A rundown wooden wagon sits alone in the rough at Grand Elk Golf Club, a historic reminder of the forebears who once forged through the basin now home to the club’s 18-hole course. Though electric golf carts have since replaced Conestoga wagons as the predominant means of transportation, the site’s natural, rustic surroundings remain, treating golfers to a 360-degree panorama that showcases the Continental Divide and Rocky Mountain State Park. As players notch divots into lush fairways and putt on the soft greens with modified pool cues, they’ll follow a 7,144-yard layout drawn up by 13-time PGA Tour champion Craig Stadler and Tripp Davis. Taking inspiration from the inland courses of the British Isles, the design duo strung fairways through meadows and natural wetlands that form the headwaters of the Colorado River, all the while incorporating unique playing scenarios that challenge each golfer’s shot-making abilities.
Course at a Glance:
As the sun starts to melt last night's snowfall, cross-country skis gently glide over the freshly groomed trails of Grand Lake Nordic Center. The peaks of Rocky Mountain National Park and Arapahoe National Forest rise in the distance, with shifting views and perspectives as guests make their way through different trails. Newcomers can take a lesson in cross country skiing or snowshoeing while more advanced outdoorsmen tackle the snow enclaves of Randall's Romp or Spirits Haunt. The nearby lodge offers steaming bowls of soup, while children can take a tumble down the tubing hill or play rock-paper-scissors with a Yeti.
The Estes Park lodges are surrounded on three sides by the dramatic wilderness of the Rocky Mountain National Park. In addition to enjoying the YMCA’s many amenities, guests are within hiking distance of one of the continental U.S.’s most scenic outdoor refuges. Each room in the cozy Longs Peak, Emerald Mountain, and Rams Horn lodges sleeps up to five guests in two queen beds and a floor futon, and once you and your brood check in, you’re free to explore the abundant activities available at the more-than-100-year-old establishment. During warmer months, shoot a round of mini golf or challenge a child to a one-on-one basketball or volleyball throwdown (indoor courts are available fall through spring). In the winter, outdoor ice skating and guided snowshoe activities are offered for fans of the frigid winterscape. Lower-key visitors or those with a screaming need for x-treme learning can wander into the fully stocked library or historical museum.
When the staffers at Colorado Carriage and Wagon says that their business is family owned and operated, they extend that description all the way down to the horses who make each journey possible. Their beloved Draft breeds travel throughout Colorado, Wyoming, and Nebraska, bringing charmingly old-fashioned transportation to weddings, family reunions, and romantic traipses through town. When snow blankets the ground, guests can schedule sleigh rides, taking the classic conveyance on a caroling trip or just prowling the woods for drag races against one-horse hotrods. In addition to horses, the family's petting zoo of chicks, sheep, pigs, and other barnyard animals often makes appearances at parties and festivals, delighting young and old alike with their cute, fuzzy faces.
Cody Walker muses that within the stillness of Rocky Mountain National Park, "You get a sense that it's the way it should be." His father, Rex, grew up on a steady diet of cowboy films, eventually following his dream to Colorado where he met his wife, Queeda. Queeda was born into a family of homesteaders who caught and broke wild steeds. In 1959, they channeled their passion for the old-west lifestyle into Sombrero Ranches, eschewing souvenir-shop gimmicks for horseback expeditions that, much like avalanches of super glue, bond visitors with their steeds and natural surroundings.
Today, Cody carries on his parents' legacy with a staff of ranch hands from nearby homesteads and college students participating in equine-science programs all across the country. After training in a vigorous program that's evolved during more than 50 years, his employees launch short rides or lengthy adventures. Cody distinguishes the Continental Divide ride as one of the most awe-inspiring; it begins at Bear Lake at 6 a.m., wending across the Continental Divide and to Grand Lake during a nine-hour stretch.
The sporting experts at Beavers Sports Shop's four regional locations outfit mountaineers and snow-surfers with brand-name equipment for chilly rendezvous with the great outdoors. Before taking to Colorado’s slopes, thrill-seekers gear up with snowboards and skis from brands such as Salomon, Dynastar, and K2, and slip into rental suits, parkas, and bibs, which shield wearers against frigid weather and icy glares from abominable snowmen on whose lawns they’ll be trespassing. During snowless summer months, trekkers hit the Winter Park area's numerous cross-country and mountain trails with bikes and gear from producers such as Shimano, Fox, Bontrager, and SRAM.