Do you think a dude ranch vacation is limited to cowboy country? Think again! Although most people associate dude ranches with Colorado and Wyoming, some of the best dude ranches for families are located in some surprising places! Read on to learn about ranch adventures in some surprising places – and how your family can enjoy a dude ranch experience, no matter where you are!
Some of the best dude ranch experiences come in unexpected places. Try some out-of-the-way ranches for an excellent adventure of your very own! Photo courtesy of The Dude Ranchers Association.
Blame Hollywood. Thanks to the cowboy westerns we’ve seen on the big screen, many of us think that dude ranches are strictly found in states like Wyoming and Colorado. Of course, those states do boast some great ranches, but why limit yourself? You can find some of the best dude ranches for families almost anywhere in the country from Arkansas to California – and even in Canada! Here are some great ranch experiences in some very surprising places.
The Arkansas Rancher
A vacation in Arkansas is often associated with the relaxing Hot Springs. But you can couple that relaxation with the adventure of a lifetime at an Arkansas Dude Ranch! Nestled by the gorgeous Buffalo National River wilderness, the Horseshoe Canyon Ranch in Jasper, Arkansas, offers a genuine dude ranch experience through beautiful Ozark Country. At the Horseshoe Canyon Ranch, experience the best of both worlds – a genuine western experience flavored with down home southern hospitality. This family-owned, family-operated dude ranch caters to families, offering a variety of activities for all ranchers of all ages.
Horseback riding is only the beginning at Horseshoe Canyon Ranch. Visitors also enjoy rock climbing, target shooting and even zip lining! Photo courtesy of The Dude Ranchers Association.
A visit to the Horseshoe Canyon Ranch is all-inclusive, so all the horseback riding, zip lining, rock climbing, swimming and other activities are included. Often recognized as one of the best climbing areas east of the Rockies, the Horseshoe Canyon Ranch offers over 300 rock climbing routes, ranging from beginner to expert. If you prefer water activities, the Buffalo National River is just minutes away. Enjoy a lazy canoe ride down, peering into the clear water to watch the turtles and fish. If you want to join them, feel free! Just jump off a bluff at one of the established swimming holes.
Your adventure will continue with other activities you select. Of course, there are so many choices; it may be hard to narrow them down. Other favorites include the petting zoo, skeet and target shooting, fishing and archery – just to name a few! The large variety of activities, as well as the gorgeous wilderness location, makes this one of the best dude ranches for families, bar none!
Whatever activities you chose for the day, return to your cozy yellow pine cabin that’s the perfect blend of modern and rustic. Relax with a soak in the outdoor hot tub before being served your choice of dinner. With everything from Mahi Mahi to barbecue ribs on the menu, your meal will be just what you wanted to cap off your day.
When you want to unplug and reconnect with your family, there’s no better way than to share a western experience – southern style!
Any season is a great time to set out on a dude ranch adventure. Photo courtesy The Dude Ranchers Association.
California, Here I Come!
California is often associated with luxury. Many vacationers head to the Golden State for the classic amusement parks, the allure of movie stars, the giant redwoods and the winding streets of San Francisco. But the amazing natural landscape of this large state makes it perfect for outdoor activities – and that includes dude ranches!
If you’re looking for a bit of luxury while enjoying the great outdoors, head to one of California’s many luxury dude ranches. One favorite is Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort, a luxury ranch nestled on 10,000 acres in the Santa Barbara wine country. This working ranch offers a telephone and television-free environment – but you won’t miss being plugged in while enjoying the comforts of your private cottage, featuring a wood-burning fireplace and touches of fine western art.
Luxury ranching California style is on gorgeous display at the Alisal Guest Ranch, right in Santa Barbara wine country. Photo courtesy of The Dude Ranchers Association.
Alisal represents the epitome of luxury ranching, with 50 miles of trails for riding and two championship-level golf courses on site. Located just minutes away from the wineries and vineyards, Alisal also offers a “sip, saddle and spa” package perfect for those wanting a complete “glamping” experience.
Of course, you can still find traditional dude ranch experiences in California. At Marble Mountain Ranch in Somes, treat yourself to the signature “saddle and paddle” package, riding the lush mountain trails one day and white water rafting the next. Do you feel the need for speed? Then book a jet boat tour to the Pacific.
Families flock to Greenhorn Creek Guest Ranch in Quincy, where activities like country western, line and swing dancing and guest rodeo events come along with the miles of horseback trails. Prove you’ve mastered the dude ranch life by competing in such events as barrel racing, pole bending and keyhole. Then have a home-cooked and hearty meal in the Chuck House.
Want a real taste of the ranching life? Try some Rankin Ranch beef, a specialty on the menu at Rankin Ranch in Caliente, CA. A working cattle ranch for over 150 years, Rankin’s western hospitality features comfortable mountain cabins, horseback riding through mountain and meadow, and trout fishing. For evening entertainment, try your luck in a foosball or horseshoe tournament. But for true relaxation, nothing beats counting constellations in the star-studded California sky.
Authenticity also rules at Hunewill Circle H Guest Ranch, just north of Yosemite National Park in Bridgeport. Emphasis here is on great horseback riding through 26,000 acres of beautiful meadow. Other activities include family dance night, a talent show, and world class trout fishing. Or you can put on your spurs and join the hands-on cattle work essential to this working ranch. After building up a hearty appetite, enjoy the Creekside cookout, complete with campfire singalong and s’mores. Next time you’re California dreaming, your mind will be filled with memories of moments like these.
If you really want to relax, unplug and get back to the goodness of nature, take a vacation at an authentic working cattle and hay ranch. That’s what you’ll find in (surprise!) Oregon. At the Long Hollow Ranch in Sisters, OR, guests participate in cattle drives and fly fishing expeditions as well as the traditional horseback adventures.
Everything about the Long Hollow Ranch is authentic, from the century-old ranch buildings to the home cooking and family style meals. Of course, the ranch has been updated, but each room reflects the simpler, gentler time when it was originally built. Other activities include rock climbing, rafting, and simply sharing stories with new friends under the gorgeous Oregon sky.
Best Dude Ranches for Families
Think Outside the Box in British Columbia
Feel the concept of “dude ranch” is strictly western Americana? Think again. Discover dude ranches throughout Canada, our neighbor to the north. In fact, some of the best dude ranches for families are found between the Pacific Ocean and the Rocky Mountains, in British Columbia, Canada’s westernmost province. (See, there’s a connection to the west!)
Visit British Columbia for a ride in Canada’s westernmost province! Three Bars Guest Ranch employees share their love of the cowboy lifestyle! Photo courtesy of The Dude Ranchers Association
Want an authentic vacation on a working ranch – but with plenty of amenities? Try a stay at the Three Bars Guest Ranch in Cranbrook, British Columbia. Specializing in all-inclusive vacation experiences for riders and non-riders alike, Three Bars Guest Ranch is a working cattle ranch in the Canadian Rockies just south of Banff National Park.
The Beckley family, owners of the Three Bars Guest Ranch, share their love of authentic cowboy lifestyle with their guests. Guests stay in private hand-built log cabins, complete with all modern amenities and a welcoming front porch, the epitome of laid-back relaxation. The cabins surround the Main Lodge, a gorgeous log building that houses a business center, gym and fitness center, the ranch store, recreation center and more. Upscale dining is available in the restaurant, with each meal being more delicious and satisfying than the last.
The ranch is also home to more than 120 horses. Anyone participating in the world-class horseback riding program will be matched with a horse for the length of the stay. Your horse will be ready whenever you decide to ride the beautiful terrain of green fields with majestic mountain views.
You’ll be riding more than horses during your Canadian dude ranch experience. Three Bars Guest Ranch offers a variety of activities, from white water rafting to an outdoor Jacuzzi! Photo courtesy The Dude Ranchers Association
Of course, the Canadian dude ranch experience isn’t just limited to horseback riding. Three Bars Guest Ranch offers a plethora of activities so visitors can enjoy a complete cowboy experience. Choices range from the excitement of mountain biking and fly fishing to the relaxation of an outdoor hot tub and Jacuzzi. Whether you want a relaxing vacation or a new adventure – or a little of both – this Canadian dude ranch aims to please!
Next time you want a taste of down home hospitality, don’t limit your thinking to traditional ranching states. Dude ranches from all over the country (and outside of it!) welcome all visitors, giving us a chance to unplug and connect with authentic living and the simple pleasures of life. What more could you want in a vacation?
By Mary Dixon Lebeau