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 

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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.

First Impressions of the Sylvan Dale and Vee Bar Dude Ranches

This past Tuesday I had the pleasure of going to Sylvan Dale Ranch and Vee Bar Ranch.  At the Dude Ranchers' Association there are a number of reasons to visit a ranch, including an inspection that is done every five years and to return a display from the Dude Ranchers' Museum. This was also an opportunity to get to know the ranches on a personal level.

Sylvan Dale Ranch Visit

Sylvan Dale Ranch Welcome Sign Ranch Visit

I arrived at Sylvan Dale in the early afternoon and was pleasantly surprised at how well the ranch is situated off the road in it's own valley. The more of the ranch I observed the more I realized it was a side door to the mountains, to 3,600 owned acres of ranch lands and many times that in public lands.

sylvan-dale-susan-jessup

Susan Jessup, the owner of Sylvan Dale, greeted me personally at the ranch and shared some of her fondest memories growing up at the ranch. I met Susan at the DRA Convention and in the above picture she is presenting at the Dude Ranch 101 presentation, where the "Old Timers" of the industry form a panel for questions about how to operate a successful dude ranch.

Sylvan Dale Ranch Cabin

To get to know the ranch she showed me around the cabins.

Sylvan Dale Ranch Clint the Donkey

I met my new favorite donkey named Clint. He is a big hit among the kids and would be one of my go-to friends at the ranch, for sure.  Speaking of kids, Susan told me all about the kids program at Sylvan Dale. There is always plenty of things to do with a planed kids program in the morning and family time in the afternoon. At age 7 the kids can go on the trail rides with the whole family.

Sylvan Dale Ranch Valley View

As we went past the fields Susan talked about the horse program at the ranch. The horses are bred and raised at the ranch, with a couple born each year.  There is only one trainer used, and as Susan put it, "He trains the horses and the wranglers and the wranglers teach the guests." A big emphasis on horse handling and education is in place at the ranch with educational clinics during the week. The riding style reflects this as the control of the horse is placed in the responsible hands of the guest. Everyone gets to ride in a group as opposed to riding in a straight line where the trail permits, and if the terrain permits the guest might have the opportunity to lead the trail ride for a bit. My visit at Sylvan Dale was filled with great conversation and exploration. I am thankful for the hospitality shown to me there.

Vee Bar Ranch

Vee Bar Ranch Driveway

The drive up to the Vee Bar Ranch was one of unique beauty seen in Wyoming. This is where country songs about 'wide open spaces' are made. The view was expansive and filled with open fields and tall grass, in other words, distinct from the 'sage grass expanse' seen in most of the state.  I was greeted by the wonderful Kilmer family. Kari and Brent are a very active part of the ranch, participating in the events and actives. Their children are not far behind.  They are all active participants in promoting the dude ranch industry. Brent is the previous president of the Wyoming Dude Ranchers' Association and Kari is the current president. They also make the DRA convention a yearly family trip.

Vee Bar Ranch Cabins

The cabins are very clean and well maintained. They were built by Kari's grandfather Lefty 20 or so years ago.

Vee Bar Ranch Creek View from the Cabin

He picked a great place to put the cabins - right along the creek pictured above.

Vee Bar Ranch Arena

At Vee Bar the riding is pretty incredible. There are plenty of open meadows to lope. At this ranch fast riders and slow riders all ride together - and are happy about it. How? There are two wranglers on each ride and they separate at the edge of a loping spot, with a group going loping and a slower group walking up to meet them around the next bend. Oh, and there's no straight line riding here, unless, A: you want to or B: the terrain demands it.

Vee Bar Ranch

The ranch has its very own John Wayne Saloon and Jukebox (pictured above), but the bartender position is vacant. Guests are welcome to fix their own drinks when they please, and are charged on the honor system by way of a tally sheet on the bar. You may arrive as a stranger but you will leave as a friend.   If you would like more information on the Vee Bar Ranch or the Sylvan Dale Ranch give us a call at 307.587.2339


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