Horseback Riding Vacations

The Dude Ranchers’ Association recommends the best horseback riding vacations in North America. At one of these carefully selected dude and guest ranches groups will experience equestrian activities and all sorts of outdoor adventures on a short stay of three or four nights, or a full week immersed in a Western trail riding destination. Guests have everything provided for them on all-inclusive stays including lodging, dining and activities. With lodges and cabins preserved and restored from when they were built many decades ago, guests experience riding horses in a uniquely Western environment. It’s no wonder dude ranch vacations have been popular since the early 1900’s! 

At these ranches guests have a horse personally selected for each person’s riding ability and personality. Because horseback riding is a daily or twice daily activity there is an opportunity to get to know the horse on hundreds, if not thousands of acres of trails in the mountains and plains of the slimly populated West. And after guests climb out of the saddle there’s always plenty of options like relaxing by the pool, fly fishing on private lakes and streams, hiking to scenic vistas or rocking their cares away on the porch in a classic rocking chair. 

Here are some of the best riding ranches for your next vacation. 

 

Crossed Sabres Ranch, Cody, Wyoming

All Day Rides on 2.2 Million Acres

For guests looking to cover some ground, the charming Crossed Sabres Ranch is one of the oldest dude ranches in the country located outside of Cody, Wyoming and Yellowstone National Park. This is a family run operation that specializes in custom horseback riding for individuals or groups of up to 30 people. Knowledgeable wranglers take guests out on well trained and trustworthy horses whether they have no experience or years of experience on horses. Each horse is paired specifically for each guest to match not only personality, but also riding ability. The ranch offers lessons for those looking to get individual instruction on riding in a comfortable arena environment. There are short morning and afternoon rides or all-day rides into the Shoshone National Forest’s 2.2 million acres for guests to enjoy truly spectacular scenery. 

Horseback Riding

 

Medicine Bow Lodge, Saratoga, Wyoming

Overnight pack trip in the Medicine Bow National Forest

High up in the Snowy Range of the Rocky Mountains the Medicine Bow Lodge Adventure Guest Ranch offers just what their name implies - adventure. With a very diverse riding program each guest can determine what kind of adventure they would like to have. First time riders will become more and more confident on each ride at their own pace with a personal wrangler. With this instruction and getting to know their trusty steed, the horses will earn the trust of newbie riders throughout the week. Guests who have experience can ride out on fast rides, loping and trotting their way through the mountains of Wyoming. The ranch offers all day rides and even an overnight pack trip in the hills. Kids of all ages have something to do at the ranch as well. Kids 5 and under will be led around the ranch and taught about horse care and ages 6 and up can head out on the trail. Here families can literally ride off into the sunset on the appropriately named Sunset Ride

Horseback Riding

 

Focus Ranch, Slater, Wyoming

Move 1,300 head of yearling cattle 

On the border of Wyoming and Colorado the Focus Ranch is a working cattle ranch, inviting guests to embrace the authenticity of ranch life on their vacation. At this ranch, “cowboy” is both a noun and a verb. Riding here entails managing the health and grazing patterns of the heart and soul of the ranch - cattle. The ranch can adjust the length and speed of rides to accommodate a wide variety of riders, and the work that needs to be done varies throughout the summer. One of their most exciting endeavors for guests is to move the entire herd of 1,300 yearling cattle from one pasture to the next within three days! This happens several times throughout the season. Sometimes, guests enjoy it so much they might hire on to work at the Focus Ranch! 

Horseback Riding

 

Badger Creek Ranch, Canon City, Colorado

Natural Horsemanship is a photographer’s dream

Badger Creek Ranch is located in an area rich in natural beauty and history. This area has been well traversed by the Ute Indians, Spanish Conquistadors, pioneers, miners and cowboys of the old West, but is now occupied by a relatively small number of people. Photographers enjoy secluded trails in the mountains and meadows of Colorado. As a working cattle ranch the guests are also offered a chance to ride out with the cowboy crew to check fence, doctor and sort cattle. Before heading out, guests start their relationship with their horse with ground work following the feel of natural horsemanship and continue in the saddle in a location that can only be described as a photographer’s dream. 

Horseback Riding

 

Nine Quarter Circle Ranch, Gallatin Gateway, Montana

Ranch bred, raised and trained Appaloosas

The Nine Quarter Circle Ranch is not only a premier family destination with luxury log cabins, activities for all ages and very delicious meals, but also an unforgettable horseback riding destination. The ranch boasts a herd of 120 Appaloosa horses that were born and will live their whole lives on the ranch. This is an uncommon feature of a dude ranch to know all the history of every one of their horses. Their select breeding program is a reflection of the Appaloosa breed, chosen for their stamina, sweet temperament and suitability to mountain riding. Every spring a new crop of foals are born on the ranch, and guests enjoy watching the brand-new foals jump and play around the ranch. These horses will eventually be trained and added to their remuda of trail riding horses. 

Horseback Riding

 

Want to know more about a particular type of dude ranch? Take a look at the Dude Ranchers’ Association’s Working Cattle Ranches, Luxury Resort Ranches and Family Style Ranches here

 

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The Dude Ranchers’ Association recommends the best horseback riding vacations in North America. At one of these carefully selected dude and guest ranches groups will experience equestrian activities and all sorts of outdoor adventures on a short stay of three or four nights, or a full week immersed in a Western trail riding destination. Guests have everything provided for them on all-inclusive stays including lodging, dining and activities.

Hollywood Meets the Wild West

Forget Hollywood: many dude ranches have had Hollywood come to them to film some of the most notable classic Western movies ever to hit the big screen over the years.  Take for example, White Stallion Ranch. This family-owned 3,000-acre dude ranch located outside of Tucson, Ariz., has been attracting Hollywood filmmakers to its unspoiled desert and rugged mountain landscape for more than 70 years. Notable Western movies filmed on-site include the 1939 legendary film, “Arizona,” as well as “Winchester 73,” “Apache Ambush” and “Backlash.” And the list doesn’t stop at just Western films. Scenes from “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind” starring George Clooney were filmed on the ranch. The 2007 Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue even used this desert setting for its hugely popular annual photo shoot! 

Another guest ranch known for its movie history is Circle Z Ranch. Also located in Arizona, Circle Z Ranch is the oldest continuously operating guest ranch in the state and has served as the backdrop for movies and TV shows including “Gunsmoke” and John Wayne’s “Red River.”

Most recently, the 2006 movie “Flicka” was filmed at Eaton’s Ranch in Wyoming. Upon arriving to the ranch’s 7,000 acres of beautiful open country with rolling hills, grassy meadows and hidden valleys, you too will see why the setting was perfect for the big screen.  Whether you’re a movie buff looking to visit the settings of some of your favorite movies or searching for a thrilling adventure in an off-the-beaten-path locale, guest ranches provide you with the full on star treatment. Thanks to their warm Western Hospitality and full lineup of daily activities and programing, you’re guaranteed to have the experience of a lifetime…straight out of a Hollywood Western.eatons fall (2)


 

5 Ways the DRA Facilitates Your Travel Planning Experience

We are often asked how The Dude Ranchers Association can help the potential guest with the planning stages of their dude ranch vacation. Below are 5 real ways that either the DRA web site or the DRA office can help in your search. Please feel free to give us a call if you have any questions or need any help.

Customized Searchability The DRA’s advanced search capabilities eliminate the stress of having to research and compare hundreds of ranches individually. With the click of a button, you’re able to refine your search by selecting the activities and amenities on your vacation wish list. Or, if you’re looking for a ranch in a specific geographic area, you can narrow your search by state/province, or even proximity to National Parks.  

One-on-One Guidance Personalized help is important to the DRA both on and off the ranch. If you’re still stumped as to which ranch the best is fit for you, the DRA wants to hear about it. They have a toll-free number staffed with experts that are knowledgeable about each one of their distinct member ranches. They’re available to talk through any and all questions you may have. Warning: they may even offer an unsolicited tip or two!  

Dude Ranch Experts If it’s your first time (on a dude ranch), you’re sure to have a list of questions and concerns about just how this whole guest ranch vacation is going to play out. What should I wear? Do I need to know how to ride before I get there? What kind of food will there be? Will there be plenty for my kids (and me) to do? From riding and ranch offerings, to travel insurance and what to pack, the DRA is your go-to source for dude ranch insider information.  

Get a Second Opinion There’s an entire section on the DRA’s website dedicated to what other people have to say about us! This section features accounts from national and regional travel writers and bloggers who have visited a DRA-accredited ranch to see what it’s all about for themselves, providing you with unbiased, second opinions, and answers to many of the same questions you may have.  

Experience the ‘Best of the West’ The DRA has been preserving, protecting and promoting dude ranches and the Western way of life since it was founded in 1926. All of its member ranches are required to uphold the highest quality and standards within the industry (membership is actually a two-year process!), so you and your family can rest easy knowing that a trip to one of the DRA’s member ranches will be filled with authentic, Western hospitality and the core principles that haven’t changed for nearly a decade: horses, hats, heritage, honesty and heart.

Focus Ranch-Riders on the Mesa

Dude Ranch - The Cure for Nature Deficit Disorder

Richard Louv, child advocate and writer of the bestselling books The Nature Principle and Last Child in the Woods, has coined the term Nature-Deficit Disorder. He explains a growing body of research indicating the lack of nature in today's online generation. This term parallels the lack of nature to the growing trends of childhood obesity, attention disorders and depression. He explains, "Direct exposure to nature is essential for healthy childhood development and for the physical and emotional health of children and adults"(richardlouv.com). At a dude ranch your are guaranteed to get your nature fix and spend the majority of your vacation outdoors in some of the most beautiful locations West of the Mississippi. With three square meals a day planned out carefully by a professional chef, you won't have to worry about feeding your children fast food on the road. Once you know your kids are eating right, what kind of outdoor activities will they be doing all week? There is something for all ages at a guest ranch, balancing quality time together and apart. For the little tikes there is a children's program, equipped with a weeks worth of activities including pony rides, field days, crafts and all sorts of toddler friendly activities. Look at this little girl (pictured left) riding for the first time at the A Bar A Ranch in Wyoming.  

For the kids old enough to go out on trial ride, I’m sure they will team up with the other children and tackle every hill and trail with their new favorite wrangler. Pictured Right is a young cowgirl racing around the barrels in the arena activities at the Tumbling River Ranch in Colorado. The older teens might end up fishing or going on an all day hike, hanging out with the crew and other guests their age. They won't even realize how much time they'll spend in nature, except for the repeated application of sunscreen. A vacation this summer will inspire them to go outdoors and explore. Who knows- when they become of age they might end up working a summer or two for a ranch. No matter how much time you spend at a dude ranch physically and emotionally you and your whole family will leave refreshed and full of memories. If you're seeking a healthy, active outdoor vacation to combat Nature-Deficit Disorder take a look at the following ranches with activities designed with the whole family in mind. R Lazy S Kids Program

R Lazy S Pictured left is the Kid’s Wrangler, Will, jamming to Musical Chairs during Gymkhana. Along with Musical Chairs, they had fun riding horses while balancing an egg on a spoon, a 3-Legged race, and the famous M&M’s hidden in whip cream race. This, followed by a hamburger/hot dog barbecue, makes for a perfect day.  

Cherokee Park The Cherokee Park Ranch is a family owned dude ranch nestled in the beautiful Colorado Rocky Mountains. We cater to families with kids of all ages, horse back riding, river rafting, rodeos, fishing, music, dancing, cow wrangling, swimming, ropes/challenge course, skeet shooting and mountain biking.    

Greenhorn Creek A truly all inclusive guest dude ranch vacation, we provide the perfect location for family vacations, reunions, weddings, corporate and business retreats, meetings, special events, equine guided education and so much more. Still serving up the best hospitality in the west!    

Three Bars Three Bars Guest Ranch The adventure ranch of the Canadian Rockies invites you to experience the ultimate horseback riding vacation. Located just south of Banff National Park, Three Bars Ranch offers the most diverse vacation activities available anywhere. Voted Canada's #1 Dude Ranch in 2012.    

Drowsy Water Winner Tripadvisor Travelers' Choice Awards #1 All Inclusive Vacation. For over 90 years Drowsy Water Ranch has been providing folks from around the world with Western vacations. Under the same owner/management for 35 years, we promise nothing less than real down home hospitality and memories.    

Lone Mountain Endless recreational possibilities at this historic ranch offering horseback riding, hiking, canoeing, mountain biking, fly fishing and Outdoor Youth Adventures just 18 miles from Yellowstone National Park. Cozy, comfortable log cabins with western furnishings.  

Dude Ranches Come With Multi-Sport Family Adventures So You Don’t Have to Create Your Own!

There’s a new term popping up for the action-packed modern family vacation. It’s known as the “multi-sport adventure,” and it calls for multi planning as well. Long before anyone lifts a paddle or laces-up hiking boots they must first create an itinerary calling for frequent stops, hiring a local outfitter, and arranging for suitable food and shelter along the adventure. Linking together the components of the multi-sports adventure can get complicated. But it doesn’t have to be. There’s one vacation category where sports loving families can simply park the car, unpack their bags and settle in for a week of jam-packed action. It’s the Western dude ranch, a place where folks don’t have to think about what comes next. All the details are in place to let the good times roll! Sure, horses and riding are paramount to any Western dude ranch experience, but in addition to riding (or sometimes in place of) they ride the rapids, paddle a canoe, play golf or tennis, hike in the wilderness, cycle the back roads and mountain trails, go caving, hot air ballooning or rock climbing. Many ranches have recently added ropes courses, zip lines, climbing walls and 3 dimensional archery. 

"Another beauty of multi-sporting at a dude ranch is when parents want to take time for themselves, Dad can play a round of golf and Mom can relax with spa treatments.” That’s an apt description for Averill's Flathead Lake Lodge, a 2,000 acre, family operated Montana dude ranch, nestled on a bay on the east shore of Flathead Lake just south of Glacier National Park. Here, guests are just steps away from the largest freshwater lake West of the Mississippi. A waterfront staff leads activities at the main dock daily, including sailing, water skiing, and wake boarding. Instruction for beginners and private lessons are available. The ranch volleyball, tennis, and basketball courts see a lot of action each day as do the horses. Riding can get competitive here as well. There are team penning and barrel racing events all week ending with a family rodeo. And yes, there’s a top-rated Jack Nicklaus Jr. golf-course just minutes away as well as an on-site professional masseuses skilled in therapeutic massages from hot stone to rejuvenating deep tissue.

  Arkansas’s Horseshoe Canyon Ranch is another paradise for families on multi-sport adventures. Tucked into the Buffalo River Wilderness of Northern Arkansas, sporting adventures include “Frisbee” golf, skeet shooting, the state’s longest zip line course, and of course, rock climbing. One of the finest climbing courses in the state was developed on ranch property. The zip-line carries many a thrill seeker moving at breakneck speed above a deep gulch. For some, paddling the Buffalo River, trout fishing, or exploring old Indian caves provides enough action.       

"Glamorous Camping" has come of age at the Bar W Ranch. You get the best of both worlds - being and feeling a part of nature while staying in an elegant setting at the same time. The Bar W offers two luxurious canvas tents decorated Bar W style - simple elegance blended with western informality. Each tent is decked out with a queen size bed, full sized futon, private porch, kitchenette and chic Western décor. Both tents have a private bath located just a couple of feet away. Your glamping experience is nestled in a pasture with wild flowers, a string of horses and all sorts of wildlife right outside. You'll never think of camping the same way again.   As you can see there really is something for everyone at a Multi-Sport Dude Ranch, so what are you waiting for??

Horseshoe-canyon-activities-Rock-Climbing

Cody, Wyoming Dude Ranches

Crossed-Sabres-with-Logo-600x387Yesterday I had the pleasure of getting out of the office to visit Crossed Sabres, a Cody, Wyoming Dude Ranch. We took a drive down the North Fork Highway that leads right to the East Entrance of Yellowstone National Park. We passed the famous Buffalo Bill Damn and the Buffalo Bill Reservoir. There are some good pictures to be taken at these scenic outlooks! At just 10 miles from the East gate we pulled into the Cross Sabres Ranch. This ranch has been there for many, many years, but recently ranch ownership has changed hands. The cabins and facilities enjoyed a fresh coat of paint and care from the new owner Kenny Long. He purchased the ranch a couple of years ago and has done an amazing job restoring much of the ranch. We heartily give him a welcome into the Dude Ranchers Association and wish him and his family the best of luck. Kenny gave us the grand tour of the lodge, cabins and riding facilities, but not before feeding us a home cooked lunch of soup and sandwiches.  I have to say it was delightful and the oatmeal raisin cookies were one of the best ranch cookies I have had. Their lodge is centrally located within the ranch. There is a beautiful great room with a high ceiling and an intimate feel next to the fire place. This room leads up to a game room upstairs. There is a large dining hall and a Western style saloon that opens to the front porch. You can imagine yourself having a drink and watching the kids play off of the porch, learning to rope a calf dummy. You might also sneak away to stroll though the cabins strategically placed around Libby Creek, which meanders through the ranch. Picking out a secluded spot to read a book and letting the sounds of the creek fill your soul would be one the moments guest ranching is famous for. While horseback riding is the main focus for all DRA member dude ranches they do have a fishing guide that is happy to get you all suited up with their on- property Orvis gear and take you out to find that perfect fishing hole.  There is a small archery and BB gun shooting area.  Hiking is endless in the Shoshone National Forest so, as you can see there is something for everyone. On our visit we had the pleasure of hanging out with this guy. He was lying just outside one of the cabins, relaxing in the sunshine.  He is just an example of the diversity of wildlife you can see on your adventures in Yellowstone. After saying good bye to the buffalo and our friends at Cross Sabres we headed back towards town.  On our way we stopped at The Historic UXU Dude Ranch.  The ranch welcomed new managers Ally and Jim and we wanted to introduce ourselves.  They certainly added their personal touches and everything looked great. They are excited to welcome their first guests of the season. The cabins are decorated with beautiful western furniture done in the Moles Worth Style. The wranglers were cutting trails and getting the horses and tack ready for the season. This made for breath taking scenery with cowboys, green pasture and the warm Wyoming sun reflecting off of the North Fork of the Shoshone River. Heading back to town I was filled with thoughts of adventure not only for what these 2 ranches have to offer, but also the trails and sights along the way in the foothills of the Absaroka Mountain Range. I can’t wait to explore the other DRA dude ranches around Cody, Wyoming. Check out the list of the nearby ranches below and imagine the memories to be made at these vacation destinations.  

7D Ranch The 7D Ranch is Cody, Wyoming's premier family guest ranch since 1958. Extensive trail riding in a pristine mountain setting. Fly-fishing with instruction. Supervised children's program. Western cuisine. Hiking from the ranch as well as in the Beartooth Mountains. Weekly trips into Yellowstone NP.       

Hideout Lodge & Guest Ranch The Hideout Lodge & Guest Ranch in Shell, Wyoming, is 300,000-acre working cattle, riding & fly-fishing ranch. This upscale all-inclusive quality ranch is located 60 miles East of Cody, Wyoming & Yellowstone National Park. Limited to around 25 guests per week. Quarter, Paints, Gaited & Mustang horses. 4 languages.       

Rimrock Ranch Rimrock Ranch is nestled on the banks of Canyon Creek, halfway between Cody, Wyoming and the East Entrance of Yellowstone National Park. This dude ranch is family owned and operated since 1955. The week is filled with riding, rafting, rodeo, and an all day tour of Yellowstone. Heated pool, hot tub and fishing pond.    

   

The Western Dude Ranch Rejuvinates & Boosts Health of Each Guest

According to experts, taking a vacation is good for you health. Despite this fact, Americans and Canadians tend to shortchange their vacation time, often leaving earned time on the table or taking a day here and a day there instead of a week or more at one stretch. Since 1926 The Dude Ranchers' Association has shaped and established the highest quality standards in the guest ranch industry. A DRA (as it's known) guest ranch is the epitome of a Western holiday and providing both the time and environment to foster good health.  Surrounded by spectacular beauty, far from the noise and crowds of fast-paced cities, serenity comes easy to each guest. According to the career website, Workopolis, "Psychologists say that it takes five to seven days to de-stress from work, so doing it piecemeal can be counter productive. Most of the studies show people need about two weeks in one block a year to feel the benefits of a vacation."  During summer the majority of DRA guest ranches operate in week-long increments, allowing guests the time to unwind, settle in and savor the experience. In addition to horsemanship, ranches offer activities satisfying the recreational and social needs of each generation. Tennis clinics, mountain biking, rock climbing, zip-lining, bird watching, crafts, hiking, whitewater rafting, and golf; each can be enjoyed during a Western ranch vacation.  Some ranches also offer known stress reducers like yoga, meditation, massages and other soothing spa treatments. Dude ranches are ideal places for kids and families to rec-connect. Without the typical distractions of TV, phones, computers and electronic games, families spend quality time together sometimes just hanging out on the porch swing or sitting around the campfire. There are more than 100 members of The Dude Ranchers' Association in the Western US and Canada. Each is a little bit different but each DRA ranch vacation is the most potent tonic to combat the stress caused by the uncertain times we live in. Check out our web site at www.duderanch.org or e-mail us at info@duderanch.org.  

    7D Ranch Cody, Wyoming Phone: +1 888-587-9885 The 7D Ranch is Wyoming's premier family guest ranch since 1958. Extensive trail riding in a pristine mountain setting. Fly-fishing with instruction. Supervised children's program. Western cuisine. Hiking from the ranch as well as in the Beartooth Mountains. Weekly trips into Yellowstone NP.

 

    A Bar A Ranch Encampment, Wyoming Phone: 307-327-5454 This is a magical place, where generations of families and friends create summer memories together. Ride with a wrangler or on your own, fish 26 miles of private streams, bring your kids to our children's program, swim in our pool and more. We invite you to share in this extraordinary experience.

 

  Bar Lazy J Guest Ranch Parshall, Colorado Phone: +1 800-396-6279 Opened since 1912, BAR LAZY J is considered the oldest continuously operating guest ranch in Colorado. The ranch is located just southwest of Rocky Mountain National Park and nestled in a peaceful valley along the banks of the Colorado River. Recreation and Relaxation is what we offer at Bar Lazy J.

 

  CM Ranch Dubois, Wyoming Phone: +1 800-455-0721 The CM Ranch is a fine dude ranch with a history of providing quality western vacations for over 100 years. The CM offers a variety of outdoor adventures, including horseback riding, fishing, hiking, pack trips, weekly rodeo, cookouts, and more. All ages welcome. Ideal for family reunions.

 

  Diamond D Ranch Stanley, Idaho Phone: 800-222-1269 The Diamond D Ranch is Idaho's premier all-inclusive guest ranch nestled in the Frank Church Wilderness and surrounded by the Salmon River Mountains. We offer several wonderful activities including horseback riding, fly-fishing, hiking, gold panning, swimming, and many evening festivities.Diamond D Cat Post Trail Family

 

    Elk Mountain Ranch Buena Vista, Colorado Phone: +1 800-432-8812 Unique for its spectacular location, horseback rides of unmatched beauty, quality horses, variety of activities, superb menu, intimate capacity and off-the-beaten path charm. Families encouraged to ride and raft together. Adults-only in September. Only 2.5 hrs from Denver Airport.

 

    Hawley Mountain Guest Ranch McLeod, Montana Phone: +1 877-496-7848 Enjoy a Montana ranch vacation in a remote pristine wilderness north of Yellowstone. Small guest capacity and unique activities. Horseback riding; Fly fishing on private frontage along the Boulder River; Jeep ride to ghost town and historic gold mines; Hiking; Scenic raft float; Campfires/cookouts.

 

      Nine Quarter Circle Ranch Gallatin Gateway, Montana Phone: +1 406-995-4276 Adjacent to Yellowstone Park, the Nine Quarter Circle is "magical" thanks to our remote location which provides incredible scenery and excellent riding opportunities. Our family-oriented vacations feature riding for all ages and levels of horsemanship while awesome blue-ribbon fly-fishing can be found on-site and in nearby rivers. Traditional activities such as campfires, cookouts, hayrides and more are a big hit, as are our dedicated kids' programs. And this all comes served with the West's BEST hospitality! Come to the palce where "Time Stands Still", just south of the beautiful resort town of Big Sky and just north of West Yellowstone and Yellowstone Park! Remember to ask about our "Specialty" weeks.

 

    Rimrock Ranch Cody, Wyoming Phone: +1 307-587-3970 Rimrock Ranch is nestled on the banks of Canyon Creek, halfway between Cody and the East Entrance of Yellowstone National Park. Our ranch is family owned and operated since 1955. The week is filled with riding, rafting, rodeo, and all day tour of Yellowstone. Heated pool, hot tub, and fishing pond.

 

    Western Pleasure Guest Ranch Sandpoint, Idaho Phone: +1 888-863-9066 With ranch adventures for families, couples or singles, Western Pleasure Guest Ranch, rich in history and family heritage, is Idaho's most northern ranch. Activities include horseback riding, skeet shooting, cattle sorting, mountain biking, hiking, children's programs, adult only weeks and more.

 

   

At the Heart of every Dude Ranch Vacation is the Horse

 At the heart of every Dude Ranch vacation is the horse. However, novices need not be overwhelmed with visions of straight backs, dress coats and bouncing up and down on tiny saddles, the whole ethos of Western riding is based on comfort and control. Those old time cowboys would be on the go all day and Western saddles reflect this being higher in the back, with pommels in the front and wide long stirrups. The horses are also schooled to stop, go and turn with the minimum of effort which basically means you do not need to be an Olympic standard equestrian to enjoy this style of vacation. Equally, those with riding experience are more than well catered for as one guest explains, ‘having horses of my own and riding on regular basis for the past 30 years I thought I would find the riding a little regimented and more geared to just the beginner rider. Well was I wrong! They truly can accommodate any riding level from the most inexperienced to the most experienced.’ Furthermore , ‘the wranglers at Dude Ranches are some of the most well rounded, diverse people I have ever been around,’ she laughs. ‘You may get a kid who grew up on a cattle ranch working cows since he was four, or a kid that just graduated from Cornell and was on the polo team, and everything in between. The one thing they all have in common is their love of horses and people.’ 

With the vast array of different experiences on offer, the Dude Ranch experience can be pretty much tailor-made. Further considerations therefore must also be given to the type of environment you want to ride in, i.e. meadows, mountains or prairies (as this will dictate the geographical location) the type of riding you would like to do and the level of comfort of the ranch itself. Accommodation is a lot simpler to choose from and basically consists of three different types. A working ranch, which will let you experience some real cowboy activities rounding up livestock, a Classic Dude Ranch which again will emphasis the riding but is usually combined with outdoor activities and last but not least, the resort Dude Ranch where western riding is obviously a feature, but also offer a diverse selection of activities and onsite facilities.

DRA ranches offer excellent diversification of accommodation, terrain and conditions. Where the Rocky Mountains meet the high plains providing breathtaking backdrops for your adventure on horseback. From the world famous Yellowstone and Grand Tetons national parks with their steaming geysers, stunning waterfalls and deep canyons. DRA ranches offer a choice ranging from the rustic to the luxurious with a range of activities both on horseback and off, as diverse as the stunning landscape.   

Guest expectations may have changed  over the years and ranchers have had to change with them, but the core principles and foundation of every Dude Ranch remain the same HORSES, HATS,HISTORY, HEART, HONESTY  and HOSPITALITY. There is a little cowboy in all of us come find yours at DRA Dude Ranch.  

Lone Mountain Cowgirl Loping Dusty Adventure

Dude and Guest Ranches: The Affordable Family Vacation

 Have you ever dreamed of going to a place where you can experience the beauty of the outdoors and leave “real life” behind? Do you dream of an affordable family vacation destination where you can take the whole family and feel confident that there will be something that appeals to everyone? You need not look any further than then a Dude Ranch Vacation. Many people have this dream but are often under the assumption that a unique Dude Ranch getaway for the whole gang is too expensive and not doable. Another misconceived notion is that all-inclusive Dude Ranch vacations often have hidden fees and that paying for items a la carte is a more affordable option. While that may be the case for some vacation options, you can rest assured that an all-inclusive stay at a DRA-accredited  Dude or Guest ranch is truly all-inclusive, and there are no hidden fees. At a dude or Guest  ranch, everything is included in the rate so you know exactly what you are going to pay for upfront and can plan your budget accordingly. There are never any additional charges for valet parking or resort fees. Plus, the forests and deserts these ranches are located in never charge you for the beauty that will surround you. The fresh air and the joyful noises of nature are priceless.     Following is a cost comparison between what an average Dude Ranchers' Association Dude Ranch and Guest ranch  might cost for a week for a family of four (not including airfare, taxes and gratuity) and an a la carte trip where the same family would take part in all of the same activities:  DRA Ranch 

  • Lodging  - Included
  • Meals - Included
  • Horseback Riding (everyday) -  Included
  • River Rafting - Included
  • Rodeo -  Included
  • National Park Trip/Tour  - Included
  • Evening Entertainment -  Included
  • Car Rental/Gas -  N/A

Total Average Cost: $8800.00 A La Carte

  • Lodging  - $2500
  • Meals  - $2200
  • Horseback Riding  - $2000
  • River Rafting  - $600
  • Rodeo -  $300
  • National Parks Tour  - $620
  • Evening Entertainment  - $800
  • Car Rental - $1500

Total Average Cost: $10520.00 As you can see, you can make your dream a reality with a dude ranch vacation! In addition to the budget-friendly price tag, dude ranches offer much more. There is such a wide variety of activities  there will be something the kids, parents and grandparents will enjoy. And with all activities happening on the ranch property, you don’t have to worry about getting lost or arranging transportation. The atmosphere is also hard to beat as you can’t put a price on the personal interaction and sense of family you feel at a  Dude  or Guest ranch. Many guests will leave the ranch at the end of their stay having made lifelong friends with the owners, staff or even other guests. I have heard stories of several families that met on a ranch vacation years ago and continue to see each other once a year on that annual trip to what many families consider to be their second home. Dude ranches pride themselves on going the extra mile to make their guests feel special which is why over 60% of all dude ranch guests are repeat customers. So the next time you are planning a vacation consider the value of a dude ranch and the memories that you will take home that will last a lifetime.  

Culinary Chic at Dude and Guest Ranches

With food tourism being one of the fastest growing sectors in travel and one of the biggest travel trends of 2013, I want to talk about a vacation many foodies may not consider, but would be pleasantly surprised with a dude or guest ranch vacation.   You are probably thinking “culinary chic at a dude ranch?”  And I am here to tell you yes, as a stay at a DRA guest ranch is sure to take your taste buds on a culinary adventure. Below is a list of  the “Top 5 Culinary Facts You Wouldn’t Expect at a Dude Ranch,” as well as a few highlighted ranches where you are sure to experience flavorful, savory cuisine crafted using fresh, high-quality ingredients morning, noon and night.   

1). Renowned Chefs When some people think of a dude ranch vacation they picture a guy named Cookie whipping up bacon and beans in the sagebrush. In reality, guest ranches are home to many award winning and experienced chef’s such as Chef Mike Rosenberg at Zapata Ranch who has been a  personal chef to the Carnegie family, catered JFK Jr.'s wedding, owned his own restaurant and brings over 40 years of experience to the table.  

2). Farm to table Many DRA dude ranches grow, raise and serve their own produce and meats and items that cannot be reaped from their own land are sourced locally. Take High Lonesome Ranch which in many instances raises the meat right on the ranch. Their eggs are fresh from their chickens and ranch’s signature Black Angus beef graces the menu when the timing and aging process is complete. As for produce, the ranch’s gardens and orchards enjoy ideal conditions for growing apricots, apples, peaches, pears and plums as well as an abundance of vegetables like corn, peppers, lettuces, cucumbers, squash, beans, peas, carrots, radishes, pumpkins and onions.

3). Recognized Globally Besides having a wide breadth of talented and innovated chefs, the creations they serve have been praised globally such as The Home Ranch which is a member of the prestigious Relais & Chateaux and has been recognized by Bon Apetit, Gourmet, Food and Wine, among others.    

4). Exceptional Wine Lists A culinary exploration wouldn’t be complete without wine pairings and dude ranches have you covered there too. Smith Fork Ranch has won the Wine Spectator’s Award for Excellence two years in a row and has assembled an eclectic wine mix. Ranging from wines from their private cellar, specific vintages from wineries they admire and wines from the premiere growing regions of France, Italy, Australia and America's West Coast.    

5). Cooking Classes/Workshops Besides enjoying delicious food, many dude ranches encourage you to learn about the food as well. At Echo Valley Ranch & Spa, one of the best seats in the house is at the kitchen counter where their Master Chef provides ranch resort guests with cooking demonstrations, tips and techniques.  There is also the opportunity to explore the concepts of Eating Right for Your Blood Type - a healthful way of eating that promotes overall good health including good digestion, cholesterol counts, weight loss and more.  

 

Lone Mountain Culinary Food Steak

Beat the Winter Blues with a Getaway to a Southwestern Dude Ranch

Dreaming of warmth, sunshine and adventure? Leave the cold and dreary weather at home and embark on the original all-inclusive vacation at a   Southwestern dude ranch located in Arizona or New Mexico  There is a broad spectrum of DRA-accredited guest ranches across North America, ranging from rustic, no-frills working ranches to luxury resort-style ranches. From valleys complete with untouched Rocky Mountain backdrops to desert sunsets across the Southwest, you can find DRA-accredited ranches throughout the Western U.S., as well as in California, Arkansas and Canada. Flying E Barn Gather

If you’re dreaming of a warm vacation destination this season, the DRA can help plan the perfect winter escape to a Southwestern dude ranch where activities include horseback riding, swimming, fishing, nature walks, whitewater rafting and much more. If you’re looking for a luxury dude ranch experience, Arizona’s dude ranches might be the perfect fit. The breathtaking backdrop of extraordinary landscapes like the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley and The Painted Desert is just the start to a memorable vacation.

Tanque Verde Ranch, located just east of Tucson, is one of the premier all-inclusive dude ranch resorts in the country. You will find the perfect blend of Western adventure, solitude and luxury amenities to make your vacation unforgettable. Or escape to the warm heart of the Southwest at Rancho de los Caballeros.  This resort has the soul of a bed and breakfast offering full resort amenities and privacy, yet with the charm and intimacy of yesteryear. Additional ranches in Arizona that offer a wide range of activities and amenities include Circle Z Ranch, Elkhorn Ranch,  Ranch, Flying E Dude Ranch and White Stallion Ranch     

To experience the true cowboy life, select one of New Mexico’s dude ranches where evidence of the American Old West is visible at every turn. Explore the outlaw trails of Billy the Kid, Butch Cassidy, and the Sundance Kid on horseback or head into the canyons that sheltered the great Apache warrior Geronimo in the 1800s. Geronimo Trail Guest Ranch is perfect for an “Old West” family adventure. This ranch is located in the untouched Gila National Forest of Southwestern New Mexico and offers a relaxed and personal atmosphere. New Mexico is also home to Burnt Well Ranch, a small family owned cattle and sheep ranch located in Southeastern New Mexico. Burnt Well Ranch is another great ranch to visit in the winter due to its mild winter temperatures ranging in the 60’s. As you can see there are plenty of options so let us help you find the perfect ranch for your winter getawy.  

Live the American Dream Vacation at the West’s Best Dude Ranches

At the more than 100 dude ranches that make up The Dude Ranchers’ Association, guests are sure to find the All-American Western vacation they have been dreaming of—days spent in the saddle, enjoying stunning scenery and breathing fresh country air, and evenings enjoying tasty down-home cooking and ranch entertainment. Today, as it did over a century ago, the western dude ranch experience offers relief for both the body and spirit of those seeking refuge from the pressures and routine of modern life. Dude ranch vacations are based on a lifestyle that stretches back more than a century. By the end of the 1800s, most of the American West had been explored and the stories of its natural wonders had spread throughout the Eastern portion of the country as well as Europe. Lured by the promise of awesome beauty, a spirit of romance and adventure, and the honest simplicity of the western way of life, travelers headed west in search of a respite from the crowded, noisy squalor of fast-paced cities. Most dude ranch guests are looking for that same experience today—a chance to rejuvenate their souls and refresh their spirits. And with the impressive array of activities found at these dude ranches, everyone—Mom, Dad, kids, grandparents, couples or singles—can find something that interests them. Dude ranches are ideal places for kids and families to re-discover each other. Without the typical distractions of TV, phones, computers and electronic games, families spend time together, riding, hiking, playing games or simply talking. And while dude ranches are a popular destination for families, couples, singles and groups of all types love this unique traveling option as well. Most ranches offer a wide variety of activities such as horseback riding, fly fishing, river rafting, swimming pools, children’s programs, cattle drives, cookouts, line dancing and plain relaxing on the porch swing, so everyone in a group is sure to find something that appeals to them. And since the cooking, cleaning and planning is all taken care of, everyone enjoys a true vacation.

Since 1926 The Dude Ranchers’ Association has been helping folks find quality ranch vacations by establishing and enforcing high standards for its members. Dude ranches applying for membership go through a rigorous two-year inspection and approval process, including a close review of their application, a review of references from former guests, an appearance before the board of directors and on-site inspections during actual dude ranch operations. Typically, only 70% of the ranches that apply meet the high standards of the Association. When guests book a vacation at a Dude Ranchers’ Association member ranch, they can be assured that it is actually a ranch and not just a hotel with horses. The Dude Ranchers’ Association’s original membership of 35 ranches from the Yellowstone area has now grown to 100-plus member ranches in 12 western states and Canada. In spite of this growth, the Association today remains dedicated to preserving the beauty, natural resources, and the original western ranch experiences that attracted the first visitors. For more information about the unique experience of a dude ranch vacation or to request a brochure, call 1-866-399-2339 or visit www.duderanch.org.

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A Dude Ranch Vacation is a Lot More Fun Than You Might Believe

Tumbling River Ranch Teens Barrel RacingChicago Parent By Andrea Guthmann Monday, June 10, 2013 This isn't my first rodeo. Well, actually it is. Maybe that's why I'm having so much fun living out my cowgirl fantasy on our family's dude ranch vacation! Prime rib, Caesar salad, shrimp and a dessert table? Whatever happened to franks-n-beans? Apparently, they're long gone, like much of what I expected to find at a dude ranch. Thankfully, some of the iconic images are still here. There's a lot of horseback riding, as well as an occasional old-fashioned chuckwagon cookout, complete with a country-western crooner and cowboy doing incredible rope tricks. But you'll also get to indulge in spa treatments, a luxurious pool, wine tastings and cooking lessons.  (read more)

Experience the Outdoors on a Pack Trip!

Have you ever dreamt of horseback riding for miles in wide open spaces? Then a pack trip might be the perfect adventure for you!  Pack trips allow you to experience amazing landscapes, wildlife and pristine fishing waters that you can only get to from the back of a horse.  Most dude ranch pack trips can be customized and tend to include guides and staff that take care of all of the details for you including camp set up and cooking.  The trips tend to range from 3 days to 10 or more and can be designed around novice riders as well as those with more experience.  Please check out The Dude Ranchers’ Association ranches below for more information  or call us here at the office at 866-399-2339.

 

 7D Ranch

Cody, Wyoming Phone: +1 888-587-9885        

Absaroka Ranch

Dubois, Wyoming Phone: +1 307-455-2275    

Broken Arrow Lodge and Outfitters Alder, Montana Phone: +1 406-842-5437        

CM Ranch Dubois, Wyoming Phone: +1 800-455-0721      

Covered Wagon Ranch Gallatin Gateway, Montana Phone: +1 800-995-4237                

Diamond D Ranch Stanley, Idaho Phone: 800-222-1269        

JJJ Wilderness Ranch Augusta, Montana Phone: +1 406-562-3653        

Paradise Guest Ranch Buffalo, Wyoming Phone: +1 307-684-7876      

Seven Lazy P Guest Ranch Choteau, Montana Phone: +1 406-466-2044      

T Cross Ranch Dubois, Wyoming Phone: +1 307-455-2206        

Triangle X Ranch Moose, Wyoming Phone: +1 307-733-2183      

Dude Ranchers' Association Holidays

CODY, Wyo.- This holiday season travelers are trading stress for spurs while enjoying all-inclusive dude ranch stays. Everything from decorations and activities to cooking and cleaning are taken care of so guests can kick back by the fire or tackle new adventures. The Dude Ranchers Association can help travelers choose a ranch based on location, amenities, activities, and riding style. A few ideas to help get in the holiday spirit: Vista-Verde-Snow-Trail-Ride-Family-Square

Flying E Ranch in Arizona brings families together for a good old fashioned cowboy Christmas complete with making ornaments for the tree, caroling by the fire, and a Christmas morning breakfast ride. Families can find holiday luxury including their own personal Christmas tree, Santa arriving by horse-drawn sleigh, gourmet Christmas dinner, and lots of snowy adventures at Colorado’s C Lazy U Ranch.

Couples looking for a romantic escape have warm and cold holiday options. At Arizona’s Rancho de la Osa, couples can sip margaritas in the historic Cantina, horseback ride through the peaceful Sonoran Desert, and indulge in a southwestern turkey feast.

A snowy option in British Columbia is Echo Valley Guest Ranch’s Winter Getaway complete with mulled wine, cross country skiing, ice fishing, Thai yoga, spa treatments, and more. Want to give the gift of a stress-free holiday season? Gift certificates are available at some ranches such as Sundance Trail Guest Ranch in Colorado and The Lodge and Spa at Brush Creek Ranch in Wyoming.

Learn more about ranch holidays by visiting the Dude Ranchers Association website www.duderanch.org.

 

Luxury Dude Ranch Vacations

Interested in "roughing it" in style? Don't want to sacrifice comfort while communing with nature? Here's what to expect on a luxury dude ranch vacation.

by Darley Newman of www.equitrekking.com If camping out under the stars isn't your thing, but you like to ride horses or want a very comfortable ranch vacation, a luxury dude ranch vacation might be a good fit for you. After researching upscale ranch holidays across the United States and Canada, I came up with answers to some common questions travelers may have about what type of vacation they'll experience at one of these luxury ranches and some fun photos from ranches that you might want to choose.

Home Ranch, Colorado One of the biggest modern luxuries for riders who visit Home Ranch in Colorado is the million acres of Rocky Mountain Wilderness.

What are the accommodations like at a luxury dude ranch? As in with any upscale vacation, accommodations vary, but many luxury dude ranches offer beautiful Western decor. You may recline on handmade log furniture. You may be staying in your own cabin, an elegantly furnished log structure or entire ranch style home with grand stone fireplaces, a hot tub and fully stocked bar.

Siwash Lake RanchAt BC's Siwash Lake Ranch, suites and luxury tents have plush linens, private baths, balconies and beautiful lake and wilderness views.

Other ranches help you feel closer to nature in plush tents–– tents that you won't be pitching yourself. Many are constructed on wooden floors and have en suite bathrooms, art decorating the walls, and even electricity.

Home Ranch accommodations Adobe-style log beams, Native American rugs, and king beds with down comforters decorate rooms at Home Ranch

How much does a luxury ranch vacation cost? Riding vacations in general can be economical, which surprises many people when they think about how expensive it is to keep a horse! Ranch vacations average from around $1000 or $2000 per person for an all-inclusive week to around $3500. Considering that this includes all riding, meals, accommodations and sometimes transportation, this can be a good deal. Another advantage of many ranch and riding vacations is that you can know your budget well ahead of time. Luxury ranch vacations that I came across ranged from $250 a night per person double occupancy to $7,500 and more. The sky is the limit, as are the perks! What are some fun perks those prices include on luxury dude ranch holidays? Your vacation package may include private guides for hiking, fly-fishing or horse riding, golf, gourmet meals, dinner shows, fitness centers, indoor riding arenas, hot tubs, personal chefs, spa time and private cabins with fully stocked bars.

Rancho de los Caballeros Rancho de los Caballeros in Arizona offers Home Sweet Home Milk Baths, brown sugar scrubs and peppermint essential oil body wraps. 

For instance at Home Ranch in Colorado, food is a major focus. Dinner may consist of pan-seared quail stuffed with dates and prosciutto topped with a demi-glace and Maytag bleu cheese crumbles over soft polenta with manchego cheese and asparagus or crispy seared Alaskan halibut with braised spinach, wild rice pilaf and glazed baby carrots. Is your mouth watering yet? At Vista Verde Ranch, a Colorado luxury ranch resort, an Executive Chef hosts a hands-on cooking classes and wine tastings. House wines, beer and a variety of sodas are included in your stay.

Vista Verde Ranch Vista Verde Ranch hosts formal multi-course dinners to delight ranch "foodies."

For more information on Dude Ranch vacations please visit www.duderanch.org or call The Dude Ranchers' Association at 866-399-2339.

How to Select the Perfect Ranch for Your Dude Ranch Vacation

Now is the time to start planning your next Dude Ranch Vacation!  We thought it might be helpful to provide some information on how to find the perfect ranch for you.  Everyone has different ideas and visions on what that ideal ranch vacation should be like, so here are some suggestions to help you weed your way through all of the options.  While you are on your quest for that ultimate ranch experience, don't hesitate to call us here at the office for help!  We would love to talk to you!  You can reach us at 1-866-399-2339 or 1-307-587-2339.

McGinnis Meadows Cattle Drive

How do you choose the ranch to match your dreams? Riding should be your first consideration - choose the riding environment that appeals to you; open meadows, prairies, mountain trails or southwestern desert. The location of the ranch determines the terrain.

Then, choose the type of riding you'd like; working livestock, cattle drives, pack trips, team penning and arena games or daily trail rides. All ranches fall into one of the following categories - which will help you make the best choice:

  • WORKING DUDE RANCH These are working cattle or sheep operations. Your horseback riding adventures will be determined by the ranch's livestock and the work related to them. Be prepared to experience these activities first hand.
  • DUDE RANCH Horseback riding is central to these ranches. The cowboy in you will experience Western riding and a variety of outdoor activities.
  • RESORT DUDE RANCH Horseback riding is featured, and these ranches offer an array of diverse activities and onsite facilities. These are apt to be the larger ranches.

Your next consideration should be the time of year - typically, the ranches in the northern states (and cooler climates) are the busiest in the summer months, while the southern ranches offer warm weather riding in the winter months.

The number of guests that a ranch can host will also be something to think about - a stay at a ranch with only eight guests is a dramatically different experience than choosing a ranch that serves eighty or one hundred guests. The difference is most noticeable in the dining and social experiences.

Your accommodations are also an important consideration - ranch atmospheres range from rustic to luxurious, and everything in between. Ranches are always extremely clean and comfortable, but if you need hair dryers, TV's, Jacuzzi tubs, a daily massage and wireless Internet to make your dream vacation, just choose your ranch accordingly. With over one hundred unique ranches in the Association, we have one to match your dreams - perfectly. As you narrow your choices down to a couple ranches, call and explain to them what's most important to you - they'll help you make the best choice.  Choose a Dude Ranchers' Association ranch and Ride The West with The Best!

Where will I Stay, What will I Eat and What will I do at a Dude Ranch?

  A Dude Ranch Vacation is all about YOU the guest. All member ranches of The Dude Ranchers’ Association are committed to making sure you have the vacation of a life time. With our warm western hospitality, our outstanding horses, great food, accommodations and our spectacular locations, we guarantee a vacation you and your loved ones will not soon forget.. Come experience the Original Western Vacation at its Best.  

Where will I Stay?4ur Food

Imagine yourself sitting in a big overstuffed chair with your favorite book by a crackling fire. Now, imagine glancing out the big picture window to a view that simply takes your breath away. No noisy streets, no high-rise buildings, just you, your book and that spectacular view. Dude Ranch accommodations will vary from ranch to ranch from luxurious to elegant rustic to Cowboy Chic. Whether you are staying in your own private cabin or in a lodge room, rest assured you will be sleeping on comfortable beds, in superbly kept rooms with all the amenities you will need.

What will I Eat?

You will discover that dining at a dude ranch will be one of the most memorable parts of your vacation. Whether you are dining around a camp fire, under the stars, enjoining a pool side barbecue or sitting at an elegant candlelit table, the food is simply amazing. The fare will range from home-style cooking to the finest western cuisine you will find anywhere. Ranches offer freshly baked pastries and breads, fresh fruits and vegetables (often grown right on the ranch) and some of the most delectable desserts you have ever imagined. Your dining experience is truly one of our highest priorities; special dietary needs are always accommodated upon request.    

What Will I Do? 

The pace at all dude ranches can be as leisurely or as active as you would like it to be. While unlimited Horseback riding is the main focus of all DRA ranches the other activities you can experience are endless. Hiking in National Parks and forests, white water rafting, world class fly fishing on private waters, overnight pack trips, trap shooting, golf, children’s programs, evening entertainment, cattle work and much, much more….There really is something for everyone.  

Area Attractions:

Many of our ranches are located next to National Parks, National Forests and monuments. Many are located on or near rivers and lakes all having world class fishing. Some of the many activities included are of course world class horseback riding and fishing, white water rafting, hiking, trap shooting, children’s programs, cattle work, evening entertainment, campfires, star gazing, bird watching and overnight camp trips just to name a few.

Dude Ranch Vacations Five things to know before you go

April 4th, 2011 | by Jamie Pearson

1. Find the right ranch I know you wish the ranch fairy would fly down and just tell you which ranch is perfect for your family.  I wished that too, but it didn’t happen.  So I made a list of all the things we wanted (not too many guests at a time, a high staff to guest ratio, riding clinics at no extra cost, luxury accommodations, and river rafting), and then researched until I was cross eyed. After talking to some horsey friends and Googling myself silly, I chose Vista Verde Ranch in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.   If you don’t know a working ranch from a guest ranch and have no idea what you’re looking for in terms of amenities, I highly recommend you start with The Dude Rancher’s Association website. Knowing your family helps.  If you have shy kids, don’t choose a ranch with mandatory separate kid and adult activities every day.  If you don’t care about anything but riding, don’t pay extra for activities you won’t try. Vista-Verde-Drive-Cattle

2. Book the right week Once you’ve decided on a ranch, the next step is choosing a week to book.  Weather is obviously a consideration and holiday weeks (such as July 4th) may cost more.  We went the third week in July and were lucky to be able to participate in a cattle drive.  Had we gone in June, it would have been too wet and boggy. Also, call the ranch and ask who has already booked the week you’re considering.  Ideally you want there to be kids your kids’ ages.  I’d also recommend avoiding weeks with big family reunions—these groups tend to be very self-contained, which limits socializing opportunities.

3.  Bring a sports bra I won’t go into too much detail on this one, but suffice it to say there’s a lot of trotting and galloping at dude ranches.  Hours and hours of trotting and galloping, in fact.  And running around with your kids.  And mountain biking.  And rock climbing.  You get the point.

4.  Pack more clothes than you think you’ll need I travel extensively, often, and all over the place with my kids and I flatter myself that I know how to pack.  I could have done a lot better on our dude ranch vacation, however.  Every time we stepped outside the door of our cabin, we got really, really dirty.  My husband and I could have used another two or three outfits each.  The kids were so perpetually filthy (and happy) that I’m not sure that would have helped. Dinners were casual, but I wished I had cuter clothes.  Not to mention clothes that weren’t covered in dust and horse slobber.  Laundry service was convenient and inexpensive, but I wasn’t willing to part with my favorite jeans to have them washed. If you choose a ranch in Colorado, throw in a rain jacket for everyone too.  It rained briefly (or threatened to) nearly every afternoon.  

5. Don’t expect to relax too much There are so many exciting things to do at dude ranches that it can be hard to relax.  I wasn’t able to just sit down with a book and read because I felt like I’d be missing something fun.  Worse, I felt like I’d be paying to miss something fun. If you’re the kind of person who prefers to lounge around a pool or on a beach doing nothing for seven consecutive days, this might not be the right vacation for you.  There are evening activities too, like campfires, rodeos, and barn dances, so you won’t go to bed early very often.  Even the kids got a little worn out by the end of the week.

 

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