Does “dude ranch” conjure images of office workers doffing their Dockers in favor of denim? Do you envision time in the saddle, or sleeping under the stars, and think it might be fun for a day or two … but you’re not sure about an entire vacation?

There’s good news for travelers who would like a taste of the dude ranch experience blended with a heaping serving of other vacation-type activities. Today’s dude ranches cater to a diverse crowd – from families to couples to singles – with activities, attractions and services that travel far beyond the trail.

“While dude ranches still provide that one-of-a-kind ‘cowboy-style’ vacation you can’t find anywhere else, many have also expanded their offerings to appeal to the diverse and discriminating tastes of today’s traveler,” says Colleen Hodson of the Dude Ranchers’ Association, an organization that represents more than 100 dude ranches.

So if you’re considering a dude ranch vacation and would like to spend time out of the saddle, consider these 10 surprising things to do on today’s dude ranches:

1. Get a massage or spa treatment.

Hotels and resorts around the world have hopped on the spa bandwagon, spending millions to build lavish facilities or offer massage, salon and spa services. Many dude ranches now offer comparable services, like White Stallion Ranch in LOCATION, where guests can indulge in a massage.

2. Water ski.

Not all dude ranches are located in desert terrain. Ones like Wilderness Trails Ranch, which is located next to Vallecito Lake near Durango, Colorado, take full advantage of their waterfront setting. Guests can water ski, kneeboard or tube behind a tournament quality ski boat, or sail on a 24-foot Catalina.

3. Take a yoga class.

Many ranches that offer spa services also provide yoga classes and training. Before a long day in the saddle, guests can have a relaxing limbering-up session with certified trainers.

4. Indulge in a wine tasting.

Gourmet cuisine is gaining popularity at dude ranches, right alongside trail traditions like franks ‘n’ beans and strong coffee. Many ranches also offer wine tastings where guests can experience, savor and learn about different varietals.

5. Get married.

Picturesque settings, wide open spaces and top-notch amenities draw thousands of brides-to-be and their grooms to dude ranches each year. Some dude ranches even offer personal wedding planners to assist couples in planning every facet of their special day – a leading-edge service you would expect to find in the finest hotels or resorts. At Wilderness Trails, you can even rent the entire ranch for your event.

6. Catch a movie.

From 27-seat movie theaters to state-of-the art home theater equipment or simple, old-fashioned family-style viewing on a big-screen TV, dude ranches are equipped to show recently released films.

7. Work on your tennis serve.

Recognizing that your craving for sport might exceed chasing down an errant calf, some dude ranches like Paradise Ranch in LOCATION offer other sporting opportunities, such as lighted tennis courts.

8. Surf the Internet.

Demand for high-speed, wireless Internet access is high among both leisure and business travelers. Many dude ranches are in step with the times and offer guests free Internet access. Some may provide access only in guestrooms, while others feature access in some public areas as well.

9. Perform in a talent show.

Friendly competition can be found in many forms on dude ranches, from roping contests to talent shows. If lassoing a speeding calf isn’t your forte, you can sing, tap or joke your way to local stardom in a talent show.


10. Chase a chicken.

Immortalized on the TV reality show “Girl Meets Cowboy,” the chicken chase at Paradise Ranch pits man, woman or child against fowl. Several chickens are loosed in a pen and the human competitors must try to chase them down. No chickens are harmed in the competition and the activity is unusual fun for the other two-legged participants as well. To date, the score tally remains in favor of the chickens.

To learn more about a dude ranch vacation, visit www.duderanch.org.