6 Misconceptions about Dude Ranch Vacations

Thought you knew everything there was to know about dude ranch vacations? Maybe you were right, maybe you were wrong—go ahead, see what you know!

1. We are going to eat pork and beans…from a can...over the campfire.

Perhaps one of the biggest misconceptions about a dude ranch vacation is the food! I suppose this stems from watching old western flicks and observing what cowboys eat. Many ranches actually source local ingredients (some have on-site greenhouses) and create culinary masterpieces. Some ranches feature wood-fired pizzas and craft cocktails such as prickly pear margaritas, while others offer wine tastings and fine dining experiences. You can select a ranch solely based on your appetite!

Vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, allergies? No problem, with enough notice, ranch chefs are delighted to cater to special dietary needs.

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Lost Valley Ranch - Sedalia, CO                                          Elk Mountain Ranch - Buena Vista, CO

2. We only ride horses.

Horses are a major part of the dude ranch experience as they relate to the tradition of dude ranches. Beyond horseback riding, there are several other experiences to enjoy. Nature lovers will relish in hiking, bird-watching and nature walks. Adrenaline junkies will love the mountain biking and whitewater rafting. Other activities for folks seeking something in-between include fly fishing, archery, and even cooking classes. Most all-inclusive stays at a dude ranch include any and all activities. See the complete list of activities here!

dude ranch vacations

Geronimo Trail Guest Ranch - Winston, NM

3. We’re going to sleep on hay, right?

While some ranches may be considered more luxurious than others, all sleeping quarters are quiet, cozy and comfortable. Rustic and historic accents fill the rooms, from old poster beds to antique quilts.

dude ranch vacations

Smith Fork Ranch - Crawford, CO

4. Dude ranch vacations are only available in the summertime.

Some dude ranches close for the winter, but many are still open! When snow blankets the Rocky Mountains, the dude ranches simply shift their focus. Activities during your stay might feature snowmobiling, skiing and snowshoeing, with a long soak in the hot tub at the end of your day. If you still fancy a traditional dude ranch experience, escape the cold and fly south to a ranch in Arizona! Ride through saguaro cactus country, and soak up the neon sunsets in the evening.

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Kay El Bar Guest Ranch - Wickenburg, AZ                                        Bar W Ranch - Whitefish, MT

 

5. It’s just so expensive.

For the most part, you’ll find that the all-inclusive rate at the dude ranches covers a full day of activities, food, and lodging. When you compare the rate for a stay at a dude ranch versus another family vacation, you will likely find that it’s actually cheaper! Plus, you won’t have to obsess over different places to stay, where to eat, what to do, and getting around. At a dude ranch you pay one rate, show up and simply enjoy time together with your family.

dude ranch vacations

Goosewing Ranch - Jackson, WY

6. There are too many kids.

Dude ranches make for an excellent family vacation—no doubt! There’s something there for everyone to enjoy. For some though, having a vacation means leaving the kids at home. Many of the ranches offer kid-free weeks, perfect for romantic getaways, bachelor/bachelorette parties, and maybe even corporate retreats. With or without children, you will find peace and tranquility during your dude ranch vacation.

dude ranch vacations

CM Ranch - Dubois, WY

This article was created in partnership with Visit USA Parks.

 

6 Misconceptions about Dude Ranch Vacations

 

Thought you knew everything there was to know about dude ranch vacations? Maybe you were right, maybe you were wrong—go ahead, see what you know!

 

 

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The Best Dude Ranches in New Mexico

Discover the culture and beauty of the southwest at the best dude ranches in New Mexico. The area is rich in history to explore while you ride out on horseback on the outlaw trails of Billy the Kid, Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid and the Apache warrior Geronimo. With this strong background of cowboy culture it only make sense that New Mexico is one of the most unique destinations for both working cattle ranch vacations and traditional dude ranches. You can participate in rugged cattle drives with campouts under the stars and then enjoy a nice long soak in a hot tub once you're back at the ranch.  Or spend as much time as you want in the saddle each day exploring the New Mexican desert, mountains and deep canyons with the exclusive perspective of your own personal guide. And, with a touch of luxury the best dude ranches in New Mexico are sure to offer one of your most memorable vacations yet. 

 

The Best Dude Ranches in New Mexico

 

Creek Ranch Best Dude Ranches in New Mexcio

 

CREEK RANCH

Working Cattle Ranch in Santa Rosa, New Mexico

 

The Creek Ranch is located in the Pecos Valley South of Santa Rosa, NM in a small village called Puerto de Luna. The ranch raises cattle on a 8,200 acre ranch. The terrain out here is wild, rough and yet beautiful. You'll get the meaning of Land of Enchantment out here! The landscape on the ranch varies in many different ways: Green and supple along the infamous Pecos River or the Carizzo Creek. Bluffs and arroyos are present everywhere you look - this is the typical landscape of the Southwest. Chollas, Junipers and Mesquite complete the picture like in most western movies. 

This is the area, where Billy the Kid once roamed. Old homesteads and a cemetery are testimonials from the heydays of the Wild West and you can still feel the spirit. 

 

Geronimo Trail Ranch Best Dude Ranch Vacation in New Mexico

 

GERONIMO TRAIL GUEST RANCH

Traditional Ranch Vacation in Winston, New Mexico

 

Open March through mid November the Geronimo Trail Guest Ranch is a small ranch with a relaxed and personal atmosphere, located in the mountains in the beautiful Gila National Forest of SW New Mexico. There are just 4 cabins and the maximum capacity is 16 guests. Horseback riding here takes you through open meadows and tall ponderosa forests, up on high hills where the views go on forever across the 3.3 million acre National Forest, and down into deep canyons with sheer cliffs and crystal clear streams. Wonderful, gentle and responsive horses good for any ability are available to the guests. The trails start at the back door and there are millions of acres to discover!

Whether on horseback or hiking you will enjoy some of the most beautiful, untouched country in America and learn about some incredible history here at Geronimo Trail Guest Ranch! You can visit pit houses and cliff dwellings once occupied by the Mimbres people of 750-1150 AD, search for pottery shards and arrowheads left behind and see pictographs painted on the rock walls by these early people! This is also the land Geronimo was born and grew up in and where the Apaches once roamed.

 

Burnt Well Cattle Drive Best dude ranches in New Mexico

 

BURNT WELL GUEST RANCH

Working Cattle Ranch in Roswell, New Mexico

 

Burnt Well Guest Ranch is located in warm, sunny, southeastern New Mexico. The ranch is located on the 15,000 acres of the Chesser Ranch, open since 1950. The horses for you to ride at the ranch are ranch horses that cowboys can do a job on as well as put guests on. There is a wide range of horses to accommodate various riding levels. There is no nose to tail riding at Burnt Well. Riding is in open pasture unless you opt for a mountain trail ride for your day trip.

Burnt Well Guest Ranch is a simple ranch with simple pleasures such as; good food, good conversation, lots of storytelling and laughter, campfires and a night sky full of stars. Come to Burnt Well, get dirty and have some fun, then kick your boots off and relax a spell.

 

Search all dude ranches in the west including the best dude ranches in Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Arizona, California and Idaho

 

Pin this for later so you don't forget about the best dude ranches in New Mexico

 

Discover the culture and beauty of the southwest at the best dude ranches in New Mexico. With this strong background of cowboy culture it only make sense that New Mexico is one of the most unique destinations for both working cattle ranch vacations and traditional dude ranches. Participate in rugged cattle drives with campouts or spend hours in the saddle each day exploring the terrain with your own personal guide. And, with a touch of luxury the best dude ranches in New Mexico are sure to offer one of your most memorable vacations yet.

The Wildest Trail Rides of 2018

The National Dude Ranch Association (DRA) has over 10,000 trail rides throughout the Western United States and Canada. Travel across National Forest, BLM, private acreage and hundreds of miles of waterways that traverse high and low altitude, valley and mountain, desert and coast, with the wranglers of the DRA. However, of all these options, which is truly the wildest in 2018?

Border Ride—THE WILDEST TRAIL RIDE

Rancho de la Osa, Sasbe, Arizona

It’s both scenery and the current political state of the country that makes this trail ride at the remarkable ranch, quite possibly, the wildest ride in the West! Rancho de la Osa houses Arizona’s oldest continually used building, constructed in an Indian village around 1720 by Jesuit missionaries.

In 1812, the ranch was part of the Ortiz Brothers Spanish land grant and with Mexican independence from Spain, the ranch became part of Mexico. In 1916, Pancho Villa raided and attempted to take Rancho de la Osa and a cannon ball from the attack was found embedded in the adobe wall of the Hacienda, which is on display today.

Once you’ve taken in the enormous breadth of Rancho de la Osa’s history, saddle up and choose the Ranch’s U.S.—Mexico Border ride. Yes, you read that correctly, guests of all riding abilities can see and even touch The Wall.

Start on horseback through wooded mesquite trails and low sandy washes. Next, the wranglers will take you past the Ranch’s cemetery, dating from the early 1800s. From here, the horses leave the ranch, cross into La Mirador Ranch and continue to the border with Mexico, about a 20-minute ride. You travel directly to the fence separating the countries. There, wranglers can describe the scenery that unfolds. They can explain the reason for the black jugs piled feet high in some places, the blankets, clothes and more.

After all questions are answered, and there are many, wranglers will continue on with the ride reemerging at the ranch. For those who are curious, the wall ends abruptly in the desert. Draw your own conclusions, but history and reality is present, evident and relevant!

Click here to see other Arizona Dude Ranches

trail rides

 

The Other Border Ride

Bar W Guest Ranch, Whitefish, Montana

For the second wildest ride, the DRA is going to take you to our northern border with Canada. At Bar W Ranch, there is a full-day horseback trail ride that will take guests to an extremely wild site. Throughout the day the terrain changes, and riders can walk, trot, or lope through open meadows and lush forests before exploring Lake Koocanusa. Riders think they’ve entered a postcard with a majestic mountain backdrop and long sandy beaches as far as the eye can see. Lake Koocanusa signifies the cooperation between two friendly neighbors, “Koocanusa” is an abbreviation of KOOtenai River and the first three letters of CANada and USA.

The “wildest” part of this ride is traveling along the three-wire fence separating the two neighbors, USA and Canada. The fence can be seen for miles stretching in a straight line across rolling hills before disappearing into the distance. A small stone obelisk distinguishes the border and makes for a prime photo opportunity for guests who dare to put a leg on each side and claim being in two countries at once. 

Click here to see other Montana Dude Ranches

trail rides

 

Get Lost in the Lower 48’s Largest Protected Wilderness

Geronimo Trail Guest Ranch, Winston, New Mexico

The Gila National Forest expands over 3.3 million acres, is the largest federally protected landmass in the lower 48, and is also the first wilderness area designated in the United States.  

The terrain is wild, and the history won’t disappoint either. In one canyon alone, Geronimo Trail Guest Ranch takes riders through 1,000 years of history from Mimbres to Apaches to Basque and tin miners. Aptly named Dwelling Canyon, this location has been a geologically unique stopping place for years marked with pictographs, cliff dwellings, Basque structures, and mining equipment. Sitting in a cave that demonstrates humanity for thousands of years, now that’s wild. 

The ranch will also take you on trail rides through Taylor Creek Canyon, Beaver Canyon, Whitewater Canyon, Hoyt Canyon, just some of the spectacular canyons that are truly awe-inspiring and jaw dropping. Gaze up at canyon walls as you ride through creeks fed by warm spring waters.

Click here to see other New Mexico Dude Ranches

trail rides

 

Private Elk Pastures

Averill’s Flathead Lake Lodge, Flathead Lake, Montana

Horseback ride through a 500-acre Montana elk preserve. Guests are led into the ranch’s private elk preserve where they will be able to view mature bull and cow elk in their natural habitat. Depending on time of year riders view the Lodge’s heard in full velvet or mature growth. In the fall guests can watch from a distance as the bull elk spar with each other testing their strength for the rut. 

Click here to see other Montana Dude Ranches

trail rides

 

Moose in Moose, WY

Gros Ventre River Ranch, Moose, Wyoming

Grab a cup of cowboy coffee and a glance at one of America’s largest mammals along this wild breakfast ride. Gros Ventre River Ranch in Moose, WY, has riders leave by 7 am from the barn to get the best in at dawn when wildlife are active before bedding down for the day. Exciting sightings include moose, elk and eagles. The Jackson Hole area is notorious for iconic wildlife and this particular ride allows guests to see the ranch’s valley during a serene time when most are still sleeping.

The final destination is a picnic spot by the Gros Ventre River. There, breakfast is prepared in cast iron pots over the fire. The menu includes biscuits and gravy, scrambled eggs, bacon and sausage, fruit tea, juice, hot chocolate, and, of course, more cowboy coffee. 

Click here to see other Wyoming Dude Ranches

trail rides

 

Wild Horses

Lazy L&B Ranch, Dubois, Wyoming

There are few spots left in America where you can view wild horses. Luckily, the horses on staff at Lazy L & B Ranch know where to find them. The ranch offers a three-hour round trip ride where wranglers will bring you atop a mesa behind the ranch. The view is spectacular, and more often than not, guests will have the opportunity to see at least one of the herds of wild horses that inhabit the area. It’s remarkable to be on horse and take in the noises and sights of their wild cousins.

trail rides

 

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Pin this for Later! 

The National Dude Ranch Association (DRA) has over 10,000 trail rides throughout the Western United States and Canada. Travel across National Forest, BLM, private acreage and hundreds of miles of waterways that traverse high and low altitude, valley and mountain, desert and coast, with the wranglers of the DRA. However, of all these options, which is truly the wildest in 2018?

 

Dude Ranch Short Stays - 3 Night Ranch Vacations

Dude Ranch Vacations are famous for the traditional week long experiences for trail riding and western lifestyle activities, but with travelers having less time to stay many ranches offer dude ranch short stays of 3 nights. On these short stays you’ll get to experience all the highlighted activities, view the spectacular scenery and refresh your mind in the wide open spaces. While some ranches offer these short stays during the off-season, other ranches offer flexible packages every week they are open.

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Find some great dude ranch short stays listed below. For the complete list of ranches select “3 nights” on the Search by Activity and Amenity page.  You can also read about spectacular discounts during the shoulder season.

 


Colorado Dude Ranch Short Stays


Badger Creek Ranch, Colorado - 3 night minimum short stay, open June through October

Laramie River Ranch, Colorado - 3 night short stay available from Sunday to Wednesday, open mid-June through mid-September


Montana Dude Ranch Short Stays

 

Broken Arrow Lodge, Montana - 3 night minimum stay, 2 days of horseback riding, arrival Sunday or Wednesday, May 1 - September 1

Covered Wagon Ranch, Montana - 3 night minimum short stay, open June through mid-September

Hidden Hollow Hideaway Cattle and Guest Ranch, Montana - 3 days minimum, open June 1 - September 1

Rich Ranch, Montana - 3 day minimum, open May 1 through September 30

Rocking Z Guest Ranch, Montana - 3 night minimum stay with custom length stays available, open year-round


New Mexico Dude Ranch Short Stays

 

Creek Ranch, New Mexico - 3 night minimum short stay (otherwise on request), open April 1 through October 31

Burnt Well Guest Ranch, New Mexico - 3 day minimum short stay, free airport transfer, open year-round

Geronimo Trail Guest Ranch, New Mexico - 3 night minimum short stay, open March 1 - Mid-November


Washington Dude Ranch Short Stays


K Diamond K Ranch, Washington - 3 night minimum short stay from July 1 - September 1, Bed and Breakfast options available year-round

 

Pin this for Later! Dude Ranch Short Stays

Dude Ranch Vacations are famous for the traditional week long experiences for trail riding and western lifestyle activities, but with travelers having less time to stay many ranches offer dude ranch short stays of 3 nights. On these short stays you’ll get to experience all the highlighted activities, view the spectacular scenery and refresh your mind in the wide open spaces. While some ranches offer these short stays during the off-season, other ranches offer flexible packages every week.

Family Travel and Dude Ranches

One of the most meaningful comments we’ve read about family travel and dude ranches is this: Dude ranches reconnect adults to a simple and innocent part of their childhood and introduce their children to these same experiences.

Western Pleasure Ranch Family Travel Destination

At dude ranches, everyone can discover magic. Photo courtesy of Western Pleasure Guest Ranch

There’s something uplifting and joyful about that. Like when parents momentarily forget themselves and regress with their kids – revisiting beloved animated cartoons from their youth, or unabashedly belting out favorite ballads from bygone (to their kids) times. Now picture horses and corrals, Stetson hats and western boots, cookouts and wide open landscapes straight out of cowboy movies and novels. Your heart goes pitter-patter, just a little bit. Or a lot. Because in today’s era of quick-paced modernization, invasive technology and growing detachment from nature (and one another), the ranch appeal is arguably more potent — for all generations — than ever before. “Perhaps it is the allure of the Western lifestyle that people long to experience. Perhaps it is the adventure that draws guests to a ranch in the first place. Most likely, it’s a combination,” believes Kari Kilmer, Manager of Vee Bar Guest Ranch. Perhaps. Whatever the case, when on a dude ranch, “The feelings that awaken inside of you are something that most people never imagine. It’s the magic!” agrees Tammy Yurich, Activities Director of Bar Lazy J Guest Ranch.

Latigo Ranch Family Travel Destination

Living in a dream. Photo courtesy of Latigo Ranch

Exploring the Magic “Dude ranches are a perfect fit for family travel simply because the dynamic shifts,” suggests Ashley Ducharme, Marketing Coordinator of Bar W Guest Ranch. “Everyone within the family is on an authentic adventure because everyone is trying new things (archery, horseback riding, square dancing, skeet shooting and more). This equalizes the parents and the children and fosters open communication. The kids say ‘Do you know what we did today?’ and the parents respond ‘Well do you know what we did today?’” That level playing field wasn’t created by accident. It has taken a lot of work and requires diligent vigilance to maintain. All the more so as it’s increasingly difficult to find other family-focused vacation experiences that so consistently “bring families together naturally,” as Kerstin Auer, Marketing & Sales of Echo Valley Ranch & Spa, sees it, all by placing careful and balanced emphasis on providing “unique adventures and educational experiences that the whole family will enjoy,” says Janice Schoonover, Owner of Western Pleasure Guest Ranch. Over the years, plenty of visitors have predictably compared their dude ranch adventures with the famous magic of other standard-bearing activity providers like Disney. How do dude ranches stand up? Incredibly well! “When you come to a dude ranch, the only lines you’ll find are the strings of horses and riders on the mountain trails. Every moment with your family will be spent finding real adventures, not being herded through fabricated ones. Without crowds of people to fight against, the buzz of this modern world will fade into serenity and wildness,” says Spencer George, son of the owners of Latigo Ranch.

Geronimo Trail Ranch Family Travel Destination

A Chance to slow down and get in touch with natures. Photo courtesy of Geronimo Trail Guest Ranch

Take Things a Little Slower There really is a lot to be said for excitement without overstimulation, and activation without commercialization. “Dude ranches give families… a place to slow down from the fast pace of daily life and reconnect with each other,” observes Meris Stout, Owner of Geronimo Trail Guest Ranch. There are two important elements to this. First, “Free of television, phone calls, texts and push notifications, family members can discover the magic that has captivated ranch guests for a hundred years,” enthuses RC Townsend, Assistant General Manager of Mountain Sky Guest Ranch. Second, “Learning together through nature and animals is a powerful thing for families to share,” says Tyler Beckley, Owner of Three Bars Guest Ranch. Of course, a readiness to make family time together just that much more engaging is stoked by freedom from one another during part of each day. This is aided by the safe environment dude ranches work to create, allowing parents to relax while their kids do their own things. “Kids have freedoms on a dude ranch that most cannot experience in today’s world,” says Jeanne Ross, General Manager of Colorado Trails Guest Ranch. Doug Cole, Owner of Marble Mountain Guest Ranch concurs: “Once you arrive at a dude ranch, you are by default in a more secure environment that has a known and fixed population during the time of your stay. Kids are more enabled to ‘free range.’”

R Lazy S Ranch Family Travel

Photo courtesy of R Lazy S Ranch

Step into the Dude Ranch Mindset Predictably, “A dude ranch offers so much… by providing very unique opportunities,” says Kelly Stirn, Owner of R Lazy S Ranch. So let’s explore some them. Keep in mind, however, that “The hardest vacation to describe is one based on an experience. For those of us that live this wonderful, rewarding, down-to-earth lifestyle, it is hard to tell a family on the phone what a wonderful time they will have,” advises Kilmer of Vee Bar Guest Ranch. “They simply have to take our word for it, then try it for themselves.” Let’s do that. Let’s put ourselves briefly in dude ranchers’ shoes by reading their words and imagining how amazing a dude ranch holiday can be. Then let’s all go try it out ourselves, remembering that, as Doug Van Berkum, Owner of Rainbow Trout Ranch likes to point out, “There truly is something for EVERYONE!” To read the extended quotes from the ranchers visit the blog post here. This blog was originally written by the Family Travel Association. Visit them on the web here. Save Save Save Save Save Save

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