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Group of people on a trail ride

About Us

The Dude Ranchers’ Association has a very rich and powerful history. As the railroads expanded in the 1920s, dude ranches spread across the west and as far south as Arizona. The cattle industry was struggling and many ranchers were faced with financial hardship. Ernest Miller of Elkhorn Ranch in Montana convinced Max Goodsill of the Northern Pacific Railway that there was an opportunity for a mutually beneficial relationship. Goodsill passed the idea along to A.B. Smith, passenger traffic manager for Northern Pacific who arranged a meeting at the Bozeman Hotel. This became the first official meeting of the Dude Ranchers’ Association on September 27th and 28th, 1926. Thus, the leading and governing body of the West’s dude ranch industry was formed.

Old photo of a horse and two people on a rock


Almost 100 years later, the DRA is still the governing body of the West’s dude ranch industry. It provides an organized structure for members in which they are able to exchange ideas and experiences in an effort to uphold the highest quality of services within the industry. The Association promotes the western ranch vacation while continuing to build a strong working relationship with Federal and State land agencies in order to preserve and protect parks, forests, and wildlife.

You will find that not all dude ranches are members of the DRA. There are a number of strict by-laws which must be followed in order to become (and remain) a member ranch. Approximately 70% of the ranches that apply meet the high standards of the Association and go on to become members.

The Dude Ranchers’ Association continues to help people find quality dude and guest ranch vacations. When you book your family vacation at a member ranch, you can be assured of a genuine, western experience. The members are not hotels with horses outback; they are the Original Western Vacation. Anything dude ranch-related, the DRA is here to help. If you have any questions, please contact us!