means there is quiet time imposed from 10pm-8am. I didn’t have any issues during my stay but I do want to share this for those who like a little bit more of a mature crowd.
Your Turn: Have you ever stayed at YMCA of the Rockies Estes Park Center?