Horseback Riding Vacations

The Dude Ranchers’ Association recommends the best horseback riding vacations in North America. At one of these carefully selected dude and guest ranches groups will experience equestrian activities and all sorts of outdoor adventures on a short stay of three or four nights, or a full week immersed in a Western trail riding destination. Guests have everything provided for them on all-inclusive stays including lodging, dining and activities. With lodges and cabins preserved and restored from when they were built many decades ago, guests experience riding horses in a uniquely Western environment. It’s no wonder dude ranch vacations have been popular since the early 1900’s! 

At these ranches guests have a horse personally selected for each person’s riding ability and personality. Because horseback riding is a daily or twice daily activity there is an opportunity to get to know the horse on hundreds, if not thousands of acres of trails in the mountains and plains of the slimly populated West. And after guests climb out of the saddle there’s always plenty of options like relaxing by the pool, fly fishing on private lakes and streams, hiking to scenic vistas or rocking their cares away on the porch in a classic rocking chair. 

Here are some of the best riding ranches for your next vacation. 

 

Crossed Sabres Ranch, Cody, Wyoming

All Day Rides on 2.2 Million Acres

For guests looking to cover some ground, the charming Crossed Sabres Ranch is one of the oldest dude ranches in the country located outside of Cody, Wyoming and Yellowstone National Park. This is a family run operation that specializes in custom horseback riding for individuals or groups of up to 30 people. Knowledgeable wranglers take guests out on well trained and trustworthy horses whether they have no experience or years of experience on horses. Each horse is paired specifically for each guest to match not only personality, but also riding ability. The ranch offers lessons for those looking to get individual instruction on riding in a comfortable arena environment. There are short morning and afternoon rides or all-day rides into the Shoshone National Forest’s 2.2 million acres for guests to enjoy truly spectacular scenery. 

Horseback Riding

 

Medicine Bow Lodge, Saratoga, Wyoming

Overnight pack trip in the Medicine Bow National Forest

High up in the Snowy Range of the Rocky Mountains the Medicine Bow Lodge Adventure Guest Ranch offers just what their name implies - adventure. With a very diverse riding program each guest can determine what kind of adventure they would like to have. First time riders will become more and more confident on each ride at their own pace with a personal wrangler. With this instruction and getting to know their trusty steed, the horses will earn the trust of newbie riders throughout the week. Guests who have experience can ride out on fast rides, loping and trotting their way through the mountains of Wyoming. The ranch offers all day rides and even an overnight pack trip in the hills. Kids of all ages have something to do at the ranch as well. Kids 5 and under will be led around the ranch and taught about horse care and ages 6 and up can head out on the trail. Here families can literally ride off into the sunset on the appropriately named Sunset Ride

Horseback Riding

 

Focus Ranch, Slater, Wyoming

Move 1,300 head of yearling cattle 

On the border of Wyoming and Colorado the Focus Ranch is a working cattle ranch, inviting guests to embrace the authenticity of ranch life on their vacation. At this ranch, “cowboy” is both a noun and a verb. Riding here entails managing the health and grazing patterns of the heart and soul of the ranch - cattle. The ranch can adjust the length and speed of rides to accommodate a wide variety of riders, and the work that needs to be done varies throughout the summer. One of their most exciting endeavors for guests is to move the entire herd of 1,300 yearling cattle from one pasture to the next within three days! This happens several times throughout the season. Sometimes, guests enjoy it so much they might hire on to work at the Focus Ranch! 

Horseback Riding

 

Badger Creek Ranch, Canon City, Colorado

Natural Horsemanship is a photographer’s dream

Badger Creek Ranch is located in an area rich in natural beauty and history. This area has been well traversed by the Ute Indians, Spanish Conquistadors, pioneers, miners and cowboys of the old West, but is now occupied by a relatively small number of people. Photographers enjoy secluded trails in the mountains and meadows of Colorado. As a working cattle ranch the guests are also offered a chance to ride out with the cowboy crew to check fence, doctor and sort cattle. Before heading out, guests start their relationship with their horse with ground work following the feel of natural horsemanship and continue in the saddle in a location that can only be described as a photographer’s dream. 

Horseback Riding

 

Nine Quarter Circle Ranch, Gallatin Gateway, Montana

Ranch bred, raised and trained Appaloosas

The Nine Quarter Circle Ranch is not only a premier family destination with luxury log cabins, activities for all ages and very delicious meals, but also an unforgettable horseback riding destination. The ranch boasts a herd of 120 Appaloosa horses that were born and will live their whole lives on the ranch. This is an uncommon feature of a dude ranch to know all the history of every one of their horses. Their select breeding program is a reflection of the Appaloosa breed, chosen for their stamina, sweet temperament and suitability to mountain riding. Every spring a new crop of foals are born on the ranch, and guests enjoy watching the brand-new foals jump and play around the ranch. These horses will eventually be trained and added to their remuda of trail riding horses. 

Horseback Riding

 

Want to know more about a particular type of dude ranch? Take a look at the Dude Ranchers’ Association’s Working Cattle Ranches, Luxury Resort Ranches and Family Style Ranches here

 

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The Dude Ranchers’ Association recommends the best horseback riding vacations in North America. At one of these carefully selected dude and guest ranches groups will experience equestrian activities and all sorts of outdoor adventures on a short stay of three or four nights, or a full week immersed in a Western trail riding destination. Guests have everything provided for them on all-inclusive stays including lodging, dining and activities.

Best Things to Do at a Dude Ranch When You Aren't Horseback Riding

Dude Ranches are a super family vacation destination. But what if one of your family members is just not that into horses? Relax. In addition to trail rides, dude ranches offer a wide range of appealing activities. Give archery a try or perhaps take a cooking class. Maybe you just want to curl up with a good book before a nap. Optimism TravelingMom Cathy Bennett Kopf shares some of the activities available at a dude ranch that don't involve a horse.

 

 Flyfishing-Rawah-Ranch

Flyfishing is an activity offered at many dude ranches, such as Rawah Ranch in Colorado. Photo: Allison Bean Taylor/Family Vacations US.com

 

What if my knee flares up?

Booking a dude ranch vacation for my family is something I plan to do. In fact, we schedule biennial reunions for 20 of us and, on our last trip, we all voted for one that involves horseback riding.

I voted “yes’ reluctantly.

For the past few years, my left knee gets swollen, creaky and very painful. Despite my relatively young age - cough, cough - the orthopedist says it’s arthritis. Rest, Aleve and gentle movement usually make it go away. But the bouts occur without warning.

My fear is that we’ll book our dream dude ranch vacation and just as I’m about to mount my steed, my knee will buckle and I’ll be consigned to the bunkhouse for the duration of our trip.

 latigo-guest-ranch-view

Dude ranches are set in some of the prettiest spots in North America. A great alternative to horseback riding is to simply relax and take in the view like this one at Latigo Guest Ranch. Photo: Diana Rowe/TravelinginHeels.com




  

6 Great Dude Ranch Activities Beyond Horseback Riding

 

Not to worry, the experts at the Dude Ranchers’ Association say it’s possible to have a fantastic dude ranch vacation without ever going horseback riding. Say what? For those of you who have allergies, or kids too small to ride or arthritic joints, here are the best things to do at a dude ranch if you don’t ride horses.

 

1. Practice your Photography

 

Dude ranches are set in the prettiest landscapes in North America. I’d really enjoy getting up in the predawn hours, sneaking out of the bunkhouse and shooting sunrise photos of the mountains in Montana or Nebraska’s Great Plains.

And, even if I’m not horseback riding, animals make great subjects for photos. Sweet Grass Ranch in Montana offers 3-day workshops with an award-winning Western photographer to practice your skills and help you capture ranch life for your Instagram feed!

 Zapata-Cattle-Drive

I could spend hours shooting photos during a dude ranch cattle drive like this one at Zapata Ranch. Photo: Dude Ranchers' Association

 

2. Listen to Traditional Music

 

The sights of a dude ranch are the first things that come to my mind: horses, low-slung bunkhouses, cattle pens. But there’s a sound, too. Think of traditional folk music with fiddles, guitars and an upright bass.

The Home Ranch, a luxurious Relais & Chateaux property in Colorado, features nightly entertainment for guests and a weekly barn dance. With a caller telling you how to dosado (or perhaps you prefer do-si-do?) and promenade your partner, it’s great for people like me who don’t have moves like Jagger.

 

3. Try Something Completely Different - Glamping!

 

When I think dude ranch, I envision bunkhouses with rustic beds, a big ole fireplace and a large kitchen table for card playing at night. Just like the places where cowboys stayed in every Western movie I’ve ever seen.

However, Bull Hill Guest Ranch in Washington State has two glamping tents available for guests. I would book one of these in a heartbeat. Maybe not for a family trip, but if it was just hubby and me or we were dude ranching with friends, a glamping tent would be so much fun to try. They’re decorated in comfy luxury and let you be outside in the great outdoors without the discomfort of sleeping on the rocky ground.

 

4. Relax and Unwind at a Dude Ranch Spa

 

If you choose not to go horseback riding during your dude ranch vacation, spending a day or two indulging in spa treatments might be just the cure to fix what ails you. Or if you do take daily trail rides, you might need a massage to work out the kinks after you dismount.

Arizona’s Rancho de Los Cabelleros features a full-service spa comparable to those you’d find in a luxury hotel. They feature a Bourbon Bubbler Body Scrub because even cowboys like a pampering now and then!

 

5. Dine and Wine

 

If you think you’ll be eating franks and beans during your dude ranch vacation, think again. Cattle wrangling is hard work, even if you’re sitting on the sidelines watching all the action. Many dude ranches feature gourmet meals, prepared with locally sourced meats and produce. Who knew there was such a thing as a cowboy foodie?

And nothing pairs better with great food than wine. The Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort is located in the heart of wine country in Solvang, California. They’ve arranged complimentary tastings at a number of nearby wineries for ranch guests.

 

6. Tour Area Attractions

 

North American dude ranches stretch from Arkansas to California and north into British Columbia in Canada. You may choose one that’s in an isolated region. Or, your dude ranch may be located in an area worth touring.

 

mt-rushmore-south-dakota

Dude ranches offer tours of area attractions such as Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota. Photo: Shutterstock/amadeustx

 

For example, the Triple R Ranch in South Dakota is a great base to explore the state’s attractions. During a weeklong stay, guests have the opportunity to hop in a ranch vehicle and see the famous Mount Rushmore lighting ceremony, check out the Dakota badlands and visit the Crazy Horse Memorial.

Of course, you may choose to spend your entire dude ranch vacation horseback riding. It’s an amazing opportunity to experience a way of life that’s completely different than the one most of us city slickers live each day.

But, when you dismount, or, if you’re just not that into horses, there are plenty of activities to keep a cowboy or cowgirl entertained.

 

Author: Cathy Bennet Kopf, TheOpenSuitcase.com

 

Considering a dude ranch vacation but want to do more than just ride horses? Outdoor adventures, activities, excursions, and things to do beyond horseback riding, including a few that might surprise you!

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Riding Lessons Before My Ranch Stay?

The Dude Ranchers' Association often receives inquiries about riding lessons before going on a dude ranch vacation. Recently, Philip W asked,

"Should I attend a Western riding school here in England before? Or, would it be better to wait till I am at the ranch in case the teaching here is not as good as (or would conflict with) that which I would receive on the ranch?"

In short, I responded "I think it would be a great idea to take riding lessons before you go." The long explanation below has a little more information. English and Western riding styles vary but the essential muscles used are the same. Taking lessons from a quality location will teach you about basic interactions with horses and help get you in shape for a weeks worth of riding. However, please understand that horse training and styles of riding can be related to intense perspectives. The more flexible you are at learning different viewpoints the more you are apt to benefit from the dude ranch experience and independent riding lessons. Each dude ranch in this association has policies and guidelines in place to keep riders safe. Adaptation to each location will be essential. Most riding lessons will occur in an enclosed arena and most dude ranches ride over hills, mountains and National Parks. If you can imagine these differences of locations you can imagine why the instructions might be different.

Should I Take Riding Lessons Before My Ranch Stay?

  • Introduction to Equus Caballus, the modern day horse

A horse weighs anywhere from 840 - 2,300 pounds, 4.7 - 6 feet at the shoulders and has as many different breeds as dogs. There are lots of different things you can learn about this animal and the equipment used in your lessons. The physical characteristics, proper etiquette and basic grooming techniques. Each horse you meet is different from the next; the more interactions you have with them the more you can discover.

  • Physical Fitness

Horseback riding does not require extreme athleticism, but like learning any new sport or exercise, new muscles can be "discovered" by soreness. Taking lessons would be an accurate, if not the most accurate, way to identify these muscles. Preventing soreness would definitely make your ranch stay more enjoyable.

  • Coordination, Balance and Stability

First time riders may soon realize that riding a horse is tougher than it looks. It requires coordination, balance and stability. There are a lot of parts and pieces to keep up with. A lot needs to happen simultaneously to get a horse to pick up speed or even walk in a circle without wandering off. Riding lessons will begin this learning journey, that even the most experienced of riders continue to improve upon.

Riding is definitely not as hard as walking a tight rope at the circus, but it does require you to straddle the horse and stay in the middle. Balancing and stabilizing your weight in your seat and in the stirrups gets easier with practice. And the better you are at this the easier it will be on the horse.

All this being said, dude ranches are accustomed to and enjoy sharing their love of horses and horseback riding with novice riders and can accommodate all experience levels. You can ride for as long as you like each day and your down time is flexible. Did you know that most dude ranches offer riding lessons as well? All in all I would say riding lessons are a good idea before, during and even after your dude ranch stay. Make sure the location is a quality one and learn all you can. Call the office at 307.587.2339 if you have any questions. Be inspired by this quote from Denis Diderot

"There are three principal means of acquiring knowledge... observation of nature, reflection, and experimentation. Observation collects facts; reflection combines them; experimentation verifies the result of that combination."
Sundance Trail Arena Rodeo Barrel Race Riding Lesson
Sundance Trail Ranch in Colorado Offers Riding Lessons and Rodeo Activities

Read more about the Sundance Trail Guest Ranch

Rocking Z Arena Round Pen Riding Lessons
The Rocking Z Ranch Teaches Lessons from Pat Parelli

Read more about the Rocking Z Ranch

McGinnis Meadows Cattle & Guest Ranch Riding Lessons
 
Learn about cattle work at the McGinnis Meadows Cattle Ranch

Read more about the McGinnis Meadows Cattle Ranch

 

Do I Need Riding Lessons Before a Dude Ranch Vacation?

The Dude Ranchers' Association often receives inquiries about riding lessons before going on a dude ranch vacation. Recently, Philip W asked, "Should I attend a Western riding school here in England before? Or, would it be better to wait till I am at the ranch in case the teaching here is not as good as (or would conflict with) that which I would receive on the ranch?" Read more about why we think it may be a good idea to take riding lessons before your stay.

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The Western dude ranch rejuvenates & boosts health

According to experts, taking a vacation is good for your health.  Despite this fact, Americans and Canadians tend to shortchange their vacation time, often leaving earned time on the table or taking a day here and a day there instead of a week or more at one stretch. The Western dude ranch rejuvenates & boosts health.

Since 1926 the Dude Ranchers’ Association shaped and established the highest quality standards in the guest ranch industry. A DRA (as it’s known,) guest ranch is the epitome of a Western holiday and providing both the time and environment to foster good health. Surrounded by spectacular beauty, far from the noise and crowds of fast-paced cities, serenity comes easy to each guest.

According to the career website, Workopolis, “Psychologists say that it takes five to seven days to de-stress from work, so doing it piecemeal can be counter productive. Most of the studies show people need about two weeks in one block a year to feel the benefits of a vacation.”  During summer the majority of DRA guest ranches operate in week-long increments, allowing guests the time to unwind, settle in and savor the experience. In addition to horsemanship, ranches offer activities satisfying the recreational and social needs of each generation. Tennis clinics, mountain biking, rock climbing, zip-lining, bird watching, crafts, hiking, whitewater rafting, and golf; each can be enjoyed during a  Western ranch vacation. Some ranches also offer known stress reducers like yoga, meditation, massages and other soothing spa treatments.

The Home Dude Ranch Yoga Retreat for your health

Dude ranches are ideal places for kids and families to re-connect.  Without the typical distractions of TV, phones, computers and electronic games, families spend quality time together sometimes just hanging out on the porch swing or sitting around the campfire. There are more than 100 members of the Dude Ranchers’ Association in the Western US and Canada.  Each is a little different but each DRA dude ranch vacation is the most potent tonic to combat the stress caused by the uncertain times we live in.  Check out our website at www.duderanch.org or e-mail us at colleen@duderanch.org.


 

Book before January!

As families get together for the holidays and consider past celebrations, vacations and shared moments, the conversations often move to the topic of “Where are we going to book our next family holiday destination?” The Thanksgiving through New Years holiday season is a busy time of vacation inquiries for dude and guest ranches. That being said, most small venue dude ranches have a guest capacity under 50 persons. An extended family group that incorporates 2-4 family units might mean that an inquiring party is looking at reserving greater than half of the ranch capacity. This means that you must select a date that has minimal prior reservations in order to book for your family group size. To book last minute at these smaller venue vacation destinations is extremely difficult, since the prime dates often fill-up a year in advance. If you are considering a dude ranch or guest ranch vacation, and you hope to travel during the months of June, July, or August, then firming up your travel plans by the prior January is not too early. In fact, many of the prime weeks will already be filled by January. Small venue size, loyal returning clients, restrictive travel dates, and competing advance planners all add-up to a call to action for prospective dude ranch vacationers. Don’t Wait! Choose your ideal ranch, and make the call now, before you are disappointed by having your only available travel date blocked-out with a filled to capacity ranch. Below are some great ranches you might choose from. By Doug Cole, Marble Mountain Ranch


Book a Stay with Rawah Ranch

Colorado high country To the mountain tribe of Ute Indians, “Rawah” was the word meant for “abundance.” Nestled at 8,400 feet, just south of the Wyoming border neighboring the snow capped peaks of the rugged Rawah Wilderness, Rawah Ranch and Fly Fishing Lodge occupies a magical setting in the still undiscovered Big Laramie River valley.


  Book a Stay at Elk River Guest Ranch

The Elk River Valley, within the historic ranch lands of Steamboat Springs, Colorado Bordered by the 2.2 million acre Medicine Bow - Routt National Forest (clear up into Wyoming) and offering 2,000 feet of private river frontage, the Elk River Guest Ranch offers a unique blend of outdoor activities, town proximity, and mountain solitude.


  Book a Stay at Deep Canyon Ranch

The foothills of the Rocky Mountains Nestled in the Teton Canyon, our 1,200 acre ranch offers a diversity of riding experiences. From the foothills of the Rocky Mountain Front to the canyons entering the Bob Marshall Wilderness, you can enjoy the magnificence of nature at it's best at the Deep Canyon Ranch. A capable and experienced staff, with room for 20 guests, and owner operated, we have made this our home and business since 1958. Enjoy your free time in our spacious lodge or dining room with-a-view, or in your comfortable, modern cabin with it's porch overlooking the valley.


Book a Stay at the Sweet Grass Cattle Ranch

Sixth generation, family-owned cattle operation and guest ranch With miles of Sweet Grass Creek winding through the ranch, alpine forests, pristine lakes, and rolling foothills dotted with vibrant wildflowers, Sweet Grass Ranch offers spectacularly diverse terrain beckoning to be explored.  Our family welcomes guests to join us for exceptional horseback adventures, authentic cattle work, and to experience the area’s abundant recreation opportunities; including hiking, plentiful wildlife viewing, and lake, stream or pond fishing.


 

Live your Western Vacation Dream in Wyoming

Think all inclusive holidays are an invention of the big tour operators? Then think again. The Dude Ranch Association (DRA) has been leading the way for years. There is a broad spectrum of DRA-accredited guest ranches across North America, ranging from rustic, no-frills working ranches to luxury resort-style ranches. From valleys complete with untouched Rocky Mountain backdrops to desert sunsets across the Southwest, you can find DRA-accredited ranches throughout the Western US, as well as in California, Arkansas and Canada. If ever a state lends itself to this type of vacation, it's Wyoming.

This is where the Rocky Mountains meet the High Plains, true cowboy country, with few people and vast, open spaces. It is a land that inspires dreams of riding horseback across the plains and Wyoming luxury Dude Ranch vacations help guests realize that dream.

Yellowstone National Park

The bulk of Yellowstone National Park is in Northwest Wyoming and the Grand Loop Road provides a wonderful overview of the area, from the steaming geysers to majestic waterfalls and deep canyons. Hundreds of trails traverse the park, providing access to deep back-country areas, remote lakes, and scenic overlooks.

Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park is also in Northwest Wyoming. The first glimpse of the jagged mountains that explode out of the Jackson Hole Valley have been known to take the breath away. Pristine lakes and grassland dot the valley floor and glaciers slide down steep rocky peaks from elevations of more than 12,000 feet.

Jump to eastern Wyoming and find Devil's Tower, a massive, monolithic volcanic neck that rises out of the Black Hills. Visitors circumnavigate the tower and try to spot some of the many climbers,  or play hide and seek with the prairie dogs that reside within the park boundaries.

Wyoming Dude Ranch vacations can be anything from rustic to luxurious, with guests spending all day in the saddle herding cattle, or soaking in a hot tub and enjoying a massage. Activities may range from angling to river rafting and hiking, or lounging on a porch with a book. ‘The Dude Ranchers’ Association takes great pride in all of our ranches and we are particularly fond of the adventures and warmth that guests can enjoy during the winter months at our Southwest ranches, says Colleen Hodson, executive director of the DRA. ‘These ranches offer a scenic escape from the bleak winter conditions many people are experiencing at this time of year and guarantee a vacation that is anything but ordinary.’

Check out these genuinely lovely Dude Ranch Locations of the Cowboy State...

7D Couple Trail

7D Ranch

The 7D Ranch is Wyoming's premier family guest ranch since 1958. Extensive trail riding in a pristine mountain setting. Fly-fishing with instruction. Supervised children's program. Western cuisine. Hiking from the ranch as well as in the Beartooth Mountains. A weekly trip into Yellowstone is offered.  

Heart Six Guest Ranch

Heart 6 Wedding Horseback

Heart Six Guest Ranch is located in Beautiful Jackson Hole Wyoming. With great views of the Grand Teton Mountains the scenery is second to none. Our main activity is horseback riding, but we have lots to offer guests of all ages - from very young to very young at heart!    

Lazy L&B Ranch

Lazy L&B Kid Moment

The Lazy L & B Ranch has a quality horse program for all ages and abilities with extensive riding through wildlife habitat, forest, river gorges and high desert in small groups. There's also great fishing, hiking, swimming (pool or river) and just hanging out.    

Vee Bar Guest Ranch

Vee Bar Cattle

The Vee Bar Ranch, located near Laramie Wyoming, is a family-friendly vacation destination that is sure to please the horse loving cowboy or cowgirl in you. A variety of activities, ranging from horseback riding to river tubing, will suit each member of your group. Experience true western hospitality here!  


 

Plan Your Dude Ranch Family Reunion

When asking yourself how to plan your dude ranch family reunion it may be helpful to follow this question guide. The ranches listed here are great examples of places to take your family for your next family reunion. They are all accredited members of the Dude Ranchers' Association. As such they are held to the highest industry standards and are kept accountable to provide unforgettable destination vacations. Find your ranch today. Let us help.

Sylvan Dale Reunion

A Sylvan Dale Ranch Reunion

When would you like to go?

Planning ahead is essential. We recommend that the larger size the group the farther in advance you should book your stay. Ranches fill up quick during their peak season. Are you planning a vacation during the spring time? Then you should probably start looking the summer before and asking about availability.  You can do this for multiple ranch at once using our Favorites Feature.

 

Where would you like to be geographically?

Maybe somewhere near a National Park or National Monument? How about a climate specific location? Or elevation? Oh, and what about Grandpa's siblings who live out West somewhere?  For example, if Yellowstone National Park is at the top of your list, please look at these ranches for your next reunion: Rimrock Ranch, Elkhorn Ranch and R Lazy S Ranch.

 

How many people will be there?

No matter how big or small your reunion will be there are ranches who can accommodate. If the whole family would like to be in one large cabin that can hold up to 10 -20 people that can be arranged. Or maybe the older adults would like to be in a more secluded, quiet part of the ranch while the younger generations can have a cabin right in the middle of all of the action. Rich Ranch, Paradise Guest Ranch and the Red Reflet Ranch are great locations with many different housing options for your next reunion.

Elkhorn Family Reunion

Elkhorn Ranch Trail Ride

What would you like to do?

Would you prefer to take only the adults on your vacation and ride in the saddle all day working cattle with cowboys who center your reunion around their cattle operation? Use the Search by Amenity Page to discover these ranches.  Or maybe turn loose the whole family on a variety of activities during the day? For starters that would include horseback riding, white water rafting, hiking fishing, mountain biking, or zip lining.  What about your less active relatives? For them they can relax by the pool, enjoy the spa services or swap stories in the saloon.  Have no concern for the youngest, they will be included as well.  At the Red Horse Mountain they are famous for their extensive kids program starting at age 3. Babysitting serves are generally offered at an additional cost or ranches may offer a steep discount for a nanny.

 

How long would you like to stay?

In hearty dude ranch tradition some ranches require a full week stay in order to really experience life on the ranch. However, we realize you may not be able to spend 6 nights and 7 days at the ranch. Please consider Medicine Bow Lodge, Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch, Majestic and Covered Wagon Ranch for your shorter stay requirements.

 

Ranch Pictures

The Cabins at Paradise Guest Ranch

 

If you would like more personal assistance planning your vacation please contact us (Leah and Colleen) at the Dude Ranchers' Association. We are able to provide a more concise and tailored list of ranches to choose from. We understand that navigating through all 104 ranches in our Association is a little overwhelming. Sketch out the details of your trip and let us help with the rest. You can call 307.587.2339 from 8 - 4:30 MST or email info@duderanch.org anytime you like. We look forward to hearing from you.  Happy trails!


     

National Parks Week on a Dude Ranch

In honor of National Parks Week we wanted to share with you two great travel story ideas about the best ways to experience some of the awe-inspiring National Parks in America: through a dude ranch vacation.

Moosehead Grand Teton National Park

1.    Great news for road trip lovers this summer! Road trips will be cheaper than they’ve been in six years, according to a new government report that predicted lowgas prices over the summer. The U.S. Energy Information Administration reports that a gallon of gasoline will cost an average of 32% lower than last year nationwide. With that in mind, may we suggest a piece that explores a road trip to Wyoming and Montana guest ranches nearest some of the country’s most breathtaking national parks? 2.    Similarly, as ecotourism becomes more popular, the Dude Ranchers’ Association’s guest ranches have been the pioneers of green living and green vacations for decades. At a guest ranch, you can explore the country’s National Parks System while reconnecting with nature in some of the most tranquil, pristine areas of the country. Learn to “live off the land” with fishing trips, bird watching, hikes, wildlife viewing and more.

Below, please find a sample of Accredited DRA ranches located near or right in the heart of the country’s top national parks.

Elkhorn MT Yellowstone National Park

Glacier National Park in Montana is one of the 20 largest national parks in the United States. There are two DRA ranches located within an easy drive of the park, known for its abundance of wildlife and more than 700 miles of hiking trails. Take a day trip to Glacier National Park from Three Bars Guest Ranch and Bar W Guest Ranch is highly recommended.

Triangle X Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park - Moose Head Ranch and Triangle X Ranch are located completely within the boundaries of Grand Teton National Park, a location that attracts nearly four million visitors per year to Northwestern Wyoming. The R Lazy S Ranch is located on the Southern boundary of Grand Teton National Park, within walking distance from your cabin. Yellowstone National Park is located in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho and home to a large variety of wildlife, including grizzly bears, wolves, bison and elk. Visit Rimrock Ranch to enjoy a picnic lunch on their Friday tours of the park, when guests are treated to a tour of the whole "Lower Loop" of the Park, which includes Sylvan Pass, Fishing Bridge, Yellowstone Lake, West Thumb, Old Faithful, Madison, Norris Geyser Basin, Canyon and Yellowstone Falls, and Yellowstone River. Elkhorn Ranch is located 1.5 miles from the northwest corner of Yellowstone Park and 35 miles from the entrance at West Yellowstone. So don’t miss out this summer give us a call and let us help you plan your trip. 307.587.2339


 

What Ranch Adventure Will You Have This Summer?

Vee Bar Guest Ranch

A Funny Thing Happened On My Way to Getting Old By Laurie Hartman, Wrangler Hello from one of those folks usually a day late and a dollar short, a jack of many trades and master of few, a perpetual student of the School of Hard Knocks, a late bloomer. But better late than never, right? I’ve had lots of ideas over the years, some good and some bad, and half my life was over before I got the idea to apply to be a guest ranch wrangler. I can’t recall how or when or why the idea came to me, but once it got in my head it would not go away. I questioned my sanity. I was 53 years old, thirty pounds overweight and well, frumpy. Age will do that to you. At least that’s what I’d been telling myself, like when I bought bigger sweatpants and when I stopped fussing over grey roots. My chin was sagging and other body parts were on the road to saggville as well. One of my eyes got lazy. I got lazy. I quit mapping my barrel racing plans on the calendar, I quit hauling every weekend, I quit riding when I got home from work. I was one step away from granny panties and blue hair. Then another thought came to mind. It was one of my characteristic play-it-safe what if’s, but this one had a twist. What if I didn’t apply? What if I didn’t get hired? The alternative didn’t look good.

Vee Bar Guest Ranch

So I worked up a resume, spent hours searching the internet for ranches I wanted to apply, filled out applications and investigated how ranches tick. I’d never been to a guest ranch…I’d never really been anywhere unless it involved a barrel race. I started working out and taking care of myself and I stopped worrying about what Grandfather Time was doing to me. I couldn’t do anything about my age or being hired but I could give it my best shot, another characteristic I’m known for. The bottom line is I stuck with it. And not only did I did get hired, but before it was over I knew it was one of the best things I’d ever done. I traded an office chair for a saddle and the great outdoors. My new seat offered breathtaking views, the scent of sage, the experience of not only seeing from a new perspective but through the eyes of others as well. I traded air conditioning for Mother Nature. The majority of days were made to order. It rained several times but there’s something magical about the sound of rain on your slicker and cowboy hat.

Vee Bar Guest Ranch

I traded fine-tuned barrel horses for dude ranch mounts that surpassed my expectations. The horses on the ranch weren’t nose-to-tail plugs like I expected, but they had been around the block a time or two and were very wise. They adapted to their new riders each week by reading them well and reading them quickly. It was interesting to see the horses change depending on the skill level of their rider, and humorous seeing them come to life when a wrangler rode them. A few old reliables gained my respect and gratitude for simply doing their job without taking advantage of the novice on their back. I traded moody clients for enthusiastic people appreciative of me and what I did for them, driving in traffic every morning for rides at sunrise bringing the herd in from pasture, coworkers I never related to for staff members whose joy to be there was contagious. A good guest ranch offers big country, great horses, awesome food and wonderful people. You really can’t ask for better job conditions than that, and in my case it changed the course of the rest of my life.  I’ve heard it said if you enjoy what you’re doing it’s not work. That’s so true. I’ve noticed people who aren’t happy don’t bring that up. They don’t know what they’re missing. I didn’t know what I was missing.

Looking for seasonal work this summer?

Check out the employment ads for the following ranches. Click on their links for more information. Kitchen Work  - Hideout Ranch, AZ & Laramie River Ranch, CO Wrangler - Red Rock Ranch, WY & 4UR Ranch, CO


 

9 FAQs of Dude Ranching

The Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) of Dude Ranching

G Bar M Ranch

1. Why choose a Dude Ranchers’ Association (DRA) ranch? With more than 100 DRA  accredited ranches, the perfect ranch experience is out there for you. The DRA’s expert staff helps travelers and travel agents customize the experience, guiding visitors to the perfect ranch to suit their needs and desires. The DRA requires its members to uphold the highest quality and standards within the dude ranching industry. Membership into the DRA is obtained only after a rigorous two-year inspection and approval process.

2. What are some of the typical activities for those visiting a dude ranch? While most people usually associate dude ranches with cowboys and cattle drives, they are so much more. Dude ranches are the original all-inclusive vacation, committed to preserving and sharing the Western way of life. Guests are able to customize their ranch experience to plan their ideal vacation. From yoga and cooking classes, to fly fishing and hiking, to swimming and bird watching, a vacation to a DRA accredited guest ranch guarantees a memorable experience unlike anything else. Horseback riding is a top activity at most DRA accredited guest ranches, as is fishing. Many guest ranches have added spa offerings and other luxury amenities to their properties for guests’ enjoyment. Other activities include whitewater rafting, hay rides, western dancing, golfing, ATV riding, trap shooting, hiking, mountain biking, baseball games and more. Almost all DRA accredited ranches of-fer evening activities such as campfire cowboy singers and s’mores, casino nights, Western movie nights and stargazing.

3. What does “all-inclusive” mean?

Vista Verde Ranch Snow Trail Ride Family Square

The “all-inclusive rate” concept originated at dude ranches – rooms, meals and most activities have been included in the rate since the late 1800’s. Dude ranch vacations are priced competitively with respect to other similar all-inclusive vacation options. Ranch vacations are a great value and make it easy to stay within a budget. There are no hassles because everything is taken care of, from transportation to lodging to meals to activities. All-inclusive does not mean watered down drinks or sub par food. It simply means everything is included in the price.

4. Where are DRA accredited ranches located? Dude ranches are located in some of the most spectacular areas in the country, from valleys complete with untouched Rocky Mountain backdrops to desert sunsets across the Southwest. Member ranches are located in 12 Western states and two Canadian provinces: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oregon, South Dakota, Washington, Wyoming, Alberta and British Columbia, Canada.

5. What transportation options are available to a dude or guest ranch? Guests should discuss their travel plans with the ranch they’ll be visiting. Most guests travel by commercial airlines, and the ranches provide shuttle service to and from the nearest airport. For those guests within reasonable distances or wishing for more of a “road trip” experience, driving is another option.

6. What should I consider when planning a dude ranch vacation? We recommend taking four main things into consideration:

  • Style of Riding – Choose the riding environment that appeals most to you: open meadows, prairies, mountain trails or southwestern desert. The location of the ranch determines the terrain.
  • Accommodations – Guest ranch accommodations vary depending on the ranch from luxurious and elegant to rustic and cowboy-chic. Whether you are staying in your own private cabin or in a lodge room, rest assured you will sleep on comfortable beds, in superbly kept rooms, with all the amenities you will need for a pleasant and relaxing stay.
  • Time of Year – May to October is peak dude ranch season. Some dude ranches are open year-round and some seasonal ranches offer special holiday activities. You’ll find the southern ranches are more popular in the winter months, while the northern ranches are the most popular in the summer months. Any time of the year is a great time to visit a dude ranch!
  • Ranch Size – Smaller ranches may only be able to host several families at one time, while larger ones can host a couple hundred people.

7. How do I choose the perfect ranch for my vacation?

Colorado Cattle Company

The best way to start narrowing your options is to go online to the Dude Ranchers’ Association website. You can search for ranches according to a variety of criteria, such as activities/amenities or location (state or province), or even by proximity to national parks. Modify your search until you find exactly what you’re looking for. You can even put your favorite ranches into your “saddle bag” for side-by-side comparison. As you narrow down your choices, call one of the DRA’s expert staff members at (866) 399-2339 to help guide you to the perfect ranch selection based on what’s most important to you.

8. How authentic is the ranch experience? Most DRA accredited ranches are multi-generational owned and operated, so they are the real deal.

9. How can I learn more about the DRA? Visit us online at any of the following places: Website: www.duderanch.org Blog: www.duderanch.org/blog Facebook: www.facebook.com/DudeRanchers Twitter: https://twitter.com/duderanchers YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/DudeRanchers


 

4 Types of Dude Ranch Vacations

Whether you’re a staunch horseman who loves being in the saddle, or a rider that prefers activities to choose from in addition to riding, one of the members of the Dude Ranchers’ Association will fit the bill. All of the member ranches uphold the highest standards in the industry and are committed to preserving the Western way of life. The below sampling of ranches is sure to appeal to a variety of travelers:

Klondike Guest Ranch

Working Ranches Located at the base of Wyoming’s Big Horn Mountains, Klondike Ranch can accommodate six to 10 guests at a time. Guests are encouraged to work cattle with the ranch hands. Other activities include camping, fishing and hiking.      

Bar W Trail Ride Credit Danny Nestor

Traditional Ranches In addition to the riding program, guests of all ages at C Lazy U Ranch in Colorado can enjoy fly fishing, trap shooting, a ropes course, and an outdoor heated pool and hot tub. At Bar W Guest Ranch in Montana, 30 guests per week can ride on a million acres of varied terrain, as well as skeet shooting, archery and roping. The riding program at Greenhorn Ranch in the High Sierra Mountains of California accommodates all levels of experience and even encourages trotting and loping.   Luxury Ranches

Tanque Verde Recipe Pork Chop

Established in 1868, Tanque Verde Ranch in Arizona is recognized as the last luxurious outpost of the Old West. It provides guests with plush accommodations, unparalleled amenities and an array of things to do including horseback riding, mountain biking, fishing and hiking.      

Hideout Horses Running

Working + Luxury Ranches Guests are treated like family at Red Reflet Guest Ranch in Wyoming, exploring the 25,000-acre ranch via horseback, working cattle, riding mountain bikes, and enjoying abundant wildlife. Hideout Lodge & Guest Ranch is a unique combination of an upscale working cattle, riding and fly fishing ranch. Located nearby Yellowstone National Park, it’s one of the biggest operational ranches in Wyoming. For a complete listing of all-inclusive Dude Ranchers’ Association member ranches, visit DudeRanch.org.


 

Don't Squat with Your Spurs On

By Danielle Ottis Some of our guests ask, and many more wonder in anxious silence, "How do I answer the call of nature while on a trail ride?" Here are a few tips from a seasoned trail guide and trail rider.

#1 Go before you leave. Remember that time when you were a kid, headed out on a road trip with the family, only minutes after departing and you declare "I gotta go!" Likely Dad's response was, "Why didn't you go before we left?" This is a good scenario to learn from when preparing to head out on a long trail ride.

#2 When nature calls, don't answer it. Put nature on hold until the ride is over.

#3 Sometimes you just can't put nature on hold. Believe me I know. I spent one summer guiding trail rides while pregnant and the call of nature was just NOT going to wait. In this situation, choose a nice secluded spot with lots of brushy coverage. You don't want your fellow riders to see more of nature than they were expecting. For those of you riding in those un-natural places without trees, good luck to you!

#4 Choose a spot carefully. Don't make the rookie mistake of leaving the trail you're on only to find that you are relieving yourself in another trail...with other riders coming up the trail behind you. Becoming the butt of wrangler jokes for years to come, and inadvertently christening said trail with its new name, Full Moon Trail, probably isn't on your vacation bucket list. True story.

#5 Leave your horse with your guide or tied to a tree. You don't need your mighty steed getting ...well...nosy.

#6 Bury it. This might be getting just a little too personal, but learn from the boy scouts and bury it.

#7 "How do I bury it? It’s not like I have a boy scout along with his little collapsible shovel and all." Well I don't know, get creative!

#8 Don't use the "toilet paper" you think nature has provided for you. It's just not going to end well. That leafy green may look as soft as Charmin but likely it will leave you wishin' you weren't a itchin'.

#9 And last but not least, don't squat with yer spurs on. Saddling up and heading out on horseback, whether it is for an hour or for a week, is something I look forward to rain or shine. Sharing that experience with someone else makes it even better. Now you can join me on the trail just a little more prepared for your next horseback adventure into the woods.

Western Pleasure Guest Ranch


 

Luxury and Kids Go Together at Resort Guest Ranches

Resort-style guest ranches combine the adventure of dude ranch vacations with the luxury of all-inclusive resorts for your kids and yourself. The Dude Ranchers Association has over 100 member ranches across the western U.S. and Canada with many hosting special programs and activities for kids. Below are a few ranches that do Luxury and kids like no other destination vacation spot.

At Colorado’s Tumbling River Ranch kids from age 3 to teen find adventure and independence. Kids are split into groups by age and spend their days going on scavenger hunts, hay rides, camp outs, horseback rides, hikes, and more. Teens love hanging out with the college-aged counselors while rock climbing, rafting, fly fishing, playing capture the flag, and going on an overnight pack trip.    

From morning until bedtime, Montana’s Mountain Sky Guest Ranch offers a variety of fun children’s activities that will entertain and delight all ages - like horseback rides, games in the heated swimming pool, fishing in the ranch pond, sing a longs, arts and crafts, nature walks, rodeos, tennis, and fun surprises cooked up by the creative staff .     

Wyoming’s Lost Creek Ranch and Spa, made famous last fall as the setting for Modern Family’s season premiere, lets kids leave their “boring parents” relaxing at the spa, playing golf, or exploring Grand Teton National park. Special kids-only activities are tailored to the interests and abilities of participants.      

Lone Mountain Ranch has an Outdoor Youth Adventure program that is designed for young people (ages 3-18) to have fun while developing an appreciation for nature and building their self-confidence through a wide variety of outdoor recreation activities. These experiences are geared to entertain and challenge the interests of varying age groups. When you combine the experiences we offer with our kind, energetic and knowledgeable staff, the kids can't help but have fun and look at life from a different perspective. The confidence they gain with their peers outdoors is something they can take with them wherever they go.  

The Home Ranch, in Colorado, is a family-friendly ranch that requires no advance planning, no childcare arrangements, no dinner planning, and no stress. You and your family can simply follow your individual bliss while we take care of everything else for you. Our all-inclusive children’s program and dedicated kids counselors offer a wide menu of daily activities and adventure for kids and teens - and make it very easy for the whole family to unwind, relax, and do what they want, when they want, how they want to do it.    

Lone-Mountain-Winter-Sleigh-Ride-Snow


 

 

4 Reasons to Host Your Next Corporate Meeting at a Dude Ranch

With the participants sequestered in remote locations, wrapped in spectacular scenery, and free from distractions, Western dude ranches are becoming an increasingly attractive venue for corporate meetings and conferences. Not just any ranch, but a member of The Dude Ranchers’ Association. For anyone assigned the task of finding a place to hold a company event, be assured a DRA membership guarantees the ranch is a superior ranch, maintaining the highest standards of quality in the industry. There are more than 100 DRA Ranches in the Western US and Canada. They are only granted membership after a rigorous inspection and trial period. In business since 1926, the DRA keeps the bar held high for the entire industry. Horses, hats and hospitality are our hallmarks. 

Bar W Guest Ranch Corporate Meeting Space

The Bar W in Montana has plenty of space for your group. 

 

Why You Should Host Your Next Corporate Meeting at a Dude Ranch

 

Facilities

Many DRA ranches have conference facilities comparable to or better than those found at local hotels.Wouldn't you enjoy this view (pictured below) at the  Red Reflet Ranch in Tensleep, WY? What one won’t contend with at a ranch are numerous add-on charges for equipment, tacked on service fees, exorbitant taxes and a harried staff. Although most DRA ranches are best suited for a corporate meeting of 50 people or less, chances are good it will be the only meeting “in-house.” We do however have some ranches that can accommodate up to 200 people.

Red Reflet Corporate Meeting

Meeting Space at the Red Reflet Guest Ranch in Wyoming.

Technology

Ranches come with high-tech boardrooms, wi-fi, and high-speed Internet connection. Microphones, podiums, multi-media equipment are available for use. Some DRA ranches have meeting planners on staff. Others facilitate award-winning programs designed to teach managers and CEO’s new skills. Add to this gourmet food, luxury accommodations, fitness facilities and in most cases exclusive use of the property and it’s difficult to find a more appealing site for corporate retreats, training seminars, incentive trips, and strategy sessions.

 

All-inclusive Rate

Package at an all-inclusive rate making meeting the budget a breeze. And, the “exclusive use” policy guarantees every corporate meeting held at the ranch receives the full attention of the conference service staff. And don't forget the important time for making yourself at home in your room. You definitely would feel cozy at the Tanque Verde Ranch in a room like the one at their ranch in the picture below.

 

Tanque Verde Corporate Meeting Room Accommodations

Room accomodations at the Tanque Verde Guest Ranch in Arizona.

Team Building Activities

Dude Ranches offer groups the best in team-building activities that are quintessential parts of the ranch experience. Groups work together to learn the ins and outs of being a cowboy, such as how to throw a lariat and how to herd and move cattle. Other team-building activities include horsemanship classes, scavenger hunts, tee-pee building competitions, rope course and much more. Throw your self into trust building at the C Lazy U Ranch (pictured below).

    C Lazy U Activities Swinging Corporate Meeting Team Building

The ropes course at the C Lazy U Ranch in Colorado.

Corporate Meeting at a Dude Ranch

With the participants sequestered in remote locations, wrapped in spectacular scenery, and free from distractions, Western dude ranches are becoming an increasingly attractive venue for corporate meetings and conferences. Not just any ranch, but a member of The Dude Ranchers’ Association.

Winter Weddings, Sleigh Rides and Skiing

Has that summer lovin' turned into something more serious? Sundance Trails Ranch specializes in making your winter weddings and elopements both beautiful and memorable. Honeymoons here are complete with Colorado snowy vistas and warm fireplaces in your own private log cabin. Stargazing from the jacuzzi completes the dream stay. Who knows, your one night stay may turn into two or a full week.

Lone Mountain Ranch Larry & Curly Draft Horses

Meet Larry and Curly. They are 6 year old Percherons at the Lone Mountain Ranch in the famous Big Sky, Montana. After two years in their sleigh ride program Curly is known to be full of energy and mischievous. Apparently it's not unusual to see him take the hose out of the water tank and spray water around. Larry is also playful and loves to push against things. These guys are a team of the noble steeds, if you will that draws the sleigh rides to the remote North Fork cabin. Here you'll have a very special dinner cooked on an old fashioned wood-fired cook stove.  A Montana-sized prime rib dinner is served family style in a room illuminated by kerosene lanterns. Cowboy music rounds out an evening reminiscent of times long ago. 

While ranches in more northerly states are generally busiest during the summer, many ranches from Wyoming, Montana and Colorado all the way up to British Columbia, Canada, are open for business during winter. With 60 Kilometers of machine groomed trails Latigo Ranch offers cross country skiing, snowshoeing and tubing. As a member of the Cross Country Ski Areas Association they guarantee a winter adventure's paradise. Check out a map of their cross country ski trails.  


 

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