The Dude Ranchers’ Association’s Best Outdoor Meals

From Arbuckle and bear sign (cattle-range lingo for coffee and doughnuts) over an open flame to pizza ovens and prickly pear margaritas on patios under the stars, these are the top dude ranches with the best outdoor meals and dining experiences for late summer and early autumn. Nature’s bounty is at its finest this time of year. Breakfast rides with fresh confections, four-course lunch atop a mesa and evening cuisine fireside, the DRA has some of the most intimate and exquisite land in the West with access to local food and secret dishes. Fork’s up! 

Home Ranch, Clark, Colorado

Gardens and Greenhouses Galore

Nestled in the Elk River Valley is Home Ranch, definitively one of the most idyllic settings for an outdoor brick oven rolling out over a dozen varieties of stone-fired pizzas. The Home Ranch, a Relais & Chateaux property, 30 minutes from Steamboat Springs, focuses on cuisine year-round; however, their weekly offering in summer and fall of crispy pizzas loaded from the ranch’s gardens and greenhouse is as fresh and farm to fork as one can get. The sound of horses dining on their hay in the background and views of Home Ranch’s stunning barn and cabins are worthy of a Travel + Leisure cover.

The afterclaps (unexpected event after the event is supposed to be over) are the wranglers driving the herd out for the day as you finish your cocktail and dessert. The ranch’s massive greenhouse is also open for tours throughout the evening with resident gardeners and the head Master Gardener.

best outdoor meals

Endulge in flatbread pizza cooked in a brick oven with homegrown ingredients at The Home Ranch in Colorado.

Latigo Ranch, Kremmling, Colorado

Breakfast Bliss

This ranch takes food as serious as their scenery. Surrounded by 50,000 acres of the Medicine Bow—Routt National Forest, the George family has the lay of the land to devise splendid surprises come mealtime. It’s a family business for the George’s with the owner’s son and wife running the kitchen. A crowd pleaser begins when guests are escorted to the main lodge in Latigo’s covered wagon to sally forth into a picturesque aspen glade where the kitchen crew has grilled steaks, fish, and veggies to go along with a full buffet of classic dude ranch side dishes—corn on the cob, baked beans (acclaimed by some guests to be the best in the world), sweet potato biscuits, and more. Dessert, as always, is greatly anticipated. There’s a choice between rhubarb pie and peanut butter pie, consumed while eagerly awaiting the announcement of prizes from the team penning earlier that afternoon.

There’s still the weekend! On Saturday breakfast is served at a point overlooking an impossibly expansive view of the mountains. When guests arrive via horseback, they’ll find pancakes grilled by the ranch’s owner, Randy, along with eggs, bacon, sausage, all freshly cooked and served by Hannah George along with fruit, juices, coffee, tea, and homemade banana bread. Perched on the rocks with a 360˚ view of absolute wild beauty, it’s the perfect end to a spectacular week and one of the best breakfast rides in the West. 

best outdoor meals

Ribeye steak, one of many delicious meals to enjoy at Latigo Ranch in Colorado.

White Stallion Ranch, Tucson, Arizona

Patio Utopia with Prickly Pear Margs  

With the baking hot summer that has swept through the country in 2018, autumn will bring much relief and the opportune time to try Russell True’s latest baby, White Stallion Ranch’s outdoor pizza oven and Tandoor—a cylindrical clay oven where heat is made by charcoal or wood to create radiant cooking methods.  

Dinner is served alfresco throughout the week featuring foods such as classic BBQ, brisket, pork tenderloin, steak, ribs, chuck roast and locally-sourced vegetables. 

Steamship leg of pork, corn on the grill, produce skewers, wild rice, this is just a sampling of the gorgeously presented ranch food underneath the Tucson stars.

Guests enjoy some of the best dude ranch evening entertainment in the world while finishing their wine, local craft brew or one of the ranch’s legendary margaritas, the prickly pear. Crème Brule, blueberry pie, and pineapple upside down cake have become the ranch’s legacy desserts. Each outside evening, there is a local cowboy strumming the guitar. To keep things going past dusk, lights are strung throughout the outdoor eating area and entertainment space with lighted cactus as an extra quirk. 

best outdoor meals

A warm and welcoming outdoor dining area at the White Stallion Ranch in Arizona. 

Covered Wagon Ranch, Gateway, Montana

Chef’s Special

Located a stone’s throw from Yellowstone National Park, Covered Wagon Ranch takes advantage of its location and access to quieter parts of the Park. The ranch encourages guests to take a lunch ride almost daily! Sure, lunch is always available in the main lodge, but riders know best—take the chef’s special and giddy up. With nearly a dozen trails the ranch rides weaving in and out of Yellowstone, there’s a really good chance you can wind up having the chef’s special, with a moose (it happened to us!). Each night the chef surveys his crowd and crafts a special sandwich that is available for pick-up before the daily ride. Guests always have the choice of nearly 20 items, but there’s a reason for the chef’s special.

After a gently ascending two-hour ride into the Yellowstone, our family found a quiet meadow to let the horses rest and for us to enjoy the special sandwich. Not five minutes after dismount did a giant bull moose stand up from his resting spot in the meadow and curiously circle around the meadow to get a good view of us as we kept a safe distance. Our kids knew what was up, the moose wanted the chef’s special! Three generations eating the best sandwiches while enjoying secret spots in Yellowstone with a moose overseeing the feast. Apparently, your chance of spotting a moose drastically increases if you order up the special. 

best outdoor meals

Trail rides lead to beautiful destinations at the Covered Wagon Ranch in Montana. 

Sidebar: Snacking, Sweets and Soaking

Tombstone Monument Ranch in its historic namesake town of Arizona offers a slow ride labeled  “Beer and Cheetos” for obvious reasons. This is the ultimate afternoon snack. Take a flat, scenic ride to the ranch’s Beer and Cheetos site where there is shade and bathrooms. Enjoy a cold, refreshing beer delightfully accompanied by some empty calorie, salty and delicious snack foods. Followed by a slow, scenic ride back to the ranch in time for social hour. Note, this is an adult-only ride.

Wait, what about tequila connoisseurs? No problem, the “Tequila and Cheese” ride takes guests along the same route, but instead offers up a little more sophistication with a unique selection of wines and assorted cheeses, crackers and bread. Again, this is an adult-only ride. 

best outdoor meals

A great selection of food is always avaliable at Tombstone Monument Ranch in Arizona. 

Friday is the outdoor meal extravaganza with Long Hollow Ranch in central Oregon. Early autumn offers the essential time for a morning ride to be followed by a picnic lunch along the way. It gets a little more enticing; the ranch then puts on a fun demonstration with cattle before dinner. After-dinner dessert is then served at the hot tub or fire pit, depending on weather conditions. Desserts and cocktails vary, but the scenery is always guaranteed. best outdoor meals

Snow capped mountains make for some gorgeous scenery at Long Hollow Ranch in Oregon.

If you want to keep with the hot springs theme, Bar Lazy J in Grand County, Colorado offers a half-day hot springs ride on Fridays. Guests eat lunch at one of the ranch’s favorite scenic spots—the top of Byers Canyon—before working the group into the town of Hot Sulphur Springs. There, a trailer and your previously packed bag will be waiting along with a free pass into the Hot Sulphur Springs Resort to soak in the 22 naturally heated pools. Once frequented by the Ute Indians, the skin-benefiting minerals present in the water are intense and awesome. The ranch takes the horses home while guests soak and send a van for pick up later.

best outdoor meals

Ride through some beautiful scenery to the hotsprings at Bar Lazy J Ranch in Colorado. 

 

Read more about dude ranches with fabulous food here!

 

 

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From Arbuckle and bear sign over an open flame to pizza ovens and prickly pear margaritas on patios under the stars, these are the top dude ranches with the best outdoor meals and dining experiences for late summer and early autumn. Nature’s bounty is at its finest this time of year. Breakfast rides with fresh confections, four-course lunch atop a mesa and evening cuisine fireside, the DRA has some of the most intimate and exquisite land in the West with access to local food and secret dishes.

Dude Ranch Vacations for Vegetarians and Dietary Restrictions

Venturing to a new place and experiencing the culture of its food is one of the great pleasures of traveling. But if you’re a vegan, vegetarian or have any dietary limitations, you know it can also be a challenge if you don't select the right location. At these Dude Ranchers’ Association member dude ranches the chefs delight in providing ranch cuisine for your whole family - regardless of any special dietary needs. With enough notice the ranches creatively and effectively cater for meatless diets, gluten free, dairy free and most food allergies. Foodies will even enjoy the culinary adventures on dude ranches where family style meals can be not only enjoyed by the whole family but also savored until the last bite. And what’s even more special than this? Some ranches are able to offer farm to table cuisine straight from ranch gardens. 

Here are some great dude ranch vacations for vegetarians and vegans.

 

Triangle C Dude Ranch for Vegetarians

Hors d'oeuvres at the Triangle C Ranch 

Black Mountain Ranch

McCoy, Colorado

Located just a few hours West of Denver, Colorado the Black Mountain Ranch is a family operated and a family oriented dude ranch. With a week long program you and your family will get to venture into the western lifestyle of horseback riding and outdoor adventures. And at meal times? The meals vary from gourmet dining in the lodge to cookouts in the wilderness (watch out for their killer Margaritas at Pack Camp). The chef will tempt you with hearty breakfasts featuring fresh home cooking and made from scratch baked goods. Dinner fare varies nightly, with several entree choices each night. Vegetarian, vegan or gluten free? Not a problem! And the Black Mountain Ranch always serves complimentary wine with dinner.

 

Circle Z Ranch

Patagonia, Arizona

At just an hour South of Tucson, Arizona the Circle Z Ranch offers a unique ranch vacation for guests of all ages and horseback riding abilities. You’ll get to ride on thousands of acres of the most scenic horseback riding trails in Arizona. One of the grand traditions at the Circle Z Ranch is the commitment to the highest standards for their food, and the ranch is positive you will be satisfied. In the ranch gardens, many of the vegetables served at mealtime are grown, and Circle Z honey bees are always busy making the sweetest honeys for the ranch use. Creative alternatives are available for those guests on strict gluten-free, vegetarian, lactose-free and vegan diets.  Open the end of October through the beginning of May.

 

Paradise Guest Ranch

Buffalo, Wyoming

Tucked away into the beautiful Big Horn Mountains - just 20 minutes from Buffalo, Wyoming the Paradise Guest Ranch offers luxury log cabins with personal fireplaces, outdoor decks and spacious livings rooms. And that’s just the accommodations! The ranch offers a long list of activities in their week long program including horseback riding, fly fishing, hiking, kids program and more. Can the kitchen accommodate special dietary requirements? Absolutely. Ranch staff will send you a questionnaire before you arrive at the ranch on which you can describe any special dietary needs that you might have. The ranch can accommodate vegetarian, vegan and most all food allergies for their hearty meals with a gourmet flair. 

 

Laramie River Ranch

Jelm, Colorado

In Colorado’s Rocky Mountains near the border of Wyoming and Colorado the Laramie River Ranch offers genuine western hospitality far from the tension of city life. And with their small size (capacity of 25) you’ll get the attention you deserve on your vacation. On top of all the expected dude ranch activities you can enjoy the summer rodeo season or bring out the cowboy or cowgirl in you on their annual cattle drive. These outdoor activities and fresh mountain air encourage healthy appetites. Whether it's on the trail or at the ranch, meals are an event! In keeping with informal, western tradition, meals are served family style with delicious entrees, fresh salads, ranch baked breads, fruits and vegetables, and desserts which keep you coming back for more. They are happy to accommodate special diets with advance notice and vegetarian alternatives are available at every meal.

 

Triangle C Ranch

Dubois, Wyoming

Nestled between Jackson Hole and Dubois, Wyoming the Triangle C Ranch prides themselves as a true Wyoming Ranch - where a handshake is their bond and the coffee pot is always on! The ranch offers adventure packed programs for families, adults and singles throughout the summer months. Folks up here spend all day working up mountain-sized appetites! Sooner or later it leads them back to the Wind River Dining Room, where the chefs serve up fresh & healthy ranch delicacies. They have been cooking homemade goodness for years – presented in true cowboy style. Let the staff know in advance if there are any special dietary needs and they'll do their very best to make sure you have a wonderful dining experience. 

 

Continue reading about Dude Ranch Food! 

 

Pin this for later - Dude Ranches for Vegetarians

If you’re a vegan, vegetarian or have any dietary limitations the chefs at these dude ranches delight in providing ranch cuisine for your family. With notice the ranches creatively and effectively cater for meatless diets, gluten free, dairy free and most food allergies. Foodies will even enjoy culinary adventures where family style meals can be enjoyed by all. And what’s even more special? Some dude ranches are able to offer farm to table cuisine straight from ranch gardens.

Fine Dining Dude Ranch Vacations for Foodies

The Dude Ranchers' Association has scoured the Western United States and found the best dude and guest ranch vacations money can buy. As with the nature of a ranch, horseback riding is a key outdoor adventure of the day's activities, but for some foodie families, the magic really starts with hors d'oeuvres, runs with a full course meal and culminates after dessert with a glass of fine wine and a peaceful sunset. We've picked out some of the best dude ranch vacations for foodies. We promise, you'll certainly get a craving for the culinary experiences offered by the dude ranches below. But, don't just settle for one ranch, try them all!

 

Dude Ranch Vacations for Foodies

 

Mountain Sky Guest Ranch

You'll soon discover that at Mountain Sky the meals will be one of the most memorable parts of your stay. The ranch kicks things off with hors d'oeuvres and drinks in the saloon followed by a three to five course dinner featuring carefully crafted and regionally inspired dishes. Complement your dinner with a bottle of wine and try to leave room for a slice of chocolate decadence or Basque cake. 

More Montana Dude & Guest Ranch Vacations

Mountain Sky Ranch Fine Dining Dude Ranch Vacations for Foodies

Mountain Sky Guest Ranch is happy to accommodate any dietary needs, requests or allergies. 

 

Gros Ventre River Ranch

Here at this Jackson Hole Wyoming dude ranch, dining is serious business. If you mention a tie at any of the meals at Gros Ventre River ranch it had better be in reference to fly fishing. While the sit down dinners are fine dining, the dress code is anything but formal. You'll find that jeans and boots pair well with a rack of lamb, elk tenderloin and grilled salmon. 

More Wyoming Dude & Guest Ranch Vacations

 

Gros Ventre Steak Food Picnic Fine Dining for Foodies

You'll definitely remember a savory barbeque complete with a cowboy singer around the fire pit at Gros Ventre River Ranch.

 

 

Vista Verde Ranch

The culinary program and foodie philosophy at Vista Verde Ranch is designed to impress even the most experienced palates. With each meal Executive Chef Cholly McGlynn balances ranch-y with fancy, comfort food with a lighter option, as well as accommodates any dietary restrictions. 

More Colorado Dude & Guest Ranch Vacations

Vista Verde Food Wine Foodie Dude Ranch Vacation

Attend a wine tasting class at the Vista Verde Ranch. The love of wine is a lot like the love of horses - you'll never be an expert, because there's always more to learn. 

 

The Home Ranch

As a Relais and Chateaux property the Home Ranch serves inspired Farm to table cuisine. By farm to table they mean the chef's serve Sand Mountain beef, pork and poultry along with all of the produce, herbs and flowers the ranch's greenhouse and raised bed gardens can grow in a season. 

More Colorado Dude & Guest Ranch Vacations

Home Ranch Breakfast Foodie Dude Ranch Vacation

And every day starts with a great breakfast at the Home Ranch.

 

4UR Ranch

One of the highest considerations at the 4UR Ranch is the quality and creativity of the food prepared for guests and staff. You can expect the food to be beautiful and delicious as well as home grown and locally sourced. You'll appreciate Chef Blake's Le Cordon Bleu's perfected talents whether it's dinner in the lodge or a lunch picnic next to the stream. 

More Colorado Dude & Guest Ranch Vacations

4UR Ranch Dude Ranch Vacations for Foodies

While most ranch resorts serve meals family style, the 4UR ranch prefers to reserve a table for you and your family for the entire week of your stay. 

 

In love with the Dude Ranchers' Association's selection of dude ranch vacations for foodies? 

Whichever ranch you choose to go to first, your foodie vacation will surely take your taste buds on a fresh discovery of flavors and menu's. However, you'll also realize that the food isn't the only highlight of your vacation. You'll love every minute of these western ranch vacations. From fly fishing, hiking, horseback riding to water sports. During the day you'll work up an appetite in some of the most remote, mountainous locations in the West. From California to Arkansas the Dude Ranchers' Association represents the best of all luxury dude ranch vacations, working cattle ranch vacations and traditional guest ranch vacations

 

Read more about culinary dude ranch experiences & dude ranch recipes here. 

 

Dude Ranch Vacations for Foodies

 

As with the nature of a ranch, horseback riding is a key outdoor adventure of the day's activities, but for some foodie families, the magic really starts with hors d'oeuvres, runs with a full course meal and culminates after dessert with a glass of fine wine and a peaceful sunset. We've picked out some of the best fine dining locations for you. We promise, you'll certainly get a craving for the culinary experiences offered by the dude ranches below. But, don't just settle for one ranch, try them all!

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

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