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

Dude Ranch Weddings - Ride Off Into The Sunset

Make your Wedding day truly extraordinary. Dude ranch weddings are the perfect setting for your ceremony. With their spectacular scenery and private settings you’ll create a lifetime of memories.

Dude Ranch Weddings 

The options are endless; a magical hand built chapel at Diamond D Ranch, the remarkable back drop of the Wyoming Tetons at Moose Head Ranch or under the glorious Colorado skies at C Lazy U Ranch

 

C Lazy U Ranch Colorado Dude Ranch Weddings

 

Extraordinary gourmet cuisine is what Red Reflet Ranch and Tanque Verde Ranch do best, while at Sundance Trail Ranch it is not unusual to see the bride and groom ride off into the sunset. 

 

Red Relfet Ranch Wyoming Dude Ranch Weddings

 

Celebrate your first kiss as husband wife at Greenhorn Creek Ranch during the running of the horses, take a wagon ride under the stars at the Bar W Ranch or let Sylvan Dale Ranch help customize your dream wedding. 

 

Bar W Ranch Montana Dude Ranch Weddings

 

With our Western Hospitality you can be assured your wedding day will be perfect!  

 

Read more about Dude Ranch Weddings 

Here are some great luxury wedding destinations from our friends at LuxuryTravelersGuide.com 

and more articles about dude ranch destination weddings from our blog

 

Bull Hill Ranch Washington Wedding 25 Great Reasons to Have a Dude Ranch Wedding

Anyone who has been involved in planning a traditional weeding knows that it can be a really demanding undertaking for one of the most important milestones in a couples future. There seems to be countless decisions to make: from booking the venue, selecting the theme, narrowing the guest list, creating and sending invitations, gift registsrations, florists and the music playlist. All to make your day look as "Pinterest Perfect" as your wedding board has created. 

 

RawahRanch_HorsebackRiding_Meg&Tim_Sm4 Honeymoon Trends at a Ranch Vacation

Get inspired for your honeymoon with a ranch vacation experience you won't soon forget. Think outside the sand box of a beach destination and go for adventure recreation at a honeymoon paradise. These DRA accredited ranch vacations will exceed your expectations and make many opportunities to creatively start your journey together.

 

Bride-and-Lazy-LB-Ranch-horseA Splendid Ranch Wedding at the Lazy L&B Ranch

 I have been to a few ranches and absolutely loved the lifestyle, the way my body and spirit felt. My inspiration was ignited every single time in unexpected ways and, aside from allowing my senses to absorb it all in, I have shared my journey with others through images and words. It was through a chain of magical coincidences that I was called upon to capture Michele and Jason’s Western inspired wedding at the breathtaking Lazy L&B Ranch in Dubois, Wyoming.

 

Make your Wedding day truly extraordinary. Dude ranch weddings are the perfect setting for your ceremony with their spectacular scenery and private settings. Read about some of the top dude ranches for weddings and other wedding planning resources.

Riding Lessons Before My Ranch Stay?

The Dude Ranchers' Association often receives inquiries about riding lessons before going on a dude ranch vacation. Recently, Philip W asked,

"Should I attend a Western riding school here in England before? Or, would it be better to wait till I am at the ranch in case the teaching here is not as good as (or would conflict with) that which I would receive on the ranch?"

In short, I responded "I think it would be a great idea to take riding lessons before you go." The long explanation below has a little more information. English and Western riding styles vary but the essential muscles used are the same. Taking lessons from a quality location will teach you about basic interactions with horses and help get you in shape for a weeks worth of riding. However, please understand that horse training and styles of riding can be related to intense perspectives. The more flexible you are at learning different viewpoints the more you are apt to benefit from the dude ranch experience and independent riding lessons. Each dude ranch in this association has policies and guidelines in place to keep riders safe. Adaptation to each location will be essential. Most riding lessons will occur in an enclosed arena and most dude ranches ride over hills, mountains and National Parks. If you can imagine these differences of locations you can imagine why the instructions might be different.

Should I Take Riding Lessons Before My Ranch Stay?

  • Introduction to Equus Caballus, the modern day horse

A horse weighs anywhere from 840 - 2,300 pounds, 4.7 - 6 feet at the shoulders and has as many different breeds as dogs. There are lots of different things you can learn about this animal and the equipment used in your lessons. The physical characteristics, proper etiquette and basic grooming techniques. Each horse you meet is different from the next; the more interactions you have with them the more you can discover.

  • Physical Fitness

Horseback riding does not require extreme athleticism, but like learning any new sport or exercise, new muscles can be "discovered" by soreness. Taking lessons would be an accurate, if not the most accurate, way to identify these muscles. Preventing soreness would definitely make your ranch stay more enjoyable.

  • Coordination, Balance and Stability

First time riders may soon realize that riding a horse is tougher than it looks. It requires coordination, balance and stability. There are a lot of parts and pieces to keep up with. A lot needs to happen simultaneously to get a horse to pick up speed or even walk in a circle without wandering off. Riding lessons will begin this learning journey, that even the most experienced of riders continue to improve upon.

Riding is definitely not as hard as walking a tight rope at the circus, but it does require you to straddle the horse and stay in the middle. Balancing and stabilizing your weight in your seat and in the stirrups gets easier with practice. And the better you are at this the easier it will be on the horse.

All this being said, dude ranches are accustomed to and enjoy sharing their love of horses and horseback riding with novice riders and can accommodate all experience levels. You can ride for as long as you like each day and your down time is flexible. Did you know that most dude ranches offer riding lessons as well? All in all I would say riding lessons are a good idea before, during and even after your dude ranch stay. Make sure the location is a quality one and learn all you can. Call the office at 307.587.2339 if you have any questions. Be inspired by this quote from Denis Diderot

"There are three principal means of acquiring knowledge... observation of nature, reflection, and experimentation. Observation collects facts; reflection combines them; experimentation verifies the result of that combination."
Sundance Trail Arena Rodeo Barrel Race Riding Lesson
Sundance Trail Ranch in Colorado Offers Riding Lessons and Rodeo Activities

Read more about the Sundance Trail Guest Ranch

Rocking Z Arena Round Pen Riding Lessons
The Rocking Z Ranch Teaches Lessons from Pat Parelli

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McGinnis Meadows Cattle & Guest Ranch Riding Lessons
 
Learn about cattle work at the McGinnis Meadows Cattle Ranch

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Do I Need Riding Lessons Before a Dude Ranch Vacation?

The Dude Ranchers' Association often receives inquiries about riding lessons before going on a dude ranch vacation. Recently, Philip W asked, "Should I attend a Western riding school here in England before? Or, would it be better to wait till I am at the ranch in case the teaching here is not as good as (or would conflict with) that which I would receive on the ranch?" Read more about why we think it may be a good idea to take riding lessons before your stay.

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