What is a Dude Ranch?

What is a dude ranch? A dude ranch is a vacation destination that hosts guests to share in their Western lifestyle activities. For dude ranches who are members of the Dude Ranchers’ Association this is an all-inclusive immersive vacation that includes lodging, meals, horseback riding, fishing, hiking and more. With more than 100 members in the Association the experience is unique at every ranch with a specialty in horseback riding over unique terrain, cattle work and/or luxury amenities. From small, intimate ranches to large resort style ranches there is a ranch to fit every budget and dream vacation. 

Take a look at the sampling of ranches below to get a better understanding of what is a dude ranch. 

Allen's Diamond 4 Ranch What is a dude ranch

Allen’s Diamond Four Ranch, Wyoming

Snapshot: 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. 

Capacity: 8

Dates Open: June 15 - September 15

Activities: At the ranch you can explore the nearby Wind River Indian Reservation, historic gold mining towns, Yellowstone Park or go white water rafting. Friendly and informal, the Diamond 4 Ranch has only 4 guest cabins, assuring you a personalized and relaxing wilderness experience.

Click here to view all ranches in Wyoming

 

Rancho de los Caballeros lawn Golf What is a dude ranch

Rancho de los Caballeros, Arizona

Snapshot: Rancho de los Caballeros is the resort with the soul of a bed and breakfast offering full resort amenities and privacy, yet with the charm and intimacy of yesteryear. 

Capacity: 140

Dates Open: October 1 - May 15

Activities: Explore the serenity of the high Sonoran desert terrain on a horse chosen to match your riding ability, tee off on the 18-hole championship golf course, relax at The Spa, take a breathtaking tour of the desert by jeep or ATV, mountain bike or hot air balloon, trap and skeet shooting, tennis lessons, guided nature hikes, swimming and team penning just like the real cowboys.

Click here to view all ranches in Arizona

 

McGinnis Meadows Ranch What is a dude ranch

McGinnis Meadows Cattle & Guest Ranch, Montana

Snapshot: McGinnis Meadows Cattle & Guest Ranch is a first class working dude ranch in Northwest Montana offering cattle drives all season long, Buck Brannaman horsemanship and non-head-to-tail horseback rides for all levels.

Capacity: 15

Dates Open: January 1 - December 22

Activities: Riding horses and working cattle is what McGinnis Meadows is all about. You'll experience full days in the saddle, or the ranch will tailor the day to fit you. Authentic cowboys will teach you all you need to know about their horses. From there you can head out and drive cattle on 75,000 acres of summer range, further your horsemanship skills, ride and explore new country and work steers sorting, cutting and ranch penning. Just relaxing is always an option too. There’s also a first class fly fishing outfitter nearby.

Click here to view all ranches in Montana

 

Eatons Ranch Trail Ride Family What is a dude ranch

 

Eaton’s Ranch, Wyoming 

Snapshot: For over 138 years Eatons’ Ranch has been a Wyoming dude ranch and working cattle ranch located on the magnificent, pine covered eastern slopes of the Bighorn Mountains in northeastern Wyoming. 

Capacity: 120

Dates Open: June 1 - September 30

Activities: Eatons' offers guests the unique opportunity to ride one of their 220 horses unescorted with the permission of the Ranch. This allows guests the remarkable freedom to fully explore this beautiful 7,000 acres of country into the Big Horn Mountains. The ranch also offers excellent trout fishing, overnight pack trips, a heated swimming pool and more. 

Click here to view all ranches in Wyoming

 

Hunewill Guest Ranch in California What is a dude ranch

 

Hunewill Circle “H” Guest Ranch, California

Snapshot: Hunewill Ranch is a family owned and operated cattle and guest ranch located near Yosemite National Park in the beautiful Bridgeport Valley of California. Horseback riding and cattle work are the featured attractions for a vacation experience suited to families, singles or couples.

Capacity: 45

Dates Open: May 25 - November 10

Activities: Hunewill offers you a full ranch experience starting with horseback riding and includes evening activities such as talent night, family dance night, barbecues on the creek, or watching as young foals and yearlings are being trained. There is world class trout fishing in the nearby East Walker River, and in the many lakes and streams in the adjacent Toiyabe National Forest.

Click here to view all ranches in California

 

Follow up questions? Click on the links below or contact the Dude Ranchers’ Association to talk to a Ranch Vacation Expert. 

 

What type of dude ranch fits me? 

 

What will I do on a dude ranch? 

 

Why DRA ranches? 

 

Ever wonder what is a dude ranch? A dude ranch is a vacation destination that hosts guests to share in their Western lifestyle activities. Ranches are located in Wyoming, Montana, Colorado, Arizona, California, Idaho. For dude ranches who are members of the Dude Ranchers’ Association this is an all-inclusive immersive vacation that includes lodging, meals, horseback riding, fishing, hiking and more.

Pin for later - What is a dude ranch? 

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.

 

klondike-ranch-working-cattle-ranch-in-wyoming-mountain-cattle-drive

 

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

working-cattle-ranch-vacations-and-cattle-drives

 

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Ride for the Adventure

Would you like to ride out on the open prairie shoulder to shoulder with your family?  If so there are great ranches who offer advanced horseback riding opportunities as the terrain permits. At the member ranches of the Dude Ranchers' Association safety is always first.  Trail guides are knowledgeable of horsemanship and teaching basic riding skills.  So take off on your next vacation and enjoy some advanced riding at a dude ranch. You are sure you would like some riding in the West, but maybe, not so sure about selecting the right ranch with the right personalities for your travels. No worries, the ranches listed below are carefully selected to provide you with the most adventure. They are listed by two separate categories, a working cattle ranch experience focusing on teaching you the ways of the cowboy and a traditional dude ranch experience focusing on trail riding and all sorts of other kinds of adventure. Once you have made it that far in your decision, further narrow in on your perfect match by looking at the terrain of the ranch, the time of year you are traveling and the scale of luxury you prefer.

 

Advanced Riding on a Working Cattle Ranch

Working cattle ranches would like guests to help them with their cattle work, so nose to tail  riding is discouraged while trailing a herd of 100+ cattle on a cattle drive.  You will find adventure around everyday cattle work well.

 

 

McGinnis Meadows Advanced Horseback Riding

McGinnis Meadows Cattle & Guest Ranch, Libby, Montana

McGinnis Meadows Cattle & Guest Ranch is an authentic working cattle ranch located in the northwest corner of Montana. Beginner riders to experienced leave here with more knowledge about horses, horsemanship, and cattle, than they've experienced anywhere else. With approximately 15 guests per week, we can better know you, work with you individually, and tailor each day to you.

 

 

Burnt Well Advanced Horseback Riding

Burnt Well Guest Ranch, Roswell, New Mexico

Burnt Well Guest Ranch is located in warm, sunny, southeastern New Mexico. Guests have said "This is John Wayne country!" Our riding is in open pasture unless you opt for a mountain trail ride for your day trip, with a 6 day package.

 

 

MCgarry Ranches advanced Horseback Riding

McGarry Ranches, Rexburg, Idaho

If you wish to experience the lifestyle of the American Cowboy with a legitimate cattle outfit, riding daily on an American Quarter Horse then here is what we are and what we offer. Upon arrival at the ranch you will be given the firm handshake or welcoming hug after which you will lose the guest handle and become one of the McGarry Ranches Family of Wranglers. In other words, just one of us.

 

Advanced Riding on a Traditional Ranch

 

Traditional style ranches are equipped to offer adventure for the whole family, whether that's advanced riding for the horse enthusiast or an all day fly fishing trip or a children's program with water activities. Visit these ranches' websites to see which one offers your families style.

 

Colorado Trails Advanced Horseback Riding

Colorado Trails Ranch, Durango, Colorado

Family fun abounds at Colorado Trails Ranch located in the beautiful San Juan Mountains just outside of historic Durango, Colorado. Rides are grouped by ability (and desire). The rides range from scenic walk rides to loping through trees and meadows.

 

 

Vee Bar Advanced Horseback Riding

Vee Bar Guest Ranch, Laramie, Wyoming

The Vee Bar located near Laramie, Wyoming just 2 1/2 hours north of Denver, Colorado is a world-reknown family guest and dude ranch with a relaxed atmosphere sure to feel like home to your entire family. You will find a variety of terrain to suit your entire group. Loping rides are offered and we can comfortably accommodate riders of ALL abilities.

 

 

 

Blacktail Adventure Ranch

Blacktail Ranch, Wolf Creek, Montana

The Blacktail Ranch is a Historic 8,000 acre jewel, located where the prairie meets the Rockies in Wolf Creek Montana. Sign up for our two night three day "Divide Ride" where we stay in our upper camp and then ride to the top of the Continental Divide where you will experience expansive views of the Majestic Rocky Mountains from every direction.

 

Would you like to ride out on the open prairie shoulder to shoulder?  If so there are great ranch vacations offering advanced horseback riding opportunities as the terrain permits all across the Western United States. Read about them here.

More Advanced Horseback Riding?

Have more questions?  Please reach out to the DRA office  where more than one hundred ranches are represented across the Western United States and Canada.

 

 

Get Lost in These Hidden Montana Dude Ranch Sweet Spots

Have you been wanting to find that local dive off of the beaten path?  Let yourself get lost for a few days at a hidden Montana dude ranch. With very small capacities you are sure to have a very personal and interactive experience with your cowboy hosts on your next vacation.  Pack up your cowboy boots, demin jeans, and your camera, but leave your cell phone and stress at home.  Out here Montana's natural wilderness experienced by horseback will bring you back to your connection with Mother Nature. So, go ahead and get lost for a few days. Its the vacation you'll never want to come back from.

Montana Dude Ranch

Get to the Heart of Ranching at the G Bar M Ranch The camaraderie that guests share with the ranch family and crew at the end of the day is made even better by the delicious meals that Maria serves.  You can measure the distance your food’s traveled in yards or feet. Enjoy last season’s harvest today — G Bar M’s root cellar, freezer, and pantry are fully-stocked.  This is where it all comes together because as Mike will tell you, “The heart of the ranch is the kitchen.” Recipes perfected by Maria have been in the family for generations and feature ranch-raised beef and pork, along with vegetables from the ranch garden and homemade breads made with ranch’s 100-year-old sourdough starter. The fare is hearty and the menu is diverse. Everything is served family-style on the bountiful table where guests, family and crew gather at mealtime. If the kitchen is the heart of the ranch, then the garden is the bare feet — heels and toes sinking into the fertile, living earth. Enjoy unity of all five senses as you pick your own fruits and vegetables and listen to the quiet sounds of this working ranch. Local as they can possibly be.

Ride into History at the Bonanza Creek Guest Ranch

Bonanza Creek Montana Dude Ranch

The ranch was originally homestead in 1877 by Norwegian immigrants looking for a better life. Today the Voldseth family, which are the fourth and fifth generations living on this land, own and work the ranch. It won’t take you long to see that they chose this area not only for its good water and grasses to graze cattle and sheep, but also for its beautiful scenery. More than a century later, very little has changed...the only difference is that now there is a place set at the table for you. Personal attention is the norm with only 8-12 guests invited per week. Come relax with us where unbelievable views and unrivaled adventure abound. Bonanza Creek treats you like family - - real people on a real cattle ranch.

Hideout in Paradise Valley at the Hubbard's Six Quarter Circle Ranch

Hubbard's Six Quarter Circle Ranch is located in Tom Miner Basin, apart of the greater Paradise Valley. The ranch is hidden in with a look out over the Yellowstone River towards Emigrant, MT. The ranch is tucked away 19 miles from Yellowstone Park via car, but the ranch borders the Park to the South.  At Six Quarter Circle you can ride all day, everyday, on 25 square miles of pristine wilderness on the edge of Yellowstone National Park.

Guests actively participate in ranch work, whether it’s pushing cattle to higher greener pastures, throwing salt or fixing fence.  If you prefer a gentler pace, wranglers will guide you on a two-hour ride to Ramshorn Lake at the foot of 10,000 foot Ramshorn Peak.  The basaltic cliffs that tower over the lake are home to one of the largest herds of bighorn sheep in the state.  If you are an angler, you can spend a few hours fishing for cutthroat trout before you head back to the lodge for some well deserved R & R.

Discover Horsemanship at the McGinnis Meadows Ranch

McGinnis Meadows Hidden Dude Ranch
The horseback riding program is based on the Buck Brannaman style of horsemanship, and is the central activity at McGinnis Meadows Ranch. Buck’s style is a method that is both gentle and effective and creates a unique kinship between horse and rider.  You will have more hands-on time with your horse than any place else.
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Learn horsemanship daily in a relaxed clinic style environment with ranch horses or your own in small groups. With personalized instruction from a team of experts, you can continue to focus furthering your horsemanship skills each day. Or you'll soon feel comfortable heading out on cattle drives and exploring country in any direction from the ranch.

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