13 Best Dude Ranches for Families

The ultimate family vacation has grown exponentially in terms of options and accommodations — and dude ranch vacations are no exception. In fact, there are very few resorts that emulate the offerings of the dude ranch community. “Activity options have skyrocketed. From ropes courses and ziplines to rock climbing, cooking classes, and more, some dude ranches now have more than 100 activities,” says Colleen Hudson, Executive Director of The Dude Ranchers’ Association.

The diversity and abundance of activities for families, along with stunning resort locations near national parks and public lands, solidify the Western dude ranch as one of the best family vacation experiences on the planet. These are the best of the best.

13 Best Dude Ranches for Families 

 

1. The Home Ranch – Clark, CO

Best For: Cuisine and Cooking

The Home Ranch does many things exceptionally well, including innovative cuisine and cocktails, luxury accommodations and extraordinary programming. Nestled in Clark, Colorado, a 30-minute drive from Steamboat Springs, the ranch is one of the few Rocky Mountain dude ranches that offers four-season activities and family options for children ages 6 and over. Bonus: All meals, lodging, local transportation, fishing gear, guide services, and on-ranch activities and adventures are included in the price of your stay.

dude ranches

2. Rainbow Trout Ranch – Antonito, CO

Best For: Authentic High Mountain Experience

We love the focus on disconnecting from technology at the Rainbow Trout Ranch. None of the 16 log cabins onsite offer TVs, and the Wi-Fi isn’t strong — and that’s on purpose. They do offer cozy fireplaces, though, and some of the cabins can sleep up to eight guests. The ranch is nestled on 600 acres at 9,000 feet and surrounded by national forest lands, providing abundant terrain for riding and spectacular views. Fly-fishers enjoy the ranch’s private 1.5-mile stretch of the Conejos River, ripe with supreme-size rainbow trout. Aside from delicious meals, accommodations, and onsite activities galore, a weekly whitewater rafting trip is included in the cost of your stay.

dude ranches

3. White Stallion Ranch – Tucson, AZ

Best For: Evening Entertainment

White Stallion is one of the two largest dude ranches in the nation; yet it remains family-owned and family-focused. The True family actually has a trifecta of ranches under their Arizona chaps (White Stallion, Tombstone Monument and Ranch de la Osa). But it’s their home base and incredible Tucson property that is one of the best family dude ranches in the world! The horse program is stellar, with various riding options, educational opportunities, family-specific rides, a weekly ranch rodeo and more. The resort also does a great job with nightly entertainment, with options such as astronomy classes with telescopes, country and western line dancing and lessons, and water color lessons with the resident artist, Ute Vaughn. And if you like shopping, you’ll be glad to know this dude ranch has one of the largest onsite gift shops of any dude ranch in the nation.

dude ranches

4. Circle Z Ranch – Patagonia, AZ

Best For: Old West Experience

If your family wants an authentic Western experience, complete with Hollywood-esque desert moonscapes, rolling hills of cacti with Southwest accommodations, fabulous cuisine, and an even better atmosphere, Circle Z Ranch is for you. Open late-October through early-May each year, Circle Z is the oldest continually operating guest ranch in the state of Arizona.

Originally a sheep ranch, Circle Z was transformed into a dude ranch in the 1920s.  Numerous generations of families have connected here ever since. Movie buffs — study up on “Broken Lance” with Spencer Tracy, “Monte Walsh” with Lee Marvin, “El Dorado” with John Wayne, and the final episode of “Gunsmoke” — all were filmed on this property.

dude ranches

5. Bonanza Creek Country Guest Ranch – Martinsdale, MT

Best For: Riding in the Wide Open Country  

This dude ranch is not for the wee ones; the focus is riding and cattle work. Bonanza Creek has a maximum allowance of 12 guests at a time, but usually averages around eight people — making this one of the most intimate guest dude ranches in the nation. There are 40 guest horses on the ranch, who welcome families into their lifestyle and incredible landscape.

Guests are matched with their horses for the half-week to week-long stay. Each stay includes lodging, three meals a day, horseback riding, herding cattle, team penning, hiking, private lake fishing, wildlife watching, a breakfast ride and cookout, campfires, and wagon rides with a team of horses.

dude ranches

6. Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort – Solvang, CA

Best For: Wine Country and Activities

Easily accessible from Santa Barbara, California, Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort is a family-owned working dude ranch. The 10,500-acre ranch is consistently awarded as best luxury dude ranch for numerous reasons.

The upscale ranch offers 73 cottages, all with working, wood burning fireplaces, and all without phones or televisions. Horseback riders can access 50-plus miles of riding trails; a 100-acre, spring-fed lake; two 18-hole championship golf courses; tennis courts; a pool; and spa.

dude ranches

7. Western Pleasure Guest Ranch – Sandpoint, ID

Best For: Off-Season Vacations

Many dude ranches in colder climates close for the season come late autumn. And while Western Pleasure Guest Ranch in northern Idaho certainly welcomes visitors year-round, it’s their off-season that’s a standout. Families will be charmed by the four hand-hewn log cabins at the ranch, each one authentically decorated and super cozy. Or, guests can choose Grandma or Grandpa’s room on the main level of the lodge, or a suite on the second level.

The ranch is located on 1,100 acres in the Selkirk and Cabinet Mountain ranges. The spectacular and changing scenery of the seasons varies the activities — enjoy horseback rides in the fall (ages 8 and up), fat bike rides in the winter, and skiing and snowmobiling in the spring! What’s also unique is the cabins can be booked without meals — a rarity at dude ranches.

dude ranches

8. Paradise Guest Ranch – Buffalo, WY

Best for: Water Activities

Come summer, it’s the child in all of us who yearns to be by water. At Paradise Guest Ranch, families can participate in an extensive fly-fishing program – either on French Creek or one of the stocked, nearby trout ponds. There’s also an onsite swimming pool.

dude ranches

9. Bar W Guest Ranch – Whitefish, MT

Best For: On-Trend Vacations

The Bar W Guest Ranch, outside of Glacier National Park, recognizes the needs of millennial families. Their traditional summer offerings have exploded in recent years, with new activities and adventures for all ages. Trail rides, wagon rides and a cultural kids’ program keep families busy on the ranch. The resort is also popular for its glamping in canvas tents with wood floors and luxurious bedding. And the resort’s location in Whitefish means you’re close to cute shops and kid-friendly restaurants and breweries.

dude ranches

10. Medicine Bow Lodge Adventure Guest Ranch – Saratoga, WY

Best For: Best-Kept Riding Secret  

The Medicine Bow Lodge Adventure Guest Ranch is nestled into the Snowy Range, about 20 miles from Saratoga, Wyoming, and two hours from Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Operating since 1917, the resort was most recently purchased by new owners in 2002, who truly enhanced the horsemanship of the ranch and riding possibilities. The maximum guest count is 15.

Families will especially love the summer program, with all-day rides, breakfast rides, overnight pack trips, sunset trip rides, fish and ride scenic trips (one of the only ones in the nation!) and other options. Guests can also participate in horse grooming and feeding, or just watch or photograph.

dude ranches

11. Triangle C Dude Ranch, Dubois, WY

Best For: Getting a True Sense of Working Cattle

Featuring an 8,000-square-foot, rustic log remodeled to include a full-service spa, home theatre, library, pool and fine dining, Triangle C Dude Ranch provides a home-away-from-home while enjoying the ranch. But, forget the luxury and enjoy the ranch’s Pack Trips that provide a true sense of the working cattle in the Rockies. Following wranglers on trails on horseback, days end at campsites where you’ll gather around the fire for dinner. Back at the resort, kids may prefer the programs geared for ages 2 to 12, including nature-based crafts, sleeping in a tepee and learning the ropes in a junior wrangler program.

dude ranches

12. Three Bars Guest Ranch – British Columbia, Canada

Best For: Private Cabins and Communal Meals

Three Bars Guest Ranch, a family-owned and operated dude ranch, is located in British Columbia, just a stone’s throw from Montana and Banff National Park. Families will enjoy private cabins and daily meals in a communal setting, where guests enjoy week-long visits together and fast become friends before the trip comes to an end. Daily horseback rides for all levels are available, as well as guided and non-guided hikes, mountain biking, river rafting and more. Each night, guests gather for drinks and dinner with the staff and enjoy games and entertainment as the stars come out and bonfires glow.

dude ranches

13. Drowsy Water Ranch – Granby, CO

Best For: Young Children

Less than two hours outside of Denver, Drowsy Water Ranch has been in business since the 1920’s. About 100 head of horses, primarily quarter horses and paints, make their home at the Drowsy Water. Nine individual cabins snuggled beside the creek offer lodging for families.

The 700-acre Drowsy Water Ranch welcomes children of all ages, even infants. The children’s program is unstructured, but comprehensive. Children ages 5 and under in the Buckaroos program are led on smaller horses in a pen. For children ages 6 to 13 in the Range Riders program, rides are held twice a day. The kids are allowed to walk, lope and trot according to trail conditions and their comfort level on the horses.

dude ranches

 

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The ultimate family vacation has grown exponentially in terms of options and accommodations  — and dude ranch vacations are no exception; families love dude ranches!

 

Read the full article by Julie Bielenberg here

Take the Time to Enjoy an Exciting Road Trip to Glacier National Park

While it is okay to visit cities and landmarks, we should all take the time to see the wonders of nature, as they are always more spectacular than we imagine. The best part about being in the outdoors, one way or another, is that we can forget about our busy city life and unwind in a calm and pure environment. Besides this, we get the chance to spoil our senses with the incredible beauties this planet has to offer, gorgeous natural monuments that took ages to complete and have been here long before the first human ever existed. So, if you need a relaxing and exciting escapade at the same time, do not hesitate to take a road trip to Glacier National Park and see some of its most important places. Continue reading for all the information you need to get organized and make this trip an experience you will never forget.

Glacier National Park

Western Pleasure Guest Ranch - Sandpoint, ID 

Where is Glacier National Park located?

Glacier National Park stretches over Flathead County and Glacier County in Montana, United States of America, near the Canadian border. So, it is very close to British Columbia and Alberta in Canada. It covers an impressive area, of 4,000 square kilometers, incorporating a part of the Rocky Mountains. Called the “Crown of the Continent Ecosystem,” this park is home to a wide range of landscapes, plant species, and wildlife. So, taking a trip to visit it will be anything but boring. Depending on the things you want to see and the activities you would like to enjoy, you’ll have to choose the best time of the year for your experience.

Glacier National Park

Western Pleasure Guest Ranch - Sandpoint, ID 

The best time to visit Glacier National Park

Summer is the busiest season for Glacier National Park, as it is easier to walk on the paths of the park when there is no snow. Still, it is worth mentioning that you can visit the park throughout the entire year, as its gates will be open regardless of the season. But, during the cold season, the weather can be rather difficult, so you need to be prepared to face it if you want to visit the park when snowfall occurs. If you don’t mind the cold and the snow, which can occur in the park rather early in autumn, you will be able to enjoy nature’s beauty without the crowds of visitors that are specific to the months of summer. During winter, you can go cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and ice climbing, all while enjoying the breathtaking scenery. Of course, summer has its own charm in the park and there are routes that are best to enjoy in the warm season only, due to accessibility issues when the weather goes bad.

Glacier National Park

McGinnis Meadows Cattle & Guest Ranch - Libby, MT 

Some of the most interesting objectives of the park that are a must-see:

Glacier National Park

The road to the Sun either driving or taking a cruise

Going-to-the-Sun Road is actually a road around Glacier National Park that is famous for its scenic views. So, if you want to make the most of your visit to this park, you need to take the trip on this road. It doesn’t matter if you choose to drive on it yourself or become a passenger on one of the shuttles that cruise on this road. Just do remember that the best period to visit the Going-to-the-Sun Road is between the end of June or start of July through October. This is due to the fact that the weather may make this road inaccessible. The road is open all year round in the park, but if you have the misfortune to reach the park on bad weather, you may not have the chance to take this particular trip. What will you get if you choose this road? You will enjoy 50 miles of breathtaking views of mountains, glaciers, waterfalls, and even wildlife.

Glacier National Park

Hiking the trail of the Cedars

In case you are looking for a relaxing hike that won’t put too much strain on you from a physical point of view, you need to walk the Trail of the Cedars. This is a trail that goes on a loop, so you can start it from either end, as it will be mesmerizing no matter how you choose to visit it. Because it is one of the most popular trails in Glacier National Park and it enjoys a large number of visitors in the summer months, finding a parking spot can be a real challenge during the peak season. Also, it is worth mentioning that the tail is wheelchair-accessible as well, making outdoor adventures pleasant even for those with physical disabilities.

Glacier National Park

Waterfall hike to Apikuni Fall

A hike that ends with the view of a waterfall is always worth taking. So, if you want to enjoy going through the forests of Glacier National Park, see its rocky peaks in the background, and get to discover a charming waterfall, you need to walk this hike. But, an aspect that you need to remember is that the parking space at the start of this hike is rather limited. Only 12 cars can be accommodated by the dedicated parking area, so if you decide to visit the park during the busiest time of the year parking can become an issue. A tip would be to start your day as early as possible in the park, as it will help you avoid crowded roads and lack of space in parking lots.

Glacier National Park

Scenic rafting trips

It is worth mentioning that Glacier National Park is a suitable destination even for those that are in search of adventures and adrenaline. So, if you are a person that belongs to this group of visitors, don’t hesitate to take a rafting trip while you’re in the park. Don’t worry if you are a novice in this area, as these trips are always guided and assisted by experienced and trained professionals. In fact, all rafting companies in the park have permits for their activity from the US Forest Service. Plus, both Glacier National Park and Flathead National Forest manage the rafting areas in the park, for best experiences. Where can one enjoy rafting trips in Glacier National Park? The Middle Fork and North Fork of the Flathead River in the park are the best areas where you can have such an experience and where the rafting companies will take you for a memorable adventure.

Glacier National Park

Now that you have valuable tips about how to enjoy a trip to Glacier National Park, all you need to do is set the details of such an escapade in the outdoors. Sometimes, we need to let go of hotels and vacations that offer everything with minimum effort. We need to step out of our daily routine and do something different, generate memories that will make our lives interesting and fulfilling. So, pack your bags and hit the road to this park for an incredible outdoor adventure.

If you are concerned about quality and wish to find the best services, The Dude Ranchers’ Association (DRA) is an organization of ranches that meet certain quality standards, a DRA dude ranch will never disappoint you. So, have a look at the short list below and decide which ranch suits you best. Please check out all of our ranches located near National Parks HERE.

Montana Ranches:

Averill's Flathead Lake Lodge

Glacier National Park

Email: info@flatheadlakelodge.com

Phone: +1 406-837-4391

Location: Big Fork, Montana

Closest Airport: Kalispell

Bar W Guest Ranch

Glacier National Park

Email: info@thebarw.com

Phone: +1 866-828-2900 +1 406-863-9099

Location: Whitefish, Montana

Closest Airport: Kalispell

McGinnis Meadows Cattle & Guest Ranch

Glacier National Park

Email: info@mmgranch.net

Phone: +1 866-764-5569 +1 406-293-5000

Location: Libby, Montana

Closest Airport: Kalispell

Idaho Ranch:

Western Pleasure Guest Ranch 

Glacier National Park

Email: stay@westernpleasureranch.com

Phone: +1 888-863-9066 +1 208-263-9066

Location: Sandpoint, Idaho

Closest Airport: Spokane, Washington

British Columbia (Canada) Ranch:

Three Bars Guest Ranch

Glacier National Park

Email: info@threebarsranch.com

Phone: +1 877-426-5230 +1 250-426-5230

Location: Cranbrook, British Columbia

Closest Airport: Cranbrook

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Here are some valuable tips about how to enjoy a trip to Glacier National Park. If you are concerned about quality and wish to find the best services, The Dude Ranchers’ Association (DRA) is an organization of ranches that meet certain quality standards, a DRA dude ranch will never disappoint you.

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Lodging Near Glacier National Park at a Dude Ranch

You are about to embark on one of the most quintessential National Park trips that North America has to offer, Glacier National Park. With the itinerary planned for a sunrise trip on the road to the sun and the best places to stop in the park to stop and "smell the roses" you are ready for the experience of a lifetime. But, are you looking for something a little more than a stuffy hotel room on the first floor with kids running overhead and a continental breakfast that leaves something to be desired?  

At a dude ranch you can book your own peaceful cabin for the week and escape the crowds for an outdoor adventure on a ranch that pairs oh - so - nicely with a trip to Glacier National Park. Ranging from luxury resorts to intimate working cattle ranches pick out your very own local and immersive experience for your family at one of these well appointed dude ranches within a four hour drive of Glacier National Park.  

Here are the top dude ranches for lodging near Glacier National Park

 

Rocking Z Ranch

Wolf Creek, Montana ~ 4 Hours from Glacier National Park 

Enjoy great riding as a beginner or long time rider at Rocking Z Guest Ranch. You'll learn Parelli Natural Horsemanship, enjoy delicious ranch style meals and spacious home-style rooms. 

Find more dude ranches near National Parks 

Rocking Z Ranch Lodging Near Glacier National Park

Loping across the meadow at Rocking Z Ranch

 

Averill’s Flathead Lake Lodge

Big Fork, Montana ~ 30 Minutes from Glacier National Park 

Located on the shores of Flathead Lake, Averill's Flathead Lake Lodge is a resort style ranch for the ultimate family vacation with unlimited horse and water recreation. 

Find more dude ranches near National Parks 

 

Averills Activities

There's a lot more than horseback riding at Averill's Flathead Lake Lodge

 

Western Pleasure Guest Ranch

Sandpoint, Idaho ~ 4 Hours from Glacier National Park 

Experience the spirit of the west at the all inclusive adventure vacation at Western Pleasure Guest Ranch. The warm hospitality, country gourmet dining and the beauty of Idaho's wilderness will make your stay not just a vacation but a true western experience. 

Find more dude ranches near National Parks 

 

Western Pleasure Idaho Dude Ranch Lodging Near Glacier National Park

Interior of a cabin at the Western Pleasure Guest Ranch

 

JJJ Wilderness Ranch

Augusta, Montana ~ 1.5 Hours from Glacier National Park 

Located centrally between Yellowstone and Glacier National Park the JJJ Wilderness Ranch has outstanding horseback riding, fly fishing, and a fantastic kids program. Discover breathtaking experiences by day and relaxed western hospitality at night. 

Find more dude ranches near National Parks 

JJJ Wilderness Ranch - Lodging Near Glacier National Park

Kids love horseback riding at the JJJ Wilderness Ranch

 

Three Bars Guest Ranch

Cranbrook, British Columbia, Canada ~ 2.5 hours from Glacier National Park 

As the adventure ranch of the Canadian Rockies Three Bars Guest Ranch is a working cattle ranch, but provides all comforts and full amenities of a true dude ranch. 

Find more dude ranches near National Parks 

 

Three Bars Rafting Lodging Near Glacier National Park

Rafting while at the Three Bars Guest Ranch

Deep Canyon Guest Ranch

Choteau, Montana ~ 2 Hours from Glacier National Park

Deep Canyon Guest Ranch is a family owned 1,200 acre ranch with over 55 years in the guest ranch business at the edge of the Bob Marshall Wilderness. Pack a lunch in the saddlebags for a guided mountain top experience. 

Find more dude ranches near National Parks 

 

Deep Canyon Ranch Lodging Near Glacier National Park

Hiking to the overlook at the Deep Canyon Guest Ranch 

Hidden Hollow Hideaway

Townsend, Montana ~ 4 Hours from Glacier National Park 

As a small working cattle ranch nestled in the foothills of the Montana Big Belt Mountains Hidden Hollow Hideaway offers a tailored experience caring for cattle, viewing the local wildlife and witnessing the history of days long gone. 

Find more dude ranches near National Parks 

 

Hidden Hollow Hideaway Cattle Drive

Participate in cattle work at the Hidden Hollow Hideaway Ranch

 

Bar W Guest Ranch

Whitefish, Montana ~ 40 Minutes from Glacier National Park

Families, adults, singles and groups alike have thousands of acres to explore at the Bar W Guest Ranch. Friendly staff, scrumptious food, great riding and wonderful accommodations await you here.  

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Bar W Trail Ride Credit Danny Nestor Butts

Bring your friends - the more the merrier at Bar W Guest Ranch

Rich Ranch

Seeley Lake, Montana ~ 2 Hours from Glacier National Park 

The lodge and cabins of Rich Ranch are nestled in the trees overlooking a tranquil meadow with an awesome view of the Rocky Mountains. Three generations of the Rich family live and work on the ranch and welcome you into their home.

Find more dude ranches near National Parks 

 

Rich Ranch Pack Trip Mountains - Lodging Near Glacier National Park

Pack trips at Rich Ranch are extraordinary lodging near Glacier National Park 

 

 

Lodging Near Glacier National Park at a Dude Ranch

At a dude ranch you can book your own peaceful cabin for the week and escape the crowds for an outdoor adventure on a ranch that pairs oh - so - nicely with a trip to Glacier National Park. Ranging from luxury resorts to intimate working cattle ranches pick out your very own local and immersive experience for your family at one of these well appointed dude ranches within a four hour drive of Glacier National Park.

 

Read more stories about dude ranches near our national parks

 

 

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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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?

By Eileen Ogintz at Takingthekids.com Save Save Save

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Family Travel and Dude Ranches

One of the most meaningful comments we’ve read about family travel and dude ranches is this: Dude ranches reconnect adults to a simple and innocent part of their childhood and introduce their children to these same experiences.

Western Pleasure Ranch Family Travel Destination

At dude ranches, everyone can discover magic. Photo courtesy of Western Pleasure Guest Ranch

There’s something uplifting and joyful about that. Like when parents momentarily forget themselves and regress with their kids – revisiting beloved animated cartoons from their youth, or unabashedly belting out favorite ballads from bygone (to their kids) times. Now picture horses and corrals, Stetson hats and western boots, cookouts and wide open landscapes straight out of cowboy movies and novels. Your heart goes pitter-patter, just a little bit. Or a lot. Because in today’s era of quick-paced modernization, invasive technology and growing detachment from nature (and one another), the ranch appeal is arguably more potent — for all generations — than ever before. “Perhaps it is the allure of the Western lifestyle that people long to experience. Perhaps it is the adventure that draws guests to a ranch in the first place. Most likely, it’s a combination,” believes Kari Kilmer, Manager of Vee Bar Guest Ranch. Perhaps. Whatever the case, when on a dude ranch, “The feelings that awaken inside of you are something that most people never imagine. It’s the magic!” agrees Tammy Yurich, Activities Director of Bar Lazy J Guest Ranch.

Latigo Ranch Family Travel Destination

Living in a dream. Photo courtesy of Latigo Ranch

Exploring the Magic “Dude ranches are a perfect fit for family travel simply because the dynamic shifts,” suggests Ashley Ducharme, Marketing Coordinator of Bar W Guest Ranch. “Everyone within the family is on an authentic adventure because everyone is trying new things (archery, horseback riding, square dancing, skeet shooting and more). This equalizes the parents and the children and fosters open communication. The kids say ‘Do you know what we did today?’ and the parents respond ‘Well do you know what we did today?’” That level playing field wasn’t created by accident. It has taken a lot of work and requires diligent vigilance to maintain. All the more so as it’s increasingly difficult to find other family-focused vacation experiences that so consistently “bring families together naturally,” as Kerstin Auer, Marketing & Sales of Echo Valley Ranch & Spa, sees it, all by placing careful and balanced emphasis on providing “unique adventures and educational experiences that the whole family will enjoy,” says Janice Schoonover, Owner of Western Pleasure Guest Ranch. Over the years, plenty of visitors have predictably compared their dude ranch adventures with the famous magic of other standard-bearing activity providers like Disney. How do dude ranches stand up? Incredibly well! “When you come to a dude ranch, the only lines you’ll find are the strings of horses and riders on the mountain trails. Every moment with your family will be spent finding real adventures, not being herded through fabricated ones. Without crowds of people to fight against, the buzz of this modern world will fade into serenity and wildness,” says Spencer George, son of the owners of Latigo Ranch.

Geronimo Trail Ranch Family Travel Destination

A Chance to slow down and get in touch with natures. Photo courtesy of Geronimo Trail Guest Ranch

Take Things a Little Slower There really is a lot to be said for excitement without overstimulation, and activation without commercialization. “Dude ranches give families… a place to slow down from the fast pace of daily life and reconnect with each other,” observes Meris Stout, Owner of Geronimo Trail Guest Ranch. There are two important elements to this. First, “Free of television, phone calls, texts and push notifications, family members can discover the magic that has captivated ranch guests for a hundred years,” enthuses RC Townsend, Assistant General Manager of Mountain Sky Guest Ranch. Second, “Learning together through nature and animals is a powerful thing for families to share,” says Tyler Beckley, Owner of Three Bars Guest Ranch. Of course, a readiness to make family time together just that much more engaging is stoked by freedom from one another during part of each day. This is aided by the safe environment dude ranches work to create, allowing parents to relax while their kids do their own things. “Kids have freedoms on a dude ranch that most cannot experience in today’s world,” says Jeanne Ross, General Manager of Colorado Trails Guest Ranch. Doug Cole, Owner of Marble Mountain Guest Ranch concurs: “Once you arrive at a dude ranch, you are by default in a more secure environment that has a known and fixed population during the time of your stay. Kids are more enabled to ‘free range.’”

R Lazy S Ranch Family Travel

Photo courtesy of R Lazy S Ranch

Step into the Dude Ranch Mindset Predictably, “A dude ranch offers so much… by providing very unique opportunities,” says Kelly Stirn, Owner of R Lazy S Ranch. So let’s explore some them. Keep in mind, however, that “The hardest vacation to describe is one based on an experience. For those of us that live this wonderful, rewarding, down-to-earth lifestyle, it is hard to tell a family on the phone what a wonderful time they will have,” advises Kilmer of Vee Bar Guest Ranch. “They simply have to take our word for it, then try it for themselves.” Let’s do that. Let’s put ourselves briefly in dude ranchers’ shoes by reading their words and imagining how amazing a dude ranch holiday can be. Then let’s all go try it out ourselves, remembering that, as Doug Van Berkum, Owner of Rainbow Trout Ranch likes to point out, “There truly is something for EVERYONE!” To read the extended quotes from the ranchers visit the blog post here. This blog was originally written by the Family Travel Association. Visit them on the web here. Save Save Save Save Save Save

An Equine Photographer's Paradise

Three Bars Ranch is home to over 100 head of horses, 1000 acres of land and an incredible backdrop with the Rocky Mountain Range to our East and Purcell Mountain range to the West, making the ranch the most incredible equine photographer's paradise. Last Spring we hosted a group of photographers for a week long seminar on Equine Photography and it was such a success, that we are offering another week of fun, excitement and learning. Three Bars Equine Photographer's Paradise This year’s instructor is Professional Equine Photographer, Ryan Courson (Horse and Hound Photography https://www.facebook.com/ryancoursonphotography/ ) An award winning Canadian equine photographer, Ryan’s images grace the walls of homes and businesses throughout the world. In addition, his work has been featured on the National Geographic website, and has also been used by The Wall Street Journal, Microsoft, and various horse publications throughout Canada. Three Bars Guest Ranch Photography Ryan’s passion for teaching has led him to present the “The Art of Equine Photography” at various organizations throughout Ontario, and he loves sharing his knowledge and experiences with budding photographers. “My goal is to help my students and workshop participants grow as photographers. It’s a two-fold process. To educate and inspire while at the same time, give photographers of all levels an environment where they can put to use what they’ve learned. By putting all of those elements together, the end result is that people come away with some pretty incredible images that were better than anything they’ve taken before!”

What your week includes

Accommodations in an upscale log cabin, all meals are included, use of all ranch facilities, ranch activities, working with Ryan from the start (setting up and taking photos) to editing and final work on your photos from each day. To book your week with this amazing photographer at Three Bars Ranch, please contact Tyler Beckley (1-877-426-5230) or tyler@threebarsranch.com Three Bars Guest Ranch

Ultimate Dude Ranch Photography Retreat

What do you get when you combine the splendor of Montana scenery with majestic horses, authentic cowboys, and wildlife? The answer is a photographer’s dream vacation. Escape to the Bar W on Spencer Lake, in the fall, for a photography vacation of a lifetime. Catering to amateurs and professional photographers, the Bar W is offering an all inclusive 6-night photography week package – complete with a professional instructor. This full week of unparalleled photo opportunities, both on and off the Ranch. This is your chance to photograph the splendor and beauty of Montana nature, as well as the wildlife provided by the Triple D Game Farm. Triple D’s facilities include over 120 exotic animals, typically including mountain lions, grizzly bears, wolves, and a variety of young cats. The week also includes a herd of running horses, cowboys and cowgirls in full regalia, fly fishing scenes, action shots, and incredible landscape photo opportunities. After a full day of photography, relax with our informal cocktail hour by the fire, or loosen up in our hot tub before a homemade dinner you will not soon forget. So grab your camera and prepare to be awed! Package Details Full accommodations including all meals Trail riding & horsemanship lessons skeet shooting, fly fishing, and archery Wagon rides, cookout dinners, campfires, and cowboy singing All photo shoots (cameras not provided)

Stephen Weaver Photography Retreat

Enjoy the breathtaking colors and wildlife of fall at Zapata Ranch with a unique photo and nature workshop led by nature photographer Stephen Weaver. Experience the ranch like never before against the snowcapped Sangre de Cristo mountain range while scouting for wildlife among the gold and auburns of the Aspen and Cottonwood trees. Cost: $2,600 pp includes all meals, activities, instruction and lodging  


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