Latigo Ranch

Ranch life continues once the snow flies!

Located approximately 130 miles west of Denver, Colorado, Latigo Ranch is situated in one of the most beautiful places on earth and offers a panoramic view of the Continental Divide.

Guests can drink in the views, inhale the crisp mountain air, and gaze in awe at some of Colorado’s most spectacular scenery from the front porch of the ranch’s historic log lodge. Guests will experience warm hospitality and winter activities, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, and tubing that keep Latigo Ranch guests coming back year after year.

The outdoor activities are as invigorating as the inside comforts are cozy. Winter rates and packages start just before Christmas and run through late March.

Published in Ranches

 First time casters and veteran anglers enjoy the natural places that enable a fly fishing vacation. Test your tippet deep in the wilderness or perfect your back casts on the resort lawn. 

Gather your gear. Then enjoy the beauty and art of fly fishing: 

Gore Creek Fly Fisherman. Vail, CO.

 Give your kids (and perhaps yourself) a taste of this lifelong sport during daily casting clinics offered each day in the scenic Vail Village along the Gore Creek Promenade. When you are ready for more, book a half or full day walk and wade trip or sign on for a float trip through Rocky Mountain beauty.

Contact: 970-476-3296; www.GoreCreekFlyFisherman.com

LL Bean Outdoor Discovery School. Freeport, ME or Columbia, MD.

  The knowledgeable instructors at LL Bean can jump start your family into the wonderful world of fly fishing with their one or two-day introductory courses.  You’ll learn about fly-tackle, delve into knot tying, fly tying, and fish-food identification, then move outside to practice casting skills in a nearby pond.  Continue the analysis and improvement at home once you’ve viewed their video of your newly acquired skill. Contact:  LL Bean experts are available for fishing advice on their hotline between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m EST every day; 1-800-347-4552. 

For class registration:  (888)-552-3261); www.llbean.com/outdoorsOnline/odp/courses/flyfishing/fly-fishing-essentials1-maine.html

Chetola Resort. Blowing Rock, NC.

The only Orvis-endorsed fly-fishing lodge in North Carolina has plenty to offer the entire family. Pack a rod for a half day trip to “The Refuge” on Boone Fork Creek, a destination deemed ideal for beginners and families.  When not casting a line, check out the children’s camp, a heated indoor pool, fitness center and nearby rafting and golf.

Contact: (800) 243-8652;  www.Chetola.com

Match the Hatch. Livingston, MT.

Spend a day on the Yellowstone River with Eric Adams and your family members will go home with more than basic casting skills. His educational background in ecology means you’ll learn to “match the hatch”, fish pocket water from a raft and how to maximize a day on the famed Yellowstone River or nearby spring creeks. You are sure to enjoy time on the Yellowstone, the longest stretch of blue-ribbon trout habitat in the nation. 

Contact: 406.223.2488; www.MontanaFlyFishingGuides.com 

Fishing on the Farm. Blackberry Farm, Walland, TN.

With two ponds and a stream on site, plus more than 700 miles of fishable trout streams in the neighboring Great Smoky Mountain National Park, this gem of a property offers the novice or experienced fly fishing family the opportunity to enjoy great water as well as a sea of additional activities. Horseback riding, mountain biking, cooking schools, the Farmhouse Spa and charming accommodations on 4,200 pastoral acres, combine to create a picturesque haven for a gathering clan. Contact: (800) 648-4252; www.BlackberryFarm.com. 

Published in Adventure

A Colorado clan takes time ( too little as it turns out ) to explore

Estes Park and the Rocky Mountain National

Park from their base camp -- YMCA of the Rockies.

"Man, this place has everything!"

Our 8-year-old, Piper, was agog only halfway through our two-day experience at YMCA of the Rockies, Estes Park Center. My marketeer wife wondered aloud why, with so much free stuff, they don't bill it as all-inclusive. "Hmm, I will have to inquire," she answered herself. 

This Y's Estes Park Center has been connecting youth and families with nature for over 100 years, longer than the adjacent Rocky Mountain National Park has been a national park. And though it borders both the park and it's gateway tourist town, Estes Park, it is easy enough to overdose on activity without ever leaving the 800-plus acre grounds of the Y. Of course I don't recommend missing the incomparable majesty of Rocky Mountain National Park (thankfully, many Y activities are actually forays into the park), and even the most trap-shy tourist would find something worth seeing in Estes Park. So the solution is obvious. Give yourself more than the two and a half days we allotted for this adventure. 

Of Dog Pulls and Choo Choos

 As check in at the Y wasn't till the afternoon, we spent part of our first day exploring events in town. The parking lot of the Visitor's Center was host to the 25th (yes, 25th!) annual Dog Weight Pull. It's just like it sounds, like a tractor pull, but for dogs. Genuine canine competition.

For inside fun we let loose our inner dorks at the Estes Park Conference Center, joining enthusiasts at the Rails of the Rockies model train show. Train fans are serious about their choo choos. 

Y Wouldn't You? 

Finally leaving the hustle and bustle of the tourist town, we drove 10 minutes out of Estes Park to the vast and peaceful grounds of the Estes Park Center of YMCA of the Rockies.

Dropping our bags in our cozy cabin felt like coming home again. I suppose I expected "rustic" in all the sense those quotation marks imply, but with a kitchen you could actually cook and store food in, cushy furniture, wrap-around deck with a killer view, and…wait for it…wifi!,  I would upgrade the description to  "rustic chic". Some units also have fireplaces (we would have loved one) and TVs (we loved not having one). 

After touring the grounds to see the mind-boggling array of activities available (many only in the high summer season), we stopped for dinner in the cafeteria with 1,400 thronging teens, pre-teens, and a few bedraggled handlers. The air, thick with hormones, and bad perfume, brought back a flood of summer-camp memories. Unfortunately, so did the all-you-can-eat buffet food. But hey, it's camp, and if you get desperate, you're just 5-10 minutes from dozens of restaurants in town. 

We started taking bites of the activities elephant with our remaining time that first night with a visit to the indoor pool, which was perfect for sapping the last of our day's energy.

ymca rockies

So Much To Do, So Little Time  

Day 2 was a whirlwind of activity. Here is our list from that epic day:

Breakfast in the cafeteria

Wildlife Detectives: an hour program learning about the nature of and inter-relationship of the area's wildlife. Half inside, half outside.

Broom ball: poor man's (and uncoordinated man's) hockey on the camp's frozen pond.

Ice skating: on the pond with free skate rentals.

Lunch in the cafeteria (maybe we'll eat dinner in town)

Putt putt golf: "Elk Duds" are a natural hazard here. Play on.

Hike: One of many at the edge of the grounds. Tons more outside the grounds. 

A Spot of Grownup Time

As we'd decided to grab dinner in town, we took advantage of a bit of extra time beforehand to visit, get this, the "family friendly" Snowy Peaks Winery. Grownups belly up to a $3 wine tasting flight while enjoying grownup talk with the proprietors. This is unusually possible because of their "No Wine-ing Zone" for the kids, who are welcome to free tastings of cider (non-alcoholic, naturally).

Sheer genius. 

Since the kids were such champs at the winery, and we had an oven back at the cabin, we ran by Village Pizza for some take 'n' bake. After devouring that manna from Heaven, we were fortunate that the kids (who had napped in the car) dragged our old bones out again to the camp's indoor rollerskating rink. They were playing Abba.

Ah, memories. 

After crashing hard that night and sleeping in the next morning, we were able to finish our stay strong with more roller skating, a course in proper hiking preparedness, and a visit to the amazing Crafts Center. So, with mementos of their own making in hand, we were able to persuade the kids to hop in the car and depart the Y.

"I wish we could stay longer here," Piper said.

Success is when you leave with them wanting more.  

ymca Rockies Family vacation

IF YOU GO   

Accommodation

YMCA of the Rockies Estes Park Center is open and quite busy year-round.* But it's peak season of activities, pleasant weather, and guests is summer. Rocky Mountain National Park and Estes Park also peak at this time. Given this trio, you would not find yourself getting bored in the summer with a weeklong stay. Lodging is discounted in the off season, when there is still tons to do in and out of the camp. We think, with the countless free and cheap activities, that the lodging prices are a great deal. The great range of lodging and programs also makes the Y great for youth and corporate retreats, family reunions, and multi-family vacations. 

Be Prepared  

At 8,000 feet at the foot of the Continental Divide, temperatures can be very warm during the day and frigid at night. Sun in the day can also quickly turn to rain or even snow (even in summer!), so bring layers and a pack to carry them. Always have hats, sunglasses, sunscreen, and other sunblock; it takes just 15 minutes to burn in the thin Rocky Mountain air.

Drink more water than you think you need and slow your pace or the low oxygen air will unpleasantly slow it for you. Bring your camera and binoculars to catch the breathtaking views and abundant wildlife. 

*Note: YMCA of the Rockies has another, much larger camp on the other side of Rocky Mountain National Park called Snow Mountain Ranch, which is more winter-centric than Estes Park Center.

Published in Gather

Telluride's Alpino Vino FamilyTravel.com World's Highest Wine Bar

Parents: Will you be skiing Telluride this season?

Don't miss Alpino Vino, a one-of-a-kind lunchtime dining experience.

After all, it is North America’s highest wine bar (with fabulous food!)

Published in Eat

It is Fall getaway time and Colorado’s color-soaked leaves are begging to be explored 10 different ways this fall. Cast a line in waders next to autumn gold, soar through fiery red treetops on a zip line, take a leisurely scenic drive or saunter through the forest on horseback to experience Colorado’s mesmerizing fall foliage.

Below are the top 10 ways leaf peepers can witness nature’s artistic wonder this fall season in Colorado.

Horseback Riding.

Settle into a saddle on a guided horseback ride in Steamboat Springs to experience Colorado’s fall frontier just like the cowboys. Amble through the Routt National Forest along timeless American West trails popping with vibrant golden, red and orange leaves.  

Bike A Byway.

Begin this aspen-laden ride west of Pueblo on Colorado 96. The Frontier Pathways route climbs into the Wet Mountains and descends into the Wet Mountain Valley, passing aspens blazing in autumn color along the way. 

Historic Train.

Travel through the scenic San Juan Mountains aboard the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. Between Durango and the historic mining town of Silverton, this locomotive allows passengers to experience color-drenched aspens that line the free-flowing Animas River and ascend the rugged collection of mountain peaks and striking canyon scenery.  

Four Wheels.

With a summit at 12,095 feet, Independence Pass connects Aspen – a city named for the quintessential Colorado tree – and Twin Lakes, the largest glacial lake in Colorado and is open during early fall. Independence Pass is rife with stunning autumn colors popping on both sides of the pass and ringed with five 13,000-foot peaks. 


Tire Tour.

Fruita’s dirt trails and challenging single tracks wind along huge flattop mesas allowing mountain bikers to discover panoramic views of valleys sprinkled with glowing yellow leaves. 


Hot Air Balloon.

Fall’s cooler climate and artist’s palette of nature’s colors make for an ideal time to take to the air. Float above pockets of fall foliage speckled along the Front Range’s peaks and valleys and throughout Rocky Mountain National Park. Take in colorful views on a hot air balloon ride with Fair Winds in Boulder. 


Gondola.

Leaf peep the quaking aspens nestled in Telluride’s box canyon while sailing through the trees. The first and only free public transportation of its kind in the U.S., this gondola connects riders between Telluride and Mountain Village, giving passengers an ever-changing view of the crimson and golden leaves along the way. 

Two Feet.

Fall’s crown jewel is nestled along Kebler Pass, where a massive aspen cluster of interconnected roots wows hikers with brilliant fall hues. The radiant yellow and red leaves on Kebler create a textured denseness that is unique to this area. Take the hiking trails Kebler Wagon Trail #606 and Dyke Trail #838 for even more leaf peeping opportunities. 


Zip line.

The landscape of fiery red, orange and golden leaves will shift as guests soar through autumn-tinted treetops and above deep valleys on one of 14 zip lines throughout the state. Thrill seekers will feel the rush and crisp autumn air as they glide over changing scenes at Zip Adventures near Vail. 


Fly-fishing.

Carbondale lies in the heart of the Roaring Fork Valley, home to some of the finest rivers for trout fishing, especially from mid-September to mid-October. The deep blue waters starkly contrast the foliage-lined banks bursting with deep scarlets and golds. Tranquility and a wide variety of water types await fly-fishers this fall with Roaring Fork Anglers.  

Published in Family Travel Blog

I have always wanted to visit one of the 10th Mountain Division huts tucked high within Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. Named to honor the men of the 10th Mountain Division of the US Army who trained during World War II in Central Colorado, the system of 29 backcountry huts are connected by 350 miles of suggested routes.

Published in Travel Essays

I have always wanted to visit one of the 10th Mountain Division huts tucked high within Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. Named to honor the men of the 10th Mountain Division of the US Army who trained during World War II in Central Colorado, the system of 29 backcountry huts are connected by 350 miles of suggested routes.

Published in Adventure

 

Mineral hot springs offer the chance to soak in healing waters and to learn about their ancient origins. Here are five places where you and your family can enjoy the warm water. 

Strawberry Hot Springs has three main pools of varying temperatures to delight all visitors.

1.Steamboat Springs, CO.

In the late 1880s fur trappers passing through this Colorado enclave, heard an odd noise resembling a steamboat. They were pleasantly surprised to find more than 150 geothermal steamy, bubbling springs that today soothe tired muscles après ski or after a long days’ hike. The centrally-located Old Town Hot Springs offers swimming pools, a full-service fitness center and a waterslide for the kids. Just seven miles from town, the Strawberry Park Hot Springs offers a unique experience, with hand-built stone pools of varying temperatures, tepee changing rooms and a natural and serene environment. Note: Children are welcome during the day. Once the sun goes down, you must be 18 or older and clothing is optional.

Contact: (970) 879-0342; www.StrawberryHotSprings.com
(970) 879-1828; www.SteamboatHotSprings.com


2. Thermopolis, Wy

Visit the world’s largest mineral hot spring in this western town where the whole family can swim, slide, soak and steam inside or outdoors. See the mineral-formed rainbow terraces and other natural creations as well as the local buffalo herd at the Hot Springs State Park. Learn how paleontologists work, participate in a real dig or wander through the museum at the Wyoming Dinosaur Center. Don’t miss the 108 foot Supersaurus stretching overhead.

Contact: 1 (877) 864-3192; www.Thermopolis.com


3. Glenwood Springs, CO.

Royals, presidents and Ute Indians have all found these steamy pools to provide great respite from the rest of the world. Two blocks long, the Glenwood Hot Springs Pool complex includes a kiddy pool with water slide, a diving pool and a therapy pool. Relax in the warm waters and enjoy the Rocky Mountain scenery. Later, step next door to the Yampah Spa & Vapor Caves for a natural sauna in rock caves. Spend the night in nearby geothermal-heated hotel rooms.

Contact: (970) 945-6571; www.hotspringspool.com


4. Calistoga, CA

The Palisade Mountains provide a picturesque backdrop to a day spent relaxing in this comfortable, family-run spa in Napa Valley. Warm up in an 80-foot-long lap pool, a 90-degree kiddie pool with a waterfall or the 100-degree pool. The steamy therapy pool is for adults only. Mud baths, massages and a fitness facility are also available. A multi-generational favorite, rooms with kitchenettes make a family overnight easy to handle.

Contact: 866-822-5772; www.calistogaspa.com


5. Rio Grande Village, TX.

Soak in the scenery as well as the warm water within Big Bend National Park. Look for painted pictographs on the cliff walls as you enjoy the one mile loop hike past historic buildings and the area where various Indian groups lived and traveled. The large hot spring on the bank of the Rio Grande River gushes with steamy water that fills the foundation of an old bathhouse creating a popular natural hot tub.

Contact: (432)477-2251; www.nps.gov/bibe/planyourvisit/soakinthesprings.htm


 

Published in Hike

Located nearly 7,000 feet above sea level in Colorado’s Northern Rockies, this picturesque town boasts six mountains and nearly 3,000 acres of luscious ski- and board-friendly terrain. You won’t find jagged peaks. Rather, they’re oversized “hills,” as I heard one visitor call them, coated with an abundance of champagne powder—the dry, smooth snow for which the Rockies are renowned—and backed by a 75-year Olympic heritage. The combination of rugged authenticity and serious skiing makes for one of the most extraordinary resort destinations on the planet

Never far from its ranching roots, Steamboat Springs, CO remains solidly linked to a western tradition that sets it apart, in a most refreshing way, from other mountain resorts that dot the Rocky Mountain landscape. Fur-swaddled tourists are few and far between. This is a town where ranchers, clad in boots and brand-boasting belt buckles, still go about their business. It’s a laid-back landscape.

 

I made my first trek to Steamboat while still in college. My only prior ski experience had been on small slopes, the kind commonly found in the Midwest. For me, this Rocky Mountain high country was the big time. The bright western sunshine and the thrill of the famously fluffy powder were exhilarating. I remember thinking: “This is perfection.”


Decades later, Steamboat is still perfect; a perfect vacation destination for families, winter or summer.  

Winter Activities in Steamboat

According to local Yampa Valley ranchers, the true measure of a Routt County winter’s severity is determined by how high the snow piles up against their four fence wires. Steamboat enjoys more than its fair share of “three-wire winters.” As Sureva Towler writes in her book, The History of Skiing at Steamboat Springs, “By January or February of a typical winter, snow will cover the third fence wire, usually thirty inches high.” Four-wire winters, generally more than 35 inches at the resort’s mid-mountain location, are not uncommon. That is very good news for those who like to strap on the skis and experience the legendary white stuff.

Families First

Steamboat wrote the book on children and family programs, and the resort area continues to innovate. While holding armloads of accolades from magazines and Web sites, its leading edge position has been solidified by providing an array of deals over the past few decades where kids and grandkids fly, ski, rent and/or stay free.

Not wanting to rest on their laurels, the resort added a technological twist to its family-friendly programming with the Mountain Watch program. My friends with young children, who sampled the program during an early visit, described the concept as “Star Wars meets Big Brother.”

Now more commonly used to relieve parent angst, the Steamboat Mountain Watch uses wristband-tracking devices to allow the grownups to keep tabs on their children. By scanning your own watch at kiosks located around the resort, you can zero in on your child’s location on the mountain or know they are tucked safely inside the Kid’s Vacation Center.

“We were able to enjoy our time and have peace of mind just knowing where our son and daughter were,” explained my friends. “When we met at the end of the day, we could ask specific questions about the places we knew they visited while we were relishing a long-awaited day on the slopes.”

Olympic Style Skiing

Steamboat has produced more winter Olympians that any other town in North America, a record 69 and counting. In fact, Steamboat sent more athletes to recent Olympic Games than many small countries. Your kids can hear the story and gather inspiration straight from 1964 Olympic Silver medalist Billy Kidd. He serves as the Steamboat Ski Area’s Director of Skiing and is often available on the mountain.

Those who want a little instruction can also opt for Family Private ski or board lessons. Offered for a half or full day, the whole gang can learn together. Instructors will customize your family clinic to meet the specific needs and goals of your group. I’m told it works best if all participants share a similar level of expertise. Children must be in first grade or older to participate.

Once you’ve brushed up on your skill set, you will be ready to learn the secret of Steamboat: “the goods are in the woods!” If you are game for glade skiing—which involves skiing through trees, rather than on an open slope—this is the place to be, even if you are not a black diamond daredevil. There is a perfect pitch for every ability. I was happy with the tame terrain off the Sunshine Express, while my boys went for the steeper stuff.

Hot Springs Give Steamboat Steam

We took a break from the slopes to visit one of the more than 150 geothermal springs that give Steamboat its name. In the late 1880s when fur trappers were passing through the area, they heard an odd noise they thought sounded like a steamboat. They were pleasantly surprised, much as today’s visitors are, to find the steamy, bubbling springs that soothe tired muscles après ski or after a long days’ hike.

Guests who want to experience the springs can choose from two facilities. The centrally-located Old Town Hot Springs offers swimming pools, a full-service fitness center and a waterslide for the kids. We ventured just seven miles from town, to the Strawberry Park Hot Springs. This venue offers a unique experience, with hand-built stone pools of varying temperatures, tepee changing rooms and a natural and serene environment. Children are welcome during the day. Once the sun goes down, you must be 18 or older and clothing is optional.  

Summer Activities in Steamboat

When the warm, western sun once again reveals the fence lines, the games change. Steamboat has received nearly as much acclaim for its summer beauty and vitality as for its world famous snow.

  • Strawberry Hot Springs has three main pools of varying temperatures to delight all visitors.

Our warm weather visits have included fly-fishing,, hiking, rafting, attending Steamboat’s famous rodeo and simply admiring the colorful hot air balloons that often dot the sky.

On Thunderhead Peak

Hopping on the Steamboat gondola to the top of Thunderhead Peak makes it easy for the whole family to explore the area by mountain bike, hike along the nature trails, or just relax and take in the breathtaking views.

  • Strings in the Mountains presents Music on the Green, a free concert in Yampa River Botanic Park weekly during the summer.

The gondola operates daily from mid-June through Labor Day. Uphill operations run from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Mon. to Sat., and 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Sun. (weather permitting), with the last downhill trip at 4:30 p.m.

With small kids or less able family members in tow, try the Vista Nature Trail. It’s a one-mile, handicapped-accessible loop that begins near the top of the gondola. A wide, graded, gravel path meanders for the first half-mile then turns into a traditional hiking trail for the second half-mile.

Mountain Biking on the Slopes

Steamboat’s mountain bike trail network has gained an international reputation, but you don’t need to be an expert to enjoy many of the more than 50 miles of trails at the ski area and countless more in the nearby wilderness areas. If you don’t have your own bike, rentals are readily available. The Steamboat Mountain Bike School offers private and semi-private clinics for those looking to improve their bike handling skills throughout the summer.

Camping and Wilderness Areas

With more than 1,000 square miles of public lands, including Routt National Forest several Colorado State Parks and two wilderness areas surrounding Steamboat Springs, the area is nirvana if you love getting into the backcountry for hiking, camping and adventure.

There also are plenty of options for day hikes and excursions. We loved our outing to the easily accessible Fish Creek Falls; the breathtaking 280-foot waterfall spills just four miles from downtown.

Steamboat barn on FamilyTravel.com

Something About That Barn

Years ago, when I left Steamboat after my champagne powder initiation, I returned to my college dorm room with a treasured Steamboat poster depicting two skiers on horseback making first tracks in front of a picturesque, western-style barn.

Nearly three decades later, I walked into my son’s college dorm room. We had never skied Steamboat together, yet he had the same poster on his wall.

We weren’t the only two taken by the beauty of this famous Steamboat landmark. Shot in 1973 by Minneapolis–based photographer, Gerald Brimacombe, the Steamboat Barn poster features Rusty Chandler and Jo Semotan riding, skis shouldered, in front of the Barn. You will see the Barn poster on the walls of the Stanley Hotel in Steven King’s miniseries version of The Shining. It also made SKI Magazine’s list of the Top 100 Ski Photographs, and variations on the image are featured on much of the resort area’s promotional materials.

Getting There

Steamboat Springs is located 157 miles northwest of Denver, and visitors to this mountain Mecca can fly into the mile-high city and drive, or take advantage of increasing nonstop jet service offered from Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Newark/NYC, New York-JFK, New York-LaGuardia or Salt Lake City on American, Continental, Delta, Northwest and United Airlines. All service is direct into the Steamboat/Hayden Airport (HDN), 22 miles/35kms from the ski area..

For first-timers and returning visitors alike, the Steamboat tourist site www.steamboat.com is a great resource.

                                             Get Your Gear Here!

Published in Adventure
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