Experience the Real Old West at a Working Cattle Dude Ranch

Have you ever dreamt about riding across the plains or through the desert pushing cattle, hootin’ and a hollerin’ from the back of a horse? At a working cattle dude ranch, you will get to experience what the real west used to be and how “the real cowboys” used to live. You may just do some day work around the ranch, moving a herd of cattle from one pasture to another, or you may have the choice to go on an overnight cattle drive. You could camp out under the stars, if you so please, or sleep in a wall tent, tell stories around the campfire and eat meals cooked over an open fire. 

It sounds like a fantasy doesn’t it? At these 10 dude ranches listed below, as well as others listed on the Dude Ranchers’ Association website, you will find a true cowboy and western lifestyle experience. Check several things off your bucket list at one time with a working cattle dude ranch vacation! 

Working Cattle Dude Ranch Vacation

Working Cattle Dude Ranch

Vee Bar Guest Ranch - Laramie, WY

Hidden Hollow Hideaway Cattle and Guest Ranch – Montana

Looking for an unplugged and refreshing vacation with a little excitement added in? Hidden Hollow Hideaway might just be your perfect destination. Ride through luscious green meadows while moving cattle, all while taking in the breathtaking scenery of the Rocky Mountains which surround you. The folks at Hidden Hollow Hideaway will make sure you are equipped with the right horse and tack to make your experience is the best it can be! While here, you will be able to improve your riding and horsemanship skills, improve your confidence and help the cowboys and cowgirls of the ranch move the cattle to new pastures. You do not need to have previous riding experience before coming to the ranch, just a willing attitude!

V6 Ranch – California 

When most people think of California they think of sunny beaches, board walks and surfing. When you visit the V6 Ranch in Parkfield, California you will have a whole different outlook on California. On a cattle drive with the folks at V6 you will experience an adventure that will awaken your spirit and bring you back to the beauty of the untamed west. The V6 Ranch has four cattle drives scheduled each year that allow guests to go on an overnight trip. Their schedule for each trip is all laid out on their website and offers great detail. This is not an adventure you want to miss out on! You will help gather and move the ranch’s herd of cattle from many locations and will have the opportunity to work with real cowboys who can teach you working knowledge of gathering, moving and sorting cattle. While on a cattle drive you will also be able to increase and improve your horseback riding skills and techniques. If you are looking for a true cowboy and western adventure, look no further than the V6 Ranch. 

Working Cattle Dude Ranch

V6 Ranch - Parkfield, CA

Sweet Grass Ranch – Montana

The Sweet Grass Ranch in Montana is a fantastic destination to satisfy your “inner cowboy and cowgirl.” Although the ranch does not move cattle every week, they do have specific weeks during their season that they have cattle drives as well as other cowboy work available for guests to participate in. Make sure to talk to the folks at the ranch well in advance to make sure that your stay will include cattle work, and if you are looking for an overnight cattle drive they have an option for that to! The overnight cattle drive usually takes place at the last week of July into the first week of August. Guests are encouraged to verify specific dates for cattle work and the overnight cattle drive when booking their vacation. You don’t want to miss out on these great experiences! 

Vee Bar Guest Ranch – Wyoming

At the Vee Bar Guest Ranch in Wyoming cattle work is a highlight of the week! While horseback riding, fly fishing and the kids’ program are loads of fun, guests really look forward to getting to live the true cowboy lifestyle, even if it is just for a day. While working cattle at the Vee Bar you will get to help the wranglers move cattle from one pasture to another, learn how to help sort off certain cattle as well as doctor any sick cattle. All of the horseback riding and cattle work at the Vee Bar Guest Ranch is adaptable to all levels of experience. You do not have to be an expert rider before you arrive at the ranch; if you think about, cowboys had to be beginner riders before they could become experts! 

Burnt Well Guest Ranch – New Mexico 

An authentic “old west” style cattle drive is what you will find at the Burnt Well Guest Ranch in New Mexico. Here you will experience what it was like to live on prairie and in the desert while moving cattle and putting many miles in the saddle. This cattle drive is the duration of a week and happens once a year in the fall. The ranch will supply you with a bedroll, cot, cowboy teepee, horse and tack. All you need to bring is a go-getter attitude, a smile and probably some clothes! Stories, memories and bucket list items are created on this cattle drive and if it is something you have always wanted to do, do not miss your chance! If you are not up for a week-long cattle drive, Burnt Well also has cattle working opportunities included in their all-inclusive packages. Relax at the ranch and enjoy family time while getting to do the several activities available. Work with real cowboys and learn the ways of the west at the Burnt Well Guest Ranch! 

Working Cattle Dude Ranch

Burnt Well Guest Ranch - Roswell, NM

Red Reflet Guest Ranch – Wyoming

Where there is cow work to be done, guests are welcome to “cowboy” the herd at the Red Reflet Ranch! At this beautiful luxury working cattle dude ranch you will find pristine lodging, Le Cordon Bleu cuisine made from a farm to table program and numerous exhilarating activities to participate in. There are many cattle activities to enjoy, moving the herd with the wranglers, branding and gathering opportunities, checking in on newborn baby calves, sorting cattle and pairing them up as needed. Here, you will get to see what a true working cattle ranch is like and be able to help the on-site cowboys with their herd management duties. The cowboys are a wealth of knowledge and are so willing to teach guests who are willing to learn! 

Bull Hill Guest Ranch – Washington

Cowboys and cowgirls will have the opportunity to participate in authentic cattle drives at the Bull Hill Guest Ranch. The cattle drives can range from a half day to a full day in the saddle and they usually take place between the months of May and October. During these months’ guests will have the chance to move cattle to spring grass areas, upper pastures for the summer and in the early fall months they are driven back to the ranch. You do not have to be a cattle expert to go on one of these cattle drives at Bull Hill, but confidence is key! Beautiful scenery, great horses and lots of fun await you on a cattle drive! 

Working Cattle Dude Ranch

Working Cattle Dude Ranch

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bull Hill Guest Ranch - Kettle Falls, WA

Focus Ranch – Wyoming

At the Focus Ranch, located on the Wyoming and Colorado border, guests are invited to participate in the day-to-day operations of the ranch. Although the ranch does have other activities such as fly fishing, hiking and photography opportunities, the main focus of the ranch is horseback riding and cattle. Taking care of their horses and cattle is their main priority and the folks at the ranch truly enjoy getting to teach people and watch them learn the ways of the “real west.” There is an art to working cattle and at the Focus Ranch you will learn the ropes and get to put your skills to the test. This is the real deal! 

Bonanza Creek Guest Ranch – Montana

There are many reasons to visit Bonanza Creek Guest Ranch but great riding, trustworthy ranch horses and the thrill of moving cattle are on the top of most people’s lists! While at the ranch you will get to see beautiful mountain scenery, climb the high ridges, ride along Bonanza Creek, lope through open meadows and gather up a herd of cow/calf pairs to move from pasture to pasture. Bonanza Creek is a true working cattle ranch, the cattle along with their guests is their way of life. They value the guests who come in eager and excited to learn about the cattle ranch life and the ways of the cowboy. You will experience other activities as well as great lodging and home cooked meals. Become a Montana cowboy or cowgirl for a week at this wonderful ranch! 

Working Cattle Dude Ranch

Working Cattle Dude Ranch

 

Bonanza Creek Guest Ranch - Martinsdale, MT

Klondike Ranch – Wyoming

At the Klondike Ranch you will have the option of how much of a guest you want to be. What does that mean exactly? You can relax and let the crew at the ranch take care of you or you can dive into the hands-on work of a cattle ranch! By the time you leave the ranch you might just be the “handiest” person in your group. At Klondike you will get to enjoy great horseback rides and herd cattle, participate in the ranch hand chores if you please or even go on an overnight camp out at the ranch’s Mountain Cow Camp. You will feel like a true cowboy or cowgirl after spending a vacation at the Klondike Ranch and get to tell all of your friends, co-workers and family that you go the chance to work alongside real Wyoming cowboys!

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Have you ever dreamt about riding across the plains or through the desert pushing cattle, hootin’ and a hollerin’ from the back of a horse? At a working cattle dude ranch, you will get to experience what the real west used to be and how “the real cowboys” used to live.

 

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Dude Ranch Foundation

History of the Dude Ranch Foundation

The Dude Ranch Foundation began in 1988 by Mark Grubbs. Mark and his wife, Amy, had a rich background in dude ranching and were determined to keep the industry and heritage alive. Mark’s dream was to establish a fund to give scholarships to young people who wanted to be in the Dude Ranch industry.  Funding was to be obtained from an annual auction held during the Dude Ranchers’ Association (DRA) Convention.

In 2016 The Educational Trust Board of Directors voted to expand their mission and change the name to the Dude Ranch Foundation. 

Dude Ranch Foundation Mission - Keeping the Real West Alive.

To protect and preserve the history of Dude Ranching by maintaining a museum and archives for educating the public on the historical nature of the dude ranching industry. Additionally, our mission is to financially assist in the educations of persons wishing to pursue employment or careers in the dude ranch industry and supporting industries.

The scholarship fund has been administered by our Executive Director (s) and the Foundation Board of Directors since its’ inception to the present. The scholarship program began awarding scholarships in 1990; there were only 2 given and the total of both was just $600.  In April, 2018, the Foundation had their annual spring meeting in Cody, WY. They awarded 14 scholarships totaling $28,000. This brings the grand total of scholarships given since 1990 to $336,600. See the list of 2018-2019 scholarship recipients here

Sarah Stevenson and Russell True, Board members, had pitched the idea of having the DRA purchase a house or building that could become the “home” of the DRA. Ironically, a building was available for purchase across the street from the historic Irma Hotel, located in one of the most authentically western towns, Cody, WY. The Board of Directors visited the building and could see the potential, with a motivated seller the potential grew. Everyone realized it was a fantastic opportunity but understood the financial challenges that would be presented. 

Russell and Sarah made a decision to loan the down payment to the association in order to facilitate moving forward with the plan to purchase our very own “Heritage Center and Museum.”  Their generosity was and still is an inspiration to all in the dude ranch industry. The loans were later converted to donations for the Heritage Center. 

Dude Ranch Foundation

Dude Ranch Foundation

 Dude Ranch Foundation Heritage Center and Museum

The Heritage Center and Museum is full of donated items and historical pieces that were instrumental in the development and preservation of dude ranching. The Foundation plans to continue to add interesting historical items to combine with the already in place items. These items along with website and brochures are available to provide an unequaled educational opportunity that introduces dude ranches to western travelers. 

The ranches of the Dude Ranchers’ Association are portrayed in the museum through their brochures as well as any items they have donated to the museum. The items do have explanations of what they are and what ranch they have come from. Many of the ranches in the association are very historical and have been in existence for 75+ years. 

The Klondike Ranch, located in Buffalo, Wyoming is a ranch rich with history of the American West. 

 

Klondike Ranch – Rugged, Friendly & Unchanging

Klondike is an historic cattle ranch established in 1886. The ranch is nestled in the midst of the most unspoiled and beautiful country in America. Four times the size of Luxembourg, Johnson County, Wyoming, is home to just eight thousand people. This is the American West, as it once was – rugged, friendly and unchanging.

In the early days of the West, pioneers discovered the cool, cottonwood shaded stream which is now known as Crazy Woman Creek. They followed the creek to where it rushes forth from a deep canyon on the face of the Big Horns, found it good and settled there.

Years later the ranch site passed to a successful prospector of the famous Klondike Gold Rush and was renamed Klondike.

The Cattle Wars

The Johnson County Cattle War and battle at the TA Ranch occurred in April of 1892. The TA is only about 5 miles from Klondike, and I am sure that you could hear the rifle shots from here. I have not heard about any of Klondike’s landowners being directly involved. Frank Canton owned land just down the road from Klondike, about 3 miles. It is alleged that he was involved, probably directly, in the murder of John Tisdale. Click here for more.

 Dude Ranch Foundation

Old photo from the corral at the Klondike Ranch

The Dude Ranch Foundation also plays a vital role in the safety of horseback riders by providing a horse safety program. The Dude Ranch Foundation Horse Safety Program is an endeavor to assist ranches in managing risks and considering safety in their ongoing effort to provide their guests with a positive experience. The program relies upon the integrity of its members to review their program with consideration to the suggested Horse Safety and Risk Management Practices discussed in the program. In order to stay current with the program each ranch must attend a course at least once every three years.  The owner, operator or manager must attend a “Horse Safety and Adaptive First Aid Seminar” to remain in current standing.  Wranglers are encouraged to attend a “Wrangler Training Class” as offered at the beginning of each summer. The classes offered to the wranglers remain current for five years.

Horse Safety and Adaptive First Aid Seminars are offered at the annual Dude Ranchers’ Association Convention and throughout the spring. 

Wrangler Trainings are also offered throughout the spring. Please contact the Dude Ranch Foundation office for more information: info@duderanch.org or 307-587-2339.

Dude Ranch Foundation

Want to donate or become a member of the Dude Ranch Foundation? Click here to find out how! 

 

 Dude Ranch Foundation

We are a Non-Profit Organization - IRS Code 501 (c)3, TIN: 74-2519170

 

 

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The Dude Ranch Foundation supports the dude ranch industry through memberships of individuals like you. With a museum of dude ranch history, educational programs and scholarships the Dude Ranch Foundation keeps the real west alive.

5 Great Working Cattle Ranch Vacations in the West

Working cattle ranch vacations with the Dude Ranchers’ Association offer guests a taste of what life is like on a real cattle ranch. Here, you’ll be a cowboy yourself for the week - riding horses, checking cattle, participating in cattle drives. You'll be sleeping in comfortable bunk house cabins after a traditional day of ranch life. Day to day activities is in part dependent on the season and what needs to be done at that moment to care for the livestock. You'll need to ask your host about the work and riding agenda during your stay.

Working cattle ranches tend to accommodate smaller guest numbers (less than 20 people) to ensure individually tailored experiences. You will get to know each rancher personally and learn about the history of the ranch, cattle production local to the area and so much more. Take a look at the experiences offered by the ranches below. They are five of the best working cattle ranches across the West.

 

5 of the Best Working Cattle Ranch Vacations

 

bonanza-cattle-lodge Working Cattle Ranch Vacations

 

Bonanza Creek Ranch, Montana

If you want to go to a ranch with a history with wild herds of buffalo and roaming Native Americans you'll be amazed at the stories of  a homestead from 1877 in South Central Montana. This ranch is now known as the Bonanza Creek Guest Ranch and welcomes guests all summer to take part in riding, cattle work and genuine western hospitality. The ranch features specailty weeks tailored to your interests. They offer adult only weeks, intermediate and advanced rider weeks, weeks for families, and life coaching cowgirl retreats.

 

 

Focus Ranch  Kids Cattle Drive Working Cattle Ranch Vacations

 

Focus Ranch, Wyoming

On the border of Wyoming and Colorado lies Focus Ranch, a working cattle ranch vacation for the entire family. Grandparents, aunts and uncles love bringing kids to experience life on the ranch for uncomplicated fun with a little added education. Riding at the ranch generates the most enthusiasm and is characterized as cross country rather than riding on a trail. Every 5 to 10 days the ranch moves 1,300 head of cattle to a new pasture and you and your family are invited to help with the work.

 

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Klondike Ranch, Wyoming

Sleep under the stars on a cattle drive and an overnight campout in the Big Horn Mountains at the Klondike Ranch. At 15 miles from camp you'll get to ride in the mountains searching for cattle as a real cowboy. Here, you may arrive a stranger but you'll leave as family. 

 

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McGarry Ranches, Idaho

You'll want your best pair of wrangler jeans and most comfortable cowboy boots to be equipped for 55,000 acres at McGarry Ranches on the Rocky Mountain Range in Southeastern Idaho. The ranch's lifelong cowboy Theron McGarry will get you saddled up and ready to ride on the day to day cattle operations. As a fourth generation rancher, you'll have a professional guide to calving, doctoring, branding, gathering and the bi-annual cattle drive between the mountains and the ranch.

 

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McGinnis Meadows Ranch, Montana

Experience a well-rounded horseback riding program centered on what the horses can do with cattle at the McGinnis Meadows Ranch in the Northwest corner of Montana. With about 15 guests per week, your hosts will get to know you, work with you individually and tailor each day to you. You'll leave this ranch a better rider and wanting "more."

 

For more information on the best working cattle ranch vacations visit our blog category - Cattle Drives & Cattle Work

 

Working Cattle Ranch Vacations

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All-American Dude Ranches in the West

At the more than 100 dude ranches that make up the Dude Ranchers’ Association, guests are sure to find the All-American Western vacation they have been dreaming of—days spent in the saddle, enjoying stunning scenery and breathing fresh country air, and evenings enjoying tasty down-home cooking and ranch entertainment. Today, as it did over a century ago, the western dude ranch experience offers relief for both the body and spirit of those seeking refuge from the pressures and routine of modern life.

Dude ranch vacations are based on a lifestyle that stretches back more than a century. By the end of the 1800s, most of the American West had been explored and the stories of its natural wonders had spread throughout the Eastern portion of the country as well as Europe. Lured by the promise of awesome beauty, a spirit of romance and adventure, and the honest simplicity of the western way of life, travelers headed west in search of a respite from the crowded, noisy squalor of fast-paced cities.

Most dude ranch guests are looking for that same experience today—a chance to rejuvenate their souls and refresh their spirits. And with the impressive array of activities found at these dude ranches, everyone—Mom, Dad, kids, grandparents, couples or singles—can find something that interests them.

Dude ranches are ideal places for kids and families to re-discover each other. Without the typical distractions of TV, phones, computers and electronic games, families spend time together, riding, hiking, playing games or simply talking. And while dude ranches are a popular destination for families, couples, singles and groups of all types love this unique traveling option as well. Most ranches offer a wide variety of activities such as horseback riding, fly fishing, river rafting, swimming pools, children’s programs, cattle drives, cookouts, line dancing and plain relaxing on the porch swing, so everyone in a group is sure to find something that appeals to them. And since the cooking, cleaning and planning is all taken care of, everyone enjoys a true vacation.

Cattle Ranches Dressed in the All-American Cowboy Tradition

Rowses All-American Cattle Ranch

Rowse’s 1+1, Burwell, Nebraska

Klondike Ranch, Buffalo, Wyoming


Family Owned and Operated - Generation after Generation

4UR All-American Cowgirl

McGarry Ranches, Rexburg, Idaho

4UR Ranch, Creede Colorado


Mount Rushmore - the All-American US Presidential Monument

Triple R Mount Rushmore USA

Triple R Ranch, Keystone, South Dakota


Rocky Mountain Range - Home of the Tetons

Moosehead Ranch in Rocky Mountains USA

Goosewing Ranch, Jackson, Wyoming

Moose Head Ranch, Moose, Wyoming

For more information about the unique experience of a dude ranch vacation or to request a brochure, call 1-866-399-2339 or visit www.duderanch.org.


 

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