Our family has traveled Colorado extensively. But the one area that we hadn’t explored until 2020 is the Grand County side of Rocky Mountain National Park area. WOW! Just a jump, skip and a hop from our home town, the area is spectacular. We’ve now had the opportunity to stay at YMCA of the Rockies Snow Mountain Ranch in Granby, Colorado both in winter and summer. It is truly a family-favorite Colorado destination. We can’t wait to return!
While we love the outdoors, we tend to also prefer a bit of comfort. A comfortable bed and shower are priorities. Snow Mountain Ranch is very clean, friendly and comfortable with absolutely everything a family could want. Here you have a comfortable place to sleep with the access to the outdoors like camping provides. You are likely to see the stars, sunsets and sunrises all just steps from your accommodations.
We felt comfortable letting our kids explore on their own. For a Colorado summer, spending as much time outdoors is key. But here, this is even true in the winter. And, this is where Snow Mountain Ranch truly delivers.
Disclosure: We were hosted on this trip by YMCA of the Rockies. All opinions, however, are our own.
YMCA of the Rockies Snow Mountain Ranch Location
Snow Mountain Ranch is located near Winter Park in one of Colorado’s beautiful mountain towns, Granby, Colorado at 1101 County Road 53, just south of town. Coming from Eagle in the summer, it was the most spectacular drive on the Trough Road past Wolcott and State Bridge and Radium Hot Springs.
From there it is just a thirty minute drive to the spectacular Rocky Mountain National Park, one of Colorado’s four National Parks. And, it is only a twenty minute drive to Winter Park Ski Resort. Whether winter or summer, not only will you have access to lots of on-site activities but also bucket list experiences. Alpine ski one of Colorado’s favorite ski mountains. Or, hike Colorado’s most popular national park.
Snow Mountain Ranch Lodging Options
Snow Mountain Ranch has a variety of lodging options, all of which give guests access to the entirety of the property.
There are tent camping sites, RV camping sites, glamping at a yurt village, cabins ranging from two bedrooms up to five bedrooms and rooms in lodges. The camping sites and yurts are only available during the summer. But the lodges and cabins are available year round.
We have now stayed both in a lodge room and also in a spacious three-bedroom cabin.
Snow Mountain Ranch Cabins
These mountain cabins are truly the way to go. They have large decks with outdoor seating, perfect for dinner or a morning coffee. While the decor is basic, they are very comfortable and have everything you could need.
Gas grills are available upon request and were a fantastic addition. Whether making a pancake breakfast or grilling steaks, meals are easy, leaving time for all of the fun activities.
You could quite feasibly stay in one of the cabins and not have to come closer than six feet to anyone outside of your group. A way to take a vacation with social distancing.
The cabins are in high demand and book far in advance. YMCA members get priority reservations. So, you may want to consider becoming a member (which is also a great cause), or even adopt a cabin so that you can experience the space and views of the cabins on your preferred dates.
Snow Mountain Ranch Lodge Rooms
Snow Mountain Ranch has three different lodges. These buildings offer lodge rooms. Some have double queen beds and others a queen with a set of bunks. Some are dog-friendly. Others are not. So, be sure to specify. Like the cabins, these have basic decor. You will have a comfortable bed, mini-fridge and microwave.
Sliding glass doors often offer a beautiful view with a couple of chairs outside for relaxing. There’s a great grassy area right outside the ground level rooms for walking your dog and taking in the views.
Dog Friendly and then Some
The dog park is beyond amazing. It is the largest fenced-in dog park that I have ever seen. There’s a shaded area with seats and tables for the dog parents. A sand area for dogs to run, grass beyond and a mini pine forest beyond that.
Dogs are welcome almost everywhere on the property. Our furry family member joined us in our cabin, at archery, at the zip line, on the waterfall hike and on the paths and the parks. The only places we didn’t bring her were to the restaurants, dog sledding, indoor activities and the stables.
Summer Family Activities
We packed as much as was physically possible into a weekend, and left knowing that we only scratched the surface of enjoying all of the fun family activities offered at Snow Mountain Ranch.
We’ve already shared about the most amazing dog park, but the kids park is equally fun. Just across from the dog park, it boasts a mini zip line. A very unique see-saw and slides down to a lower level. As everywhere on the property the views are spectacular from here. There were a couple of smaller basic parks in other areas of the ranch.
Looking for an adrenaline rush? Book zip lining for the family. Participants must be ages eight and over. You get the safety talk, get harnessed up, climb a ladder or pole up to high in the air and then step off of a platform to whiz down a metal line. The first go, I said, “Do I really just step off?” Eyes closed and heart racing, that is what I did. Second go round I enjoyed the views and feeling of flying through the air.
The entire family was excited to try their had at archery for the first time. We basically had lessons and got to try our hand at shooting a real bow and arrow into the target. It was a good test of eye hand coordination. And, was just fun to be outside cheering each other on.
The property boasts a beautiful waterfall hike. It is a drive down a dirt road. There are picnic tables at the trailhead. The trail is just over two miles round trip and is a fairly gradual slope on a wide path. Along the way you will find signs telling you about the wildlife, plants and more. The falls themselves are beautiful. Water rushing from above is always peaceful. Dogs on leash are welcome here. We spotted several families with young children. No bikes are allowed on this trail.
There is a great network of walking and biking trails throughout the property. Bikes are an excellent way to get around. The cabins do sit at the top of the property so are a bit of an uphill to get home. This slowed us down in exclusively using our bikes to get around.
The Snow Mountain Stables are independently owned and operated. My daughter and I took a one-hour trail ride, while my husband led my son on a pony ride. He just missed the age cutoff for a trail ride.
You can see parts of the property you probably wouldn’t get to otherwise on horseback. And, we learned a bit about the local wildlife and flora along the way.
There was also a new baby horse at the stables. It was fun to see him with his mama.
Insider Tip: There are many amazing horseback riding outfitters throughout the state of Colorado. It is a fabulous way to take in the mountain landscapes.
Summer Tubing Hill
This wasn’t yet open, when we visited mid-June. Everything in Colorado is in a phased opening for summer 2020. While we were sad to miss this, it is only one of several things we want to return to experience.
Insider Tip: Snow tubing is one of our favorite winter sports. Fantastic hills can be found throughout the snowy state of Colorado.
Campsites include fire pits. But lodge rooms and cabins do not. However, there are fire pits available by reservation. A $25 fee includes wood and fire starter and the site is yours for the night. The sites are large and some even have picnic shelters.
Insider Tip: Snow Mountain Ranch is near some of our favorite camping lakes in Colorado!
Winter Family Activities
Snow Mountain Ranch Nordic Center
The Snow Mountain Ranch Nordic Center is a nordic skiers paradise. It offers more than 120 kilometers of world-class terrain for Nordic skiing, snowshoeing and fat biking on 5,100 acres through pine trees and alpine meadows. There are even dog-friendly trails.
You can simply get a trail pass. Or, rent equipment. And, even take a lesson.
We hear that the food at the Skinny Ski Cafe is also fantastic. However, this winter due to Covid they are only offering grab and go options.
The Center opens at 8:30 a.m. and cars start arriving just before opening. We stayed at the Indian Peaks Lodge during our winter visit. It looks like you could actually ski down from there to the Nordic Center if you wanted.
Not only can you rent fat tire bikes here. But you can also rent fat tire electric bikes. Try them out, or bring your own!
Snow Tubing and Ice Skating
Right next to the Nordic Center is a snow tubing hill and small ice rink. Our family rarely passes up the opportunity to sled or snow tube. This was no exception. Both of these activities are included with your lodging or day pass.
You check in and then pick up your tubes for the tubing hill or ice skates for the ice skating rink.
The tubing hill has lanes built so that you can tube down without crashing into other tubers. You can hold a group of tubes together or go solo. There is no lift back up. So, you will get exercise hiking back up the hill.
Insider Tip: Estes Park offers some fun sledding hills and is just on the other side of Rocky Mountain National Park.
A variety of dog sled rides are available. For those who are new to the dog sledding experience and those want a whole-family experience the Short Dog Sled Ride is a great introduction. The dogs pull riders on a two-mile trail that winds through open meadows with breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains.
There’s also a Long Dog Sled Ride that is 50 minutes long and accommodates one adult and one child. Additionally, you could opt for a Full Immersion Dog Sledding Experience or customizable Group Dog Sledding.
Note: Dog sled rides have been adjusted for social distancing during the winter of 2020-2021.
In addition to horseback rides, Snow Mountain Ranch Stables offers a 45-minute sleigh ride is a winding journey through the Rocky Mountains. Glide past snow-frosted pines and scenic mountain vistas. End with a crackling bonfire complete with hot chocolate.
Year Round Family Activities
I suspect that wildlife viewing is best during the winter. During the summer we spotted some deer. And, I caught a fox in the snow during the winter. But there are also Elk, Moose and Bears throughout this large property.
The Kiva Center is home to roller skating and basketball. While we didn’t find time to check out these activities during the summer. We did during the winter. While the focus is being out in the great outdoors, it is nice to have some family fun in a warm place too. Roller skating can bring back some fun memories for the adults too.
There’s also indoor archery and a climbing wall at the Kiva Center. Due to Covid registration was required.
There is a nice sized indoor swimming pool on site. Again, we didn’t make it to the indoor pool during the summer. But we did during the winter. It was a great way to spend some time after being out in the snow all morning.
While closed for Covid reasons this year, there is a climbing wall in the pool. And, there is also a sauna.
Arts and Crafts
I made a major mistake in underestimating the craft center. We didn’t bother to make a visit during the summer. And, only stopped by in the winter as our kids weren’t as interested in the Nordic Center as I was. We dropped them off to do crafts while we went to the Nordic Center.
There were entertained here for what seemed like hours. There are all kinds of classes and projects available from ceramics and leather crafts to glass fusion and wood burning.
Each week there is a schedule of organized activities for the kids, or while family. In the winter these may include snow fort building or curling. While in the summer it may be gaga ball or fort building. It seem like there is actually more going on during the week than on the weekend. No matter what, your family is sure not to be bored during a visit.
Dining at Snow Mountain Ranch
We brought along plenty of food. When you have a kitchen and want to fit in as much fun as you can, it is easier just to make something in your cabin. But there are two very affordable restaurants on site. Our first night there we arrived around dinner time and ordered food from the Buckboard Grill.
The Buckboard Grill is located in the Administration Building where check-in is. It has been open for take out and recently opened back up for dining-in with health protocols in place. Our first night we ordered a family meal of pulled pork and a huge salad. Coming from the Eagle River Valley we couldn’t believe how inexpensive it was for a family of four to eat and have left overs. And, it was really good. Buckboard became our go to from then on.
There’s also the Schlessman Commons Dining Hall. We had breakfast there one morning. It is a quick and easy buffet, also with new health protocols in place.
The Skinny Ski Cafe operates during the winter out of the Nordic Center. However due to Covid it is closed the winter of 2020-2021 with grab and go options available at the Nordic Center instead.
If you are staying in a cabin, you will have everything you need to prepare your own meals. That isn’t quite as easy in a lodge room. Those only come equipped with a mini fridge and microwave. There you won’t have a coffee maker, plates, silverware or utensils. Though I imagine in the summer you could bring along camping cooking gear and enjoy a camp meal just out of your sliding door.
YMCA of the Rockies Staff
Everyone working at Snow Mountain Ranch was so friendly. They were genuinely grateful to have us there. I imagine things were much quieter than usual, which was nice for us.
What’s New in 2021
Family Adventure Packs are a new experience for families to explore the outdoors at their own self-guided pace.
Update of original article from June 2020.