The Best of Late Autumn and Early Winter Rocky Mountain Dude Ranches

Come late autumn, most the Rocky Mountain Dude Ranches (Colorado, Montana, and Wyoming) close for the season come September’s end and the last of the fall foliage. However, there are a select few ranches in each state that allow for shorter stays during some of the most magical and quieter times of the year. If you’ve ever been on the fence about a dude ranch stay, make the off-season the in-season for a dude ranch experience, and get on that horse!

Colorado has the most abundant offerings for curious folk to explore Western lure in the late season. 

 

Rocky Mountain Dude Ranches

C Lazy U Ranch, easily accessible in Granby, can even be combined with a train trip from Denver’s Union Station via the airport; guests don’t even need a car! The 8,500-acre luxury ranch celebrated their centennial this past summer and the party continues late into the year. The year-round ranch offers horseback riding, snow sports, incredible meals and cabins and suites along with a hot tub, workout facility, stunning barn and main lodge with much more.

 

Rocky Mountain Dude Ranches

Located within minutes of downtown Loveland is the family-owned-and-operated Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch. Come late October and into the holiday season, there are nearby bike trails with fall foliage packages and more festivities for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years' with short stays, themed weekends and incredible outdoor sports.

 

Rocky Mountain Dude Ranches

Sundance Trail Guest Ranch in Red Feather Lakes can accommodate 24 guests, and it is this boutique nature that makes the off-season even more enjoyable. The ranch is run more like a B&B and add-on activities include a horseback ride to a lake (in warm seasons, horses even swim in the water), murder mystery weekends and other clever twists on classic dude ranch style. A hot tub, gathering area, and good home-cooked food and limitless cookies await visitors.

 

Rocky Mountain Dude Ranches

Lost Valley Ranch, one of the easiest ranches to access from the metro Denver area, is open through December 1st each year and offers a great value for anyone looking to fall in love with the dude ranch culture. There is a Thanksgiving celebration week that is always a big draw, and smaller horsemanship clinics throughout the fall that allow the novices to expert riders the opportunity to build skills and confidence. 

There are so many more in Colorado! It’s truly the optimal time to test the experience. Wind River Christian Ranch near Estes Park and luxury properties like The Home Ranch and Vista Verde Ranch near Steamboat Springs typically operate into the second and third weeks in October, weather dependent; however, snag an incredible rate for next autumn now, if tempted. And, one of Colorado’s most high-end ranches, The Broadmoor’s Ranch at Emerald Valley, a branch of Broadmoor Hotel, runs a season into early November, again, weather dependent. 

 

Montana has one of the largest collections of massive, stunning and rare properties in the ranch portfolio. However, due to elevation and weather conditions, their season limits late autumn and winter seasons to four of their ranches.

 

Rocky Mountain Dude Ranches

Bar W Guest Ranch in Whitefish, runs a year-round dude ranch season. The 3,200-foot elevation makes it a bit milder then high mountain terrain and the guest capacity at 35 keeps it intimate and eventful. Winter comes early and the ranch is ready! There are B&B stays November through April in six main lodge rooms and two cabin suites. Activities might include horse-drawn sleigh rides, downhill skiing, snowshoeing, ice skating, ice fishing and more including an onsite hot tub.

 

Rocky Mountain Dude Ranches

Rocking Z Guest Ranch in Wolf Creek might have a smaller guest count of 20, but it’s almighty in terms of autumn and winter activity. If there’s a Montana sport, the ranch certainly tries to offer guests an opportunity to experience it throughout guided instruction. From horsemanship to archery, shooting, hiking, fishing, soaking in the hot tub, and abundant winter options, the ranch is always a choice spot come quieter times in November. The large, comfortable guest rooms are equipped with cozy individual fireplaces and the onsite saloon is always roaring with spirits and festive activity. 

 

Rocky Mountain Dude Ranches

For those who are curious about hunting and the true Montana wilderness, Upper Canyon Outfitters and Guest Ranch in Alder has the smallest guest count on this list of 18, but their June through December season runs into late autumn and early winter for those truly in the know of intimate and unparalleled places in the United States! There are both youth and family hunts that are a true rarity, the fishing program runs daily, and horsemanship clinics and trail rides paired with luxury accommodations in private cabins keep the experience high end. The food will keep your belly warm and happy and the antelope, moose, deer and elk hunts and viewings, simply spectacular. 

 

Note; Mountain Sky Guest Ranch in Emigrant typically runs into the second week of October for early planners in 2020. Rich's Montana Guest Ranch in Seeley Lake opens for the winter season directly after Christmas for early winter scouts as well! 

 

Wild Wyoming goes winter white quite quickly! Only two ranches keep their barn doors open to the herds come the later months each year. This is an opportune time to witness true working ranches, horsemanship and iconic Western moments. 

 

Rocky Mountain Dude Ranches

In the sleepy town of Ten Sleep, is the 26-guest dude ranch, Red Reflet Guest Ranch. The exquisite, high-end, all-inclusive operation has an enormous amount to offer come late October through December, and they also host a hunting season for tagged and licensed hunters for a variety of mammals. Horseback riding, cattle activities, ATV tours (weather permitting), fishing, a fitness center, pool, open kitchen policy accompanied with gourmet cuisine and yoga in a floor-to-ceiling windowed studio make this ranch a standout year-round. For some of the best wildlife viewing and tranquility, late October through Thanksgiving proves to be the best value and experience for those who like secret, sneak-a-way deals! 

 

Rocky Mountain Dude Ranches

The Hideout Lodge & Guest Ranch. The name alone is alluring and the late autumn and early winter experience will demonstrate the reason it’s called The Hideout, you won’t want to leave. There is a tight window for this opportunity; the ranch’s season typically ends the first week in November, weather dependent. Guests might have sun and blue sky, or snow and snuggle time. There is trail riding for all levels, riding initiations and lessons, cattle work and drives, stockmanship orientation, guided fly-fishing, trap shooting, and archery, hiking, mountain biking and more! Accommodations vary including cabins, casitas, and homes. Fine dining is offered for three meals and plenty of snacks to satisfy the late-season activity. 

 

If you’re a bit more flexible with the season, there are a few more ranches to consider. Spotted Horse Ranch in popular and easily-accessible Jackson, typically operates until the second week of October. Triangle X Ranch in Moose closes the first week in October for their main season but re-opens directly after Christmas until the second week of March for a winter season.

 

All of these dude ranches and many more are members of the Dude Ranchers’ Association and can be found at www.duderanch.org. Contact Bryce or Josie at 307-587-2339 or info@duderanch.org for help on finding and picking the perfect ranch. 

Off-Season Secrets to the

How to Plan Your Trip to a DRA Dude Ranch - Tips on How to Get There

If you’re tired of the same old vacations and getaway plans, it is worth knowing that the Dude Ranchers’ Association offers much more interesting options. This Association is composed of over 100 ranches that provide top-notch services and accommodation conditions so that you will truly experience life on a ranch without compromising anything. In case you are still looking for better vacation options, it is definitely worth checking out what the Dude Ranchers’ Association has to offer. In other words, here is how to get to some great DRA dude ranches and a few ideas on what to do once you get there.

dude ranch

 

Take a Trip to a DRA Dude Ranch

 

1. Fly into Reno, NV:

Greenhorn Ranch – Quincy, CA

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Once you reach the airport in Reno, the Greenhorn Ranch is just an hour and a half away from the city, by car.

Things to do:

• Plumas County Museum

Stop by the Plumas County Museum and submerge yourself in a time when the railroad industry was flourishing. This is not an average railroad museum, as many say that the entire place is alive, due to the impressive number of exhibits and interesting collections. It is worth mentioning that you will see much more than just railroad-related items. There are other objects from the area’s history that have been restored and displayed for the public at this museum.

• Keep an eye on the local festivals

The best part about visiting Quincy is that there are events going on here throughout the year. The city is known for the number of celebration and festivals that take place in the area, which manages to attract an impressive number of visitors every year. A good tip would be to visit Quincy during the summer or fall season if you really want to be part of local festivals. If you like music, for instance, the High Sierra Musical Festival that takes place in the summer would be a great choice.

Hunewill Circle H Guest Ranch – Bridgeport, CA

dude ranch

A bit further away, at just two and a half hours away from Reno, you will find the Hunewill Ranch, another great ranch that is worth visiting while in the area.

Things to do:

• Don’t miss a trip to Yosemite National Park

Considering that Yosemite National Park is just an hour away from the Hunewill Guest Ranch, it is a place you definitely need to visit. This park is a wonder of nature that has so much to offer. If you don’t live in the area and you came here just for your vacation at the ranch, make sure to write down a visit to this park on your to-do list. You will definitely not regret making this choice.

• Check out the local hot springs

The area around Bridgeport is simply blessed with numerous natural treasures. The Travertine Hot Springs are among them and they are also the hot springs with very easy access for visitors. So, you don’t have to be a trekking expert or deposit too much effort to see these springs. You have absolutely no reason not to get out there and enjoy both the springs and the stunning views of the surrounding area.

 

2. Fly into Denver, CO:

Bar Lazy J Guest Ranch – Parshall, CO

dude ranch

To get to this ranch, you can either choose to drive for about two and a half hours or you can take the train. The trip on the train will take four hours, but it will be quite relaxing and fun experience.

Things to do:

• Take the train through Colorado

One of the best ways to see an area is to take the train if there’s a railroad in the area. Traveling by train is extremely comfortable and relaxing because you don’t have to worry about the traffic. At the same time, you have all the time to enjoy the views and see a lot on your way.

• Experience the Hot Sulfur Springs Wildlife Area

You have probably seen hot springs before, but did you have the chance to check out a sulfur hot spring? If you are in Parshall, Colorado, there is a spring like this in the State Wildlife Area. There is no entrance fee into the area and it is available throughout the year. So, no matter when you get the chance to visit, it is worth seeing. The ranch will also take you for a spectacular horseback ride to the springs for an afternoon of soaking.

Drowsy Water Ranch – Granby, CO

dude ranch

Getting to this particular ranch will also take two and a half hours by car and four hours by train. So, it is up to you what you choose to visit.

Things to do:

• Take the train and enjoy a gorgeous area

Forget about driving, at least during your vacation, and do things differently this time. Taking the train is not just convenient and relaxing, but will also give you the chance to see the beauty of the area comprised between Denver and Granby.

• Go over the stunning Ute Pass

Are you passionate about breathtaking views or have photography as a hobby? Then you must go through the Ute Pass. There are more than enough beautiful scenes as you will pass by, but the real reward is to get to the Eagles Nest Wilderness. Make sure to stop here because the views are simply unforgettable.

Latigo Ranch – Kremmling, CO

dude ranch

If you want to get to this ranch, a trip by car will take three hours, while the train will take you there in four hours.

Things to do:

• Explore the Colorado River Headwaters Scenic Byway

There’s nothing better than a walk in a scenic area. If you choose the Latigo Ranch in Kremmling, Colorado, you have the Colorado River nearby. Luckily, there is a scenic byway along its shorelines, so you can enjoy an unforgettable and relaxing walk.

• Take a trip to the Rocky Mountain National Park

A getaway in a national park, away from the hustle and bustle of the city, can do a lot of good. Simply being away from technology and a fast-paced lifestyle, enjoying nature and tranquility can recharge your batteries like no other method. And the Rocky Mountain National Park really has a lot to offer, so don’t miss it while you’re here.

 

3. Fly into Tucson, AZ:

Rancho de la Osa – Sasabe, AZ

dude ranch

It takes just an hour and a half to get from Tucson to Rancho de la Osa, so you will reach your destination in no time.

Things to do:

• Enjoy the beauty provided by the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge

Wildlife refuges can be considered real-life museums. They hold some of the biggest creations and treasures nature has to offer, so if you have the chance to visit such a refuge, do not miss it. Whether you choose to visit the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge or take the time to enjoy a ride through it, you will see beautiful things all around.

• Experience the incredible Sonoran Desert

Did it ever occur to you that a desert can be mesmerizing? Well, the Sonoran Desert is definitely one of those deserts. Home to the Saguaro Cactus, which is incredible when in bloom, this desert attracts many people due to its warm winters and unique terrain.

Elkhorn Ranch – Tucson, AZ

dude ranch

An hour and a half drive will take you down the road to the Elkhorn Ranch outside of Tucson, so this is another ranch that is easy to reach and enjoy if you are willing to try something new.

Things to do:

• Take a trip around the old part of Tucson

The old part of Tucson was used in a large number of films, so don’t be surprised if some areas will appear to be familiar. Whether it is because of the movies or simply because it is charming, you should take the time to check this part of the town out.

• Check out the Pima Air & Space Museum

If you want to get out of the western sphere a little, you can visit this museum dedicated to aircraft and everything else that revolves around them. This museum is one of a kind.

• Relax at the Saguaro National Park

The Saguaro National Park got its name from the fact that it is home to an impressive number of Saguaro Cacti. This type of cactus is representative for the area, but seeing a field of Saguaro cacti in one single place can be an impressive view.

Tombstone Monument Ranch – Tombstone, AZ

dude ranch

Only an hour and a half away from the city of Tucson, you can also find the Tombstone Monument Ranch, a sanctuary of tranquility and peace where you can replenish yourself with positive energy.

Things to do:

• Visit the famous Bisbee, AZ

Don’t be discouraged by the fact that Bisbee is a small city. There are more than enough options when it comes to having fun and staying busy over here. From birdwatching to checking out the local pubs and restaurants, the list is quite versatile and entertaining. Bisbee is also home to one of the largest and most famous turquoise mines as well!

• Have some fun at the Old Tombstone Western Theme Park

This is a place where the entire family can have a lot of fun. Also, it is pet-friendly as well, so don’t leave your four-legged companion behind. The entire park is made to reflect the authentic old western culture, so you can take this adventure as a history lesson as well, not just pure entertainment.

• Check out a real underground mine

If you’re curious to see what a real mine looks like and how people worked in such a place, you need to visit the Goodenough Silver Mine. This was one of the most important and among the first of its kind in the old west, so it is definitely a piece of history you shouldn’t miss.

 

4. Fly into Cody, WY:

Rimrock Ranch – Cody, WY

dude ranch

It takes just 45 minutes on the road to get from Cody to the Rimrock Ranch. So, you will be able to begin your vacation in no time.

Crossed Sabres Ranch – Cody, WY

dude ranch

A bit further away, one hour away to be more specific, you will find the Crossed Sabres Ranch. Once you get there, you will enjoy the beauty of the wilderness in a comfortable and elegant manner.

7D Ranch – Cody, WY

dude ranch

Even if you have to drive for one hour and a half up to the 7D Ranch, it is worth taking the trip if you want to find a tranquil place surrounded by a lot of beauty. Comfort and intimacy are at home at this family-owned ranch.

The Hideout Lodge & Guest Ranch – Shell, WY

dude ranch

It takes just one hour and another 20 to 25 minutes to get from Cody to the Hideout Lodge & Guest Ranch. After you will finish this short trip, your most amazing vacation can begin.

Things to do:

• Don’t miss visiting Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park is one of the most famous national parks in the country. So, if you’re in the area, make sure you pay it a visit as well. But, do keep in mind that it is very large, so go there with a plan in mind or with some must-see objectives. Many of the ranches in the area will take you on an all-day tour of the park and the road from Cody, Wyoming to the East Entrance of Yellowstone was deemed the ‘most scenic 52 miles in the world’ by Teddy Roosevelt.

• Visit the historical Buffalo Bill Center of the West Museum

A great way to experience the west is to check out the incredible Buffalo Bill Center of the West Museum. This paired with your stay at a ranch will definitely give you the western experience you are looking for.

• Experience the Cody Night Rodeo

What’s a trip to the west without a good old-fashioned rodeo night? The rodeo show is available every night, starting the 1st of June and until the 31st of August. Join in and experience an authentic western rodeo.

• Give yourself the chance to see the Wild Mustangs roaming at the McCullough Peaks

There aren’t many places out in the world where wild horses can still be seen. But, at the McCullough Peaks, you can still see Wild Mustangs roaming free and undisturbed by humans. This is one of the things you should not miss in this lifetime for sure. The Hideout Lodge and Guest Ranch will even take you on a horseback ride amongst the Wild Mustangs if you wish!

This article was written in collaboration with Luxury Travelers Guide

If you’re tired of the same old getaway plans, it is worth knowing that the Dude Ranchers’ Association offers more interesting options. Visit a Dude Ranch!

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