Come late autumn, most the Rocky Mountain Dude Ranches (Colorado, Montana, and Wyoming) close for the season come September’s end and the last of the fall foliage. However, there are a select few ranches in each state that allow for shorter stays during some of the most magical and quieter times of the year. If you’ve ever been on the fence about a dude ranch stay, make the off-season the in-season for a dude ranch experience, and get on that horse!
Colorado has the most abundant offerings for curious folk to explore Western lure in the late season.
C Lazy U Ranch, easily accessible in Granby, can even be combined with a train trip from Denver’s Union Station via the airport; guests don’t even need a car! The 8,500-acre luxury ranch celebrated their centennial this past summer and the party continues late into the year. The year-round ranch offers horseback riding, snow sports, incredible meals and cabins and suites along with a hot tub, workout facility, stunning barn and main lodge with much more.
Located within minutes of downtown Loveland is the family-owned-and-operated Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch. Come late October and into the holiday season, there are nearby bike trails with fall foliage packages and more festivities for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years' with short stays, themed weekends and incredible outdoor sports.
Sundance Trail Guest Ranch in Red Feather Lakes can accommodate 24 guests, and it is this boutique nature that makes the off-season even more enjoyable. The ranch is run more like a B&B and add-on activities include a horseback ride to a lake (in warm seasons, horses even swim in the water), murder mystery weekends and other clever twists on classic dude ranch style. A hot tub, gathering area, and good home-cooked food and limitless cookies await visitors.
Lost Valley Ranch, one of the easiest ranches to access from the metro Denver area, is open through December 1st each year and offers a great value for anyone looking to fall in love with the dude ranch culture. There is a Thanksgiving celebration week that is always a big draw, and smaller horsemanship clinics throughout the fall that allow the novices to expert riders the opportunity to build skills and confidence.
There are so many more in Colorado! It’s truly the optimal time to test the experience. Wind River Christian Ranch near Estes Park and luxury properties like Vista Verde Ranch near Steamboat Springs typically operate into the second and third weeks in October, weather dependent; however, snag an incredible rate for next autumn now, if tempted. And, one of Colorado’s most high-end ranches, The Broadmoor’s Ranch at Emerald Valley, a branch of Broadmoor Hotel, runs a season into early November, again, weather dependent.
Montana has one of the largest collections of massive, stunning and rare properties in the ranch portfolio. However, due to elevation and weather conditions, their season limits late autumn and winter seasons to four of their ranches.
Bar W Guest Ranch in Whitefish, runs a year-round dude ranch season. The 3,200-foot elevation makes it a bit milder then high mountain terrain and the guest capacity at 35 keeps it intimate and eventful. Winter comes early and the ranch is ready! There are B&B stays November through April in six main lodge rooms and two cabin suites. Activities might include horse-drawn sleigh rides, downhill skiing, snowshoeing, ice skating, ice fishing and more including an onsite hot tub.
Rocking Z Guest Ranch in Wolf Creek might have a smaller guest count of 20, but it’s almighty in terms of autumn and winter activity. If there’s a Montana sport, the ranch certainly tries to offer guests an opportunity to experience it throughout guided instruction. From horsemanship to archery, shooting, hiking, fishing, soaking in the hot tub, and abundant winter options, the ranch is always a choice spot come quieter times in November. The large, comfortable guest rooms are equipped with cozy individual fireplaces and the onsite saloon is always roaring with spirits and festive activity.
For those who are curious about hunting and the true Montana wilderness, Upper Canyon Outfitters and Guest Ranch in Alder has the smallest guest count on this list of 18, but their June through December season runs into late autumn and early winter for those truly in the know of intimate and unparalleled places in the United States! There are both youth and family hunts that are a true rarity, the fishing program runs daily, and horsemanship clinics and trail rides paired with luxury accommodations in private cabins keep the experience high end. The food will keep your belly warm and happy and the antelope, moose, deer and elk hunts and viewings, simply spectacular.
Note; Mountain Sky Guest Ranch in Emigrant typically runs into the second week of October for early planners in 2020. Rich's Montana Guest Ranch in Seeley Lake opens for the winter season directly after Christmas for early winter scouts as well!
Wild Wyoming goes winter white quite quickly! Only two ranches keep their barn doors open to the herds come the later months each year. This is an opportune time to witness true working ranches, horsemanship and iconic Western moments.
In the sleepy town of Ten Sleep, is the 26-guest dude ranch, Red Reflet Guest Ranch. The exquisite, high-end, all-inclusive operation has an enormous amount to offer come late October through December, and they also host a hunting season for tagged and licensed hunters for a variety of mammals. Horseback riding, cattle activities, ATV tours (weather permitting), fishing, a fitness center, pool, open kitchen policy accompanied with gourmet cuisine and yoga in a floor-to-ceiling windowed studio make this ranch a standout year-round. For some of the best wildlife viewing and tranquility, late October through Thanksgiving proves to be the best value and experience for those who like secret, sneak-a-way deals!
The Hideout Lodge & Guest Ranch. The name alone is alluring and the late autumn and early winter experience will demonstrate the reason it’s called The Hideout, you won’t want to leave. There is a tight window for this opportunity; the ranch’s season typically ends the first week in November, weather dependent. Guests might have sun and blue sky, or snow and snuggle time. There is trail riding for all levels, riding initiations and lessons, cattle work and drives, stockmanship orientation, guided fly-fishing, trap shooting, and archery, hiking, mountain biking and more! Accommodations vary including cabins, casitas, and homes. Fine dining is offered for three meals and plenty of snacks to satisfy the late-season activity.
If you’re a bit more flexible with the season, there are a few more ranches to consider. Spotted Horse Ranch in popular and easily-accessible Jackson, typically operates until the second week of October. Triangle X Ranch in Moose closes the first week in October for their main season but re-opens directly after Christmas until the second week of March for a winter season.
All of these dude ranches and many more are members of the Dude Ranchers’ Association and can be found at www.duderanch.org. Contact Bryce or Josie at 307-587-2339 or firstname.lastname@example.org for help on finding and picking the perfect ranch.