How to vacation safely
By Rebecca Treon
Being outside isn’t new to most Coloradans, in fact, that it is safer to be “vast, great outdoors” in the time of COVID is written into Governor Polis’ Executive Order about staying safe. Each of Colorado’s 41 state parks has campgrounds, many an hour or less from Denver, with sites offering electric hookups, fire pits, and access to facilities. Somehow, this simple shift to sleeping under the stars and cooking over a fire puts us in a mellower mood, and playing cards, evening walks, sunrise photos, leisurely bike rides and paddling on a lake become second nature. While many joke that camping became the ‘surprising new hobby of 2020,’ camping doesn’t have to mean sleeping on a sagging air mattress in a flimsy tent staked to the hard ground. If you want to give an RV a whirl but aren’t quite ready to take the plunge and commit to buying, you can rent one — a simple Google search brings up several options. Most companies are adhering to CDC guidelines when it comes to cleaning their RVs or recommending that their RV owners do so; it’s something to inquire about before you rent.
Glamping and Cabins
If hauling your lodging around with you isn’t your thing, glamping in permanent canvas tents, yurts, or tipis are a great option in Colorado. Piney River Ranch, located 15 miles up a rocky route called Red Sandstone Road, is a tucked-away gem. There is a barbecue and sandwich restaurant onsite, but a cooler full of goodies picked up in town is also an option. The ranch offers horseback riding, fishing, standup paddle boarding, and a gorgeous waterfall hike. The scenery has to be some of the most breathtaking in the state. Those who want to enjoy more than just a day trip there have two lodging options: glamping tents and cabins. The glamping tents host up to four guests and have both a fire pit and propane grill. Larger cabins accommodate up to eight guests and have two separate rooms, while smaller cabins hold four guests. The cabins boast waterfront views, have propane grills, a firepit, and toaster ovens. Piney River Ranch is complying with Colorado and Eagle County Public Health Orders, which are posted around the property and on their website.
YMCA of the Rockies at Snow Mountain Ranch is another classic Colorado destination. They have two-, three-, four-, and five-bedroom cabins that are perfect for families of any size. All of the cabins feature fireplaces, outfitted kitchens and bedding. Snow Mountain Ranch has a village made up of 12 yurts, which are pet-friendly, can sleep six, and have a mini-fridge, microwave, and outdoor grill. YMCA of the Rockies also has a variety of campsites for tent and camper-style camping. Their COVID polices are on a dedicated page of their website.
C Lazy U Ranch, situated on 8,500 acres, has upgraded WiFi and is offering dedicated classroom and library space for those who want to do remote learning (or adults who need office space) while still experiencing ranch life, with horseback riding, mountain biking, fishing, and campfire evenings.
Major hotel chains have all created company-wide pandemic protocols, which is great for consistency and safety at all properties regardless of location. Places like the Sonnenalp in Vail are operating at reduced capacity and post their COVID-safety regulations throughout the hotel. Guidelines also are given to guests upon arrival. Their regulations, along with Eagle County Public Health Mandates, are posted on their website. There are several advantages to staying at the centrally located Sonnenalp. The rooms feature balconies and fireplaces and you can opt to not have them serviced during your stay if you’re concerned about housekeeping being in the room. Staff patrol the property constantly, cleaning high-contact surfaces like elevator buttons and doorknobs. The pool area is no doubt one of Vail’s best — part outside and part inside, with two outdoor hot tubs. There is ample seating with social distancing, creek-side seating amid lush greenery, and a pop-up cocktail lounge in the afternoon. The Sonnenalp has several onsite restaurants; Ludwig’s is a great option for breakfast (order the huevos rancheros). It has outdoor patio seating plus accordion windows that give an open-air feel. Bully Ranch also has patio seating and hearty American fare. The Sonnenalp is right on Vail’s pedestrian mall for walking, dining or shopping.
Another wonderful option for families to consider are resorts that offer residences. These are great for multi-generational trips or longer stays. One of the best options that’s not far for Denverites yet manages to feel like a total getaway is the Garden of the Gods Resort near Colorado Springs. While the main lodge offers both rooms and suites, the resort has both cottages and casitas. The cottages are free-standing one-, two-, or three-bedroom luxury residences centered with a living and dining space with a kitchenette. Bathrooms within the suites feature both showers and tubs. Each cottage has a private courtyard with seating and dining arrangements and a gas fireplace. The cottages also are centered around a public courtyard with an outdoor kitchen, yard games like giant Connect 4 and Cornhole, plus seating and a gas fireplace. Similarly, the casitas have all the amenities of the cottages with a full kitchen. The resort has two pools, a family pool and the adults-only infinity pool. Both have at-your-seat service for dining and drinks along with a cabana with a bar. Reservations should be made for pool time, in two-hour blocks, when you book your accommodations. The lodge has several dining options, but at The Rocks, you can sit on the patio and enjoy the awe-inspiring sunset over the Garden of the Gods, which is directly behind the resort. Beyond just spending time at the resort, they offer a full spa, golf, the park behind the resort, tennis, a recreation center and kids club, along with other local attractions. Both COVID-19 updates and protocols are listed on a dedicated page on their website.
Feeling comfortable while traveling in our “new normal” takes a little extra awareness, but with a bit of planning, it’s possible to create the ideal family getaway. Hotels and resorts have done the work thinking through how best to keep both staff and guests safe, so when in doubt, just ask.