Saddle up at one of these dude ranches for families

by:  www.travelsavvymom.com Of all the many trips I’ve taken with my family, I get the most questions about our horse back riding vacations.  It turns out I’m not the only one who with a cowgirl fantasy. When I planned our first dude ranch vacation, I used the Dude Rancher’s Association website (full disclosure: they are now an advertiser of ours). Using their search tool, I was able to browse their 100 member properties by amenity and then compare them side by side.  Here are ten that stood out:

Averill’s Flathead Lake Ranch Where: Big Fork, Montana Rates: $342-464 Open: May-October Is there any image more iconic than kids jumping in a lake?  When you’re not jumping in the lake, you can sail, canoe, water ski, paddle board, kayak, and fish in it too.  Plus, all the usual horse-y fun. You’ll feel like you’ve walked onto the set of a coming of age film. Averills Flathead Lake Lodge for Families Vista Verde Guest Ranch Where: Steamboat Springs, Colorado Rates: $295-545 Open: January-March,  June-August,  September,  December Picture this: after an outrageously fun day of riding, learning to herd cattle, or watching your kids compete in a just-for-fun rodeo, you unwind on the porch of your private cabin in your private jacuzzi.  It’s heaven. We’ve been there — read our review.

Nine Quarter Circle Ranch Where: Gallatin Gateway, Montana Rates: $253-362 Open: June-September Can’t decide between visiting one of America’s western national parks and spending a week at a dude ranch?  With the rustic and wonderful Nine Quarter Circle Ranch (overlooking the northwest corner of Yellowstone Park) you don’t have to.  The owners breed and raise their own Appaloosas and have just the right ride for everyone.

Nine Quarter Circle Ranch for Families  

Rancho de los Caballeros Where: Wickenburg, Arizona Rates: $202-232 Open: January-May, October-December This luxury dude ranch in the Arizonan Sonora Desert offers convenient a la carte pricing for families that tend to go in different directions on vacation.  It’s a really great option for multi-generation trips where not everyone rides.  Guests can also play golf and tennis, hike, visit historic Wickeburg, or partake of the spa. We’ve been there — review coming soon.  

The Home Ranch Where: Steamboat Springs, Colorado Rates: $275-575 Open: January-March,  June-October,  December When you imagine a dude ranch vacation, you probably don’t imagine snow.  But guess what?  Winter is a magical place to be at a ranch.  Get ready for sleigh rides, cross country skiing, tubing, snowmobiling, and dog sledding.  And if you overdo it, you can relax in front of a roaring fire or book a massage.  This ranch is wonderful in the summer too, of course.

THe Home Ranch for Families

Black Mountain Ranch Where: McCoy, Colorado Rates: $307-369 Open: June-September If you’re looking for an intimate ranch experience, look no further than Black Mountain Ranch.  With a capacity of just 40, this place is cozy.  If you have a big family (or a lot of friends), you could easily take over the whole ranch! Animal loving kids will appreciate that this ranch has more than just horses — there are rabbits, chickens, ducks, alpacas, donkeys, dogs, and baby goats too. We’ve been there — read our review.

 C Lazy U Ranch Where: Granby, Colorado Rates: $325-525 Open: Year round If you’re looking for a ranch with a really great kids’ program that will feel like summer camp to them (except for the fact that they’ll have to spend some time with their parents), check out C Lazy U Ranch.  Unlike some of the smaller ranches, this one is big enough that your kids will meet lots of kids who share their age, gender, temperament, and interests.  

Tanque Verde Ranch Where: Tucson, Arizona Rates: $195-395 Open: Year round If your fantasy dude ranch vacation features saguaro cactus, roadrunners, and endless sunshine, point your compass south.  The riding at Tanque Verde Ranch is great, but so is the pool scene.  You’ll quickly adjust to the rhythm of the desert — for a lot of the year, that means playing in the morning and at dusk and resting in the middle of the day.  Sounds like a vacation to me. We’ve been there — read our review.  

Burnt Well Guest Ranch Where: Roswell, New Mexico Rates: $234-260 Open: Year round There are some places that I’m longing to visit, but they’re just too far away or remote to justify the trip.  My personal list includes Mt. Rushmore, the Four Corners, and Roswell, New Mexico.  Imagine my delight when I discovered this authentic working cattle ranch within easy striking distance of Roswell and all its UFO fun!  Go for the riding.  If you pick up any alien souvenirs while you’re there, it’ll be our secret.  

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