How to Plan Your Trip to a DRA Dude Ranch - Tips on How to Get There

If you’re tired of the same old vacations and getaway plans, it is worth knowing that the Dude Ranchers’ Association offers much more interesting options. This Association is composed of over 100 ranches that provide top-notch services and accommodation conditions so that you will truly experience life on a ranch without compromising anything. In case you are still looking for better vacation options, it is definitely worth checking out what the Dude Ranchers’ Association has to offer. In other words, here is how to get to some great DRA dude ranches and a few ideas on what to do once you get there.

dude ranch

 

Take a Trip to a DRA Dude Ranch

 

1. Fly into Reno, NV:

Greenhorn Ranch – Quincy, CA

dude ranch

Once you reach the airport in Reno, the Greenhorn Ranch is just an hour and a half away from the city, by car.

Things to do:

• Plumas County Museum

Stop by the Plumas County Museum and submerge yourself in a time when the railroad industry was flourishing. This is not an average railroad museum, as many say that the entire place is alive, due to the impressive number of exhibits and interesting collections. It is worth mentioning that you will see much more than just railroad-related items. There are other objects from the area’s history that have been restored and displayed for the public at this museum.

• Keep an eye on the local festivals

The best part about visiting Quincy is that there are events going on here throughout the year. The city is known for the number of celebration and festivals that take place in the area, which manages to attract an impressive number of visitors every year. A good tip would be to visit Quincy during the summer or fall season if you really want to be part of local festivals. If you like music, for instance, the High Sierra Musical Festival that takes place in the summer would be a great choice.

Hunewill Circle H Guest Ranch – Bridgeport, CA

dude ranch

A bit further away, at just two and a half hours away from Reno, you will find the Hunewill Ranch, another great ranch that is worth visiting while in the area.

Things to do:

• Don’t miss a trip to Yosemite National Park

Considering that Yosemite National Park is just an hour away from the Hunewill Guest Ranch, it is a place you definitely need to visit. This park is a wonder of nature that has so much to offer. If you don’t live in the area and you came here just for your vacation at the ranch, make sure to write down a visit to this park on your to-do list. You will definitely not regret making this choice.

• Check out the local hot springs

The area around Bridgeport is simply blessed with numerous natural treasures. The Travertine Hot Springs are among them and they are also the hot springs with very easy access for visitors. So, you don’t have to be a trekking expert or deposit too much effort to see these springs. You have absolutely no reason not to get out there and enjoy both the springs and the stunning views of the surrounding area.

 

2. Fly into Denver, CO:

Bar Lazy J Guest Ranch – Parshall, CO

dude ranch

To get to this ranch, you can either choose to drive for about two and a half hours or you can take the train. The trip on the train will take four hours, but it will be quite relaxing and fun experience.

Things to do:

• Take the train through Colorado

One of the best ways to see an area is to take the train if there’s a railroad in the area. Traveling by train is extremely comfortable and relaxing because you don’t have to worry about the traffic. At the same time, you have all the time to enjoy the views and see a lot on your way.

• Experience the Hot Sulfur Springs Wildlife Area

You have probably seen hot springs before, but did you have the chance to check out a sulfur hot spring? If you are in Parshall, Colorado, there is a spring like this in the State Wildlife Area. There is no entrance fee into the area and it is available throughout the year. So, no matter when you get the chance to visit, it is worth seeing. The ranch will also take you for a spectacular horseback ride to the springs for an afternoon of soaking.

Drowsy Water Ranch – Granby, CO

dude ranch

Getting to this particular ranch will also take two and a half hours by car and four hours by train. So, it is up to you what you choose to visit.

Things to do:

• Take the train and enjoy a gorgeous area

Forget about driving, at least during your vacation, and do things differently this time. Taking the train is not just convenient and relaxing, but will also give you the chance to see the beauty of the area comprised between Denver and Granby.

• Go over the stunning Ute Pass

Are you passionate about breathtaking views or have photography as a hobby? Then you must go through the Ute Pass. There are more than enough beautiful scenes as you will pass by, but the real reward is to get to the Eagles Nest Wilderness. Make sure to stop here because the views are simply unforgettable.

Latigo Ranch – Kremmling, CO

dude ranch

If you want to get to this ranch, a trip by car will take three hours, while the train will take you there in four hours.

Things to do:

• Explore the Colorado River Headwaters Scenic Byway

There’s nothing better than a walk in a scenic area. If you choose the Latigo Ranch in Kremmling, Colorado, you have the Colorado River nearby. Luckily, there is a scenic byway along its shorelines, so you can enjoy an unforgettable and relaxing walk.

• Take a trip to the Rocky Mountain National Park

A getaway in a national park, away from the hustle and bustle of the city, can do a lot of good. Simply being away from technology and a fast-paced lifestyle, enjoying nature and tranquility can recharge your batteries like no other method. And the Rocky Mountain National Park really has a lot to offer, so don’t miss it while you’re here.

 

3. Fly into Tucson, AZ:

Rancho de la Osa – Sasabe, AZ

dude ranch

It takes just an hour and a half to get from Tucson to Rancho de la Osa, so you will reach your destination in no time.

Things to do:

• Enjoy the beauty provided by the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge

Wildlife refuges can be considered real-life museums. They hold some of the biggest creations and treasures nature has to offer, so if you have the chance to visit such a refuge, do not miss it. Whether you choose to visit the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge or take the time to enjoy a ride through it, you will see beautiful things all around.

• Experience the incredible Sonoran Desert

Did it ever occur to you that a desert can be mesmerizing? Well, the Sonoran Desert is definitely one of those deserts. Home to the Saguaro Cactus, which is incredible when in bloom, this desert attracts many people due to its warm winters and unique terrain.

Elkhorn Ranch – Tucson, AZ

dude ranch

An hour and a half drive will take you down the road to the Elkhorn Ranch outside of Tucson, so this is another ranch that is easy to reach and enjoy if you are willing to try something new.

Things to do:

• Take a trip around the old part of Tucson

The old part of Tucson was used in a large number of films, so don’t be surprised if some areas will appear to be familiar. Whether it is because of the movies or simply because it is charming, you should take the time to check this part of the town out.

• Check out the Pima Air & Space Museum

If you want to get out of the western sphere a little, you can visit this museum dedicated to aircraft and everything else that revolves around them. This museum is one of a kind.

• Relax at the Saguaro National Park

The Saguaro National Park got its name from the fact that it is home to an impressive number of Saguaro Cacti. This type of cactus is representative for the area, but seeing a field of Saguaro cacti in one single place can be an impressive view.

Tombstone Monument Ranch – Tombstone, AZ

dude ranch

Only an hour and a half away from the city of Tucson, you can also find the Tombstone Monument Ranch, a sanctuary of tranquility and peace where you can replenish yourself with positive energy.

Things to do:

• Visit the famous Bisbee, AZ

Don’t be discouraged by the fact that Bisbee is a small city. There are more than enough options when it comes to having fun and staying busy over here. From birdwatching to checking out the local pubs and restaurants, the list is quite versatile and entertaining. Bisbee is also home to one of the largest and most famous turquoise mines as well!

• Have some fun at the Old Tombstone Western Theme Park

This is a place where the entire family can have a lot of fun. Also, it is pet-friendly as well, so don’t leave your four-legged companion behind. The entire park is made to reflect the authentic old western culture, so you can take this adventure as a history lesson as well, not just pure entertainment.

• Check out a real underground mine

If you’re curious to see what a real mine looks like and how people worked in such a place, you need to visit the Goodenough Silver Mine. This was one of the most important and among the first of its kind in the old west, so it is definitely a piece of history you shouldn’t miss.

 

4. Fly into Cody, WY:

Rimrock Ranch – Cody, WY

dude ranch

It takes just 45 minutes on the road to get from Cody to the Rimrock Ranch. So, you will be able to begin your vacation in no time.

Crossed Sabres Ranch – Cody, WY

dude ranch

A bit further away, one hour away to be more specific, you will find the Crossed Sabres Ranch. Once you get there, you will enjoy the beauty of the wilderness in a comfortable and elegant manner.

7D Ranch – Cody, WY

dude ranch

Even if you have to drive for one hour and a half up to the 7D Ranch, it is worth taking the trip if you want to find a tranquil place surrounded by a lot of beauty. Comfort and intimacy are at home at this family-owned ranch.

The Hideout Lodge & Guest Ranch – Shell, WY

dude ranch

It takes just one hour and another 20 to 25 minutes to get from Cody to the Hideout Lodge & Guest Ranch. After you will finish this short trip, your most amazing vacation can begin.

Things to do:

• Don’t miss visiting Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park is one of the most famous national parks in the country. So, if you’re in the area, make sure you pay it a visit as well. But, do keep in mind that it is very large, so go there with a plan in mind or with some must-see objectives. Many of the ranches in the area will take you on an all-day tour of the park and the road from Cody, Wyoming to the East Entrance of Yellowstone was deemed the ‘most scenic 52 miles in the world’ by Teddy Roosevelt.

• Visit the historical Buffalo Bill Center of the West Museum

A great way to experience the west is to check out the incredible Buffalo Bill Center of the West Museum. This paired with your stay at a ranch will definitely give you the western experience you are looking for.

• Experience the Cody Night Rodeo

What’s a trip to the west without a good old-fashioned rodeo night? The rodeo show is available every night, starting the 1st of June and until the 31st of August. Join in and experience an authentic western rodeo.

• Give yourself the chance to see the Wild Mustangs roaming at the McCullough Peaks

There aren’t many places out in the world where wild horses can still be seen. But, at the McCullough Peaks, you can still see Wild Mustangs roaming free and undisturbed by humans. This is one of the things you should not miss in this lifetime for sure. The Hideout Lodge and Guest Ranch will even take you on a horseback ride amongst the Wild Mustangs if you wish!

This article was written in collaboration with Luxury Travelers Guide

If you’re tired of the same old getaway plans, it is worth knowing that the Dude Ranchers’ Association offers more interesting options. Visit a Dude Ranch!

Solo Travelers Find the Ultimate Getaway Destination at a Dude Ranch

While traveling alone may sound like a scary or uninviting idea, don’t completely rule it out yet, there are some pretty incredible destinations for solo travelers, like a dude or guest ranch. Dude and guest ranches are the ideal all-inclusive vacation for those looking for some much-needed alone time, a new and exciting adventure, or even for those who may be searching for new friends. There are many advantages to dude and guest ranch destinations for solo travelers, keep reading to learn about why a ranch vacation surpasses the rest.

While traveling alone may sound like a scary idea, don’t completely rule it out yet, there are great destinations for solo travelers, like a dude ranch!

Fun and Friendly Environment

You will instantly feel like part of the family as there is great camaraderie amongst guests and staff. It instantly becomes your home away from home! Many guest ranches only accommodate up to 30 or 40 guests per week, which not only allows the staff to know your name but also results in you getting to know most of the other guests. Meals are often served family-style so there are always guests to chat with throughout the day, making sure you never feel like you are on the “outskirts” if traveling alone. Horseback riding will bring you closer with other guests too; getting to visit with people on your rides and share beautiful landscape and memories together will be something you always remember.

Group Oriented Activities

There is never a dull moment at a dude ranch. There are activities to keep you busy from sunup to sundown such as horseback riding, fly fishing, white water rafting, rock climbing, cattle roping, ATV-riding and much more. Plus, these activities are usually done in groups so you won’t encounter any “couples only” activities or events if you don’t want to. If you are looking for a little time by yourself though, relaxing at your cabin or room and reading a good book is also an option too. The beauty of a dude ranch is that you get to choose your own schedule, your vacation can be as active or as quiet as you like!

Adult-Only and Specialty Weeks

Many dude and guest ranches report fewer “couples” visiting now than in the past. As a result, many of these ranches host adult-only weeks in the Fall. Activities during these weeks range from wine and cheese tastings, guided hikes, cooking classes, country dance instruction, cookouts, themed cocktail receptions, fly-fishing clinics and much more. These weeks offer a great environment for solo travelers because mostly everyone is there for a relaxing getaway with no families and the opportunity to meet new people and bond.

Connect with Yourself

Dude ranches are a great place to spend time alone to revive your body, spirit and mind in some of the most spectacular areas in the country, from valleys complete with untouched Rocky Mountain backdrops to desert sunsets across the Southwest. Whether it’s a rejuvenating day at the spa, an adventurous hike or a relaxing day reading a book under the sun, you are sure to have plenty of quality alone time. Many ranches will even allow you to completely “unplug” by being out of cell phone and internet service. You may be surprised at how good this could be for you once you get the chance to do so, especially in today’s world.

How to Find a Ranch for Solo Travelers

Finding the right ranch for a solo traveler might be a little overwhelming because there really is a lot to choose from. Let the Dude Ranchers’ Association (DRA) help you plan the perfect solo vacation. Whether you are looking for an authentic cowboy experience or a luxury resort, the DRA can customize the trip of your dreams. There are currently 100+ DRA-accredited guest ranches in the Western United States and Canada, all of which uphold the highest quality of services within the industry. Take a look below at some fantastic DRA ranches suited for solo travelers and to find more you can visit www.duderanch.org.

Bull Hill Guest Ranch – Kettle Falls, Washington

solo travelers

This premier destination in Washington state combines all the wild and untouched beauty of the mountains, meadows, forests, river, lakes and streams with the warm and comfortable amenities of home. Forget all the turbulence of daily life and begin an adventure of a lifetime. Experience trail rides or cattle drives with breathtaking panoramas or go off-trail and explore uncharted territory for a truly unforgettable experience.

Klondike Ranch – Buffalo, Wyoming

solo travelers

Experience the thrill of a Western ranch in one of the most beautiful atmospheres of the Old West. Guests become a part of the family and they take great lengths to ensure you are comfortable, well-fed, taken care of and get as much riding in as you can handle. The folks here enjoy welcoming their guests into their way of life and believe it is their duty to make your stay here as memorable and enjoyable as it should be.

Long Hollow Ranch – Sisters, Oregon

solo travelers

Located in central Oregon, this historic pioneer ranch is a great getaway destination. The original ranch buildings, over a century old, have been preserved and renovated for hosting ranch guests and the main ranch house has been updated to include five ensuite guest rooms. The original ranch "store" (once a stage stop) is now the guest cottage. Guest activities like trail rides, cattle drives, fly-fishing for rainbow trout and bass are ever-popular on the ranch. The memories you make here will be remembered for a lifetime.

Rankin Ranch – Caliente, California

solo travelers

Rankin Eranch has been a working cattle ranch for 156 years and they know you will enjoy their tasty Rankin Ranch beef during your stay. The guest ranch celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2015 and continues to attract guests from around the world. Rankin Ranch is one of the oldest and largest family-owned ranches in California. Six generations of Rankins have lived and worked on the 31,000-acre cattle ranch and they truly enjoy the opportunity to share their lifestyle with their guests.

Rimrock Ranch – Cody, Wyoming

solo travelers

Rimrock Ranch is nestled on the banks of Canyon Creek, 24 miles west of Cody and 27 miles east of the East Entrance of Yellowstone National Park. This ranch has been family owned and operated since 1955 and the tradition lives on. With spectacular views, cozy cabins and family-style meals, you will feel right at home with the Fales family.

Stagecoach Trails Guest Ranch – Yucca, Arizona

solo travelers

Ride in the beautiful Arizona desert with friendly wranglers who have made this dude ranch their home for years. Slow scenic rides amongst the cactus landscape, as well as trotting and loping rides in the desert washes, are offered so every riding level can be accommodated. This guest ranch borders over 360,000 acres of natural western desert beauty at the foot of the Mohave and Hualapai mountains. You can be assured of breathtaking views and constant sunny days.

The Broadmoor’s Ranch at Emerald Valley – Colorado Springs, Colorado

solo travelers

Just a short ride up the mountain from The Broadmoor, a distinctively Colorado experience awaits at The Ranch at Emerald Valley. Surrounded by over 100,000 acres of the Pike National Forest, indulge in a private escape in one of ten beautifully appointed one, two- or three-bedroom cabins featuring wood-burning fireplaces, rich furnishings, and modern amenities. The intimate environment of this luxury ranch will leave you wanting to come back!

V6 Ranch – Parkfield, California

solo travelers

Nestled in the Cholame Valley, the V6 Ranch envelops 20,000 acres of the most diverse and alluring country in the heart of central California. This beautiful ranch offers activities to tickle the fancy of any person that seeks peace and quiet. The clean air and warm nights are ideal for laying out under the stars. The ranch offers trail rides, cattle drives, horse camping and over 50 scenic miles of trails to explore with maps and trail markers to show the way. The ranch also offers hiking, photography, over 200 varieties of wildflowers, wildlife, and bird watching. The ranch will leave you will new friends, experiences and memories to last forever.

 

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23 Dude Ranch Activities

When you think of a dude ranch vacation do you imagine time in the saddle and think it might be fun for a day or two, but wonder if there is enough to do for an entire vacation? Well, there is great news for travelers who would enjoy any amount of western lifestyle activities such as horseback riding and cattle work. If you look into it further, modern day dude ranches offer a lot more than just this. With scenic landscapes, great accommodations and knowledgeable staff, dude ranch activities vary for a diverse crowd - whether that is your multigenerational family, business associates or small group of best friends. 

It doesn’t matter if you would consider yourself a “city slicker” or an equestrian, everyone will get to ride horses and spend time doing what they enjoy the most. Dude ranches offer attractions and services that travel far beyond the trail. Fine dining? Well that’s just the beginning. Outdoor exercise? Any and all kinds. Relaxation? You got it. 

So, if you’re considering a dude ranch vacation and would like to fill your week with many types of activities, consider adding these activities to your to do list.

Dude Ranch Activities  

 

Trail Riding on Horseback

The best way to experience the West is most definitely horseback riding. Starting out with an orientation ride, you’ll easily determine how much adventure you’ll enjoy with your personal horse or horses for the week. You might be content with a daily stroll up to a nice view or have a need for speed on twice daily loping rides. 

Dude Ranch Activities

R Lazy S Ranch - Teton Village, WY

Bird Watching

For avid bird watchers dude ranches offer some exclusive places to find rare species of birds specific to the area. Many horseback rides at the Triple R Ranch in South Dakota explore deep into wildlife’s natural habitats especially native birds. It is almost guaranteed that on these rides you will see some type of unique species! 

Dude Ranch Activities

Triple R Ranch - Keystone, SD

White Water Rafting

Suited up in your life jacket you’ll get to race (or meander) down crystal clear water for yet another perspective on this beautiful location. Rimrock Ranch in Wyoming has an afternoon of their weekly program that is designated for a white water rafting trip for all of the ranch guests to enjoy.

Dude Ranch Activities

Rimrock Ranch - Cody, WY

Petting Zoos

Petting zoos on dude ranches are not just for children. Even adults enjoy interacting with all sorts of farm animals, from baby goats and pigs to gathering eggs from the chicken coop.

Overnight Campouts or Pack Trips

There’s no better place to see the stars than on an overnight campout or a pack trip into the mountains. In a lot of these places motorized vehicles are not allowed, so the only way to get out there is on foot or by horseback. On a pack trip with the Broken Arrow Lodge you’ll go through two mountain ranges in the spectacular Rocky Mountains!

Dude Ranch Activities

Broken Arrow Lodge - Alder, MT

Cattle Drives

Hup, hup! You’ll get to understand what life is like as a cowboy once you experience first hand what it’s like to move cattle across the range. From several hours to a full day cattle drive, this is the real deal when it comes to the cowboy lifestyle activities on a dude ranch. At the Bonanza Creek Ranch in Montana cattle ranching is not just a business - it’s a way of life. And you’ll be apart of it. 

Dude Ranch Activities

Bonanza Creek Ranch - Martinsdale, MT

Kids Activities

From 0 - 18 kids always have something to do on the ranch. With counselors for different age ranges, kids are engaged and have no need for electronics. There’s a creative activity to do every moment, from swimming pools to nature walks or even visiting that petting zoo we talked about earlier.

Massages

Why not sign up for a relaxing massage to complete your afternoon? With trained professionals in some of the most beautiful locations you’ll enjoy a lavish spa experience. You’ll really like the full body massage customized for your preferences at the Hubbard’s Six Quarter Circle Ranch in Montana. After a day in the saddle this is just what the doctor ordered.

Dude Ranch Activities

Hubbard's Six Quarter Circle Ranch - Emigrant, MT 

Shooting & Archery Sports

You’ll be given instruction and participate in a safely controlled environment to learn and practice shooting different types of firearms and archery.

ATV Rides

Cinch down your helmet and hit the road for an afternoon of exploring on ATV’s as one of the most fun dude ranch activities. 

Horse Drawn Wagon/Sleigh Rides

Riding in a horse drawn wagon or sleigh should be on everyone’s bucket list. At the K Diamond K Guest Ranch in Washington guests are given a tour of the ranch by a team of Belgian draft horses pulling a 12-passenger wagon. Experience transportation like the cowboys used to in the times of the old west! 

Dude Ranch Activities

K Diamond K Ranch - Republic, WA

Yoga

Try a yoga class with a certified trainer whenever you like. You might enjoy a class outside amongst the aspen trees or in a quaint cabin studio.

Fly Fishing

Whether you are an expert or a beginner your own personal fly-fishing guide will help you catch various types of trout on super private waters. The Goosewing Ranch offers twice weekly instruction on their stocked pond, allowing you to fine tune your fishing skills. Also, they offer all sorts of equipment for the guests to use and a map of all the prime fishing locations on the ranch. 

Dude Ranch Activities

Goosewing Ranch - Jackson, WY 

Glamping 

Glamping has become the new trend it seems and dude ranches are following suite. The Bull Hill Guest Ranch in Washington has 2 new glamping tents less than 5 years old! Each tent is just 100 feet from the shower house where each tent has its own private bath and shower. Both tents are fully furnished and do have electricity as well as heat. They also have beautiful porches to kick back and relax after a day full of ranch activities.  

Dude Ranch Activities

Bull Hill Guest Ranch - Kettle Falls, WA

Rustic Weddings

Picturesque settings, wide open spaces and top-notch amenities draw thousands of brides-to-be and their grooms to dude ranches each year. Whether you would like to run off and elope or prefer inviting the whole family there’s plenty of options for planning your dude ranch wedding. The Absaroka Ranch in Wyoming can accommodate 16 people in their four cabins and host up to 200 guests for the day of the wedding. There’s nothing like a reception with 360-degree breathtaking views and a mountain backdrop.

Dude Ranch Vacations

Absaroka Ranch - Dubois, WY

Talent Show

The ranch staff and guests alike are some pretty talented people and friendly competition can be found in many forms during your vacation. You’ll enjoy watching and participating in a talent night at the ranch. You can sing, tap or joke your way to local stardom in a talent show. You won’t soon forget these memories! 

Jeep Tours

At the Hawley Mountain Ranch, you’ll get to take an all-day jeep tour adventure to places where very few people can travel. Ready to see an old ghost town or visit Monument Peak at nearly 11,000 feet?? Hawley Mountain Ranch will take you there!

Dude Ranch Activities

Hawley Mountain Guest Ranch - McLeod, MT 

Zip Line 

Zoom! Your adventure guide will take you on a view of the ranch like none other. You’ll get to fly through the air for another kind of wild ride. 

Tennis & Golf 

Practice your professional swing while having a good time with friends. Some ranches have tennis courts and golf courses on site or within a close radius of the ranch. The Broadmoor’s Ranch at Emerald Valley in Colorado gives their guests the opportunity to take a short ride down to the Broadmoor’s 2 different 18-hole golf courses that look like they are out of a picture book. They also have state of the art tennis courts available to guests to use, you will just have to schedule a time to go play! 

Dude Ranch Activities

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

Fine Wine and Fine Dining 

Ranches have well trained (even Cordon bleu trained) chefs that take a lot of pride in offering 5-star cuisine with beautifully paired wines. There are many dude ranches that also participate in Farm to Table Cuisine programs. Beautiful vegetables and fruits are harvested just a few yards from the kitchens and have flavors like you’ve never tasted before. Several ranches also have a long list of fine wines and beer selections for guests to choose from. 

Cooking Classes

These same chefs would love to share their kitchen with you and/or your kids to teach you their secret recipes on amazing ranch cuisine. 

Team Penning

With a team of 3 riders you’ll try your hand at a seriously fun rodeo sport. With rules that can be modified to suite, the idea is to separate a cow or steer from the group and herd it into a pen. Who ever is the fastest wins! 

Hiking

From rigorous climbs to easy ambles you can get out and explore the mountains on foot. At the Flat Creek Ranch, you’ll be able to hike up to the Teton Overlook trail for a panoramic view of the Grand Teton National Park. Hike in the Bridger-Teton National Forest and the Gros Ventre Wilderness Area while at the ranch and experience some of Wyoming's most undiscovered land. 

Dude Ranch Activities

Flat Creek Ranch - Jackson, WY

These are not all the activities you can find on dude ranches. We haven’t even talked about National Park Trips, rock climbing, winter sports, and more! 

To find that dude ranch experience with the right combination of activities use the search by amenity page on duderanch.org or give a ranch vacation expert a call at the Dude Ranchers’ Association. 

Search by Amenity 

Call a Ranch Expert 307.587.2339

 

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When you think of a dude ranch vacation do you imagine time in the saddle and think it might be fun for a day or two, but wonder if there is enough to do for an entire vacation? With scenic landscapes, great accommodations and knowledgeable staff, dude ranch activities vary for a diverse crowd - whether that is your multigenerational family, business associates or small group of best friends.

How to Choose the Right Dude Ranch for Your Family Vacation


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



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


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


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



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

 

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

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

 



Why a Dude Ranch?

 

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

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

Black Mountain Ranch Cattle Drive



What Type of Dude Ranch Fits Your Family Vacation?

 

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

There are three general categories of ranches:

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


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

 

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

 

How Many Guests at the Dude Ranch?


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

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

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

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



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

 

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

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


When to Book your Dude Ranch Vacation?

 

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

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



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

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

 
Vista Verde Ranch Sleigh Ride



Accommodations at a Dude Ranch



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

 


How are the Vittles?

 

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

 

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

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



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

 

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

 McGinnis Meadows Cattle Drive

 

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

 

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

Hiking at Paradise Guest Ranch

 

Beyond Riding

 

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

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


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

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


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

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

 

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The Great American Family Holiday – on a Dude Ranch

Sylvan Dale Ranch Great American Family Holiday Clint the donkey gets a hug at the Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch.

Ride ‘em cowboy! Sure there can be plenty of time in the saddle when you take the kids on a dude ranch vacation. But these days, there’s plenty else to do. In fact, ranch goers acknowledge, they often spend less time riding than they expected because of so many other activities and so much land to explore. That’s especially true for multi-generational groups who find guest ranches ideal for family reunions. They are all-inclusive so there is no bickering—and no surprises—with the final bill. No one has to get groceries, cook or clean up. And there are activities for all ages. How about mountain biking? Organized kids’ activities often include everything from riding to soccer, sack races, art projects and talent shows. Programs like at the Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch in Colorado, means the adults get some time to catch up and parents don’t have to worry about their children’s whereabouts. The closeness of the cabins, dining room and other facilities makes it easy for parents to keep an eye on them, and means the property is more convenient to navigate for older guests. You might not have realized dude ranches today offer so many options:

A visit to a National Park – Many dude ranches are located near some of the country’s most popular national parks. White Stallion Ranch borders Arizona’s Saguaro National Park, while Rimrock Ranch is only miles outside the East entrance to Yellowstone National Park. Medicine Bow Lodge & Guest Ranch is located in the Medicine Bow National Forest in Wyoming; while many guests at Bar W Guest Ranch in Montana head to Glacier National Park for a day.

Bar W Dude Ranch Vacation

Picnic at the Bar W Guest Ranch in Montana

A hike in the wilderness. Most dude ranches are off the tourist grid on lots of land, ideal for exploring on foot. The Diamond D Ranch, nestled in the Frank Church Wilderness Area of Idaho, offers excursions into the wild and fishing in the Salmon River Mountains, among many other activities.

Diamond D Ranch Fishing

Indulge in a massage Many ranches now offer spa treatments, like White Stallion Ranch  in Tucson, AZ and Vista Verde Ranch just outside of Steamboat, CO.

Take a yoga class. Many ranches that offer spa services also provide yoga classes and training. Before a long day in the saddle, guests can have a relaxing limbering-up session with certified trainers.

Try some new wines. Gourmet cuisine and wine paring are gaining popularity at dude ranches. At Smith Fork Ranch, favorites from their private cellar and wineries they especially like are among the choices, including some Colorado wines.

Go tubing or white water rafting. Three Bars Guest Ranch in the Canadian Rockies offers weekly white water rafting tours on the unspoiled  Mary’s River.  Put in only a 10 minute drive from the ranch.

Give shooting sports a try at Red Horse Mountain Ranch in Idaho, there is instruction in a safely controlled environment. There are 5 stations, each providing their own unique targets.

Ride a Zip Line The Bar Lazy J Ranch has one of Colorado’s longest and fastest zip lines and is the only one that crosses the Colorado River. The zip line starts on a steep bluff overlooking the Colorado River dropping 82 feet in elevation as it crosses the river, through the trees and across a pasture to the landing platform. You will be zipping along at speeds in excess of 35 miles per hour. This activity is for guests ages 13 and up.

Go fishing Rainbow Trout Ranch near several historic Spanish land grants in Antonito, Colo.,encourages guests to go trout fishing; Try your hand at fly fishing at 4UR Ranch in Mineral County, Colo.

Do si do with the wranglers or sing your favorite western songs around the campfire at ranches including – Mountain Sky Guest Ranch sits on over 10,000 operational acres of unspoiled wilderness in the heart of Yellowstone Country in Emigrant, Mont Got your cowboy hat?

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The One and Only Wyoming

When you think about traveling in mountains, on rivers or wide open spaces think about Wyoming. Out here the air is fresh, the scenery spectacular and the people have a western hospitality about them you won’t find anywhere else. There are ranches, dude ranches, cattle operations and cowboys of all sorts... professional rodeo cowboys, ranch hands on hundreds of thousands of acres and cowboys that pack horses into places like the Thorofare, the most remote location in the lower 48, located in the greater area Yellowstone National Park. This wonderful state is home to recreation of all kinds, not just ones on horseback.  Yellowstone National Park anyone? Yes, that is here in Wyoming and the state is very proud of it. Let your compass take you in all the cardinal directions and you will find vast amounts of beautiful lonely highways leading to historical places and clear, crisp streams packed with trout waiting to take your fly. You could be on your way to the Big Horn Mountains, Devil’s Tower, Cheyenne Frontier Days, the high and mighty Tetons or the next small western town with a population of 200 or less. Winter is a great time to be here as well. Trust me. It truly is. The quiet snow is ready to be disturbed by snowshoeing, downhill skiing and snowboarding, and snowmobiling. There are ice climbing festivals, ice fishing derbies or your winter recreation of choice. If you’re not yet convinced that Wyoming is the place to be, consider this; whether you are an avid participant in one type of recreation or a general adventurer a dude ranch just might be the right fit. Each ranch listed below has a general list of activities that will accommodate your wants for a week long break. With a closer look each individual ranch has its own flair of personality and specialty. Find the one that matches you and your travel companions. If it is not on the list below, don't fret. There are more Wyoming Ranches than these. Pick up the phone and call the Dude Ranchers' Association to inquire about the extent of ranches in the state.  

R Lazy S Wyoming Vacation Trail Ride Family

R Lazy S Ranch, Teton Village, Wyoming

R Lazy S Ranch specializes in the real meaning of vacation: You can be as active or inactive as you please.

 


Red Rock Ranch Vacation Wyoming

The Red Rock Ranch, Kelly, Wyoming

The Red Rock Ranch takes great pride in serving excellent food, whether on a cook-out BBQ, lunch ride or in our main dining room. The food is a fabulous mix of ranch cuisine with a gourmet flare.


Triangle C Ranch Wyoming Vacation

Triangle C Ranch, Dubois, Wyoming

The Triangle C Ranch takes pride in being a true Wyoming Ranch- where their handshake is our bond and the coffee pot is always on!

 


Vee Bar Ranch Wyoming Vacation

Vee Bar Ranch, Laramie, Wyoming

The Vee Bar Guest and Dude Ranch specializes in small Wyoming conferences and retreats, with space for up to 40 guests for day conferences and 25-30 guests for overnight retreats.

 


Lazy L&B Ranch Wyoming Vacation

Lazy L & B Ranch, Dubois, Wyoming

The Lazy L & B Ranch offers a great kids program. Aside from the riding program kids love the petting zoo, the tree house and the freedom to go wherever they want, whenever they want.

 


Rimrock Ranch Wyoming

Rimrock Ranch, Cody Wyoming

Rimrock Ranch is nestled on the banks of Canyon Creek, 24 miles west of Cody and 27 miles east of the East Entrance of Yellowstone National Park.


More Ranches Here Save Save

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