Camp just isn't for kids. In Colorado, there is an incredible range of facilities busy with their own programs in the summer but available to groups other months. Think woodsy location, casual attire and activities that bring out the fun and adventurous side in anybody.
Not only are camps in the state typically Colorado to the core, renting the facility often helps make it possible for the camp to operate for its real purpose, whether it’s serving kids of all ages, people with disabilities, a ministry or education. “What you spend there stays there,” says Brian Phillips, marketing manager for Young Life’s three Colorado camps in Buena Vista and Fraser. “It helps cover our overhead and keep costs affordable for kids.”
For the 11th annual CampExperience, the women’s gathering has grown into two retreats: Success at the Summit being held resort-style in Breckenridge on June 9-11 and CampExperience at Rocky Mountain Village, the Easter Seals Colorado camp in Empire on Sept. 15-18. During the summer, a team from CampExperience is renovating Rocky Mountain Village’s seven cabins with the help of sponsors, and there also will be an exercise to plant bushes and hundreds of flower bulbs while at camp, tying into a “Digging Deep” keynote by speaker Fran Sorin.
“We are leaving a lasting legacy by hosting an annual event that benefits the site and charity,” says CampExperience founder Betsy Wiersma. “We believe in Easter Seals’ mission, and the venue is allowing us to do this neat thing, help people bond in smaller groups in nature.”
ROCKY MOUNTAIN VILLAGE
During summer camp season, more than 800 children and adults with disabilities enjoy this mountain getaway on 220 acres, featuring two lodges, cabins, a picnic pavilion and outdoor stage. Genesee Hall in the main lodge holds up to 180 for gatherings. Tennis and basketball courts, an outdoor swimming pool and hot tub, and hiking trails are some of the many outdoor pastimes.
Not only is holding CampExperience at RMV providing a service component on-site, Wiersma is tapping into the camp’s many features to take attendees “back to their youth,” she says. Horseback riding, fly fishing, hiking, zip lining and rock climbing along with game nights, crafts and the style of accommodations and dining will provide “a lot of opportunities for deeper interaction.”
TIMBERLINE TRAILS CAMP
Operating as a kids’ camp since 1949 and hosting many groups along the way, Timberline Trails is tucked in the woods near tiny Tin Cup, a former mining town with an elevation of 10,250 feet. A lofty location also means spectacular scenery and loads of activity options at Timberline Trails, including the highest official-size sand volleyball court in North America. Obstacle courses, a shooting range, orienteering, wilderness treks, fishing, rock climbing, Jeep tours, water sports and skiing are just some of the options on-site and nearby.
There is plenty of time throughout the year for groups to reserve the five cabins that hold eight to 30 each, for a total occupancy of 90. Plus, there is a meeting room that holds up to 40, and the Tin Cup Town Hall in town can be reserved for larger groups at no additional rental fee, says Director Curt Winters, who has operated the camp since 1979.
SHADOWCLIFF MOUNTAIN LODGE
Situated near the western side of Rocky Mountain National Park and downtown Grand Lake, the eco-friendly Shadowcliff Mountain Lodge is open Memorial Day to Oct. 1 and has “rustic accommodations that are absolutely reminiscent of camp as a kid,” says Executive Director Hillary Mizia. “All of our buildings were built by volunteers over a 20-year period from the 1950s to the 1970s, which gives our grounds a distinct 1950s roadtrip/ camp-like feel.”
Shadowcliff offers some of its own programs each season and has meeting spaces, accommodations in the form of two lodges and three cabins, an on-site nature trail and a commercial Compassionate Kitchen serving earth-friendly meals. The chapel is the primary meeting space, supplemented by lodge lounges and a dining space. “As a nonprofit, we exist to bring people together to create a climate for a restorative world,” Mizia says. “We do that by connecting people to each other, information and place.”
YMCA OF THE ROCKIES
Estes Park & Granby
YMCA of the Rockies’ two facilities encompass more than 5,000 acres of beautiful Colorado landscape, with the Estes Park Center situated next to Rocky Mountain National Park and Snow Mountain Ranch nestled in the Continental Divide. These spacious properties serve groups that range in size from 15 to 2,000 people with a wide variety of gathering spaces and lodging that includes yurts, cabins and lodges. The most recently built lodges at Estes Park Center have resulted in two Gold and one Silver LEED designations.
The facilities’ list of activities also is diverse, including options such as ropes courses, zip lines, horseback riding, sleigh rides, Nordic skiing, biking, hiking and even a summer tubing hill. Plus, Snow Mountain Ranch also is home to Camp Chief Ouray, which hosted its first campers in 1908.
YOUNG LIFE CAMPS
Buena Vista & Fraser
The three Colorado facilities owned by Young Life, a youth and young adult ministry, are generally available for retreat and conference use from Labor Day through Memorial Day. Use is limited to nonprofit groups such as churches, faith organizations, schools and other 501(c)(3) organizations.
Frontier Ranch, located outside Buena Vista and surrounded by the Collegiate Peaks, is a great option for groups of 100 to 500 and features 5,200 square feet of meeting space and a fun Western theme. The self-contained Lariat lodge is available for groups of up to 55 willing to head into town for meals or do their own cooking.
Canyon View Vineyard Church in Grand Junction is among the 13 to 15 Vineyard churches from around the country that bring 500 middle and high school youth to Frontier Ranch for two weekends during the first three months of the year. “We love the facility and feel like our kids get the best camp experience in Colorado,” says Youth Assistant Rachel Dawson, noting that staying in the cabins make the large group feel smaller and more intimate. “The venue has a lot for kids to do like a heated pool, game room and gym. We don’t have to schedule a lot of activities.”
Also in Buena Vista, Young Life’s Trail West Lodge is smaller and hosts groups of 100 to 200 with hotelstyle accommodations, a seasonal pool and yearround hot tub. The on-property Red Deer Chalet is available to groups of less than 29 that do not want a meal plan. The mountain lodge theme of Crooked Creek Ranch in Fraser plugs well into the surrounding landscape that makes up Grand County. With a capacity of 100 to 560 attendees, Crooked Creek offers plenty of young-at-heart fun such as a 60 person hot tub, swimming pool and modern gym.
THE NATURE PLACE
Located 40 miles west of Colorado Springs, The Nature Place is a year-round conference facility and educational center spread out on a 400-acre campus situated within 6,000 acres of private land owned by Colorado Outdoor Education Center. Four conference rooms hold 15 to 150 people, numerous breakout areas are available and 47 recently renovated studio apartments have private decks, two full-size beds, a Murphy bed and moss-rock fireplaces.
A spacious dining room is part of the main lodge along with a game room, and the Sportsplex is the place to blow off steam and relax with an indoor multiuse game court, heated swimming pool, sauna, Jacuzzi and exercise room. Outside are tennis and volleyball courts, a horseshoe pit and an outdoor amphitheater with a fire pit. An interpretive center is also available for use, and there are miles of selfguided hiking trails.
Examples of team development activities are challenge courses, orienteering, rock climbing and rappelling. Experiential leadership development programs play off a sawmill business scenario, chaos and order that exists in the natural world, astronomy, a forest walk and more. “We also can provide up to six days of natural history programming, where we visit four different environmental zones here in central Colorado, and we have a naturalist on-site for those who are interested in taking a break from their meetings,” says Director Rob Jolly.
Colorado camps can provide an affordable option and a chance to get everything you need at one location, typically right in the middle of Colorado’s beautiful wilderness.