13 Best Dude Ranches for Families

The ultimate family vacation has grown exponentially in terms of options and accommodations — and dude ranch vacations are no exception. In fact, there are very few resorts that emulate the offerings of the dude ranch community. “Activity options have skyrocketed. From ropes courses and ziplines to rock climbing, cooking classes, and more, some dude ranches now have more than 100 activities,” says Colleen Hudson, Executive Director of The Dude Ranchers’ Association.

The diversity and abundance of activities for families, along with stunning resort locations near national parks and public lands, solidify the Western dude ranch as one of the best family vacation experiences on the planet. These are the best of the best.

13 Best Dude Ranches for Families 

 

1. The Home Ranch – Clark, CO

Best For: Cuisine and Cooking

The Home Ranch does many things exceptionally well, including innovative cuisine and cocktails, luxury accommodations and extraordinary programming. Nestled in Clark, Colorado, a 30-minute drive from Steamboat Springs, the ranch is one of the few Rocky Mountain dude ranches that offers four-season activities and family options for children ages 6 and over. Bonus: All meals, lodging, local transportation, fishing gear, guide services, and on-ranch activities and adventures are included in the price of your stay.

dude ranches

2. Rainbow Trout Ranch – Antonito, CO

Best For: Authentic High Mountain Experience

We love the focus on disconnecting from technology at the Rainbow Trout Ranch. None of the 16 log cabins onsite offer TVs, and the Wi-Fi isn’t strong — and that’s on purpose. They do offer cozy fireplaces, though, and some of the cabins can sleep up to eight guests. The ranch is nestled on 600 acres at 9,000 feet and surrounded by national forest lands, providing abundant terrain for riding and spectacular views. Fly-fishers enjoy the ranch’s private 1.5-mile stretch of the Conejos River, ripe with supreme-size rainbow trout. Aside from delicious meals, accommodations, and onsite activities galore, a weekly whitewater rafting trip is included in the cost of your stay.

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3. White Stallion Ranch – Tucson, AZ

Best For: Evening Entertainment

White Stallion is one of the two largest dude ranches in the nation; yet it remains family-owned and family-focused. The True family actually has a trifecta of ranches under their Arizona chaps (White Stallion, Tombstone Monument and Ranch de la Osa). But it’s their home base and incredible Tucson property that is one of the best family dude ranches in the world! The horse program is stellar, with various riding options, educational opportunities, family-specific rides, a weekly ranch rodeo and more. The resort also does a great job with nightly entertainment, with options such as astronomy classes with telescopes, country and western line dancing and lessons, and water color lessons with the resident artist, Ute Vaughn. And if you like shopping, you’ll be glad to know this dude ranch has one of the largest onsite gift shops of any dude ranch in the nation.

dude ranches

4. Circle Z Ranch – Patagonia, AZ

Best For: Old West Experience

If your family wants an authentic Western experience, complete with Hollywood-esque desert moonscapes, rolling hills of cacti with Southwest accommodations, fabulous cuisine, and an even better atmosphere, Circle Z Ranch is for you. Open late-October through early-May each year, Circle Z is the oldest continually operating guest ranch in the state of Arizona.

Originally a sheep ranch, Circle Z was transformed into a dude ranch in the 1920s.  Numerous generations of families have connected here ever since. Movie buffs — study up on “Broken Lance” with Spencer Tracy, “Monte Walsh” with Lee Marvin, “El Dorado” with John Wayne, and the final episode of “Gunsmoke” — all were filmed on this property.

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5. Bonanza Creek Country Guest Ranch – Martinsdale, MT

Best For: Riding in the Wide Open Country  

This dude ranch is not for the wee ones; the focus is riding and cattle work. Bonanza Creek has a maximum allowance of 12 guests at a time, but usually averages around eight people — making this one of the most intimate guest dude ranches in the nation. There are 40 guest horses on the ranch, who welcome families into their lifestyle and incredible landscape.

Guests are matched with their horses for the half-week to week-long stay. Each stay includes lodging, three meals a day, horseback riding, herding cattle, team penning, hiking, private lake fishing, wildlife watching, a breakfast ride and cookout, campfires, and wagon rides with a team of horses.

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6. Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort – Solvang, CA

Best For: Wine Country and Activities

Easily accessible from Santa Barbara, California, Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort is a family-owned working dude ranch. The 10,500-acre ranch is consistently awarded as best luxury dude ranch for numerous reasons.

The upscale ranch offers 73 cottages, all with working, wood burning fireplaces, and all without phones or televisions. Horseback riders can access 50-plus miles of riding trails; a 100-acre, spring-fed lake; two 18-hole championship golf courses; tennis courts; a pool; and spa.

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7. Western Pleasure Guest Ranch – Sandpoint, ID

Best For: Off-Season Vacations

Many dude ranches in colder climates close for the season come late autumn. And while Western Pleasure Guest Ranch in northern Idaho certainly welcomes visitors year-round, it’s their off-season that’s a standout. Families will be charmed by the four hand-hewn log cabins at the ranch, each one authentically decorated and super cozy. Or, guests can choose Grandma or Grandpa’s room on the main level of the lodge, or a suite on the second level.

The ranch is located on 1,100 acres in the Selkirk and Cabinet Mountain ranges. The spectacular and changing scenery of the seasons varies the activities — enjoy horseback rides in the fall (ages 8 and up), fat bike rides in the winter, and skiing and snowmobiling in the spring! What’s also unique is the cabins can be booked without meals — a rarity at dude ranches.

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8. Paradise Guest Ranch – Buffalo, WY

Best for: Water Activities

Come summer, it’s the child in all of us who yearns to be by water. At Paradise Guest Ranch, families can participate in an extensive fly-fishing program – either on French Creek or one of the stocked, nearby trout ponds. There’s also an onsite swimming pool.

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9. Bar W Guest Ranch – Whitefish, MT

Best For: On-Trend Vacations

The Bar W Guest Ranch, outside of Glacier National Park, recognizes the needs of millennial families. Their traditional summer offerings have exploded in recent years, with new activities and adventures for all ages. Trail rides, wagon rides and a cultural kids’ program keep families busy on the ranch. The resort is also popular for its glamping in canvas tents with wood floors and luxurious bedding. And the resort’s location in Whitefish means you’re close to cute shops and kid-friendly restaurants and breweries.

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10. Medicine Bow Lodge Adventure Guest Ranch – Saratoga, WY

Best For: Best-Kept Riding Secret  

The Medicine Bow Lodge Adventure Guest Ranch is nestled into the Snowy Range, about 20 miles from Saratoga, Wyoming, and two hours from Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Operating since 1917, the resort was most recently purchased by new owners in 2002, who truly enhanced the horsemanship of the ranch and riding possibilities. The maximum guest count is 15.

Families will especially love the summer program, with all-day rides, breakfast rides, overnight pack trips, sunset trip rides, fish and ride scenic trips (one of the only ones in the nation!) and other options. Guests can also participate in horse grooming and feeding, or just watch or photograph.

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11. Triangle C Dude Ranch, Dubois, WY

Best For: Getting a True Sense of Working Cattle

Featuring an 8,000-square-foot, rustic log remodeled to include a full-service spa, home theatre, library, pool and fine dining, Triangle C Dude Ranch provides a home-away-from-home while enjoying the ranch. But, forget the luxury and enjoy the ranch’s Pack Trips that provide a true sense of the working cattle in the Rockies. Following wranglers on trails on horseback, days end at campsites where you’ll gather around the fire for dinner. Back at the resort, kids may prefer the programs geared for ages 2 to 12, including nature-based crafts, sleeping in a tepee and learning the ropes in a junior wrangler program.

dude ranches

12. Three Bars Guest Ranch – British Columbia, Canada

Best For: Private Cabins and Communal Meals

Three Bars Guest Ranch, a family-owned and operated dude ranch, is located in British Columbia, just a stone’s throw from Montana and Banff National Park. Families will enjoy private cabins and daily meals in a communal setting, where guests enjoy week-long visits together and fast become friends before the trip comes to an end. Daily horseback rides for all levels are available, as well as guided and non-guided hikes, mountain biking, river rafting and more. Each night, guests gather for drinks and dinner with the staff and enjoy games and entertainment as the stars come out and bonfires glow.

dude ranches

13. Drowsy Water Ranch – Granby, CO

Best For: Young Children

Less than two hours outside of Denver, Drowsy Water Ranch has been in business since the 1920’s. About 100 head of horses, primarily quarter horses and paints, make their home at the Drowsy Water. Nine individual cabins snuggled beside the creek offer lodging for families.

The 700-acre Drowsy Water Ranch welcomes children of all ages, even infants. The children’s program is unstructured, but comprehensive. Children ages 5 and under in the Buckaroos program are led on smaller horses in a pen. For children ages 6 to 13 in the Range Riders program, rides are held twice a day. The kids are allowed to walk, lope and trot according to trail conditions and their comfort level on the horses.

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The ultimate family vacation has grown exponentially in terms of options and accommodations  — and dude ranch vacations are no exception; families love dude ranches!

 

Read the full article by Julie Bielenberg here

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!

 

 

Save this pin for later! 

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 Ranches During the Winter: Here's Where and Why

Freshly-fallen snow, sleigh rides and skiing make these dude ranches a magical winter getaway By Lyn Mettler Travel Expert December 7, 2015 Originally Posted on 10Best.com Set in some of the most beautiful scenery in the American West and covered in blankets of snow for months, these dude ranches offer a secluded yet active winter getaway for all ages. Whether for skiing or enjoying seasonal activities like sleigh rides and snowmobiling, these ranches have it all when the weather turns cold.

 

C Lazy U Winter

C Lazy U Ranch | Granby, Colorado While the ground might be covered in white, count on plentiful sunshine and clear blue skies at C Lazy U Ranch. Take advantage of private skiing with no lift lines where the Snowcat delivers guests back up the hill or pop the kids on a tube or sled for a wild downhill ride. Other winter options include back country snowmobiling, horseback riding or snowshoeing, and there’s even ice hockey on the ranch's pond. C Lazy U also provides fine dining and luxury accommodations to refuel and recharge for the next day's adventure.

Latigo Winter

Latigo Dude Ranch | Kremmling, Colorado Located along the Continental Divide in Colorado, Latigo Dude Ranch caters to skiers during the winter months with some of the state's best snow conditions (about 18 feet every winter) and nearly 40 miles of groomed trails for cross-country skiing. Other winter activities at the ranch, which is approaching 100 years old, include snowshoeing, tubing, biking on snow or simply taking in the quiet and seclusion from the front porch of the historic log lodge with panoramic mountain vistas.

Bar W Winter Sleigh

Bar W Guest Ranch | Whitefish, Montana The Bar W Guest Ranch in Whitefish, Montana gets up to 300 inches of snow every year. The ranch offers terrain for every level of skier, including cross-country, downhill and backcountry skiing. Kids love dog sledding, taking a sleigh ride with ranch horses Duke and Dutch, and ice skating or hockey on the ice rink. You can even try ice fishing for trout, perch and more in area lakes or joining in a square dance. End the day with down-home cooking Montana style.

Western Pleasure Winter

Western Pleasure Ranch | Sandpoint, Idaho A favorite activity of visitors to Western Pleasure Guest Ranch in North Idaho is a scenic horse-drawn sleigh ride by one of the ranch’s draft teams. A two-mile loop trail takes passengers through a forest and offers snow-covered views of the nearby Selkirk Mountains. There's also snowmobiling and plenty of scenic skiing for all levels. When the day is done, cozy up by the lodge fire and then head back to one of the ranch's log cabins or lodge rooms.

Home Ranch Winter

Home Ranch | Clark, Colorado Nestled in Colorado's Elk River Valley, just north of Steamboat Springs, the Home Ranch becomes a winter wonderland when its legendary snowfalls begin each season. Considered one of the most beautiful cross-country skiing resorts in Colorado, the ranch has top-notch Nordic skiing, a world-class chef and rustic accommodations. Guests can even help feed the ranch’s herd of more than 100 horses while visiting.

Lone Mountain Winter

Lone Mountain Ranch | Big Sky, Montana Voted the No. 1 Nordic Ski Resort in North America by Cross Country Skier magazine, and located just six miles from some of the country's best skiing, Lone Mountain Ranch is a skier's paradise. Guests can also take a short shuttle ride to explore Yellowstone National Park or Gallatin National Forest by skis or snowshoes. If you're feeling daring, try out winter fly fishing too. Cap it all off with a sleigh ride under starlit skies to the North Fork cabin for a family-style prime rib dinner, lit by oil lanterns and warmed by a hundred-year-old cookstove.

Seven Devils Winter

Seven Devils Lodge Guest Ranch | Council, Idaho  Just south of the Seven Devils mountain range, Seven Devils Lodge Guest Ranch sits on 18,000 acres among canyons, high desert and mountains. A working ranch since the early 1900s, it is one of the most sought after destinations for backcountry snowmobiling ("boondocking") because of its widely varied terrain, which begins right out the front door. The lodge has six individually-themed bedroom suites and serves family-style ranch meals in the dining room.

Waunita Winter

Waunita Hot Springs Ranch | Gunnison, Colorado Set high in the Colorado Rockies at nearly 9,000 feet of elevation, Waunita Hot Springs Ranch is filled with snow-covered mountain views at every turn. Surrounded by Gunnison National Forest and 10 miles from the Continental Divide, the ranch is close to two popular ski areas and abundant terrain for snowmobiling. Most accommodations are in the main lodge, which boasts two fireplaces, a library and billiard room, as well as weekly square dancing and live Western music performances.

Vista Verde Winter

Vista Verde | Steamboat Springs, Colorado Vista Verde offers guests an upscale, all-inclusive winter experience with plenty of activities for all interests. Spend days frolicking in the snow on skies, snowshoes, by sled or tube or even by fat tire bike. Enjoy a sleigh ride led by ranch horses or take a horseback ride through softly packed snow. There are even yoga classes and private hot tubs in guest cabins to soothe aching muscles after the day's snowy adventures.

Sundance Winter

Sundance Trail Guest Ranch | Red Feather Lakes, Colorado Head out on horseback into winter's crisp morning air for a ride through Roosevelt National Forest at Sundance Trail Guest Ranch. A small horse ranch with a lodge and cabin suites for accommodations, Sundance Trail even welcomes dogs to join owners during winter months. An outdoor Jacuzzi lets guests stay warm as the snow softly falls.

What can you expect at a dude ranch in winter? When the weather turns cold, dude ranch fun is just getting started. Snow sledding, skiing, sleigh rides, and other winter activities. Plus tips for winter vacation planning.


   

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