Top 6 California Dude Ranch Vacations

California dude ranch vacations offer accommodations and itineraries that are exciting for the whole family or solo traveler. Horseback riding through mountains and meadows makes guests forget about the stereotypical beaches and crowds of California’s big cities. Guests see this undiscovered side at a dude ranch. Life at the ranch creates a sense of calm any traveler can appreciate with well-appointed cabins, rocking chairs and hot coffee. 

Sitting across from a cowboy in wrangler jeans and a white straw hat, adventure travelers can hear stories of what some would call the bygone days of the cowboy. Here it’s still alive and well. Guests are amazed at the exceptional experience dude ranching offers.  As a week-long immersion into Western culture begins, guests get to release tension and enjoy the outdoors. 

Just because this is a ranch vacation doesn’t mean all there is to do is horseback riding. There is an abundance of outdoor activities for the perfect balance for a week spent in the serene areas of California. Here are the top 6 places to hang your hat and saddle up for a week. 

Top 6 California Dude Ranch Vacations 

 

The Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort

A Golf Resort Meets Dude Ranch

With all the luxuries of a fine resort, The Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort boasts an experience envied by Californians and travelers from all over the world. The ranch offers a variety of activities and packages to suit a romantic getaway or a large family reunion in a beautiful location near the Danish town of Solvang and right in the heart of Santa Barbara wine country. If guests are looking to try horseback riding and enjoy traditional outdoor activities like golf, cycling or fishing this is a great place to be. 

Alisal California Dude Ranch

The Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort - Solvang, CA 

V6 Ranch 

A Family Tradition of Cattle Work

In central California between Los Angeles and San Francisco lies the 20,000 acres of the V6 Ranch, inviting guests to experience a true, authentic western cattle ranch. Rugged riding, working cattle all day long, sleeping in tents on the range are a few of the options the ranch offers. If guests choose not to go on the cattle drives, the main lodge rooms and cabins are luxurious, the restaurant is very nice and other activities include hiking, photography, bird watching and 50 miles of trails to explore. 

V6 California Dude Ranch

V6 Ranch - Parkfield, CA

Hunewill Circle "H" Guest Ranch

A Charming Ranch in Western Style

Guests feel right at home on this California dude ranch. The staff is known for being friendly and accommodating, getting to know everyone on a personal level. Hunewill Ranch creates lasting friendships through creek-side barbecues, trout fishing, hiking, mountain biking and of course, horseback riding. The Bridgeport Valley where the ranch is located is an unspoiled recreational paradise and even borders Yosemite National Park

Hunewill California Dude Ranch

Hunewill Cirlce "H" Guest Ranch - Bridgeport, CA

Marble Mountain Ranch

A Saddle and Paddle Adventure for Everyone

Famous for their signature “Saddle and Paddle Program” the folks at Marble Mountain Ranch are experts at exciting white-water rafting trips down the Klamath River and horseback rides through the inherently rugged and forested area. And this is just the beginning of the family adventures the ranch offers. ATV rides, steelhead fly fishing, barrel racing, a paint ball course and campfire events are just a few more adventures guests get to experience at this ranch in Northern California. 

Marble Mountain California Dude Ranch

Marble Mountain Ranch - Somes Bar, CA

Greenhorn Ranch

Live California’s Lost Sierra 

Greenhorn has an incredible set up to share with guests in the Lost Sierra, an alpine paradise of 8,500-foot peaks and turquoise lakes. Guests are invited to dine with wranglers and soak up the Western lifestyle experience in this spectacular home away from home. They head out on the trail to grow in confidence with horses and their horseback riding skills. Once back at the barn guests have plenty of options for outdoor activities and relaxation. 

Greenhorn California Dude Ranch

Greenhorn Ranch - Quincy, CA

Rankin Ranch

150 Years and 5 Generations of History

As a historical working cattle operation, the Rankin Ranch was homesteaded 150 years ago and now is the home for the 4th and 5th generation of ranchers from the Rankin family. Businesses, families and travelers from around the world stop by to see what California dude ranch life is really all about. That is - riding through mountains and meadows, swimming, hiking and fishing in the Tehachapi Mountains or at the southern end of the Sequoia National Forest.  

Rankin Ranch California dude ranch

Rankin Ranch - Caliente, CA

 

View more dude ranches outside of California here!

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California dude & guest ranch vacations offer accommodations and itineraries that are exciting for the whole family or solo traveler. Horseback riding through mountains and meadows makes guests forget about the stereotypical beaches and crowds of California’s big cities. Guests see this undiscovered side at a dude ranch. Life at the ranch creates a sense of calm any traveler can appreciate with well-appointed cabins, rocking chairs and hot coffee.

A Dude Ranch Family Vacation - Fun for All Ages

A dude ranch is one of the best options for your next family vacation. With programs centered around horseback riding and western lifestyle activities, you’ll have more fun with your family than you ever thought possible! Parents and children will get to relax and enjoy their vacation in a way that, even though your day is full of activities and outdoor adventures, the mental exhaustion of traveling is not there. Best of all, parents are free from planning entertaining activities for the kids, the only decision making you’ll have to do will be whether to lounge by the pool, go for a horseback ride or hike up to a scenic vista for the afternoon. All the details are taken care of by your ranch hosts, such as meals, activities and housekeeping. With ranches offering family centered activities or an all-day supervised kids program, you’ll be able to find the ranch that is tailored to fit exactly what you are looking for in your family vacation. 

Dude Ranches for a Family Vacation

 

7D Ranch - Cody,WY

The 7D Ranch has been known as a premier Wyoming family guest ranch since 1958. Their kids program is designed to introduce kids to the world of livestock and horses by patient wranglers who take great care to build the children’s confidence. The program is geared for ages 3 – 12, but children of all ages enjoy participating in the activities. All scheduled activities are optional and kids can pick and choose to be with parents or with the group. 

 

Drowsy Water Ranch - Granby,CO

For 90+ years the Drowsy Water Ranch in Colorado has been known for real down-home hospitality and making fond memories on your family vacation. For kids 6 – 13 the ranch has an instruction-based horseback riding program where they practice skills before setting out on the trail. The activities progress to higher levels as the kids advance. For ages 5 and under kid’s counselors take care of the individual needs of your little ones, while you get to enjoy the adult oriented activities at the ranch. 

 

Vee Bar Ranch - Laramie,WY

The Vee Bar Ranch is a family-friendly ranch, and most definitely, a kid friendly dude ranch. With a variety of activities from horseback riding to river tubing, everyone in the family is sure to have fun. Children 6 years and up are able to ride with their family on the trail. Younger children are invited to be at the barn for a nice lead around ride in the barn area before and after the big trail rides. While baby sitting is offered at the ranch, most families choose to enjoy the activities as a family unit. 

 

CM Ranch a great dude ranch for a family vacation!

Kids enjoying arena activities at the CM Ranch in Wyoming. 

Elkhorn Ranch - Gallatin Gateway,MT

Children thrive at the Elkhorn Ranch in Montana, enjoying their independence while under the watchful eye of a kid’s counselor. With a combination of family and individual activities, your family vacation at this ranch will ultimately be one of shared experiences and wonderful memories. For ages 6 – 12 there is a kid’s program from breakfast until 8:30 at night, where the kids usually choose to ride, eat and play together.  

 

Sweet Grass Ranch - Big Timber,MT

Watching children have the freedom to run and play under Montana’s Big Sky, is one of the best parts of a Sweet Grass Ranch family vacation. This ranch truly understands and facilitates the magic that happens between kids and horses. While the ranch doesn’t offer a formal program for kids, the young ones are welcome to participate in all aspects of ranch life at this family-owned and operated working cattle ranch. 

 

CM Ranch - Dubois,WY

As an ideal location for family reunions, the CM Ranch has been providing western vacations for 100+ years. The ranch loves to host children and family vacations of all ages. For kids 5 and older there is a supervised riding program to learn western horsemanship skills and experience ranch traditions. The staff at the ranch works hard to provide activities for children and teenagers for the most enjoyable ranch experience possible. 

 

Rankin Ranch - Caliente,CA

Children are never bored at the Rankin Ranch in Southern California. With planned activities during the day for ages 4 – 11, parents and grandparents appreciate watching their children explore nature in the traditional ranch setting. After dinner the children head down to Sarah’s Farm to help bottle feed the baby animals, throw hay to the lambs and goats and hold the chickens. Following the excitement at the farm, children meet up with their parents for the family style evening activities.

 

Looking for more great dude ranches and advice for a family vacation? Check out these blogs – 

10 Great Dude Ranches Vacations for Families

The Best Multi-Generational Dude Ranches

How to Choose the Right Dude Ranch for your Family

 

 

Pin this for later to remember your favorite dude ranch family vacation!

A dude ranch is one of the best options for your next family vacation. With programs centered around horseback riding and western lifestyle activities, you’ll have more fun with your family than you ever thought possible! All the details are taken care of by your ranch hosts, such as meals, activities and housekeeping. With ranches offering family centered activities or an all-day supervised kids program, you’ll be able to find the ranch that is tailored to fit exactly what you are looking for.

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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Ranch Vacation Retreats & Specialty Weeks for 2017

Ladies and Gentleman! Youth of [most] all ages! Step right up and get hooked on your next ranch vacation! We are here to offer you the most wonderful of specialty weeks for this summer!

 

From 7AM to midnight, Scrapbooking Retreat

 

Poker games, whiskey tasting & wagon rides, Cowboy Games Week

 

Chris Cox instruction & ranch responsibilities, Youth Camp

 


Rankin Ranch Scrapbooking Specialty Week

Ladies Scrapbooking Retreat ~ Caliente, California

 

March 16-19, 2017 March 23-26, 2017 You'll love this weekend getaway at Rankin Ranch with scrapbooking from 7 a.m. to midnight without any distractions!  The ranch offers a unique and beautiful atmosphere for a unique getaway.  Enjoy gorgeous views of the ranch outside the windows and the lingering aromas from our  kitchen where home cooked meals are being prepared. The century old Rankin family home is the setting for this weekend of fun and relaxation.  The guest ranch dining room is transformed into the scrapbooking room where each lady has her own personal table.  Meals will be served in the family dining room for an intimate group of 12. Looking for more crafty events? Check out some basket weaving or quilting.

Goosewing Ranch Specialty Weeks Cowboy Games

Cowboy Games ~ Jackson, Wyoming

 

September 10-17, 2017 ~ Cowboy Games Goosewing Ranch has four special weeks in 2017 set aside for just adults with a special theme.  Take for example the Cowboy Games week - from team penning to poker games, and whiskey tasting to wagon rides there is something for every cowboy or cowgirl to enjoy during the Cowboy Games week at Goosewing Ranch. When the horseback rides return, the outdoor heated pool, hot tub, brand new sauna and massage room provide excellent relaxation before the daily scheduled activities begin. Target shooting, archery, roping, horse games, wagon rides, skeet shooting, hatchet throwing, team penning, and arts and crafts are only a few of the afternoon activities. Evening activities include line dancing, campfires, cookouts, UTV sunset rides, star gazing, and more.  

 

Traingle C Ranch Specialty Weeks Ranch Vacation

Not Your Average Youth Camp ~Dubois, Wyoming

 

 June 4-10, 2017 ~ Boys     (ages 11 -17):
 June 11-17, 2017  ~ Girls     (ages 11-17):

The Triangle C Ranch will be hosting a camp to teach your youth to understand the mentality of the horse, how the horse thinks and how the horse reacts. This week of leadership and communication are as much cornerstones of being successful in life as being successful with the horse. During this week of development your youth will be engaged in many activities - horsemanship instruction from world renowned horseman Chris Cox, fly fishing, teepee camping, cattle driving, and even handling various responsibilities related to ranch life. Qualified counselors, instructors, and special guest speakers ensure a remarkable week of development for our future leaders.     Save Save Save

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Destination - California Ranch

With 163,696 square miles and 8,436 miles of coast California is home to more than just Hollywood and Silicon Valley. It is home to far more acres of recreation and history than you can imagine. Take yourself and your family into a secret corner for a vacation experience on a ranch. The Dude Ranchers' Association recommends four guest ranches of the highest quality spread out along the state of California.

California

Starting from the Northwestern corner of the state in the Klamath National Forest there is the Marble Mountain Ranch. This ranch specializes in what they call the 'Saddle and Paddle Program' where you can have equal parts horseback riding through the mountains and extensive white water rafting down the Klamath River. Oh, and you can get your NRA Basic Pistol Certification while you're there.

Greenhorn Creek Guest Ranch lies in the Northeast of Sacramento away from all the crowds. Greenhorn is sandwiched in the middle of Plumas National Forest for plenty of extra curricular activities within your dude ranch stay. Did you know racing frogs was a thing? Because you can take your children to the Greenhorn ranch to do just that. Experience some wild competition with the other families at the ranch to see who's giant frog will cross the finish line first. No worries, touching frogs is optional. Yosemite National Park is one of the most popular destinations for recreation in California.

At the Hunewill Guest Ranch they will take you on a trip there and give you the native scoop on all the most fascinating details of the park. The fun won't stop there because the ranch is also home to 1,200 head of cattle, 190 horses and an assortment of llamas, goats and sheep. You will definitely be out numbered by the livestock as the ranch can only host 45 guests at a time. The ranch was founded in 1861 by Napoleon Bonapart Hunewill and his wife Esther. The meals are still served in their original Victorian ranch house. Add all those years up and it's more than antique, it's living history.

Rankin Ranch is new to the Dude Ranchers' Association. We welcomed them with open arms this year after they successfully completed the application process for membership. They may be new kids on the block with the Association, but they have been in operation for over 150 years. It is one of the oldest and largest family owned ranches in California. Here you can immerse yourself in the sincere Western hospitality of home cooked meals, fresh vegetables and ranch raised beef. As a famous location in Caliente, California (super close to Los Angeles) you can escape with your friends and family to their mountain valley in the heart of California's Tehachapi Mountains and the Southern end of the Sequoia National Forest. In other words, next time you head to California, consider staying somewhere unique. Somewhere your family can get to know the locals who have been around for many generations. Have a ton of fun while living the ranch experience. For more information on each ranch's unique personality give the Dude Ranchers' Association a call for some clarification. Our number is 307.587.2339

Marble Mountain Ranch Saddle and Paddle in California

Marble Mountain's Saddle and Paddle Program

Hunewill Ranch California Herd of Horses

Hunewill Ranch Herd of Horses

Greenhorn Creek Ranch in California

Greenhorn Creek Ranch in California

Riding at Rankin Ranch California

Riding at Rankin Ranch California

Hunewill Ranch California Victorian Home

Hunewill Ranch Original Victorian Home


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