The Best of Late Autumn and Early Winter Rocky Mountain Dude Ranches

Come late autumn, most the Rocky Mountain Dude Ranches (Colorado, Montana, and Wyoming) close for the season come September’s end and the last of the fall foliage. However, there are a select few ranches in each state that allow for shorter stays during some of the most magical and quieter times of the year. If you’ve ever been on the fence about a dude ranch stay, make the off-season the in-season for a dude ranch experience, and get on that horse!

Colorado has the most abundant offerings for curious folk to explore Western lure in the late season. 

 

Rocky Mountain Dude Ranches

C Lazy U Ranch, easily accessible in Granby, can even be combined with a train trip from Denver’s Union Station via the airport; guests don’t even need a car! The 8,500-acre luxury ranch celebrated their centennial this past summer and the party continues late into the year. The year-round ranch offers horseback riding, snow sports, incredible meals and cabins and suites along with a hot tub, workout facility, stunning barn and main lodge with much more.

 

Rocky Mountain Dude Ranches

Located within minutes of downtown Loveland is the family-owned-and-operated Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch. Come late October and into the holiday season, there are nearby bike trails with fall foliage packages and more festivities for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years' with short stays, themed weekends and incredible outdoor sports.

 

Rocky Mountain Dude Ranches

Sundance Trail Guest Ranch in Red Feather Lakes can accommodate 24 guests, and it is this boutique nature that makes the off-season even more enjoyable. The ranch is run more like a B&B and add-on activities include a horseback ride to a lake (in warm seasons, horses even swim in the water), murder mystery weekends and other clever twists on classic dude ranch style. A hot tub, gathering area, and good home-cooked food and limitless cookies await visitors.

 

Rocky Mountain Dude Ranches

Lost Valley Ranch, one of the easiest ranches to access from the metro Denver area, is open through December 1st each year and offers a great value for anyone looking to fall in love with the dude ranch culture. There is a Thanksgiving celebration week that is always a big draw, and smaller horsemanship clinics throughout the fall that allow the novices to expert riders the opportunity to build skills and confidence. 

There are so many more in Colorado! It’s truly the optimal time to test the experience. Wind River Christian Ranch near Estes Park and luxury properties like The Home Ranch and Vista Verde Ranch near Steamboat Springs typically operate into the second and third weeks in October, weather dependent; however, snag an incredible rate for next autumn now, if tempted. And, one of Colorado’s most high-end ranches, The Broadmoor’s Ranch at Emerald Valley, a branch of Broadmoor Hotel, runs a season into early November, again, weather dependent. 

 

Montana has one of the largest collections of massive, stunning and rare properties in the ranch portfolio. However, due to elevation and weather conditions, their season limits late autumn and winter seasons to four of their ranches.

 

Rocky Mountain Dude Ranches

Bar W Guest Ranch in Whitefish, runs a year-round dude ranch season. The 3,200-foot elevation makes it a bit milder then high mountain terrain and the guest capacity at 35 keeps it intimate and eventful. Winter comes early and the ranch is ready! There are B&B stays November through April in six main lodge rooms and two cabin suites. Activities might include horse-drawn sleigh rides, downhill skiing, snowshoeing, ice skating, ice fishing and more including an onsite hot tub.

 

Rocky Mountain Dude Ranches

Rocking Z Guest Ranch in Wolf Creek might have a smaller guest count of 20, but it’s almighty in terms of autumn and winter activity. If there’s a Montana sport, the ranch certainly tries to offer guests an opportunity to experience it throughout guided instruction. From horsemanship to archery, shooting, hiking, fishing, soaking in the hot tub, and abundant winter options, the ranch is always a choice spot come quieter times in November. The large, comfortable guest rooms are equipped with cozy individual fireplaces and the onsite saloon is always roaring with spirits and festive activity. 

 

Rocky Mountain Dude Ranches

For those who are curious about hunting and the true Montana wilderness, Upper Canyon Outfitters and Guest Ranch in Alder has the smallest guest count on this list of 18, but their June through December season runs into late autumn and early winter for those truly in the know of intimate and unparalleled places in the United States! There are both youth and family hunts that are a true rarity, the fishing program runs daily, and horsemanship clinics and trail rides paired with luxury accommodations in private cabins keep the experience high end. The food will keep your belly warm and happy and the antelope, moose, deer and elk hunts and viewings, simply spectacular. 

 

Note; Mountain Sky Guest Ranch in Emigrant typically runs into the second week of October for early planners in 2020. Rich's Montana Guest Ranch in Seeley Lake opens for the winter season directly after Christmas for early winter scouts as well! 

 

Wild Wyoming goes winter white quite quickly! Only two ranches keep their barn doors open to the herds come the later months each year. This is an opportune time to witness true working ranches, horsemanship and iconic Western moments. 

 

Rocky Mountain Dude Ranches

In the sleepy town of Ten Sleep, is the 26-guest dude ranch, Red Reflet Guest Ranch. The exquisite, high-end, all-inclusive operation has an enormous amount to offer come late October through December, and they also host a hunting season for tagged and licensed hunters for a variety of mammals. Horseback riding, cattle activities, ATV tours (weather permitting), fishing, a fitness center, pool, open kitchen policy accompanied with gourmet cuisine and yoga in a floor-to-ceiling windowed studio make this ranch a standout year-round. For some of the best wildlife viewing and tranquility, late October through Thanksgiving proves to be the best value and experience for those who like secret, sneak-a-way deals! 

 

Rocky Mountain Dude Ranches

The Hideout Lodge & Guest Ranch. The name alone is alluring and the late autumn and early winter experience will demonstrate the reason it’s called The Hideout, you won’t want to leave. There is a tight window for this opportunity; the ranch’s season typically ends the first week in November, weather dependent. Guests might have sun and blue sky, or snow and snuggle time. There is trail riding for all levels, riding initiations and lessons, cattle work and drives, stockmanship orientation, guided fly-fishing, trap shooting, and archery, hiking, mountain biking and more! Accommodations vary including cabins, casitas, and homes. Fine dining is offered for three meals and plenty of snacks to satisfy the late-season activity. 

 

If you’re a bit more flexible with the season, there are a few more ranches to consider. Spotted Horse Ranch in popular and easily-accessible Jackson, typically operates until the second week of October. Triangle X Ranch in Moose closes the first week in October for their main season but re-opens directly after Christmas until the second week of March for a winter season.

 

All of these dude ranches and many more are members of the Dude Ranchers’ Association and can be found at www.duderanch.org. Contact Bryce or Josie at 307-587-2339 or info@duderanch.org for help on finding and picking the perfect ranch. 

Off-Season Secrets to the

It is Never to Early to Book a Dude Ranch Holiday Vacation the Entire Family Will be Amazed By!

It may seem too early to start thinking about holiday gifts and it probably is if you are just going to give “stuff” again this year. Here at the Dude Ranchers’ Association, we think the best holiday gifts don’t support designer logos nor do they come from big box stores. We feel one of the true meanings of the holidays is families spending time together, away from the hustle and bustle of the overcrowded shopping malls and there is no better place to spend time with your family than on a dude ranch holiday vacation.

This year we challenge you all to think outside the pretty wrapped boxes and consider giving you and your loved ones the gift of time spent together. The members of the Dude Ranchers’ Association have long believed that family time is the most important time and what better time of year for that then the holiday season.

DRA-member ranches in Arizona offer trail rides under the warm desert sun, as well as hiking, mountain biking, tennis and swimming. Northern ranches from Colorado to Canada entertain families with guided snowmobile tours, horse-drawn sleigh rides, access to superb downhill skiing, cross country skiing, snowshoeing and ice-skating and maybe even a little ski jorning. There is something to make everyone happy.

Below are several dude and guest ranch options to consider for your dude ranch holiday vacation!

It may seem too early to start thinking about holiday gifts but if you plan on giving more than just

Western Pleasure Ranch - Idaho

As a blanket of white transforms, the Western Pleasure Ranch into a winter wonderland, you and your family can enjoy scenic horse-drawn sleigh rides powered by one of their many draft teams. You will feel like a child again as they jingle through a 2-mile loop trail of dense forests in the foothills of the Cabinet Mountains with amazing views of the Selkirk Mountain Ranch. With a wide variety of horse-drawn sleighs, including a five-passenger, three twelve passengers and a two-passenger, they have the right size sleigh to accommodate your family, friends and even that special someone for the romantic two passenger sleigh. 

dude ranch holiday vacation

Circle Z Ranch - Arizona

At Circle Z Ranch their Thanksgiving festivities are legendary! They have been hosting families with a traditional Thanksgiving dinner for more than 50 years. With amazing fall weather as a backdrop, your horseback rides will be a Thanksgiving memory your family will not soon forget. During the Christmas holiday season, it has been said that you will get to meet Santa Clause as he has been known to show up at the ranch in a horse-drawn sleigh, something the kiddos will talk about for years to come. 

dude ranch holiday vacation

The Home Ranch – Colorado 

The beautiful Elk River Valley is known for its legendary snowfalls of powdery magnificent snow. When you stay at this ranch you can ski it all Backcountry, Classic, Skate, Steamboat, Telemark and never get behind the wheel of a car. With some of the best Nordic skiing in the world at your doorstep, deluxe cowboy chic accommodations, and exceptional cuisine this is one of the best winter getaways the beautiful state of Colorado has to offer. On top of all that during your Christmas holiday, a live Christmas tree will be provided in your room for you and your family to decorate and just think no un-decorating when you get back home.

dude ranch holiday vacation

Lone Mountain Ranch – Montana 

Spending the Holidays at Lone Mountain Ranch near Big Sky ski resort in Montana sounds like heaven to us. What’s so great about this ranch…Nordic skiing over 85Km of trails, snowboarding, candlelit dinners in their historic North Fork Cabin, moonlight skiing just to mention a few. Add in gingerbread house making and a quick ski with Santa and you and your family will have had the very merriest of holidays.

dude ranch holiday vacation

C Lazy U Ranch – Colorado 

If going away for the Thanksgiving holiday seems a little odd since it is such a family-focused holiday know that taking a memorable family trip to C Lazy U Ranch during the holidays doesn’t have to mean forsaking traditions. The ranch hosts a Thanksgiving getaway that will quickly become the “new” family tradition. This ranch allows families to “power down” while still having fun in a family-friendly setting that harkens back to simpler days. With unique activities like daily horseback riding, winter sports, games and bonding time between your family and other guests this Thanksgiving at C Lazy U will be one for the books.

dude ranch holiday vacation

Rich Ranch – Montana 

Snowmobile the Rocky Mountains and discover the scenic backwoods that this great state has to offer. This is an all service vacation spot that includes meals, lodging and use of ranch amenities and guide service to 1500+ miles of groomed mountain snowmobile trails right out your cabin door. You will enjoy awesome scenery abundant wildlife and no crowds. You will stay in cedar/log cabins with private baths, propane fireplaces and all the amenities you could want. This is such a great place to unwind and reconnect after a full day of play in the fresh Montana air.

dude ranch holiday vacation

As you can, see best of all, a DRA dude ranch offers families something one can’t find in a shopping mall; precious time spent together making memories to last a lifetime! Book now before they all fill up. For more information contact the Dude Ranchers’ Association at info2@duderanch.org or 307-587-2339.

 

 

Luxury Dude Ranches for your Next Vacation

Are you looking for a fun and entertaining vacation for your family, but also want a relaxing and rejuvenating getaway at the same time? Luxury dude ranches are the vacation you have been searching for! Luxury dude ranches offer a great atmosphere of entertainment and relaxation all at the same time. You can go out for a horseback ride through beautiful landscapes and scenery in the morning, enjoy a wonderful afternoon at the spa or retreat peacefully to your room to read a book. It really is all up to you!

But what will the kids do you may ask? Most luxury dude ranches have a great kid’s program where the kids can interact with other children their age and make memories to last a lifetime. There is no doubt that the kids will talk about this vacation for years to come and that large amounts of fun will be had! Most families that have vacationed at dude ranches agree that kids sleep well while on a ranch vacation, they wear themselves out with all of the excitement, activities and fun!  Whatever activities you are looking to mark off the list, these luxury dude ranches, members of the Dude Ranchers' Association, will fit the bill of a fantastic vacation for the whole family. 

Luxury Dude Ranches

 

Smith Fork Ranch - Colorado

Nestled in the valley of the West Elk Wilderness lies the Smith Fork Ranch, truly a hidden gem of Colorado. Smith Fork is a beautiful private luxury dude ranch that offers traditional western adventures, gracious hospitality, unique farm to table cuisine along with an award-winning wine list! If you are looking for a great family vacation and a highly rated luxurious, relaxing getaway you should definitely consider Smith Fork Ranch. Their farm to table cuisine program is like none other in the area and their spa is really fantastic. This ranch is rated at the top of many luxury dude ranch articles, so do not miss out on a wonderful ranch vacation at Smith Fork! 

luxury dude ranches

Smith Fork Ranch - Crawford, CO

Lost Valley Ranch - Colorado

An authentic Colorado dude ranch vacation with a little luxury mixed in waits for you at the Lost Valley Ranch. With an abundance of activities for the kids to enjoy, beautiful Rocky Mountain scenery on horseback rides and the option of an in-cabin massage after a fun-filled day, what else could you ask for in a dude ranch experience! Lost Valley is a very historic ranch with a special kind of charm, it holds qualities of a high-class resort, but also a family and kid friendly atmosphere. If you are searching for the perfect luxury dude ranch for a large family, take a look at Lost Valley Ranch. 

luxury dude ranches

Lost Valley Ranch - Sedalia, CO

Mountain Sky Guest Ranch - Montana

Located just 30 miles from Yellowstone National Park makes the Mountain Sky Guest Ranch in Montana a prime luxury dude ranch destination for families and couples. There is literally something for everyone to do at Mountain Sky. Whether you are an avid horseback rider, enjoy fly-fishing or hiking, want to play a round of golf at the on-site golf course or spend an incredible day in the ranch’s world-renowned spa, you will not be bored on this vacation! The kids will not be bored either, Mountain Sky has a truly unique and impressive kids’ program that is suitable for all ages. There will not be a thing you have to worry about while on this luxury dude ranch vacation; book the trip, pack your bags and prepare yourself for a vacation filled with excitement, relaxation and memories no one will soon forget! 

luxury dude ranches

Mountain Sky Guest Ranch - Emigrant, MT

The Broadmoor’s Ranch at Emerald Valley - Colorado

You may not get much more luxurious than the Broadmoor’s Ranch at Emerald Valley. Just a short ride up the mountain from the Broadmoor sits the beautiful Ranch at Emerald Valley, a distinct western experience. This ranch is definitely in the high-end rustic retreat category. So, if you are in search of an extremely highly-rated luxury dude ranch for a romantic getaway or family vacation, don’t overlook this ranch. Here you can experience a variety of high-class activities along with a full-service spa. Your vacation to the Ranch at Emerald Valley will be the perfect mix of western charm and a fine resort. Tons of activities and great memories await you and your chosen travel partners at the Broadmoor’s Ranch at Emerald Valley.

luxury dude ranches

The Broadmoor's Ranch at Emerald Valley - Colorado Springs, CO

Lone Mountain Ranch - Montana

Lone Mountain Ranch is big enough for any family reunion and will appeal to all families, traditional or luxury! It is also the perfect romantic getaway for couples too.  With high quality luxurious food options, beautiful western furnished cabins and activities for every guest, big or small, Lone Mountain has it all. Relax in your cabin or on the porch listening to the sounds of nature and the stream that flows right through the ranch. Maybe you would like to go for a long refreshing hike into the incredible surrounding Gallatin Mountains, take a horseback ride to the mountain tops and gaze over the stunning Gallatin canyon, or maybe you would like to sit and watch the kids laugh and play on the big front lawn. Whatever your definition of relaxation and rejuvenation may be, the luxury of Lone Mountain Ranch will help you escape reality and help you to truly enjoy your vacation and time away.

luxury dude ranches

Lone Mountain Ranch - Big Sky, MT

The High Lonesome Ranch - Colorado

A high-class dude ranch that offers many activities including working cattle; luxury mixed with a true western cowboy experience can be found at the High Lonesome Ranch in Colorado. With an upscale rustic charm, the High Lonesome provides a unique atmosphere perfect for both families and couples with their accommodations, exquisite food provided by a local farm-to-table program and many different activities, including cattle drives. Spa services are available on the ranch for those who are looking to reach full relaxation. Yoga and a swimming pool are also available so you can get a workout too! High in the mountains of Colorado lies this little slice of serenity. No matter the type of vacation you are looking for, you will not want to miss out on the High Lonesome Ranch. 

luxury dude ranches

The High Lonesome Ranch - DeBeque, CO

A Bar A Ranch - Wyoming

Experience a piece of history and luxury at the A Bar A Ranch in Wyoming! This ranch has been in operation since 1926 and is nearly 100,000 acres in size, all of these acres are available for you to explore and enjoy! With incredible cuisine, beautiful cabins and guest houses and so many activities for you to experience, you may have a hard time picking which ones to participate in. A Bar A is the perfect family vacation, the kids will have several ways to burn off that stored up energy, and mom and dad can kick back and relax. Play a round of golf, check out what the spa has to offer or lounge by the pool and hot tub. The amount of ways to relish in your vacation are endless at A Bar A. This Wyoming luxury dude ranch may just check all of the boxes on your wish list for the perfect vacation! 

luxury dude ranches

A Bar A Ranch - Encampment, WY

4UR Ranch - Colorado

Can you imagine a place more luxurious than a vacation with a natural hot spring right on location? The 4UR Ranch in Colorado is home to two historical natural hot springs that supply the warm water for their hot tub  and other pools. These natural wonders were first discovered by Ute tribe and the ranch was constructed around them to make sure no damage was made and to preserve history. The healing waters provide serene relaxation and many people believe they are a natural healer. The 4UR has much more to offer than just their top-notch spa, they have horseback rides, incredible cuisine for all ages, great fly-fishing, hiking, mountain biking and much more! So, while mom and dad relax by the water, the kids will be entertained all day! Make it a wonderful family vacation and have luxury meet you at the door at the 4UR Ranch. 

luxury dude ranches

4UR Ranch - Creede, CO

The Home Ranch - Colorado 

Colorado’s only Relais & Chateaux affiliated luxury dude ranch awaits you! The Home Ranch is nestled at the end of the valley where the Elk River flows from the Sawtooth Mountain Range. This is the perfect destination for your family to enjoy time together and to unwind from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Relax by the ranch’s outdoor heated pool, read a book, work on your tan or take in the clean mountain air. The kids will have plenty to keep them busy while being involved in the children’s program and making new friends around the ranch. Of course, there will be time for you to connect as a family, but when you want to truly relax there is an activity for everyone. Do not worry about the food either, the chefs at the Home Ranch are phenomenal and will provide great meals for everyone. Experience a high-class luxury dude ranch vacation and a trip the kids will always remember at the Home Ranch! 

luxury dude ranches

The Home Ranch - Clark, CO

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Looking for a fun and entertaining vacation for your family, but want a relaxing and rejuvenating getaway too? Luxury dude ranches are the vacation you have been searching for!

Beginner to Advanced: Horseback Riding Lessons and Clinics Across North America

Horseback riding lessons and clinics are the quickest way to better your skills in riding, your safety and understanding of horses. The Dude Ranchers’ Association offers the best options for a vacation experience designed around your skills and abilities with horses. Are you a novice with very little experience? A seasoned horse person? There’s a dude or guest ranch with the most proficient of instructors ready to share their areas of expertise. Buck Brannaman, Pat Parelli and Chris Cox are a few of the styles of horsemanship taught at the ranches below. These teaching styles aren’t just big names, but with small class settings and personal attention, you’ll feel right at home and get the direct attention you deserve. A knowing eye can identify areas of improvement for every rider and most importantly, you’ll be spending time with the horse - the best instructor of them all. From Wyoming and Montana to British Columbia these are great locations to book a few day's or a week's worth of horseback riding lessons and or clinics. 

Horseback Riding Lessons and Clinics

 

McGinnis Meadows Cattle & Guest Ranch - Montana

Style of Horsemanship

McGinnis Meadows Ranch in Montana offers an immersive experience for those who are looking to study the Buck Brannaman style of horsemanship. Their head trainer Shayne has ridden in over 400 clinics with Buck over the last 20 years and is very knowledgeable, and most importantly a great teacher. Their entire program and staff consistently engages the thoughts and style of Buck, Ray Hunt and Tom Dorrance. Each guest is challenged according to each situation and their own ability. From the beginner to the advanced rider, you will get exactly the instruction you would need in a small class environment. 

Setting

McGinnis Meadows does the majority of their horsemanship clinics in a heated indoor arena during the winter time, from the fall until the weather turns in the spring. The fun and learning do not stop there. The ranch also runs a cow/calf operation and you’re invited to practice horsemanship in every situation at the ranch. And every horse here is gentle, patient and well trained in very advanced horsemanship movements. You are welcome to ride one of the ranch’s horses or bring your own horse. 

horseback riding lessons and clinics

McGinnis Meadows Cattle & Guest Ranch - Libby, MT

Rocking Z Ranch - Montana

Style of Horsemanship 

The Rocking Z Ranch in Montana invites guests to experience Parelli Natural horsemanship put to a purpose. From the first introduction to horses to the highly experienced rider, each person will have the opportunity to expand their skills at the ranch. You can work cattle, ride long trails or play at liberty in a round pen. You can have your own private and/or semi-private horsemanship lesson with no extra charge. The Wirth family shares their very own special lifestyle and incredible herd of horses to meet every rider’s goals. 

Setting

By hosting small groups of guests, the ranch can cater to each family’s needs individually. Horse-crazy teens and the excited novice will have fun here. There are also fun activities to do in the evenings, such as playing pool or soaking in the hot tub. With spacious en-suite rooms with fireplaces and super comfortable beds, you and your family can have a blast at the Rocking Z anytime of the year. 

horseback riding lessons and clinics

Rocking Z Ranch - Wolf Creek, MT

Triangle C Ranch - Wyoming

Style of Horsemanship 

The Triangle C Ranch in Wyoming is home to Chris Cox, a well known horseman and clinician from Australia. With a practical and straightforward approach him and his staff invite guests to study a style of horsemanship with horses that gets proven results. You can learn from the group lessons and also receive personal instruction with Chris to gain an understanding of how the horse thinks and why. Communication is key and you will get to learn about the best tools to accomplish whatever you desire with horses. 

Setting

The Triangle C Ranch is only an hour from Jackson Hole and surrounded by some of the most spectacular mountain views in the world. You’ll stay in some beautifully designed cabins with western furnishings and all the accommodations needed for that perfect cowboy vacation. The ranch offers 3- and 6-day clinics and has horsemanship leadership youth camps - one for boys and one for girls. 

horseback riding lessons and clinics

Triangle C Ranch - Dubois, WY 

Laramie River Ranch - Colorado

Style of Horsemanship 

Laramie River Ranch says that having a relationship of trust with your horse is key to a safe and enjoyable experience. Using natural horsemanship methods, you can have the vacation of a lifetime. You will be able to see this in action at the ranch with weekly demonstrations on how young horses are trained to be accustomed to humans, grooming and saddling. These sessions are followed by opportunities for you to do some ground work with your horse. 

Setting

Jelm, Colorado is only a few miles from the Wyoming border and it is here that the Laramie River Ranch offers guests a glimpse of time standing still. Not much has changed over the last hundred years and your time at the ranch with your family will receive genuine western hospitality. You can fish, push cows between pastures, ride out into the open meadows or kick back on the porch with a glass of tea. 

horseback riding lessons and clinics

Laramie River Ranch - Jelm WY/CO

Campbell Hills Guest Ranch - British Columbia

Style of Horsemanship 

The Campbell Hills Guest Ranch has natural horsemanship packages suitable for the beginner and the advanced. The ranch owner, Bernadette, has a great passion and focus on building trust and harmony between the horse and rider. You’ll be in a group of 5 people at the most during your Horse Communication Course and work on energy use, rapport, connection and communication with the horse in an arena setting. When you ride here, you’ll leave the bit at the barn and get to know the ranch’s happy horses.

Setting

Located in the sunny interior of Canada in the heart of cattle country, mountains, forests and lakes the Campbell Hills Guest Ranch offers a relaxing experience. With rooms in the main lodge or your own intimate and rustic cabins you’ll be comfortable and given ample opportunity to relax. You'll even be able to look out into the forest from your cabin!

horseback riding lessons and clinics

Campbell Hills Guest Ranch - Kamloops, BC

 

The Red Rock Ranch - Wyoming

Style of Horsemanship

The Red Rock Ranch offers Martin Black clinics for all types of riders. From top horse trainers in English and Western disciplines everyone who attends will make progress for a better connection with horses. Martin will help build confidence in the horse and rider and take you to the next level. Please join the Red Rock Ranch in August for this annual exciting and educational horsemanship/cattle working clinic. 

Setting

For over 40 years the Red Rock Ranch has been owned and operated by the same family and you'll find a traditional Wyoming dude ranch vacation with the charm of the old west where your family can come for a change of pace. The ranch is located just outside of Jackson Hole, Wyoming and only a short distance from Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park. This ranch is known for an outstanding and engaging kids program and exceptional ranch cuisine. 

Red Rock Ranch Cattle Work Horsemanship

The Red Rock Ranch - Jackson Hole, Wyoming

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Horseback riding lessons and clinics are the quickest way to better your skills in riding, your safety and your understanding of horses. The Dude Ranchers’ Association offers the best options for a vacation experience designed around your skills and abilities with horses.

Why Moms Choose a Dude Ranch for a Great Family Vacation

Dude ranches make an incredibly memorable and enjoyable family vacation - for moms especially. With a sense of togetherness and shared experiences moms and the whole family are sure to love their time in the great outdoors, horseback riding and participating in a limitless number of outdoor adventures, such as hiking, fishing, white water rafting, cattle work, petting zoos, zip lining and more. Whether you’re an adventure loving mom (busy body) or a relaxation loving mom (spa and hanging out by the pool type), we’ve got you covered.  It is sure to be a blast for kids of all ages and we’re sure dads will have fun too, but here are the top reasons why moms love dude ranches for a family vacation. 

family vacation

Paradise Guest Ranch - Buffalo, WY

3 square meals are prepared daily (even for picky eaters)

Traveling moms understand the task of finding a restaurant everyone will enjoy while on the road. Who wants tacos for dinner? And you hear simultaneously, “I do!” and “No way!” and this process repeats itself until finally you order pizza and take it back to the hotel room. This just isn’t the case at a dude ranch. All the guess work is taken out of the equation and professional trained chefs make wonderful dinners for the whole family - even if someone has a special dietary need. Breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks are all planned out for you. And the best part? Moms get to enjoy this with the whole family, not worrying one bit about clean up, grocery shopping, making sure there’s something on the menu the kids will eat. Once you let the kitchen know what you’ll need for the family, the entire week will be “all gravy,” if you will, at the dinner table. 

Chores are non-existent 

A ranch vacation goes far beyond booking a typical hotel or even staying at a vacation rental home. We all know what it would take to replace mom’s job while on vacation, an entire team of folks. And that’s just what we’ve got for you for your week stay. With a two to one guest to staff ratio moms won’t have to worry about cleaning up your cabin - a swat team of house keepers are deployed every morning, that will sweep through every room, tidying up every sock and pj’s from the day before. And what about the dishes? There won’t be any fighting over who’s turn it is. Mom certainly won’t have to do it and neither will the kids. And, not one time during the week will anyone have to vacuum dirt dragged in from the barn. If something breaks, no worries, maintenance crews are on staff with all the right tools. 

The activity planning is already done

Moms won’t have to worry about scouring the internet for things to do at your destination. Stop the hassle of worrying about TripAdvisor reviews of afternoon excursions for outdoor adventures. The ranch will have you and the whole family covered for fun things to do. The best thing about this? You won’t have to plan every step or every activity out for the week before hand. You and the family can decide in the morning what you want to do. There won’t be any need for additional transportation. Fly into the airport and someone from the ranch will be there to pick you up. There won’t be any need for a map or navigation - unless of course you go geocaching while you’re there. 

family vacation

Bar Lazy J Ranch - Parshall, CO

Everyone can be together or free to be with their own age group.  

Sometimes the adults want to have some time together, and kid’s counselors makes this easy and fun for everyone. With a full day of programing, your kids have the option to be with their peers all day playing games and learning about the Western cowboy lifestyle. And mom and dad can make some much needed memories as a couple. 

Cell phones are put away!  

Without cell service in most locations and limited WIFI, everyone in the family will be encouraged to leave their phones alone. When you think about it, if you are spending your days at the barn riding horses or fishing, your hands are full and won’t be able to carry around your cell phone. Minimal opportunities for electronics are definitely something any parent will love about dude ranches. 

Hello Fresh Air and Sunshine 

Moms will have an easy time getting kids outside. Dude ranches are known for their beautiful settings in the mountains. With every horseback ride or afternoon rodeo, kids and parents will get plenty of time in the great outdoors. The only thing to remember is your camera. Although the pictures won’t do justice of the real-life experiences, you’ll enjoy looking back on the pictures of your kids on green grass and mountain views. 

family vacation

Hawley Mountain Guest Ranch - McLeod, MT 

Crowds? What crowds? 

Dude ranches are full of wide-open spaces and an intimate number of people. Moms won’t have to worry about anyone getting lost in the crowd, or have to wait in long lines to do anything, really. With an average of 30 guests per week on most dude ranches, everybody will get to meet each other, the staff and other guests alike. By the end of the week everyone in the family is sure to have made a new friend.  Who knows? You might even book the exact same week next year to hang out with the same families.  

Moms will certainly be able to enjoy a much-needed vacation on a dude ranch. As a worry-free destination everyone will get to have fun and get to take a break from the normal day-to-day routines. Here are some great destinations to consider for your next visit. 

 

Family Vacation at a Dude Ranch 

7D Ranch Near Yellowstone National Park, Cody, Wyoming

Bar Lazy J Ranch Near Rocky Mountain National Park

Majestic Dude Ranch Mancos, Colorado

Tumbling River Ranch In the Rocky Mountains, Grant, Colorado 

Crossed Sabres Ranch Near Yellowstone National Park, Cody, WY

Elkhorn Ranch Near Yellowstone National Park, Gallatin Gateway, MT

Hawley Mountain Guest Ranch Near Yellowstone National Park, McLeod, MT

Paradise Guest Ranch In the Big Horn Mountains, Buffalo, WY

 

Looking for more options? Read about: 

Affordable Ranch Vacations for your Family  
A Family Dude Ranch Vacation - Fun for All Ages  
The Best Multi Generational Dude Ranches 

 

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ude ranches make an incredibly memorable and enjoyable family vacation - for moms especially. With a sense of togetherness and shared experiences moms and the whole family are sure to love their time in the great outdoors. Read about all the reasons moms choose dude ranch vacations for a great family vacation.

6 Horseback Pack Trips You Don't Want to Miss

Do you want to explore the back country mountains, lakes, streams and wildlife but do not necessarily want to do it all by hiking? Do you want to enjoy some peace and quiet, a break from all the noises of the world and day to day life? How about create memories with a great group of people and horses alike? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then a horseback pack trip might be exactly what type of vacation you are looking for! The Dude Ranchers’ Association has several member ranches throughout the Western United States and Canada that offer horseback pack trips for any level rider or adventure enthusiast. Soak in the serenity and tranquility of the mountains in some of the most beautiful locations only accessible by foot or horse. You will experience a sense of peace that is not easily found in everyday life, and you will leave refreshed and ready to plan your next trip back! 

Read on to learn about 6 horseback pack trips you don't want to miss! 

Horseback Pack Trips 

 

Absaroka Ranch

In the West, very few places remain that offer both solitude and beauty on a grand scale. The Absaroka Ranch, is such a place, located at the headwaters of Wyoming’s Wind River and at the base of the spectacular Absaroka mountain range. If you are looking for top notch amenities in the woods, Absaroka’s pack trips are for you. Located in the Shoshone National Forest, their camp is a unique and beautiful place to spend a few days. The 4 ½ hour horseback ride begins right from the ranch and offers amazing views and challenging terrain. The scenery is unforgettable and the memories created will be too.  You can enjoy anywhere from 3 to 6-night stays while on a pack trip, it is all up to you on how long you want to be in the back country. Plus, lodging and meals are offered the night before you leave and the night you get back for a small charge, that way you are not rushing to get accommodations figured out for when you get back! While in the mountains on your trip you will get to enjoy crystal clear lakes and small stream fishing, incredible 360-degree views while on horseback rides, delicious camp cooking and even a shower tent with on demand hot water! Tents, cots, sleeping bags, sleeping pads and wood stoves are all provided on the trip, all you have to worry about is warm clothes and an adventurous attitude. 

horseback pack trips

Absaroka Ranch - Dubois, WY

Broken Arrow Lodge and Outfitters  

On your horseback pack trip with the Broken Arrow Lodge and Outfitters in Montana you will venture through beautifully forested mountain ranges with wildflower blanketed meadows all while breathing in amazing mountain fresh air, seeing elk, deer, moose, antelope and other wildlife and experiencing what it is like to sleep under the stars, or in a wall tent whichever you prefer. On your trip you will get to see the Rocky Mountains as only a few do, hike across wildlife-made trails, fish in calm mirror-like streams and lakes and make unforgettable memories with your favorite four legged friends. At Broken Arrow you can tailor your pack trip whatever way you like; if you choose to fish the whole time, explore the mountains by foot or spend quality time on your horse the choice is entirely up to you. The friendly, entertaining and experienced guides will make your trip fun and comfortable, even though this trip may be light years out of your comfort zone. You will also enjoy delicious and hearty home cooked meals, you will truly appreciate a Dutch oven after being in the mountains. You will have the opportunity to encounter first hand exactly why Montana is referred to as the Big Sky State. 

horseback pack trips

Broken Arrow Lodge and Outfitters - Alder, MT 

CM Ranch

Horseback pack trips have been a part of the CM Ranch’s rich history for decades. The CM Ranch in Wyoming was started back in 1927 when Charlie Moore started the Yellowstone Camp for Boys in the Dubois, WY area. For several years, teenage boys from the East Coast would come West to endure month long pack trips into Yellowstone National Park. Upon returning home to their families explaining in exquisite detail the ruggedness and great adventures they endured on their trip, the families soon wanted their own introduction to the Western lifestyle and Yellowstone National Park. Charlie Moore turned his focus to dude ranching and creating a western experience for family vacations. The ranch has done guest horseback pack trips for many years and continues to carry on the tradition still today. The pack trips are a little less rugged and much shorter than when Charlie Moore first started. On these trips you will ride horseback into the ranch’s base camp located in the Wind River mountain range. During your trip you can enjoy day rides to beautiful lakes and some of the best fishing Wyoming has to offer. Your pack trip can be planned in conjunction with your traditional week-long dude ranch vacation or it can be added onto the beginning or end of your vacation. You will sleep in wall tents and admire the techniques of cooking in the mountains. For years guests of all ages have experienced the tremendous beauty and solitude of the Fitzpatrick Wilderness always returning to the ranch with big smiles and so many stories to tell. Not many will want to miss out on a horseback pack trip with the CM Ranch!

horseback pack trips

CM Ranch - Dubois, WY

 JJJ Wilderness Ranch 

There's still a place where time slows down and the only signpost is a hoof print.  The Bob Marshall Wilderness is considered the “crown jewel” of America’s wilderness system. The JJJ Wilderness Ranch’s fully-guided horse pack-trips are designed to accommodate all levels of riders through this magnificent, unspoiled country where the only travel is by foot or horse. Each pack trip at the JJJ Wilderness Ranch in Montana is unique ranging from base camp oriented to trips that traverse the wilderness over the Continental Divide. On your horseback pack trip, you will travel across wilderness trails on sure-footed saddle horses that are mountain savvy and a joy to ride. The ranch’s trusty string of pack-mules carries all the gear so you can rough it in comfort. The ranch’s crew, wrangler, packer, guide and camp cook, will provide a comfortable, complete camp. To ensure a high level of personal service and to make sure camp is not too crowded, the trips average around eight guests. Trips with bigger groups can be arranged, but they do have to be discussed in detail with the ranch. During your Montana riding vacation, the rugged landscape unfolds before you, revealing elk, mule deer and whitetail, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, eagles, moose and black bear. You'll have plenty of opportunities to fly fish the natural streams and lakes for native Cutthroats and Rainbow trout. This is truly a fisherman's paradise, all wrapped up in the awesome beauty of remote wilderness. Layover days on the trip offer options of riding, hiking, fishing or relaxing around the campfire. The Bob Marshall Wilderness is hard to describe with words, it is a place you have to experience for yourself to understand the beauty it holds. By booking a horseback pack trip with JJJ Wilderness Ranch you will discover this natural wonder for yourself and endure the magic the mountains seem to capture. 

horseback pack trips

JJJ Wilderness Ranch - Augusta, MT 

Spotted Horse Ranch

Go deep into the mountains of Wyoming to enjoy a horseback pack trip like no other. With the folks at Spotted Horse Ranch you will ride through the forest to their base camp which provides great customer service, food, horseback riding, fishing and amazing scenery. The main objective of your pack trip will be to enjoy and take in all that the mountains and landscape around you have to offer. You will find a sense of relaxation and true enjoyment that you probably would not expect to find being in a camp without running water or electricity. Pack trips are a great way to really unplug from the real world and find your true self. The Spotted Horse Ranch offers a great setting for large or small groups to experience the rugged outdoors and wilderness. Prior riding experience is not required to go on the trips, just a willing and “ready to have fun” vibe! All of the necessary gear, horses, tack and guides are provided by the ranch. Saddle up and take in all the wilderness surrounding the ranch has to offer! 

horseback pack trips

Spotted Horse Ranch - Jackson Hole, WY

Nine Quarter Circle Ranch

The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is an incredible landscape with a diversity of wildlife and geographical features that extend beyond the boundaries of Yellowstone National Park. In this area lies the Nine Quarter Circle Ranch in Montana. The ranch offers pack trips within the boundary of the park and also in the surrounding wilderness areas. Trips within the Park’s boundary do require early planning. Scheduling your trip in January will give the folks at the ranch enough time to create an itinerary to meet your needs and plan accordingly. If you are looking to take a horseback pack trip outside the Park’s boundaries you can experience one of the ten back country camp locations that Nine Quarter Circle Ranch has to offer. Experienced outfitters will guide you on these multi-day trips into some of the wildest and most beautiful areas of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Taking a pack trip into this area is something few people get to enjoy in their lifetime. Whichever destination you choose, the trip will offer wildlife sightings, stunning views and once-in-a-lifetime memories that won’t soon be forgotten. Experiencing this wild country via horseback is an adventure you won’t quite understand until you embark on the adventure yourself! 

horseback pack trips

Nine Quarter Circle Ranch - Gallatin Gateway, MT

 

Click here to find out more about horseback pack trips and dude ranch vacations! 

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Throughout the Western United States and Canada there are horseback pack trips for any level rider or adventure enthusiast. Soak in the serenity and tranquility of the mountains in some of the most beautiful locations only accessible by foot or horse. You will experience a sense of peace that is not easily found in everyday life, and you will leave refreshed and ready to plan your next trip back!

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

 

Save this pin for later!

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.

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