By Meghan McCloskey, Taking the Kids Correspondent
GRANBY, CO — Imagine falling asleep after storytelling and s’mores around the campfire. When you wake up to the cacophony of blackbirds calling, you are only a few steps away from wilderness trails and outdoor activities. Sound like camping? Actually,
Yurts provide those with little to no camping gear and experience an adventure in the Colorado Rockies with some comfortable hotel-like amenities.
I experienced a weekend staying in a yurt at YMCA Snow Mountain Ranch in Granby, Colorado with my husband, Jonathan. We live in the city and yearned for the classic summer camp experience of our youth. Many families seek a vacation the wildflower speckled meadows, pine forests and peaks of America’s West, but in reality, Colorado’s mountains can be daunting for a family or group of all ages and camping abilities. For some, the temptation of booking a hotel in a mountain town might outweigh the hassle of maxing out a credit card at REI to buy all the necessary camping equipment.
Staying in a yurt at Snow Mountain Ranch requires little preparation or gear. Yurts are equipped with a refrigerator, microwave, fans, blankets and linens, tables and a few touches of Colorado flair like cute bear sconces. The camping weary will feel comfortable walking steps to sparkling clean bathrooms with private showers, sinks and toilets. The yurts open with an electronic hotel key, so there is nothing to worry about when leaving the site during the day. The clustered yurt village creates a community of adventure minded families and provides the opportunity for kids to find buddies from around the country.
We venture out of our yurt on Saturday morning and take a deep breath of clean, sage-scented mountain air before heading out to explore the YMCA Snow Mountain Ranch. We start with a walk through the lodge pole pines and blue spruce forests with some furry four legged creatures. Not horses, but llamas! The “Lollygagging with the Llamas” program introduces us to these fantastic creatures that can carry one third of their weight and survive off of only plants they scavenge on the trail. Why have I been carrying a heavy backpack on all of those backcountry trips?
The Snow Mountain Ranch is situated on 5,000 acres in the Rocky Mountain Valley with the Continental Divide as a backdrop. Near Grand Lake, Winter Park and Rocky Mountain National Park, Snow Mountain Ranch is less than a two-hour drive from Denver. All activities are a short drive or walk from each other and easy to find with the visitor map. Next time we’ll bring bikes to get around so we’ll get even more exercise as we experience the ranch.
By midmorning, the coffee is wearing off so we seek out some adrenaline for a boost. There’s no shortage of exhilarating experiences at Snow Mountain Ranch. The new Sno-Soft hill is a summer tubing hill and the first of its kind in the state. The hill attendant asks how adventurous I’m feeling. The first time, I am not feeling adventurous so I ask to be pushed straight down the hill on my tube. By the end, I say “Very adventurous, let’s do a spin!” My tube spins while I try to hold in a joyful squeal. Tubing is actually included for all guests at Snow Mountain, so there’s no excuse to not try.
We head to the forest zip-line, which seems to be one of the easiest ways for humans to simulate flight. It seems like an appropriate endeavor to try to emulate a bird in a place where we are convening with nature. The calm and reassuring staff that operates the zip line quickly quells all my fears. I shimmy feet first off of the platform and for several seconds I feel like I am blissfully zooming through the trees like the blackbirds that woke me up. When’s my next turn?
We finish the day by relaxing and gazing at the sunset aboard a sleigh pulled by two mighty Clydesdale horses. The horses are lead by a real cowboy by modern-day standards. The horses bring us to a bonfire, where we make s’mores and reminisce about a day well spent under the Colorado sun. As the sun finally sets, we head back to our yurt. We won’t be roughing it tonight like the cowboys on the open range!