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!

 

 

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From Arbuckle and bear sign over an open flame to pizza ovens and prickly pear margaritas on patios under the stars, these are the top dude ranches with the best outdoor meals and dining experiences for late summer and early autumn. Nature’s bounty is at its finest this time of year. Breakfast rides with fresh confections, four-course lunch atop a mesa and evening cuisine fireside, the DRA has some of the most intimate and exquisite land in the West with access to local food and secret dishes.

Surprising Places You’ll Find Dude Ranches

Do you think a dude ranch vacation is limited to cowboy country? Think again! Although most people associate dude ranches with Colorado and Wyoming, some of the best dude ranches for families are located in some surprising places! Read on to learn about ranch adventures in some surprising places – and how your family can enjoy a dude ranch experience, no matter where you are!

Best Dude Ranches for Families

Some of the best dude ranch experiences come in unexpected places. Try some out-of-the-way ranches for an excellent adventure of your very own! Photo courtesy of The Dude Ranchers Association.

 

Blame Hollywood. Thanks to the cowboy westerns we’ve seen on the big screen, many of us think that dude ranches are strictly found in states like Wyoming and Colorado. Of course, those states do boast some great ranches, but why limit yourself? You can find some of the best dude ranches for families almost anywhere in the country from Arkansas to California – and even in Canada! Here are some great ranch experiences in some very surprising places.

 

The Arkansas Rancher

 

A vacation in Arkansas is often associated with the relaxing Hot Springs. But you can couple that relaxation with the adventure of a lifetime at an Arkansas Dude Ranch! Nestled by the gorgeous Buffalo National River wilderness, the Horseshoe Canyon Ranch in Jasper, Arkansas, offers a genuine dude ranch experience through beautiful Ozark Country.  At the Horseshoe Canyon Ranch, experience the best of both worlds – a genuine western experience flavored with down home southern hospitality.  This family-owned, family-operated dude ranch caters to families, offering a variety of activities for all ranchers of all ages.

 

Horseshoe Canyon-zip line

Horseback riding is only the beginning at Horseshoe Canyon Ranch. Visitors also enjoy rock climbing, target shooting and even zip lining! Photo courtesy of The Dude Ranchers Association.

 

A visit to the Horseshoe Canyon Ranch is all-inclusive, so all the horseback riding, zip lining, rock climbing, swimming and other activities are included. Often recognized as one of the best climbing areas east of the Rockies, the Horseshoe Canyon Ranch offers over 300 rock climbing routes, ranging from beginner to expert.  If you prefer water activities, the Buffalo National River is just minutes away. Enjoy a lazy canoe ride down, peering into the clear water to watch the turtles and fish. If you want to join them, feel free! Just jump off a bluff at one of the established swimming holes.

Your adventure will continue with other activities you select. Of course, there are so many choices; it may be hard to narrow them down. Other favorites include the petting zoo, skeet and target shooting, fishing and archery – just to name a few! The large variety of activities, as well as the gorgeous wilderness location, makes this one of the best dude ranches for families, bar none!

Whatever activities you chose for the day, return to your cozy yellow pine cabin that’s the perfect blend of modern and rustic. Relax with a soak in the outdoor hot tub before being served your choice of dinner. With everything from Mahi Mahi to barbecue ribs on the menu, your meal will be just what you wanted to cap off your day.

When you want to unplug and reconnect with your family, there’s no better way than to share a western experience – southern style! 

Horseshoe Barn Fall Colors

Any season is a great time to set out on a dude ranch adventure. Photo courtesy The Dude Ranchers Association.

 

California, Here I Come!

 

California is often associated with luxury. Many vacationers head to the Golden State for the classic amusement parks, the allure of movie stars, the giant redwoods and the winding streets of San Francisco. But the amazing natural landscape of this large state makes it perfect for outdoor activities – and that includes dude ranches!

If you’re looking for a bit of luxury while enjoying the great outdoors, head to one of California’s many luxury dude ranches. One favorite is Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort, a luxury ranch nestled on 10,000 acres in the Santa Barbara wine country. This working ranch offers a telephone and television-free environment – but you won’t miss being plugged in while enjoying the comforts of your private cottage, featuring a wood-burning fireplace and touches of fine western art.

 

Alisal Guest Ranch Sunset

Luxury ranching California style is on gorgeous display at the Alisal Guest Ranch, right in Santa Barbara wine country. Photo courtesy of The Dude Ranchers Association.

 

Alisal represents the epitome of luxury ranching, with 50 miles of trails for riding and two championship-level golf courses on site. Located just minutes away from the wineries and vineyards, Alisal also offers a “sip, saddle and spa” package perfect for those wanting a complete “glamping” experience.

Of course, you can still find traditional dude ranch experiences in California. At Marble Mountain Ranch in Somes, treat yourself to the signature “saddle and paddle” package, riding the lush mountain trails one day and white water rafting the next. Do you feel the need for speed? Then book a jet boat tour to the Pacific.

Families flock to Greenhorn Creek Guest Ranch in Quincy, where activities like country western, line and swing dancing and guest rodeo events come along with the miles of horseback trails. Prove you’ve mastered the dude ranch life by competing in such events as barrel racing, pole bending and keyhole. Then have a home-cooked and hearty meal in the Chuck House.

Want a real taste of the ranching life? Try some Rankin Ranch beef, a specialty on the menu at Rankin Ranch in Caliente, CA. A working cattle ranch for over 150 years, Rankin’s western hospitality features comfortable mountain cabins, horseback riding through mountain and meadow, and trout fishing. For evening entertainment, try your luck in a foosball or horseshoe tournament. But for true relaxation, nothing beats counting constellations in the star-studded California sky.

Authenticity also rules at Hunewill Circle H Guest Ranch, just north of Yosemite National Park in Bridgeport. Emphasis here is on great horseback riding through 26,000 acres of beautiful meadow. Other activities include family dance night, a talent show, and world class trout fishing. Or you can put on your spurs and join the hands-on cattle work essential to this working ranch. After building up a hearty appetite, enjoy the Creekside cookout, complete with campfire singalong and s’mores. Next time you’re California dreaming, your mind will be filled with memories of moments like these.

 

Authentic Oregon

 

If you really want to relax, unplug and get back to the goodness of nature, take a vacation at an authentic working cattle and hay ranch. That’s what you’ll find in (surprise!) Oregon. At the Long Hollow Ranch in Sisters, OR, guests participate in cattle drives and fly fishing expeditions as well as the traditional horseback adventures.

Everything about the Long Hollow Ranch is authentic, from the century-old ranch buildings to the home cooking and family style meals. Of course, the ranch has been updated, but each room reflects the simpler, gentler time when it was originally built. Other activities include rock climbing, rafting, and simply sharing stories with new friends under the gorgeous Oregon sky.

 

Best Dude Ranches for Families

 

 Surprising places you can find dude ranches | You might expect to find dude ranches in Colorado and Wyoming, but did you know there are ranches in Arkansas? California? Canada? Oregon? Unexpected ranch destinations for family vacations.

 

Think Outside the Box in British Columbia

 

Feel the concept of “dude ranch” is strictly western Americana? Think again.  Discover dude ranches throughout Canada, our neighbor to the north. In fact, some of the best dude ranches for families are found between the Pacific Ocean and the Rocky Mountains, in British Columbia, Canada’s westernmost province. (See, there’s a connection to the west!)

 

Three bars ride

Visit British Columbia for a ride in Canada’s westernmost province! Three Bars Guest Ranch employees share their love of the cowboy lifestyle! Photo courtesy of The Dude Ranchers Association

 

Want an authentic vacation on a working ranch – but with plenty of amenities? Try a stay at the Three Bars Guest Ranch in Cranbrook, British Columbia. Specializing in all-inclusive vacation experiences for riders and non-riders alike, Three Bars Guest Ranch is a working cattle ranch in the Canadian Rockies just south of Banff National Park.

The Beckley family, owners of the Three Bars Guest Ranch, share their love of authentic cowboy lifestyle with their guests. Guests stay in private hand-built log cabins, complete with all modern amenities and a welcoming front porch, the epitome of laid-back relaxation. The cabins surround the Main Lodge, a gorgeous log building that houses a business center, gym and fitness center, the ranch store, recreation center and more. Upscale dining is available in the restaurant, with each meal being more delicious and satisfying than the last.  

The ranch is also home to more than 120 horses. Anyone participating in the world-class horseback riding program will be matched with a horse for the length of the stay. Your horse will be ready whenever you decide to ride the beautiful terrain of green fields with majestic mountain views.

 

Best Dude Ranches for Families

You’ll be riding more than horses during your Canadian dude ranch experience. Three Bars Guest Ranch offers a variety of activities, from white water rafting to an outdoor Jacuzzi! Photo courtesy The Dude Ranchers Association

 

Of course, the Canadian dude ranch experience isn’t just limited to horseback riding. Three Bars Guest Ranch offers a plethora of activities so visitors can enjoy a complete cowboy experience. Choices range from the excitement of mountain biking and fly fishing to the relaxation of an outdoor hot tub and Jacuzzi. Whether you want a relaxing vacation or a new adventure – or a little of both – this Canadian dude ranch aims to please!

Next time you want a taste of down home hospitality, don’t limit your thinking to traditional ranching states. Dude ranches from all over the country (and outside of it!) welcome all visitors, giving us a chance to unplug and connect with authentic living and the simple pleasures of life. What more could you want in a vacation?

By Mary Dixon Lebeau

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How to Choose the Right Dude Ranch for Your Family Vacation


Dude ranch family vacations began way back in the late 1800s, giving city slickers an opportunity to be a real cowboy and experience the Old West. Today, this American tourist attraction is still as popular as ever, especially for family vacations. With settings that encourage families to kick up their heels or kick-back, dude ranches are scattered throughout the West (and even in Canada!) and come in all shapes and sizes. Yet dude ranches are not all created equal. So how do you know which dude ranch is right for your family vacation?
 
C Lazy U Ranch Family Vacation at a Dude Ranch



Looking to get away from it all and take on a new adventure? Wanting to reclaim family time and unplug? Discover the perfect all-inclusive family vacation at a dude ranch.


What, you say, a dude ranch? I get it. Even though I live in Colorado near all those wide open spaces and grew up on an Iowa farm, I hesitated to take my totally citified city slicker children. Can’t you see the eye-rolling now when you mention that there just might not be cell service? OMG, the world that they know has just ended. Seriously.


But persevere, parents, as your dude ranch vacation will be epic.  And your kids will love it – I promise!



How Do You Know Which Dude Ranch is Right for Your Family Vacation

 

Choosing the right dude ranch for your family vacation can be a bit challenging, especially when navigating the many possibilities of destinations, types of ranches, things to do, and more. What’s a mom (or whomever in charge of the family travel recon) to do? Which dude ranch should she choose? And how does she plan a dude ranch trip for her diverse family personalities AND keep everyone happy? Here are my tips on how to choose the right dude ranch for your family vacation.
 

Stay at in a cabin at the Home Ranch during the winter.

 



Why a Dude Ranch?

 

Let’s first address the elephant in the room – or in this case, the horse. Dude ranches are popular because they offer all-inclusive vacation packages that bundle a full week of activities, such as trail rides, swimming, fishing and hayrides with fabulous food and comfortable lodging for one low price. Often this package can be more affordable than a six-day theme park vacation.

Some ranches also offer “Kids Stay Free” and even “Grandparents Stay Free” weeks; so if you plan your trip right, you can save even more. Dude ranches offer stays from a long weekend to as many days as you want, although most families opt for a 7-day dude ranch vacation.

Black Mountain Ranch Cattle Drive



What Type of Dude Ranch Fits Your Family Vacation?

 

The first step is picking a dude ranch. Since there are literally hundreds of ranches across the United States and Canada, your first decision should be which type of ranch is the best fit for your family. Dude ranch family vacations come in all different sizes and flavors. 

There are three general categories of ranches:

  1. Working Dude Ranch where a guest’s experience is as a get-your-hands-dirty, working hand. Your family will be “ranch hands” and assisting in the operation of the ranch, requiring a higher level of riding ability.
  2. Dude Guest Ranch (Standard Ranch) features primarily horseback riding and a variety of outdoor activities. Cabins are usually more rustic. Food is usually served family style. The theme is to provide an authentic family experience on a ranch.
  3. Resort Dude Ranch, usually larger ranches, offer an array of diverse activities and onsite amenities, such as full-service spa or upscale dining options. Luxury ranches step it up with four-to-five star accommodations and amenities, gourmet restaurants, spas, and lots of activities in addition to horseback riding. Accommodations range from family-style or individual cabins to elegant lodges


Where does your family fit in the above type of dude ranches? My family enjoys a hands-on approach and getting outside, although this Grandma is more the glamping type – no pitching a tent for me! Be honest as this decision could make or break your family vacation.

 

Colorado Dude Ranch Family VacationMy horse-shy daughter overcame her fear with the patient instructions of Wranglers at a Colorado dude ranch. Photo Credit: Diana Rowe, TravelingInHeels.com

 

How Many Guests at the Dude Ranch?


Just as important as the type of dude ranch is how many guests it can host. Staying at ranch that hosts eight guests will offer a very different experience than a ranch that serves 100 guests. You'll especially notice this difference during dining and social events.

Does your family prefer a more intimate setting with personalized attention? Be one of the family at Rowses 1+1 Ranch, work right alongside the family on this working ranch that only accommodates 10. 

Not into a working dude ranch vacation? Consider the Hubbard's Six Quarter Circle Ranch, an upscale guest ranch hosting up to 12 guests on the border of Yellowstone National Park in Montana.

Or perhaps your family is a little more social and enjoys meeting and bonding with other families? Horseshoe Canyon Ranch in Arkansas or Colorado Trails Ranch in Durango welcomes 50 and 55 guests, offering plenty of opportunities to meet new people. Or you might prefer a ranch with capacity at 30 or fewer, such as Long Hollow Ranch (Oregon), Rawah Ranch (Colorado) or Rimrock Ranch (Wyoming).



Consider Location, Timing and Experiences for your Dude Ranch Family Vacation

 

Now that you have the type of dude ranch your family will love, consider the location of your dude ranch, the time of year you want to take your trip and the overall type of experience you want to have. Just as you would for any vacation consider your families availability, budget, and just how far you want to travel (or not travel) to start your vacation.

Prefer a dessert landscape? Or do you dream about the mountains? Is your family into road trips? Love National Parks? Dude Ranch Association make choosing a location easy with their searchable website. Research dozens of available dude ranches by State/Province, Activity & Amenity, and even location in or near National Parks.


When to Book your Dude Ranch Vacation?

 

Once you've determined where you want to go, consider the time of year to take your trip. Ranches in northern states are busiest in summer months due to their cooler climates. Experience warm weather riding during the winter in the southern states.
 

Snowshoeing at Latigo Ranch
Snowshoeing in the winter at Latigo Ranch in Colorado – priceless! Photo Credit: Diana Rowe, TravelingInheels.com



Or take your adventurous family on a winter dude ranch vacation in the Colorado Rockies, and discover snowy activities that are fun for the whole family. Bundle up and take a sleigh ride. Build a snowman or start a snowball fight with the kids. 

A few years ago, I escaped the city for a winter getaway at Latigo Ranch, staying in my own little paradise of a cabin and trekking out on snowshoes at my leisure. I can neither confirm nor deny that I warmed up with a hot toddy afterwards.

 
Vista Verde Ranch Sleigh Ride



Accommodations at a Dude Ranch



Lastly, you want to think about what sort of accommodations you'd like. Do you prefer to rough it? Or is a luxurious hotel-like stay more your cup of tea? Ranches offer a wide range of atmospheres, and any and all of these are options for you and your family. Stay at a rustic cabin with no running water, overnight in a covered wagon, or get ready for 5-star pampering and accommodations including a spa! Choose your ranch according to your family’s needs.

 


How are the Vittles?

 

Ranch cuisine ranges from family style, fill-your-gut-with-good-ol-home-cooking meals to gourmet dining experiences. Pick your poison according to what your family will (or will not) eat.
 

 

Good old’ fashioned eggs and toast breakfast – one of many options at your dude ranches.

Good old’ fashioned eggs and toast breakfast – one of many options at your dude ranches.  Photo credit: Pixabay.com



Is Horseback Riding the most important aspect of your dude ranch family vacation?

 

Horses are a big part of just about every dude ranch experience. If you’re all about getting in the saddle and exploring the ranch, you are going to be one happy cowboy or cowgirl. First time riding a horse? Beginners will be offered lessons, an appropriate skill-based horse will be provided, and then off with you, your cowboy boots and hat. Don’t worry though - ranch hands take the lead showing you their trail rides of varying lengths. Heck, if you’re feeling really adventurous, join in a cattle drive. Some ranches offer the opportunity to spend two or three days riding the range and sleeping in the open – now there’s a story your kids can share with their friends!

 McGinnis Meadows Cattle Drive

 

Are any of your kids under 6-8 years old?

 

If the answer is yes, carefully read the fine print at each of your possible dude ranches to confirm that your kids will be able to participate. Many ranches place a minimum riding age for their programs. Although some ranches may offer babysitting or childcare options, others may require an adult to skip the horseback riding to stay with the younger children.
 

Hiking at Paradise Guest Ranch

 

Beyond Riding

 

If you or someone in your family is just not into horsin’ around, forget the horse-only dude ranch stereotype. Dude ranches are not limited to horse people, providing multiple activities for those horse-shy family members. Discover activities for every age and all interests – and you’ll might even pick up a few new favorites.

Dip your fishing pole into the lake and work the line together to bring in a 10-pound trout. Sit around the camp fire, poke a stick into the flames and roast marshmallows, arm-in-arm, singing and cementing the family relationship. Take a hike up, up, up into the rugged mountains and see vistas that will be forever imprinted into your memory. Or make it a family day and go to the small town’s rodeo. Challenge each other to learn archery or skeet shooting. All this and more is waiting for you and your family at a dude ranch.


Finally, talk to your family in advance. A dude ranch family vacation will be an epic adventure, but be sure to set up expectations. If the breakfast bell rings at 7am, if you’re teen wants to eat, she will have to roll out of bed. Some ranches’ Wi-Fi signal can be weak or nonexistent. Prepare the kids (and yourself) for the possibility of an unplugged vacation. Share the schedule in advance with your family. Pick out activities to do together, but also be prepared to give the kids (and yourself) time alone.

Got more questions? Check out the Dude Ranchers' Association for resources and tips.


By Diana Rowe, TravelingInHeels.com / Traveling Grandmom at TravelingMom.com

•	Considering a dude ranch vacation? How to choose a ranch that is the right fit for your family and the ages, stages, and interests of kids and adults.

 

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Mother May I... Go on a Ranch Vacation for Mother's Day?

Mom stands facing away from a line of kids. She then chooses a child and announces,

"Brian, you may take 3 giant baby steps forward."

The child responds, "Mother may I?"

Mom then states, "Yes" or "No," depending on her whim, and the child complies.

If, however, the child forgets to ask "Mother may I?" he goes back to the starting line.

First one to touch Mother wins, or in this case, first one to take Mother on a ranch vacation wins.

  There are a lot of games to play on a ranch vacation for this special holiday, "Mother May I" included. Without a TV or cell phone you'll get lots of time to play on horseback, in the water or all over the mountain side with adventure activities. The recommended prescription is a full week of a lively Mother's Day Celebration either the 14th through the 20th of May, or any ole' week that will work for mom's schedule. Either way, a crayon drawn certificate about her special week with the family on a ranch is what this year calls for. Don't worry about which one to choose, take a look at the wonderful selections below from your #RanchVacationExperts at the Dude Ranchers' Association or give us a call and before you know it you'll have a short list of the best options for your Mother's Day Vacation.

Long Hollow Lodge Mother's Day

Long Hollow Ranch

Sisters, Oregon Phone: +1 541-923-1901 Looking for a truly memorable dude ranch vacation on a working ranch? A chance to ride with a cattle drive, fly fish on the ranch? Look no further! We have them all at Long Hollow, a working cattle ranch in beautiful central Oregon. Come spend a week us for the vacation you will never forget.

Broken Arrow Trail Mother's Day

Broken Arrow Lodge and Outfitters

Alder, Montana Phone: +1 406-842-5437 Located in southwest Montana with the Ruby River flowing through the lodge property.All ages are welcome, children's activities for any age. Horses and mules to ride in western tack. Lessons and instruction provided for all activities. Custom trail rides to fit your ability and satisfy your desire.

Rich Ranch Pack Trip for Mother's Day

Rich's Montana Guest Ranch

Seeley Lake, Montana Phone: 1-800-532-4350 On behalf of our family and crew we invite you to come and share our rural country lifestyle and passion for Montana’s great outdoors. Here at the ranch we specialize in traditional dude ranch vacations, horseback riding, Bob Marshall Wilderness pack trips, camping, Blue Ribbon fly fishing, winter snowmobiling, and fair-chase hunts for elk and deer.

K diamond K Ranch Mother's Day

K Diamond K Guest Ranch

Republic, Washington Phone: 509-641-1003 Cell The K-Diamond-K Guest Cattle & Guest Ranch is open year round for single, couples & families of all ages. Guests staying at the ranch are made to feel at home and enjoy the warm hospitality in a relaxed atmosphere. Horseback riding, fishing, hunting, archery, gold panning, hiking & mountain biking.

Medicine Bow Lodge Mother's Day

Medicine Bow Lodge Adventure Guest Ranch

Saratoga, Wyoming Phone: +1 800-409-5439 The Medicine Bow Lodge Adventure Guest Ranch is located at approximately 8500 feet in the Snowy Range of the Rocky Mountains. The closest town is Saratoga, Wyoming which is about 22 miles to the west. The land on which the Guest Ranch sits is located in the Medicine Bow National Forest.   Save Save Save Save Save Save Save

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6 Outstanding Summer Travel Destinations

"I'm gonna raise a fuss, I'm gonna raise a holler, 'bout working all summer, just trying earn a dollar..."

Summer Time Blues by Eddie Cochran isn't the only one who's " gonna take two weeks gonna have a fine vacation." 

If you are like me trying to figure out what to do on those two weeks of vacation that starts over in January, you are probably overwhelmed with so many summer travel destinations. Should I fly away to a distant country? Take a road trip from coast to coast? Find an all-inclusive adventure wonderland? I get dizzy spinning all the options around in my head... This coming year I choose to #optoutside on a ranch vacation, falling in the "all-inclusive adventure wonderland" option. There are so many things to do on a ranch vacation that it feels like you are immersed in a whole culture of the Rocky Mountains, wide open spaces, horses and outdoor activities. I have picked out 6 ranches to choose from, having not decided on which state to go to. There are a couple in Colorado, Wyoming, Oregon and Montana to choose from. In narrowing it down further I will start by contacting all the ranches with my preferred dates of travel and inquire about pricing and availability. Since most of the ranches have over a 60% return rate from previous guests I can't assume they will have space. If not, I may have to change my travel dates or choose another location. At this point I will pick up the phone and call the ranches, to get a feel for the personality there. Will it match with my family? What's their weekly schedule like? Then, I'll drop the cash and reserve my cabin for a week long vacation. Good bye, summer time blues. Out of the 6 ranches below, which one would you choose?

Home Away from Home in Oregon

Long Hollow Ranch Summer Travel Destination

Long Hollow Ranch is a pioneer style ranch in central Oregon. The original ranch buildings, over a century old, have been preserved and renovated for hosting ranch guests. All guest areas are decorated in a manner designed to evoke the feeling of "Grandma's house."

Paradise in Wyoming

Paradise Guest Ranch Summer Travel Destination

For 100 years now, folks have been coming to Paradise Guest Ranch for 100 different reasons—for some, it’s the horseback riding across sage meadows, fishing for native cutthroat trout, or hiking among wildflowers and meadowlarks. For others, it’s the family time, the fun, and campfire stories beneath a snowstorm of stars.

Climbing High Mountains in Montana

Hawley Mountain Ranch Summer Travel Destination

Seeking a place of quiet solitude in a remote wilderness of Montana? Hawley Mountain Ranch the place for you! Located in a million acres of wilderness just north of Yellowstone Park, you can enjoy exhilarating mountain experiences and warm hospitality in a remote, absolutely beautiful part of the world.

  Blacktail Ranch Summer Travel Destination

The Blacktail Ranch is a historic 8,000 acre jewel, located where the prairie meets the Rockies in Montana. This ranch family first came this valley back in the late 1800's and  has lived and worked here ever since.

Luxury in Colorado

Ranch at Emerald Valley Summer Travel Destination

The Broadmoor's Ranch at Emerald Valley is perfect for corporate retreats and special events, the ranch allows your group to reconnect in a serene and inspiring setting far removed from the worries of everyday life. Reward your top performers with an authentic ranch experience, or celebrate your wedding with western adventures and The Broadmoor’s signature luxury.

Smith Fork Summer Travel Destination

 Nestled in a valley of the West Elk Wilderness, between Aspen and Telluride, lies the hidden gem of Smith Fork Ranch. With the Gunnison National Forrest as its surroundings the location is far from the only charm, with rustic cabins that have been lovingly restored on their original 1930s-40s footprint with American antiques and original arts and crafts from the hands of the best western and native American artisans, it looks and feels like the old Wild West.


If you are still undecided about your summer travel destinations give the Dude Ranchers' Association a call at 307.587.2339 or 866.399.2339             Save Save Save Save Save Save Save Save Save Save Save Save Save Save

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2017 Eclipse - View from a Dude Ranch

The first total eclipse to span the United States in nearly four decades – The Great American Eclipse – will take place on August 21, 2017. The center of the eclipse path – where the moon completely blocks out the sun, creating a few minutes of night in the middle of the day – will pass slightly south of Dubois, WY. 

Moose Head Tetons to View the Eclipse

Moosehead Ranch's View of the Tetons

The most dramatic scenery for the eclipse can be found in Wyoming. Grand Teton National Park is squarely centered in the eclipse path. Countless visitors will no doubt flock to the area to try and find a prime viewing spot. The BEST destination for eclipse viewers is one of the area’s dude ranches. Why? Wyoming’s dude ranches are located in some of the most tranquil, untouched areas of the country. Away from the hustle and bustle of big cities, you’re that much closer to nature. And there is a very good chance for clear skies in Wyoming in August. All five of the below Dude Ranchers’ Association ranches are located in or near Grand Teton National Park:

  • Moose Head Ranch is the last privately owned guest ranch located completely within the boundaries of Grand Teton National Park.
  • R Lazy S Ranch is located on the southern boundary of Grand Teton National Park, walking distance from your cabin. Most of the views of the ranch look directly upon the Teton Mountain range.
  • Heart Six Guest Ranch is located just three miles from Grand Teton National Park. You will actually travel through Grand Teton National Park on your way to and from the ranch.
  • Lazy L&B Ranch is nestled in a valley that is less populated now than when it was homesteaded over 100 years ago and surrounded by 80,000 acres of wildlife habitat.
  • CM Ranch, one of the oldest dude ranches in the country, dates back to 1927 and is included on the National Register of Historic Places.

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

The bulk of Yellowstone National Park is in Northwest Wyoming. Grand Loop Road provides a wonderful overview of the park, from the steaming geysers to majestic waterfalls and deep canyons. Hundreds of trails traverse the park, providing access to deep backcountry areas, remote lakes, and scenic overlooks. Many Wyoming Dude Ranch vacations include excursions into Yellowstone. Grand Teton National Park is also in Northwest Wyoming. The first glimpse of the jagged mountains that explode out of the Jackson Hole Valley may take away the breath. Pristine lakes and grassland dot the valley floor. Glaciers slide down steep rocky peaks from elevations of more than 12,000 feet. Moose, elk, and bear inhabit this stunning area, and are frequently spotted during guided dude ranch excursions. 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 climbers - of which there are many - or play hide and seek with the prairie dogs that reside within the park boundaries.

Wyoming Dude Ranch vacations may be rustic or luxurious. Guests may ride all day and herd cattle, or soak in a hot tub and enjoy a massage. Activities may range from angling to river rafting and hiking, or lounging on a porch with a book. Wyoming Dude Ranches strive to create the perfect vacation for guests, whether that means non-stop activity or sleeping late.   Save Save

Small Dude Ranches Offer Big Experiences

Make some memories you won't soon forget at one of these small dude ranches. Here you will find one of the most exclusive vacation settings in Western America. Please note, small does not mean they are short on experiences or activities. It means they only host a handful guests in order to offer you a very personal and tailored horseback riding vacation. In the list of dude ranches below you will find your perfect cowboy place, great for making genuine connections with the land, horses and your hosts.

 

Greenhorn Creek California Dude Ranch

'Grandma's House' - An Historic Pioneer Ranch

Long Hollow Ranch, Capacity - 16

Long Hollow Ranch is a historic pioneer ranch in central Oregon that serves as a Bed & Breakfast for guests looking to stay a few days. The original ranch buildings are over a century old and have been preserved and renovated for hosting ranch guests.  Guests are treated to a delicious homemade breakfast and great company each morning. The original ranch 'store' (once a stage stop) is now a guest cottage.  All guest areas are decorated in a manner designed to evoke the feeling of 'Grandma's house.'  This place is the perfect way to 'get away from it all' and find peace and perspective as you experience a simpler way of life on a cattle ranch. Call for reservations at 541.923.1901.  

Flat Creek Ranch Lake Small Dude Ranches

Your Own Private Wilderness in the Tetons

Flat Creek Ranch, Capacity - 14

For decades Jackson Hole’s Flat Creek Ranch has carried a mystique inspired by its raucous history, its remoteness and its epic wild beauty. Now this jewel cloaked in the National Forest can become your own private wilderness. Getting here is your first adventure: a 15-mile route across the National Elk Refuge and into the mountains over a rigorous jeep track. At the end of the road you reach a true haven. Come to hike, to ride, to fish, to experience the back country. Come to meet an array of wildlife from bald eagles to moose and deer, scores of ducks, owls and visiting osprey. Scan the cliffs above the ranch for mountain sheep. Fish for trout in our acclaimed stream and private lake. Call for reservations at 307.733.0603.  

Seven Devils Small Dude Ranches

 

Dramatic Location Near Hells Canyon

Seven Devils Lodge, Capacity 8

Located in central Idaho, just south of the Seven Devils mountain range, the Seven Devils Lodge lies in a unique area, neighboring jutting canyons, high desert, and soaring mountains. The Lodge is just nine miles, as the crow flies, from Hells Canyon, known as the deepest canyon in North America. One of the few guest ranches in the state operating on as actual working cattle ranch, Seven Devils Lodge sits on the historic OX Ranch. Unique enough to be the subject of the popular book, A Wild Cowboy, the OX Ranch is rich in history and western culture. 

 

Allen's Diamond 4 Small Dude Ranches

Cowboy up on this Working Ranch

Allen's Diamond 4 Ranch, Capacity 8

Allen's Diamond 4 Ranch is located in the rugged Wind River Mountain Range and is Wyoming's highest wilderness guest ranch offering log cabins, mountain trail riding, fly fishing, wilderness pack trips, and hunting in Shoshone National Forest. We access the Wind Rivers from the Dickinson Park Trailhead, the Middle Fork of the Popo Agie and Worthen Meadows.

Small Dude Ranches Offer Big Experiences

Make some memories you won't soon forget at one of these small dude ranches. Here you will find one of the most exclusive vacation settings in Western America. Please note, small does not mean they are short on experiences or activities. It means they only host a handful guests in order to offer you a very personal horseback riding vacation. In the list of dude ranches below you will find your perfect cowboy place, great for making genuine connections with the land, horses and your hosts.

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