Have you ever dreamt about riding across the plains or through the desert pushing cattle, hootin’ and a hollerin’ from the back of a horse? At a working cattle dude ranch, you will get to experience what the real west used to be and how “the real cowboys” used to live. You may just do some day work around the ranch, moving a herd of cattle from one pasture to another, or you may have the choice to go on an overnight cattle drive. You could camp out under the stars, if you so please, or sleep in a wall tent, tell stories around the campfire and eat meals cooked over an open fire.
It sounds like a fantasy doesn’t it? At these 9 dude ranches listed below, as well as others listed on the Dude Ranchers’ Association website, you will find a true cowboy and western lifestyle experience. Check several things off your bucket list at one time with a working cattle dude ranch vacation!
Vee Bar Guest Ranch – Laramie, WY
Looking for an unplugged and refreshing vacation with a little excitement added in? Hidden Hollow Hideaway might just be your perfect destination. Ride through luscious green meadows while moving cattle, all while taking in the breathtaking scenery of the Rocky Mountains which surround you. The folks at Hidden Hollow Hideaway will make sure you are equipped with the right horse and tack to make your experience is the best it can be! While here, you will be able to improve your riding and horsemanship skills, improve your confidence and help the cowboys and cowgirls of the ranch move the cattle to new pastures. You do not need to have previous riding experience before coming to the ranch, just a willing attitude!
When most people think of California they think of sunny beaches, board walks and surfing. When you visit the V6 Ranch in Parkfield, California you will have a whole different outlook on California. On a cattle drive with the folks at V6 you will experience an adventure that will awaken your spirit and bring you back to the beauty of the untamed west. The V6 Ranch has four cattle drives scheduled each year that allow guests to go on an overnight trip. Their schedule for each trip is all laid out on their website and offers great detail. This is not an adventure you want to miss out on! You will help gather and move the ranch’s herd of cattle from many locations and will have the opportunity to work with real cowboys who can teach you working knowledge of gathering, moving and sorting cattle. While on a cattle drive you will also be able to increase and improve your horseback riding skills and techniques. If you are looking for a true cowboy and western adventure, look no further than the V6 Ranch.
V6 Ranch – Parkfield, CA
The Sweet Grass Ranch in Montana is a fantastic destination to satisfy your “inner cowboy and cowgirl.” Although the ranch does not move cattle every week, they do have specific weeks during their season that they have cattle drives as well as other cowboy work available for guests to participate in. Make sure to talk to the folks at the ranch well in advance to make sure that your stay will include cattle work, and if you are looking for an overnight cattle drive they have an option for that to! The overnight cattle drive usually takes place at the last week of July into the first week of August. Guests are encouraged to verify specific dates for cattle work and the overnight cattle drive when booking their vacation. You don’t want to miss out on these great experiences!
At the Vee Bar Guest Ranch in Wyoming cattle work is a highlight of the week! While horseback riding, fly fishing and the kids’ program are loads of fun, guests really look forward to getting to live the true cowboy lifestyle, even if it is just for a day. While working cattle at the Vee Bar you will get to help the wranglers move cattle from one pasture to another, learn how to help sort off certain cattle as well as doctor any sick cattle. All of the horseback riding and cattle work at the Vee Bar Guest Ranch is adaptable to all levels of experience. You do not have to be an expert rider before you arrive at the ranch; if you think about, cowboys had to be beginner riders before they could become experts!
An authentic “old west” style cattle drive is what you will find at the Burnt Well Guest Ranch in New Mexico. Here you will experience what it was like to live on prairie and in the desert while moving cattle and putting many miles in the saddle. This cattle drive is the duration of a week and happens once a year in the fall. The ranch will supply you with a bedroll, cot, cowboy teepee, horse and tack. All you need to bring is a go-getter attitude, a smile and probably some clothes! Stories, memories and bucket list items are created on this cattle drive and if it is something you have always wanted to do, do not miss your chance! If you are not up for a week-long cattle drive, Burnt Well also has cattle working opportunities included in their all-inclusive packages. Relax at the ranch and enjoy family time while getting to do the several activities available. Work with real cowboys and learn the ways of the west at the Burnt Well Guest Ranch!
Burnt Well Guest Ranch – Roswell, NM
Where there is cow work to be done, guests are welcome to “cowboy” the herd at the Red Reflet Ranch! At this beautiful luxury working cattle dude ranch you will find pristine lodging, Le Cordon Bleu cuisine made from a farm to table program and numerous exhilarating activities to participate in. There are many cattle activities to enjoy, moving the herd with the wranglers, branding and gathering opportunities, checking in on newborn baby calves, sorting cattle and pairing them up as needed. Here, you will get to see what a true working cattle ranch is like and be able to help the on-site cowboys with their herd management duties. The cowboys are a wealth of knowledge and are so willing to teach guests who are willing to learn!
Cowboys and cowgirls will have the opportunity to participate in authentic cattle drives at the Bull Hill Guest Ranch. The cattle drives can range from a half day to a full day in the saddle and they usually take place between the months of May and October. During these months’ guests will have the chance to move cattle to spring grass areas, upper pastures for the summer and in the early fall months they are driven back to the ranch. You do not have to be a cattle expert to go on one of these cattle drives at Bull Hill, but confidence is key! Beautiful scenery, great horses and lots of fun await you on a cattle drive!
Bull Hill Guest Ranch – Kettle Falls, WA
There are many reasons to visit Bonanza Creek Guest Ranch but great riding, trustworthy ranch horses and the thrill of moving cattle are on the top of most people’s lists! While at the ranch you will get to see beautiful mountain scenery, climb the high ridges, ride along Bonanza Creek, lope through open meadows and gather up a herd of cow/calf pairs to move from pasture to pasture. Bonanza Creek is a true working cattle ranch, the cattle along with their guests is their way of life. They value the guests who come in eager and excited to learn about the cattle ranch life and the ways of the cowboy. You will experience other activities as well as great lodging and home cooked meals. Become a Montana cowboy or cowgirl for a week at this wonderful ranch!
Bonanza Creek Guest Ranch – Martinsdale, MT
At the Klondike Ranch you will have the option of how much of a guest you want to be. What does that mean exactly? You can relax and let the crew at the ranch take care of you or you can dive into the hands-on work of a cattle ranch! By the time you leave the ranch you might just be the “handiest” person in your group. At Klondike you will get to enjoy great horseback rides and herd cattle, participate in the ranch hand chores if you please or even go on an overnight camp out at the ranch’s Mountain Cow Camp. You will feel like a true cowboy or cowgirl after spending a vacation at the Klondike Ranch and get to tell all of your friends, co-workers and family that you go the chance to work alongside real Wyoming cowboys!