When you think of a dude ranch vacation do you imagine time in the saddle and think it might be fun for a day or two, but wonder if there is enough to do for an entire vacation? Well, there is great news for travelers who would enjoy any amount of western lifestyle activities such as horseback riding and cattle work. If you look into it further, modern-day dude ranches offer a lot more than just this. With scenic landscapes, great accommodations, and knowledgeable staff, dude ranch activities vary for a diverse crowd – whether that is your multigenerational family, business associates or small group of best friends.
It doesn’t matter if you would consider yourself a “city slicker” or an equestrian, everyone will get to ride horses and spend time doing what they enjoy the most. Dude ranches offer attractions and services that travel far beyond the trail. Fine dining? Well, that’s just the beginning. Outdoor exercise? Any and all kinds. Relaxation? You got it.
So, if you’re considering a dude ranch vacation and would like to fill your week with many types of activities, consider adding these activities to your to-do list.
The best way to experience the West is most definitely horseback riding. Starting out with an orientation ride, you’ll easily determine how much adventure you’ll enjoy with your personal horse or horses for the week. You might be content with a daily stroll up to a nice view or have a need for speed on twice-daily loping rides.
R Lazy S Ranch – Teton Village, WY
For avid bird watchers, dude ranches offer some exclusive places to find rare species of birds specific to the area. Many horseback rides at the Triple R Ranch in South Dakota explore deep into wildlife’s natural habitats especially native birds. It is almost guaranteed that on these rides you will see some type of unique species!
Triple R Ranch – Keystone, SD
Suited up in your life jacket you’ll get to race (or meander) down crystal clear water for yet another perspective on this beautiful location. Rimrock Ranch in Wyoming has an afternoon of their weekly program that is designated for a white water rafting trip for all of the ranch guests to enjoy.
Rimrock Ranch – Cody, WY
Petting zoos on dude ranches are not just for children. Even adults enjoy interacting with all sorts of farm animals, from baby goats and pigs to gathering eggs from the chicken coop.
There’s no better place to see the stars than on an overnight campout or a pack trip into the mountains. In a lot of these places motorized vehicles are not allowed, so the only way to get out there is on foot or by horseback. On a pack trip with the Broken Arrow Lodge you’ll go through two mountain ranges in the spectacular Rocky Mountains!
Broken Arrow Lodge – Alder, MT
Hup, hup! You’ll get to understand what life is like as a cowboy once you experience firsthand what it’s like to move cattle across the range. From several hours to a full-day cattle drive, this is the real deal when it comes to the cowboy lifestyle activities on a dude ranch. At the Bonanza Creek Ranch in Montana cattle ranching is not just a business – it’s a way of life. And you’ll be apart of it.
Bonanza Creek Ranch – Martinsdale, MT
From 0 – 18 kids always have something to do on the ranch. With counselors for different age ranges, kids are engaged and have no need for electronics. There’s a creative activity to do every moment, from swimming pools to nature walks or even visiting that petting zoo we talked about earlier.
Why not sign up for a relaxing massage to complete your afternoon? With trained professionals in some of the most beautiful locations, you’ll enjoy a lavish spa experience. You’ll really like the full-body massage customized for your preferences at Hubbard’s Six Quarter Circle Ranch in Montana. After a day in the saddle, this is just what the doctor ordered.
Hubbard’s Six Quarter Circle Ranch – Emigrant, MT
You’ll be given instruction and participate in a safely controlled environment to learn and practice shooting different types of firearms and archery.
Cinch down your helmet and hit the road for an afternoon of exploring on ATVs as one of the most fun dude ranch activities.
Riding in a horse-drawn wagon or sleigh should be on everyone’s bucket list. At the K Diamond K Guest Ranch in Washington, guests are given a tour of the ranch by a team of Belgian draft horses pulling a 12-passenger wagon. Experience transportation like the cowboys used to in the times of the old west!
K Diamond K Ranch – Republic, WA
Try a yoga class with a certified trainer whenever you like. You might enjoy a class outside amongst the aspen trees or in a quaint cabin studio.
Whether you are an expert or a beginner your own personal fly-fishing guide will help you catch various types of trout on super private waters. The Goosewing Ranch offers twice-weekly instruction on their stocked pond, allowing you to fine-tune your fishing skills. Also, they offer all sorts of equipment for the guests to use and a map of all the prime fishing locations on the ranch.
Goosewing Ranch – Jackson, WY
Glamping has become the new trend it seems and dude ranches are following suit. The Bull Hill Guest Ranch in Washington has 2 new glamping tents less than 5 years old! Each tent is just 100 feet from the shower house where each tent has its own private bath and shower. Both tents are fully furnished and do have electricity as well as heat. They also have beautiful porches to kick back and relax after a day full of ranch activities.
Bull Hill Guest Ranch – Kettle Falls, WA
Picturesque settings, wide-open spaces and top-notch amenities draw thousands of brides-to-be and their grooms to dude ranches each year. Whether you would like to run off and elope or prefer inviting the whole family there are plenty of options for planning your dude ranch wedding. The Absaroka Ranch in Wyoming can accommodate 16 people in their four cabins and host up to 200 guests for the day of the wedding. There’s nothing like a reception with 360-degree breathtaking views and a mountain backdrop.
Absaroka Ranch – Dubois, WY
The ranch staff and guests alike are some pretty talented people and friendly competition can be found in many forms during your vacation. You’ll enjoy watching and participating in a talent night at the ranch. You can sing, tap or joke your way to local stardom in a talent show. You won’t soon forget these memories!
At the Hawley Mountain Ranch, you’ll get to take an all-day jeep tour adventure to places where very few people can travel. Ready to see an old ghost town or visit Monument Peak at nearly 11,000 feet?? Hawley Mountain Ranch will take you there!
Hawley Mountain Guest Ranch – McLeod, MT
Zoom! Your adventure guide will take you on a view of the ranch like none other. You’ll get to fly through the air for another kind of wild ride.
Practice your professional swing while having a good time with friends. Some ranches have tennis courts and golf courses on-site or within a close radius of the ranch. The Broadmoor’s Ranch at Emerald Valley in Colorado gives their guests the opportunity to take a short ride down to the Broadmoor’s 2 different 18-hole golf courses that look like they are out of a picture book. They also have state-of-the-art tennis courts available for guests to use, you will just have to schedule a time to go play!
The Broadmoor’s Ranch at Emerald Valley – Colorado Springs, CO
Ranches have well-trained (even Cordon bleu trained) chefs that take a lot of pride in offering 5-star cuisine with beautifully paired wines. There are many dude ranches that also participate in Farm to Table Cuisine programs. Beautiful vegetables and fruits are harvested just a few yards from the kitchens and have flavors like you’ve never tasted before. Several ranches also have a long list of fine wines and beer selections for guests to choose from.
These same chefs would love to share their kitchen with you and/or your kids to teach you their secret recipes on amazing ranch cuisine.
With a team of 3 riders, you’ll try your hand at a seriously fun rodeo sport. With rules that can be modified to suit, the idea is to separate a cow or steer from the group and herd it into a pen. Whoever is the fastest wins!
From rigorous climbs to easy ambles you can get out and explore the mountains on foot. At the Flat Creek Ranch, you’ll be able to hike up to the Teton Overlook Trail for a panoramic view of the Grand Teton National Park. Hike in the Bridger-Teton National Forest and the Gros Ventre Wilderness Area while at the ranch and experience some of Wyoming’s most undiscovered land.
Flat Creek Ranch – Jackson, WY
These are not all the activities you can find on dude ranches. We haven’t even talked about National Park Trips, rock climbing, winter sports, and more!
To find that dude ranch experience with the right combination of activities use the search by amenity page on duderanch.org or give a ranch vacation expert a call at the Dude Ranchers’ Association.