Travelers that are looking for a new experience will enjoy dude ranches for a vacation centered around the West’s most iconic activity - horseback riding. Not only this, but dude ranches are located in the most beautiful destinations and offer much more adventure for all ages. Because dude ranches are privately owned, guests experience a tailored itinerary away from the crowds. Secluded valleys, mountain top cabins, and all-day excursions will put you and your family in picture-perfect moments your friends will drool over. Traditionally, dude ranches plan for a full week of Western life for their guests, but some have short stay, immersive experiences for those with limited travel time. No matter how long you stay, it is sure to be an exciting trip. Wondering what you might experience on the best dude ranches in North America? Take a look below at some of the specialties that make dude ranches more than just horseback riding in the American West, but an adventure vacation for everyone who loves the outdoors.
1. Ranch Life
From the time you arrive for your ranch vacation, you’ll understand that this is a completely different world from suburban life. The horseback riding, pace of life and even the people represent the Western experience that you will be a part of for the week. It is a timeless traditional lifestyle that has been a part of American history for past centuries and your group will become apart of it. Pack your cowboy boots and western hat, because you'll want to look the part!
2. Cattle Work
Cowboys and cattle go hand in hand. At many dude ranches, cattle work is a central activity where you can jump in and have hands-on cowboy experiences. From baby calves being bottle fed to driving the herd on an all-day cattle drive, there are a lot of different ways to interact with cattle. Have you heard of team penning? It’s a rodeo event that guests love to participate in with their fellow travelers. Winning this event will definitely give you bragging rights for the year. You can also learn about how to swing a rope!
3. Fly Fishing
The rivers and streams of the West are calmly waiting for you to disrupt their slumber. Fly fishing is the traditional Western way of catching fish that is easy to learn but takes a lifetime to truly master. So, fly casting techniques, knot tying, trout behavior, fishing strategies and even river anatomy will be taught at ranches from a knowledgeable and experienced guide. Your guide can accommodate the beginners and also those who just need to be pointed in the right direction of the best fishing holes. Rainbow Trout, Brown Trout, Cutthroat Trout and Grayling are just a few of the fish you might encounter on your trip.
4. Programs for Children
Families who love the outdoors and getting away from technology will also love dude ranches. Well qualified staff show children the Western way of life, from young toddlers to teenagers there’s something for everyone. Pony rides, volleyball, three-legged races, lawn games… the list goes on and on for what dude ranches have prepared for children to engage with each other in the outdoors.
5. Cuisine and Dining Experience
Dining on dude ranches is more than just filling your belly. It’s a shared time to relax and enjoy the evening with great food and great company. Hors d'oevoures and cocktails start in the saloon or in the rocking chair on the porch. Birds are chirping and the sun is setting as the kitchen staff rings the dinner bell for everyone to gather for a home-cooked, farm-to-table style dinner prepared for guests that are treated like family.
Great Dude Ranches to Choose From
Dude ranches are a great way to enjoy the outdoors in a spectacular location. You’ll be with your family in a more intimate environment than you would have milling through the crowds of people traveling to the most popular destinations. While you can still take trips to national parks and the famous destinations, dude ranches will give you the inside scoop and some even provide a personal guide. Take a look at the ranches below for some suggestions on dude ranches for your next vacation.
Special Rides for Kids - The R Lazy S Ranch is a great ranch near Jackson Hole, Wyoming and offers a great program for families. Special rides for kids include instruction, gymkhana arena riding, half day trail rides and all day trail rides to mountain lakes.
Campfire Dinners and Cowboy Poetry - For campfire dinners and cowboy poetry, you'll want to take a trip to the Lazy L&B Ranch in Dubois, Wyoming. They offer a full day of adventure with evening entertainment you'll want to experience yourself.
30,000 Acres to Explore - The K Diamond K Ranch, in Republic, Washington has 30,000 acres to explore on horseback, along with cattle work for your family and travel companions.
A Grand View of the Teton National Park - Moose Head Ranch, in Moose, Wyoming is famous for their views of the Grand Teton Mountain Range. Have your picture taken on horseback with your family in a way you couldn't dream of!
Fall Roundup Cattle Drive - Have the time of your life in late August / early September at the Blacktail Ranch in Wolf Creek, Montana for their fall roundup cattle drive. The cows can't stay up on the mountain all winter, and they want your help to bring them home!
Fly Fishing Clinic - Focus Ranch in Slater, Wyoming not only has a fly fishing clinic this summer but also specialty weeks for yoga, photography, birding and painting!
Beginner Horsemanship Instruction - The Triangle C Ranch in Dubois, Wyoming offers daily riding instruction for beginner riders looking to learn the in's and out's of horseback riding.
Weddings and Elopements - Along with a great dude ranch stay, the Sundance Trail Guest Ranch, in Red Feather Lakes, Colorado is well prepared to host your wedding or elopement in a spectacular location.
Rodeo Riding - Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch in Loveland, Colorado has a special rodeo week for those looking to turn up the heat on their rodeo skills.
On the Border of Yosemite National Park - Near Bridgeport, California the Hunewill Ranch shares their way of life as a working cattle ranch.