Experience the Real Old West at a Working Cattle Dude Ranch

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 10 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! 

Working Cattle Dude Ranch Vacation

Working Cattle Dude Ranch

Vee Bar Guest Ranch - Laramie, WY

Hidden Hollow Hideaway Cattle and Guest Ranch – Montana

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!

V6 Ranch – California 

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. 

Working Cattle Dude Ranch

V6 Ranch - Parkfield, CA

Sweet Grass Ranch – Montana

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! 

Vee Bar Guest Ranch – Wyoming

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! 

Burnt Well Guest Ranch – New Mexico 

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! 

Working Cattle Dude Ranch

Burnt Well Guest Ranch - Roswell, NM

Red Reflet Guest Ranch – Wyoming

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! 

Bull Hill Guest Ranch – Washington

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! 

Working Cattle Dude Ranch

Working Cattle Dude Ranch

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bull Hill Guest Ranch - Kettle Falls, WA

Focus Ranch – Wyoming

At the Focus Ranch, located on the Wyoming and Colorado border, guests are invited to participate in the day-to-day operations of the ranch. Although the ranch does have other activities such as fly fishing, hiking and photography opportunities, the main focus of the ranch is horseback riding and cattle. Taking care of their horses and cattle is their main priority and the folks at the ranch truly enjoy getting to teach people and watch them learn the ways of the “real west.” There is an art to working cattle and at the Focus Ranch you will learn the ropes and get to put your skills to the test. This is the real deal! 

Bonanza Creek Guest Ranch – Montana

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! 

Working Cattle Dude Ranch

Working Cattle Dude Ranch

 

Bonanza Creek Guest Ranch - Martinsdale, MT

Klondike Ranch – Wyoming

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!

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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.

 

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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.

5 Great Working Cattle Ranch Vacations in the West

Working cattle ranch vacations with the Dude Ranchers’ Association offer guests a taste of what life is like on a real cattle ranch. Here, you’ll be a cowboy yourself for the week - riding horses, checking cattle, participating in cattle drives. You'll be sleeping in comfortable bunk house cabins after a traditional day of ranch life. Day to day activities is in part dependent on the season and what needs to be done at that moment to care for the livestock. You'll need to ask your host about the work and riding agenda during your stay.

Working cattle ranches tend to accommodate smaller guest numbers (less than 20 people) to ensure individually tailored experiences. You will get to know each rancher personally and learn about the history of the ranch, cattle production local to the area and so much more. Take a look at the experiences offered by the ranches below. They are five of the best working cattle ranches across the West.

 

5 of the Best Working Cattle Ranch Vacations

 

bonanza-cattle-lodge Working Cattle Ranch Vacations

 

Bonanza Creek Ranch, Montana

If you want to go to a ranch with a history with wild herds of buffalo and roaming Native Americans you'll be amazed at the stories of  a homestead from 1877 in South Central Montana. This ranch is now known as the Bonanza Creek Guest Ranch and welcomes guests all summer to take part in riding, cattle work and genuine western hospitality. The ranch features specailty weeks tailored to your interests. They offer adult only weeks, intermediate and advanced rider weeks, weeks for families, and life coaching cowgirl retreats.

 

 

Focus Ranch  Kids Cattle Drive Working Cattle Ranch Vacations

 

Focus Ranch, Wyoming

On the border of Wyoming and Colorado lies Focus Ranch, a working cattle ranch vacation for the entire family. Grandparents, aunts and uncles love bringing kids to experience life on the ranch for uncomplicated fun with a little added education. Riding at the ranch generates the most enthusiasm and is characterized as cross country rather than riding on a trail. Every 5 to 10 days the ranch moves 1,300 head of cattle to a new pasture and you and your family are invited to help with the work.

 

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Klondike Ranch, Wyoming

Sleep under the stars on a cattle drive and an overnight campout in the Big Horn Mountains at the Klondike Ranch. At 15 miles from camp you'll get to ride in the mountains searching for cattle as a real cowboy. Here, you may arrive a stranger but you'll leave as family. 

 

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McGarry Ranches, Idaho

You'll want your best pair of wrangler jeans and most comfortable cowboy boots to be equipped for 55,000 acres at McGarry Ranches on the Rocky Mountain Range in Southeastern Idaho. The ranch's lifelong cowboy Theron McGarry will get you saddled up and ready to ride on the day to day cattle operations. As a fourth generation rancher, you'll have a professional guide to calving, doctoring, branding, gathering and the bi-annual cattle drive between the mountains and the ranch.

 

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McGinnis Meadows Ranch, Montana

Experience a well-rounded horseback riding program centered on what the horses can do with cattle at the McGinnis Meadows Ranch in the Northwest corner of Montana. With about 15 guests per week, your hosts will get to know you, work with you individually and tailor each day to you. You'll leave this ranch a better rider and wanting "more."

 

For more information on the best working cattle ranch vacations visit our blog category - Cattle Drives & Cattle Work

 

Working Cattle Ranch Vacations

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Namaste on the Ranch

Whereas it used to be a time to simply kick back and relax, many of today’s travelers are using vacations as a time to continue their normal health and fitness routines, or perhaps even try something new. Yoga, in particular, has never been more popular: since 2012, the number of practitioners in the U.S. has increased by 50 percent to over 36 million. More and more people are realizing the benefits of yoga, which range from stress relief to flexibility to overall well-being. Whether you are one of the 80 Americans that say they are likely to try yoga for the first time in the coming months, or if you have been getting your ‘ namaste ’ on for quite some time, you may want to consider planning a vacation to a dude or guest ranch offering innovative and unique yoga-based programs. Below please find a sampling of five ranches accredited by the Dude Ranchers' Association (DRA) that provide guests with a special haven to discover new yoga traditions and find their Zen.

Revive and Ride. Find the inner Zen you have been craving at Mountain Sky Guest Ranch in Emigrant, Mont. Re-energize your mind, body and soul with the ranch’s Yoga Program, offered to all ages and levels of experience. Morning sessions encourage the awakening and energizing of the body and mind in preparation for a full day of activities, while afternoon sessions are restorative and focus on stretching and relaxation. In addition to the variety of outdoor activities available at the ranch, guests can relax in a heated pool, outdoor hot tub and sauna and can also take full advantage of a variety of massage services. Each therapist offers a specific approach, from hot river rocks and salt scrubs to stretching sessions and therapeutic massages.

Stretch, Relax, Ride, Repeat. Zapata Ranch is inviting guests to experience the ranch like never before during its first ever yoga retreat. Connect with the diverse surroundings of the ranch – which include high desert grasslands, alpine forests, wetlands, sand dunes, creeks and lush meadows – through daily yoga sessions and exploratory hikes and horseback rides. Zapata Ranch is located on the eastern wall of the San Luis Valley in Mosca, Colo., and borders the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. It is owned by The Nature Conservancy and has one of the most scenic and ecologically diverse landscapes in the country. The Yoga and Ranch Retreat takes place in April.

Hope, Courage and Healing. Horses N Courage, located in “Big Sky Country” in Sawmill Canyon of Lennep, Mont., has created a Hope, Courage and Healing Retreat, exclusively targeted to women of all ages. The retreat aims to bring together like-minded women who are eager to rediscover themselves through horseback riding, trailing cattle, exploring wildlife and bonding with one another. It includes wall-tent accommodations, ranch-style cooked meals, beautiful scenery, horseback riding, plenty of chances to see wildlife, and even a natural hot spring spa. Hope, Courage and Healing takes place for four days and three nights in July.

Om on the Range. Focus Ranch, located in the Rocky Mountains of Slater, Colo., invites guests to partake in a tranquil combination of riding their horse and riding their breath while riding the range with Yogi Martha McPherson. Martha guides participants in the pleasure of uniting breath and body in the art of yoga. Guests can also participate in some of the ranch’s other offerings like hiking, birding and fly-fishing. Focus Ranch is a traditional working cattle ranch known for its horseback riding, cattle and pristine setting. Om on the Range takes place each August, giving guests the opportunity to experience the changing of the seasons, which comes early at the 7000 ft. elevation.

Discover Your Zen. Grab your girlfriends and head to Clark, Colo., to disconnect from reality and reconnect with each other. The Home Ranch will be offering their popular Experience Yoga and Horses Retreat for the twelfth season. All ages are welcome for an all-inclusive week of health, wellness and relaxation centered on horseback. Cowgirl Yoginis Tammy Pate and Janice Baxter will help guests experience horsemanship instruction, gentle yoga, healthy gourmet dining and massage, all set amidst the spectacular fall season in the Elk River Valley in October.

The Home Ranch Namaste Yoga

Photo Courtesy of The Home Ranch

May your travels be safe, happy and healthy. Namaste Save Save

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