Hear your kids squeal as they head down the tubing hill, indulge in a dinner sleigh ride or test your agility in the ice-skating pavilion at Snow Mountain Ranch. Situated between Winter Park, Grand Lake and Rocky Mountain National Park, the ranch is a convenient destination for your next family vacation.
Each season brings something new — from dog sledding in winter to horseback riding and mini-golf in the summer. Trails run for as long as the eye can see — there are more than 100 km of groomed trails for Nordic skiing, snowshoeing and fat biking. Plus, the ranch has cozy accommodations, so you don’t need to leave.
Slather on some sunscreen and get into Colorado’s great outdoors. Start your morning by testing your skills at the archery range. First timer? Learn the safe — and proper — way to shoot a bow during a one-hour session. Get on the water and canoe around Gaylord Reservoir. Paddle into the middle for shots of the hills that surround you and enjoy the gentle breeze as it blows across the water. Hang at the lake to cast a line for trout. If you catch the ranch’s tagged fish, Rocky the Rainbow Trout, you win a two-night stay at the Indian Peaks Lodge.
Maybe you’d rather do a little adventure seeking. If that’s the case, a trip past historic cabins, natural hot springs and the thrill of a lifetime — cascading rapids — are calling your name on a whitewater raft. Or, climb into the sky for a ride on the 600-foot-long Forest Zipline.
Spend the afternoon hiking on the miles of trails bordering your lodgings. We suggest the Waterfall Trail, a family-friendly 2.5-mile round-trip hike or the Grand View Trail, an intermediate 3-mile trail up Nine Mile Mountain to a beautiful overlook point. Spot soaring peaks, wildflowers aplenty, glistening lakes and roaring waterfalls.
In the early evening, try to get a hole-in-one on the disc golf course, 18-holes of disc-flipping fun, plus a scenic hike to boot. Then round-out the night with a family game of mini-golf to see who the champion of the colorful balls and kelly-green turf can be.
When the sparkling, white dust settles on the mountainsides and valleys of Snow Mountain Ranch, a whole new set of activities kick off. Beginners can start with snowshoeing on miles of trails that accommodate all fitness levels.
Maybe you’ve always wanted to live out a sleigh ride fantasy. The hot-cocoa rides are a 45-minute loop with a stop for piping hot chocolate next to a crackling campfire. The dinner rides are on a 45-minute circuit under the stars, bundled beneath blankets before stopping for chicken, steak or trout, cowboy beans, baked potatoes and fruit cobbler. Sounds like heaven, right?
While you might not make the Olympic trials, try your stuff at the ice-skating pavilion. With the Continental Divide as your background, strap some skates on and get out there. Or experience fat biking, where 10 km of trails are explicitly reserved for those thick tires.
It wouldn’t be winter in Colorado without skiing and snowboarding, and Snow Mountain Ranch has access to both. Rent your equipment at the ranch before heading to resorts at Winter Park and Granby Ranch. The nordic center on-site also has more than 100 km of world-class terrain. Beginners can ski on short, easy loops while experienced riders can train on longer, expert trails with steeper climbs.
Last, take a ride on the cutest form of transportation — a dog-led sled. You’ll be hooked up behind a team of huskies on a snow-covered trail, and you might even feel like you’re participating in the Iditarod. There are options for short rides — an easy two-mile trail winding through open meadows with show-stopping views of the surrounding mountains — and long trips, which last almost an hour and take you on trails with inclines and exciting turns.
Activities for All Seasons
Climb aboard a friendly horse to release your inner cowgirl or cowboy. In the colder months, go on The Ride: a gallop along the Rockies, through forests and meadows. You’ll stop to admire the snow-capped peaks and take-in the outdoors as the snow whirls around you. Summer brings rides from one to four hours in length — each come with their challenges. But you can see beaver ponds, creeks, glimpses of the Continental Divide, Sheep Mountain and the White Cliffs. Head out on a breakfast ride, a one-and-a-half-hour loop arriving at a chuck wagon serving all-you-can-eat pancakes, sausage, scrambled eggs and cowboy coffee. Or do a dinner ride: two and a half hours of fun with steaks grilled to order, potatoes, ranch beans, garlic bread and watermelon.
Something that doesn’t require a ton of physical expertise is tubing. In the winter there is an icy hill dedicated to squealing your way down. During summer, speed down a bumpy hill in a colored tube as the sun shines upon on you.
Snow Mountain Ranch is celebrating its anniversary in 2019 in a big way. The excitement is yearlong, but there is a big celebration planned in mid-July. Work on crafts, create walking sticks and corn-cob dolls, learn how to churn butter, take part in sack races and attend the barn dance all in one weekend.
Where will you lay your head after an exhausting day? Stay in the hotel-style lodge rooms and gather around the communal fireplaces with hot chocolate to mingle with the other guests. Rent a cabin for a backcountry feel that comes with rustic charm and a fully equipped kitchen or choose a vacation home, complete with satellite TV. Spend more time in the elements in a red-sided yurt or pitch a tent (or camper) on one of the many campsites available.