Winter Vacations – Take a Magical Sleigh Ride at a Dude Ranch

Winter is quickly approaching in the Western U.S. and we are trying to stay positive about the snow and cold that we know is coming very quickly! We have been thinking about some of our favorite parts of wintertime, like snuggling up and watching Christmas movies! We have all seen the Hallmark Christmas movies where the people take the magical horse-drawn sleigh ride through the beautiful white snow with cozy blankets, hot chocolate, and breath-taking scenery all around. Every romantic has dreamt of this scenario happening to them at one time or another, who wouldn’t want to go dashing through the snow with the one they love!? This scenario may be just a dream for many hopeless romantics because of one big obstacle, where do you go to take a sleigh ride like you see in the movies? We have the answer! A sleigh ride at a Dude Ranchers’ Association dude ranch in the mountains of the Western U.S. can provide you with that magical movie scene you have always dreamed of and can double as a great romantic getaway destination! 

The Dude Ranchers’ Association has some fantastic ranches that offer sleigh rides in the wintertime for their guests, and this activity pairs nicely with the other activities and amenities these ranches have to offer. These ranches are great destinations for a romantic getaway, but they are also wonderful for families in the wintertime as well! If you and your kids have never been sledding, you definitely need to go…it truly is an experience like no other! Take a look at a few of the DRA’s dude ranches below that offer sleigh rides in the wintertime to their guests and get ready embark on that magical sleigh ride! 

Bar W Guest Ranch – Whitefish, MT

Winter Sleigh Ride

Head to the mountains of Montana for a fantastic winter (or summer) getaway at the Bar W Guest Ranch. Every season provides magical opportunities for guests, like sleigh rides in the wintertime or wonderful trail rides in the summertime. If you choose the winter getaway, on these sleigh rides you will glide across Montana’s snow-blanketed landscape while cozied up under a plush blanket enjoying the company of other guests. Each sleigh ride winds through open fields and woodlands giving you the chance to take in the beauty of Montana in the wintertime. The sleigh rides last approximately 45 minutes and after your ride, you can warm up by the fire with a cup of hot chocolate and homemade cookies! Alcoholic beverages are not provided, but you are welcome to bring your own if you choose! Don’t forget to make your reservations, these popular sleigh rides fill up fast and you don’t want to miss out! At the Bar W in the wintertime, you will experience snow, horses, divine hospitality, delicious food, and cozy cabins or lodge rooms if you choose to stay a few days! Come back in the summertime for a longer stay and enjoy all of the summer activities the ranch has to offer! 

C Lazy U Ranch – Granby, CO

Winter Sleigh Ride

Experience one of Colorado’s most luxurious dude ranches this winter and take a sleigh ride while you are there! The C Lazy U Ranch is the perfect getaway for any couple or family looking for some winter and snowy fun! Their sleigh rides offer the opportunity to ride through the ranch’s 200 horses and see them up close. You might even see Petey, they miniature donkey who is mighty handsome! The sleighs can only hold up to 12 guests, so it is the perfect group of people to go dashing through the snow. Sleigh rides are not the only snow-related activities offered at C Lazy U, take the opportunity to go horseback riding through the snow, go ice skating or play ice hockey, go snowmobiling or even snow tubing/sledding. There are several other snow activities as well! If you would rather stay inside and stay warm, you can head on over to the ranch’s hot tub or take advantage of their award-winning spa. This is also a great option after your snow activities too because even though the snow is beautiful, it can be a little chilly. Along with all of these activities, you will experience beautiful lodging accommodations and gourmet meals prepared by the ranch’s chefs. Escape to Colorado for a romantic couple’s getaway or a family vacation that will create memories to last a lifetime! 

Lone Mountain Ranch – Big Sky, MT

Winter Sleigh Ride

The Lone Mountain Ranch in the famous ski town of Big Sky, Montana is calling your name! Experience their winter Discovery Package and all it has to offer. This ranch nestled in the mountains right above Big Sky is the perfect destination for your next winter getaway! The Discovery Package offers some great options, including a sleigh ride to the legendary North Fork Cabin where dinner will be waiting for you. You will also get the chance to do some cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, yoga, and listen to live Western music while at Lone Mountain Ranch. This package includes three gourmet meals a day, luxurious Western-chic lodging accommodations, all of the previously mentioned activities, airport transfers to and from Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport and more. Grab your significant other, family or group and head to Montana for a fantastic winter adventure vacation. The memories and experiences will be unforgettable! 

Vista Verde Ranch – Steamboat Springs, CO

Winter Sleigh Ride

Enjoy the scenes of a winter wonderland and so much more at the luxurious Vista Verde Ranch located in Steamboat Springs. The Rocky Mountains provide the perfect blanket of snow for winter activities at Vista Verde, one of those activities being sleigh rides. There is an option for the sleigh rides at this ranch to be a little more unique if you choose. Of course, you still get the joys of gliding through the snow on a horse-drawn sleigh, taking in the beautiful snow-covered landscape and scenery if would like. Or, you can take a more adventurous sleigh ride with some of the crew by helping them feed the ranch’s herd of horses on a horse-drawn sleigh! Each day the ranch hitches up their draft horse team to haul a very large load of hay out to the horse pasture to feed the horses. Guests are invited to jump on the sleigh and toss out hay or just enjoy the ride; it is quite the experience! Before tractors and machines, this is how ranchers used to feel their livestock in the old days, so this is a true Western tradition. Enjoy the sleigh rides, snow, other winter activities, fantastic food and beautiful accommodations at this ranch. It is a great romantic getaway or a vacation destination for the whole family. No matter what type of winter vacation you are looking for, Vista Verde Ranch might just be what you are looking for. 

Western Pleasure Guest Ranch – Sandpoint, ID 

Winter Sleigh Ride

The options for a magical, snowy sleigh ride at the Western Pleasure Guest Ranch in Idaho are abundant. For a group sleigh ride, one of the ranch’s five teams of draft horses will gracefully take you and your loved ones dashing through the snow…literally! If you are looking for a more romantic, snow-filled adventure you can choose to take the sleigh pulled by one horse and enjoy the beauty of North Idaho with your significant other. This will make your Hallmark movie dream moment come true! After the sleigh ride, you can head over to the ranch’s lodge to warm up by the fire and enjoy warm beverages and freshly popped popcorn! If you are wanting more than just snacks, the ranch offers a sleigh ride and dinner package as well! The ranch also has a special offer that includes getting a Christmas tree while out on your sleigh ride. There is an additional cost for this, but what better way to go get a Christmas tree than on a horse-drawn sleigh, now that sounds like a winter dream! Western Pleasure Guest Ranch has lodging and meal accommodations available for guests who choose to live out the winter dream at the ranch for a few days. There are other activities available and it is a great getaway, especially for couples! No matter which sleigh ride adventure you choose to take, the folks at Western Pleasure Guest Ranch will be sure to take care of you and help you create memories to last a lifetime! 

Now that you have learned a little more about magical winter vacations that could include horse-drawn sleigh rides, skiing adventures, snow tubing/sledding and more, you can start planning your getaway! If you think a winter dude ranch vacation may be a bit too cold for your liking, look into a summer dude ranch vacation! If you need help in finding information about dude ranch vacations or need help on where to start planning this type of vacation, contact the Dude Ranchers’ Association, info@duderanch.org or 307-587-2339. 

Winter Sleigh Ride

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. 

 

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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.

The Great American Family Holiday – on a Dude Ranch

Sylvan Dale Ranch Great American Family Holiday Clint the donkey gets a hug at the Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch.

Ride ‘em cowboy! Sure there can be plenty of time in the saddle when you take the kids on a dude ranch vacation. But these days, there’s plenty else to do. In fact, ranch goers acknowledge, they often spend less time riding than they expected because of so many other activities and so much land to explore. That’s especially true for multi-generational groups who find guest ranches ideal for family reunions. They are all-inclusive so there is no bickering—and no surprises—with the final bill. No one has to get groceries, cook or clean up. And there are activities for all ages. How about mountain biking? Organized kids’ activities often include everything from riding to soccer, sack races, art projects and talent shows. Programs like at the Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch in Colorado, means the adults get some time to catch up and parents don’t have to worry about their children’s whereabouts. The closeness of the cabins, dining room and other facilities makes it easy for parents to keep an eye on them, and means the property is more convenient to navigate for older guests. You might not have realized dude ranches today offer so many options:

A visit to a National Park – Many dude ranches are located near some of the country’s most popular national parks. White Stallion Ranch borders Arizona’s Saguaro National Park, while Rimrock Ranch is only miles outside the East entrance to Yellowstone National Park. Medicine Bow Lodge & Guest Ranch is located in the Medicine Bow National Forest in Wyoming; while many guests at Bar W Guest Ranch in Montana head to Glacier National Park for a day.

Bar W Dude Ranch Vacation

Picnic at the Bar W Guest Ranch in Montana

A hike in the wilderness. Most dude ranches are off the tourist grid on lots of land, ideal for exploring on foot. The Diamond D Ranch, nestled in the Frank Church Wilderness Area of Idaho, offers excursions into the wild and fishing in the Salmon River Mountains, among many other activities.

Diamond D Ranch Fishing

Indulge in a massage Many ranches now offer spa treatments, like White Stallion Ranch  in Tucson, AZ and Vista Verde Ranch just outside of Steamboat, CO.

Take a yoga class. Many ranches that offer spa services also provide yoga classes and training. Before a long day in the saddle, guests can have a relaxing limbering-up session with certified trainers.

Try some new wines. Gourmet cuisine and wine paring are gaining popularity at dude ranches. At Smith Fork Ranch, favorites from their private cellar and wineries they especially like are among the choices, including some Colorado wines.

Go tubing or white water rafting. Three Bars Guest Ranch in the Canadian Rockies offers weekly white water rafting tours on the unspoiled  Mary’s River.  Put in only a 10 minute drive from the ranch.

Give shooting sports a try at Red Horse Mountain Ranch in Idaho, there is instruction in a safely controlled environment. There are 5 stations, each providing their own unique targets.

Ride a Zip Line The Bar Lazy J Ranch has one of Colorado’s longest and fastest zip lines and is the only one that crosses the Colorado River. The zip line starts on a steep bluff overlooking the Colorado River dropping 82 feet in elevation as it crosses the river, through the trees and across a pasture to the landing platform. You will be zipping along at speeds in excess of 35 miles per hour. This activity is for guests ages 13 and up.

Go fishing Rainbow Trout Ranch near several historic Spanish land grants in Antonito, Colo.,encourages guests to go trout fishing; Try your hand at fly fishing at 4UR Ranch in Mineral County, Colo.

Do si do with the wranglers or sing your favorite western songs around the campfire at ranches including – Mountain Sky Guest Ranch sits on over 10,000 operational acres of unspoiled wilderness in the heart of Yellowstone Country in Emigrant, Mont Got your cowboy hat?

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