A Day on a Dude Ranch

Dude ranch vacations are becoming ever popular for every type of traveler, multigenerational family reunions, couples, solo adventurists and even corporate groups. Dude ranches are a great destination to be as active or relaxing as one pleases; the ability to choose your own schedule and enjoy a way of life you may not be familiar with is relaxing in itself. Depending on the ranch, the list of activities could be quite simple or endless, but what does a day on a dude ranch entail? The folks at the Dude Ranchers’ Association can help you out in answering that question, continue reading to learn more! 

A Day on a Dude Ranch

Trail Ride at a dude ranch

Lone Mountain Ranch - Montana

Your stay at a dude ranch will start off with your arrival, being greeted by friendly faces and checking in. A tour around the ranch and help with your luggage is usually first on the list. After you have some time to settle in, you will probably hear a dinner bell ringing indicating it is time to start vacation off on the right foot, with great food! You will join other guests in the dining room where introductions will be made and the fun begins. Most ranches do not have riding available on the day guests arrive, but there are some that do, so when you are planning your trip, just be sure to ask. 

The next day will be a full day of activities! Most guests will probably choose to head on down to the corral to see the horses and get fitted for stirrups so you are comfortable in the saddle. You will then get the opportunity to hear an orientation speech about safety precautions around the corral and some basic riding instruction for the beginners in the group. Even if you have riding experience, it is necessary and important to listen to the horse safety orientation speech because each horse is different and so is each ranch. These orientations cover much more than basic instruction of riding, each ranch has specific guidelines for riders and they want to ensure every one is as safe as possible and can enjoy their vacation! Once you have heard the speech, you will be on your way, riding through the beautiful landscapes and fresh mountain air these dude ranches lie in. You may be thinking, "what about the kids?" Don’t you worry, many ranches have fantastic kids’ programs and counselors to keep them busy while the adults are away. Obviously, if they are old enough to ride, that is probably where they will spend much of their time, but for the younger kiddos or maybe the ones not so interested in riding, there will be something to keep them busy and making memories! 

kids high fiving at a dude ranch

CM Ranch - Wyoming

After your morning ride, you will head into lunch where, again, there will be great food awaiting you! After a satisfying lunch, you may be ready for a nap, to go lay by the pool, try your hand at fishing or head back out on the trails. This is where the autonomy of a dude ranch shines through, the choice is completely up to you on how you spend your vacation! Each ranch has its own list of activities for guests to participate in, so when you are starting your search for a ranch, be sure the activities you want to enjoy are available. If you do not know where to start on making a list of activities you want to try, contact the Dude Ranchers’ Association and they will be able to help! 

outdoor picnic at a dude ranch

Black Mountain Ranch - Colorado

By afternoon, everyone is off on their next adventure of the day! Horseback riding, fly-fishing, hiking, swimming, kids’ club or reading a good book might be the adventure. Once that adventure comes to an end for the day, it will be time for, you guessed it, another fantastic meal! Some ranches do host cocktail hours before dinner so guests can mingle and share stories of the day. This is a great time for the kids to get together and play while the adults have some time to decompress. Other ranches do not have the ability to host these cocktail hours, but guests are welcome to bring beverages of their choice and enjoy them before and during dinner. 

wine at a dude ranch

Triangle C Ranch - Wyoming

After dinner, many ranches have events scheduled for guests to enjoy. These events may include dancing, campfire sing-a-longs and s’ mores, a rodeo, hay rides, games and more! These events make the best of memories, especially if you have never participated before. Usually, the staff members of the ranch get involved too and make it even more fun! If you choose to visit a dude ranch for five to seven days, you may find that there is a scheduled event most nights; if this is something that interests you, be sure to ask before booking your stay. 

square dancing at a dude ranch

Wind River Ranch - Colorado

Evening festivities will wrap up and you will be ready to head to your comfortable lodge room, cabin or maybe even a glamping tent. A good night’s sleep will be no problem after all of the excitement from the day. Before you know it, you will wake up and it will start all over again with meals, activities, great company and memories to last a lifetime. 

cabin at a dude ranch

Marble Mountain Ranch - California

The Dude Ranchers’ Association currently has almost 100 member ranches spread throughout the Western United States and Canada that ensure you will receive a genuine Western experience combined with the lodging industry’s highest standards of hospitality.  Finding a ranch where you can check all of the activities off of your bucket list can be very easy. Contact the folks at the DRA and they will help you find the perfect ranch for your destination vacation! 

307-587-2339 ~ info@duderanch.org

 

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ude ranch vacations are becoming ever popular for every type of traveler, multigenerational family reunions, couples, solo adventurists and even corporate groups. Dude ranches are a great destination to be as active or relaxing as one pleases; the ability to choose your own schedule and enjoy a way of life you may not be familiar with is relaxing in itself. Depending on the ranch, the list of activities could be quite simple or endless, but what does a day on a dude ranch entail?

A New Mexico Cattle Drive

Burnt-Well-Icon-Cattle-ColorBurnt Well Cattle Drive - by Mark Bedor Anybody who’s ever seen the movie City Slickers has dreamed about going on a cattle drive!  I was fortunate enough to be one of ten people who had come to Burnt Well Guest Ranch in New Mexico from as far as Florida and California to go on a weeklong cattle drive to move more than 150 cows to their summer pasture. The cattle drive would put us in the saddle of that real cowboy world all week. The chance to do this was a dream come true for many in our group, like 73-year old Kathy from New Jersey. “I’ve always wanted to do this,” she told me as we rode along that first morning. “I figured if I don’t do it soon, it’s gonna be too late.” Starting out Monday on the Burnt Well's  24 square mile spread (relatively small by arid New Mexico standards), a willing, yet inexperienced group of guests would help push the herd across four neighboring ranches,  before finally arriving at Bonney Canyon Ranch, where Kim Chesser, owner of Burnt Well along with his wife Patricia,  had leased pasture land to graze those cattle for the summer. When they say “pushing cows,” that is an accurate description. Without constant pressure, the herd of 156 animals including 30 heifers (females that had never given birth), six bulls, and 60 pairs of momma cows with brand new baby calves, would  just stop and eat. The unspoiled ranch lands we rode through are the very definition of wide open spaces. With a rugged beauty all its own, this horseback view of New Mexico is a jaw dropping sight to people who spend most of their lives in a congested city. “I’ve never been in a place this open in my life,” beamed  Liz Edwards, here from Boston with her husband Chris. “There’s so much beauty.” The couple had flown in a day early, and got a taste of the area’s cowboy culture when they made a side trip to nearby Ruidoso, New Mexico.  Saturday night they dined and danced at the town's very Western Texas Club. “Just a completely different side of the United States,” marveled Chris. “We’re all Americans... same as us... but it’s a totally different world." The cattle drive gave us the chance to visit with some of the area’s real working cowboys, as the ranches we crossed provided horseback escorts through their property. These guys are real pros and they make stringing out a herd and keeping it moving look easy. “This is the fun part of cowboyin’,” smiled rancher Kevin Floyd.  As we rode along, Kevin talked of the very difficult challenges ranchers face, not the least of which is a largely urban public’s misguided perceptions of the cattle industry. “I saw an article... a serious editorial in a newspaper... that said if all you ranchers would go to the grocery store like the rest of us to get your meat...you wouldn’t be harming animals!” There are lots of tough issues. Ranchers can be sued by trespassers who get hurt on their property. Sheep ranching, once a thriving business here, is being decimated by out of control predators.  Inheritance taxes and land values make it next to impossible for young people to get into ranching. “But it’s still a wonderful life,” smiles Kevin, as we ride along, enjoying perfect horseback weather on a cool and cloudy morning. “You get to be with God out here.” That Wednesday morning we were up, with bedrolls, tents and personal gear packed in time for breakfast at six. We’d been told to be prepared for a twelve hour day in the saddle. And that was no exaggeration. Local horse trader and  veteran cowboy, Dave McIntosh saddled up to ride with us on what would be the toughest day of the trip. It started out easy enough, with Dave showing us how it’s done, we had those cows stepping out nicely. “Most everybody thinks that cattle drive from the back,” revealed Dave, when I asked for his views on the best way to drive a herd. “But if you work the sides and keep 'em pushed in... and keep the front end goin’ somewhere... the back end’ll want to stay up with the front.” Lunchtime found us at the base of that imposing barrier known as Border Hill. Steep and rocky, it wasn’t the easiest place to just ride a horse, let alone drive cattle. “It’s gonna be tough,” warned wrangler Tim. It was tough, and we had to push hard on those cows and our horses every step of the way. Slowly but surely, we climbed that steep and rugged incline. We made  it to the top and at six that evening, we reached the corrals where we’d park the herd for the night and refill our depleted canteens.  After settling the herd in for the night we still had another hour’s ride to get to camp. Finally, we arrived!  We'd been in the saddle almost twelve hours on the dot when we stepped off those horses. As we plopped into camp chairs, and savored a cold beer, the trials of a long day were suddenly replaced by a great sense of both achievement and camaraderie. “We all came together as strangers... and look what we accomplished,”  reflected Linda from Minnesota. “That’s so cool!” And many of those in our group of ten had done it with very little riding experience. Linda, an accomplished rider who owns her own horse back home, was very impressed with not only the horse she rode, but the other mounts of the Chesser string. “I look at Cheyenne and Mickey and Mo,”  she observed of the horses the beginners had ridden. “They take good care of people.” After three days and some 35 miles,  we’d spend the next two nights at this last camp. We had one short two hour ride Thursday morning to push the cows from their holding pens to the pasture where they'd spend the summer. That  afternoon we had  another easy ride, checking some five miles of fence with wrangler Tim, a great chance to relax in the saddle and soak in the beautiful vistas of New Mexico. There were other treats to enjoy before we’d ride out to the trail head on Friday morning.  Thursday evening Patricia’s fiddle came out, and our camp meadow became an impromptu dance floor filled with fun and laughter.  And in this part of New Mexico, where you can’t see any lights of civilization and the heavens don’t shine any brighter, many of us also took advantage of the perfect dry weather to sleep out under the stars. Staring at the stars from a sleeping bag is not something Chris and Liz do very often in Boston. “We’re officially converted!,” she laughed on Friday morning. It had been quite a week, not to mention  all the wildlife we saw, like abundant mule deer, jack rabbits, wild turkeys, and even a bobcat!  Yes, there were moments when it was hard, but as we rode out Friday morning I felt so good. Restored. Alive. And I wasn’t the only one. “I’m coming back actually feeling better than when I arrived,” said 69-year old Addie.  “Very refreshed! Coming back. It’s something a lot of guests do who visit the Burnt Well Guest Ranch. I'd like to come back myself. Burnt Well Guest Ranch is a member of  The Dude Ranchers’ Association which was formed in 1926 to preserve this special way of life and the wonderful environment in which dude ranching takes place. When you vacation at a Dude Ranchers’ Association Dude Ranch, you can be sure of a quality vacation. Membership in the Association is a rigorous two year inspection and approval process, to assure that guests are treated to genuine western hospitality combined with the lodging industry’s highest standards. Our Dude Ranches offer all-inclusive vacations that are perfect for everyone, from the littlest rancher to Grandpa and Grandma.  Horseback riding, hiking, petting zoos, swimming holes, rodeos, fishing, games, skeet shooting, archery, art classes, cooking classes and more await your discovery on your next Dude Ranch Vacation.  Horses, Hats, History and Hospitality – they’re the foundation of every ranch. There is a little cowboy in all of us… come find yours… For More information about Burnt Well Guest Ranch  you can visit www.duderanch.org or call 866-399-2339.    

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