The Wildest Trail Rides of 2018

The National Dude Ranch Association (DRA) has over 10,000 trail rides throughout the Western United States and Canada. Travel across National Forest, BLM, private acreage and hundreds of miles of waterways that traverse high and low altitude, valley and mountain, desert and coast, with the wranglers of the DRA. However, of all these options, which is truly the wildest in 2018?

Border Ride—THE WILDEST TRAIL RIDE

Rancho de la Osa, Sasbe, Arizona

It’s both scenery and the current political state of the country that makes this trail ride at the remarkable ranch, quite possibly, the wildest ride in the West! Rancho de la Osa houses Arizona’s oldest continually used building, constructed in an Indian village around 1720 by Jesuit missionaries.

In 1812, the ranch was part of the Ortiz Brothers Spanish land grant and with Mexican independence from Spain, the ranch became part of Mexico. In 1916, Pancho Villa raided and attempted to take Rancho de la Osa and a cannon ball from the attack was found embedded in the adobe wall of the Hacienda, which is on display today.

Once you’ve taken in the enormous breadth of Rancho de la Osa’s history, saddle up and choose the Ranch’s U.S.—Mexico Border ride. Yes, you read that correctly, guests of all riding abilities can see and even touch The Wall.

Start on horseback through wooded mesquite trails and low sandy washes. Next, the wranglers will take you past the Ranch’s cemetery, dating from the early 1800s. From here, the horses leave the ranch, cross into La Mirador Ranch and continue to the border with Mexico, about a 20-minute ride. You travel directly to the fence separating the countries. There, wranglers can describe the scenery that unfolds. They can explain the reason for the black jugs piled feet high in some places, the blankets, clothes and more.

After all questions are answered, and there are many, wranglers will continue on with the ride reemerging at the ranch. For those who are curious, the wall ends abruptly in the desert. Draw your own conclusions, but history and reality is present, evident and relevant!

Click here to see other Arizona Dude Ranches

trail rides

 

The Other Border Ride

Bar W Guest Ranch, Whitefish, Montana

For the second wildest ride, the DRA is going to take you to our northern border with Canada. At Bar W Ranch, there is a full-day horseback trail ride that will take guests to an extremely wild site. Throughout the day the terrain changes, and riders can walk, trot, or lope through open meadows and lush forests before exploring Lake Koocanusa. Riders think they’ve entered a postcard with a majestic mountain backdrop and long sandy beaches as far as the eye can see. Lake Koocanusa signifies the cooperation between two friendly neighbors, “Koocanusa” is an abbreviation of KOOtenai River and the first three letters of CANada and USA.

The “wildest” part of this ride is traveling along the three-wire fence separating the two neighbors, USA and Canada. The fence can be seen for miles stretching in a straight line across rolling hills before disappearing into the distance. A small stone obelisk distinguishes the border and makes for a prime photo opportunity for guests who dare to put a leg on each side and claim being in two countries at once. 

Click here to see other Montana Dude Ranches

trail rides

 

Get Lost in the Lower 48’s Largest Protected Wilderness

Geronimo Trail Guest Ranch, Winston, New Mexico

The Gila National Forest expands over 3.3 million acres, is the largest federally protected landmass in the lower 48, and is also the first wilderness area designated in the United States.  

The terrain is wild, and the history won’t disappoint either. In one canyon alone, Geronimo Trail Guest Ranch takes riders through 1,000 years of history from Mimbres to Apaches to Basque and tin miners. Aptly named Dwelling Canyon, this location has been a geologically unique stopping place for years marked with pictographs, cliff dwellings, Basque structures, and mining equipment. Sitting in a cave that demonstrates humanity for thousands of years, now that’s wild. 

The ranch will also take you on trail rides through Taylor Creek Canyon, Beaver Canyon, Whitewater Canyon, Hoyt Canyon, just some of the spectacular canyons that are truly awe-inspiring and jaw dropping. Gaze up at canyon walls as you ride through creeks fed by warm spring waters.

Click here to see other New Mexico Dude Ranches

trail rides

 

Private Elk Pastures

Averill’s Flathead Lake Lodge, Flathead Lake, Montana

Horseback ride through a 500-acre Montana elk preserve. Guests are led into the ranch’s private elk preserve where they will be able to view mature bull and cow elk in their natural habitat. Depending on time of year riders view the Lodge’s heard in full velvet or mature growth. In the fall guests can watch from a distance as the bull elk spar with each other testing their strength for the rut. 

Click here to see other Montana Dude Ranches

trail rides

 

Moose in Moose, WY

Gros Ventre River Ranch, Moose, Wyoming

Grab a cup of cowboy coffee and a glance at one of America’s largest mammals along this wild breakfast ride. Gros Ventre River Ranch in Moose, WY, has riders leave by 7 am from the barn to get the best in at dawn when wildlife are active before bedding down for the day. Exciting sightings include moose, elk and eagles. The Jackson Hole area is notorious for iconic wildlife and this particular ride allows guests to see the ranch’s valley during a serene time when most are still sleeping.

The final destination is a picnic spot by the Gros Ventre River. There, breakfast is prepared in cast iron pots over the fire. The menu includes biscuits and gravy, scrambled eggs, bacon and sausage, fruit tea, juice, hot chocolate, and, of course, more cowboy coffee. 

Click here to see other Wyoming Dude Ranches

trail rides

 

Wild Horses

Lazy L&B Ranch, Dubois, Wyoming

There are few spots left in America where you can view wild horses. Luckily, the horses on staff at Lazy L & B Ranch know where to find them. The ranch offers a three-hour round trip ride where wranglers will bring you atop a mesa behind the ranch. The view is spectacular, and more often than not, guests will have the opportunity to see at least one of the herds of wild horses that inhabit the area. It’s remarkable to be on horse and take in the noises and sights of their wild cousins.

trail rides

 

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The National Dude Ranch Association (DRA) has over 10,000 trail rides throughout the Western United States and Canada. Travel across National Forest, BLM, private acreage and hundreds of miles of waterways that traverse high and low altitude, valley and mountain, desert and coast, with the wranglers of the DRA. However, of all these options, which is truly the wildest in 2018?

 

Ride for the Adventure

Would you like to ride out on the open prairie shoulder to shoulder with your family?  If so there are great ranches who offer advanced horseback riding opportunities as the terrain permits. At the member ranches of the Dude Ranchers' Association safety is always first.  Trail guides are knowledgeable of horsemanship and teaching basic riding skills.  So take off on your next vacation and enjoy some advanced riding at a dude ranch. You are sure you would like some riding in the West, but maybe, not so sure about selecting the right ranch with the right personalities for your travels. No worries, the ranches listed below are carefully selected to provide you with the most adventure. They are listed by two separate categories, a working cattle ranch experience focusing on teaching you the ways of the cowboy and a traditional dude ranch experience focusing on trail riding and all sorts of other kinds of adventure. Once you have made it that far in your decision, further narrow in on your perfect match by looking at the terrain of the ranch, the time of year you are traveling and the scale of luxury you prefer.

 

Advanced Riding on a Working Cattle Ranch

Working cattle ranches would like guests to help them with their cattle work, so nose to tail  riding is discouraged while trailing a herd of 100+ cattle on a cattle drive.  You will find adventure around everyday cattle work well.

 

 

McGinnis Meadows Advanced Horseback Riding

McGinnis Meadows Cattle & Guest Ranch, Libby, Montana

McGinnis Meadows Cattle & Guest Ranch is an authentic working cattle ranch located in the northwest corner of Montana. Beginner riders to experienced leave here with more knowledge about horses, horsemanship, and cattle, than they've experienced anywhere else. With approximately 15 guests per week, we can better know you, work with you individually, and tailor each day to you.

 

 

Burnt Well Advanced Horseback Riding

Burnt Well Guest Ranch, Roswell, New Mexico

Burnt Well Guest Ranch is located in warm, sunny, southeastern New Mexico. Guests have said "This is John Wayne country!" Our riding is in open pasture unless you opt for a mountain trail ride for your day trip, with a 6 day package.

 

 

MCgarry Ranches advanced Horseback Riding

McGarry Ranches, Rexburg, Idaho

If you wish to experience the lifestyle of the American Cowboy with a legitimate cattle outfit, riding daily on an American Quarter Horse then here is what we are and what we offer. Upon arrival at the ranch you will be given the firm handshake or welcoming hug after which you will lose the guest handle and become one of the McGarry Ranches Family of Wranglers. In other words, just one of us.

 

Advanced Riding on a Traditional Ranch

 

Traditional style ranches are equipped to offer adventure for the whole family, whether that's advanced riding for the horse enthusiast or an all day fly fishing trip or a children's program with water activities. Visit these ranches' websites to see which one offers your families style.

 

Colorado Trails Advanced Horseback Riding

Colorado Trails Ranch, Durango, Colorado

Family fun abounds at Colorado Trails Ranch located in the beautiful San Juan Mountains just outside of historic Durango, Colorado. Rides are grouped by ability (and desire). The rides range from scenic walk rides to loping through trees and meadows.

 

 

Vee Bar Advanced Horseback Riding

Vee Bar Guest Ranch, Laramie, Wyoming

The Vee Bar located near Laramie, Wyoming just 2 1/2 hours north of Denver, Colorado is a world-reknown family guest and dude ranch with a relaxed atmosphere sure to feel like home to your entire family. You will find a variety of terrain to suit your entire group. Loping rides are offered and we can comfortably accommodate riders of ALL abilities.

 

 

 

Blacktail Adventure Ranch

Blacktail Ranch, Wolf Creek, Montana

The Blacktail Ranch is a Historic 8,000 acre jewel, located where the prairie meets the Rockies in Wolf Creek Montana. Sign up for our two night three day "Divide Ride" where we stay in our upper camp and then ride to the top of the Continental Divide where you will experience expansive views of the Majestic Rocky Mountains from every direction.

 

Would you like to ride out on the open prairie shoulder to shoulder?  If so there are great ranch vacations offering advanced horseback riding opportunities as the terrain permits all across the Western United States. Read about them here.

More Advanced Horseback Riding?

Have more questions?  Please reach out to the DRA office  where more than one hundred ranches are represented across the Western United States and Canada.

 

 

Discover Dude Ranching

Discover the  taste of the authentic American West where horses, hats, history, heart and hospitality abound. With over 100 carefully chosen member ranches, we know there is a ranch that will fit you and your family– perfectly, all while protecting lands, parks, forests and wildlife. Our Dude, Resort and Working Ranches are in the most picturesque regions of the USA and Canada near historic sites and national parks for a photographer’s heyday! Each has its own unique history, incredible horseback riding tailored to the rider’s age and ability, and exciting outdoor adventures like white water rafting, paradise fishing on scenic rivers, fun hay rides, hikes, golfing. Blue skies, starry nights and the sounds of silence are also included in your dude ranch vacation. Lounge in a hammock until the dinner bell rings and then breathe pure clean air as you discover the brightest shining stars peaking out from Heaven. Want to gaze into a crackling fire instead of a computer screen? Then, it’s time to discover the majestic beauty of the land and got reacquainted with your family and friends.  Join us anytime of year for genuine western hospitality. Prices, programs and activities vary. We guarantee the lodging industry’s highest standards whether staying in a rustic cabin or top end ranch resort. Once you’ve had a taste of a dude ranch, you may never want to go anywhere else on vacation again.

Discover Blacktail Ranch

Traditional Ranch

Blacktail Ranch – Montana The Blacktail Ranch is a Historic 8,000 acre jewel, located  where the prairie meets the Rockies in Wolf Creek Montana.  Our Grandfather first came this valley back in the late 1800's and our family has lived and worked here ever since.  We have been operating as a guest ranch since the 1950's.  


Discover Vista Verde Resort Ranch

Resort Ranch

Vista Verde Ranch - Colorado What makes Vista Verde special is the combination of all the great amenities, dining and service of a great resort that are delivered in a down to earth, relaxed and homey setting.  The activities included in your stay range from mountain biking to riding clinics, cooking classes and wine tastings, and back country skiing and sleigh rides in the winter months.    


Discover Focus Ranch - Working Cattle

Working Cattle Ranch

Focus Ranch - Wyoming Focus Ranch is a traditional working cattle ranch that invites guests to share in the day-to-day operation of the ranch. From mid-May into September, we run 1300-1400 head of yearling cattle and another 100 head of cows and calves. Running cattle is the basis of our agricultural operation and holistic grazing has been practiced for over 20 years.  


 

Sun and saddles in Southern Arizona

'Sun and saddles in southern Arizona' By Larissa Milne, originally posted on Philly.com If you're looking for a midwinter break with a twist, consider a dude ranch in southern Arizona. With sunny days and cool clear nights, the area offers glimpses into the Arizona Territory of years gone by, when the likes of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday were becoming legends. Dude ranches have evolved from the days when working cattle ranches hosted a few paying guests from back East to help with ropin' and ridin'. Modern guest ranches still raise cattle, but they offer comfortable lodging, gourmet meals, and as much (or little) horseback riding as you want. southern Arizona

Photo Credit - Larissa Milne

Read more here to find out about the Tombstone Monument RanchWhite Stallion Ranch, and how the Dude Ranchers' Association can help plan your Western dude ranch vacation at the other great Arizona ranches.    

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A New Twist on an Old Trend Seen By Dude Ranch Owners

“Same time, same place next year,” is a promise often heard on the trail and around the campfire of a dude ranch.   The remote, peaceful setting lends itself to easy camaraderie, so it’s not uncommon for lifetime friendships to develop during a ranch vacation.   Statistics bear out this phenomenon with dude ranch owners reporting more than a third of all reservations each season made by repeat visitors. Colleen Hodson reports a similar yet different pattern among the daily inquiries she receives at the headquarters of the Dude Rancher’s Association in Cody, Wyoming. Hodson, Executive Director of the DRA, as it’s known, says she’s starting to hear from folks she refers to, (tongue in cheek,) as “ranch junkies.”   These are travelers loyal to the Western ranch destination but preferring to explore a different DRA ranch each trip.

The traditional pleasures of Western living - riding, hiking, camping and fishing are still the major draw of a ranch escape.  And guests can always count on any DRA member ranch meeting the highest industry standards as well as being authentic and accurately portrayed in all of its’ advertising. But that’s where the commonality ends. Travelers considering a dude ranch destination only need to glance at the DRA website or member brochure to get a sense of the many types of ranches and menu of activities offered. One finds special ranch getaways for cowgirls or adults only, while many are a virtual “Disney World” for kids of all ages. Some ranches focus on the culinary experience serving the finest wine and food pairings along with cooking instructions by noted chefs. Others attract devotees to fitness by offering yoga, meatless menus and spa treatments.  Still more are known for birding, astronomy, and special eco-tours. And, photography classes, tennis clinics, and painting workshops are just a few options for guests looking for a Western styled learning adventure.

Hodson says, "the great thing about the diversity of DRA member ranches is no matter what ranch people choose they’ll experience the same wonderful western hospitality we’ve been promoting for 90 years.” See the ranches below for a warm, welcoming hospitality and a sense of belonging with your dude ranch owners.

Blacktail Ranch

Blacktail Ranch

The Blacktail Ranch is a Historic 8,000 acre jewel, located  where the prairie meets the Rockies in Wolf Creek Montana.  Our Grandfather first came this valley back in the late 1800's and our family has lived and worked here ever since.  We have been operating as a guest ranch since the 1950's.


Hawley Mountain Ranch

Hawley Mountain Ranch

Enjoy a Montana ranch vacation in a remote pristine wilderness north of Yellowstone. Small guest capacity and unique activities. Horseback riding; Fly fishing on private frontage along the Boulder River; Jeep ride to ghost town and historic gold mines; Hiking; Scenic raft float; Campfires/cookouts.


McGarry Ranches

McGarry Ranches

A working cattle ranch with cattle managed on approx. 55,000 acres in the Rocky Mountains. We only accept 10 guests per week, a chance to get to know everyone. If you wish to experience the lifestyle of the American Cowboy while riding daily in scenic mountains we invite you to come ride with us.


Nine Quarter Circle

Nine Quarter Circle Ranch

Adjacent to Yellowstone Park, the Nine Quarter Circle is "magical" thanks to our remote location which provides incredible scenery and excellent riding opportunities. Our family-oriented vacations feature riding for all ages and levels of horsemanship while awesome blue-ribbon fly-fishing can be found on-site and in nearby rivers. Traditional activities such as campfires, cookouts, hayrides and more are a big hit, as are our dedicated kids' programs. And this all comes served with the West's BEST hospitality!


Upper Canyon Outfitters

Upper Canyon Outfitters & Guest Ranch

Upper Canyon Outfitters is nestled on the banks of the Ruby River, between three mountain ranges. Our family has been exploring these beautiful and wildlife-rich mountains since 1910. We are proud to offer a truly unforgettable Western Montana experience.


 

Live your Western Vacation Dream in Wyoming

Think all inclusive holidays are an invention of the big tour operators? Then think again. The Dude Ranch Association (DRA) has been leading the way for years. There is a broad spectrum of DRA-accredited guest ranches across North America, ranging from rustic, no-frills working ranches to luxury resort-style ranches. From valleys complete with untouched Rocky Mountain backdrops to desert sunsets across the Southwest, you can find DRA-accredited ranches throughout the Western US, as well as in California, Arkansas and Canada. If ever a state lends itself to this type of vacation, it's Wyoming.

This is where the Rocky Mountains meet the High Plains, true cowboy country, with few people and vast, open spaces. It is a land that inspires dreams of riding horseback across the plains and Wyoming luxury Dude Ranch vacations help guests realize that dream.

Yellowstone National Park

The bulk of Yellowstone National Park is in Northwest Wyoming and the Grand Loop Road provides a wonderful overview of the area, from the steaming geysers to majestic waterfalls and deep canyons. Hundreds of trails traverse the park, providing access to deep back-country areas, remote lakes, and scenic overlooks.

Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park is also in Northwest Wyoming. The first glimpse of the jagged mountains that explode out of the Jackson Hole Valley have been known to take the breath away. Pristine lakes and grassland dot the valley floor and glaciers slide down steep rocky peaks from elevations of more than 12,000 feet.

Jump to eastern Wyoming and find Devil's Tower, a massive, monolithic volcanic neck that rises out of the Black Hills. Visitors circumnavigate the tower and try to spot some of the many climbers,  or play hide and seek with the prairie dogs that reside within the park boundaries.

Wyoming Dude Ranch vacations can be anything from rustic to luxurious, with guests spending all day in the saddle herding cattle, or soaking in a hot tub and enjoying a massage. Activities may range from angling to river rafting and hiking, or lounging on a porch with a book. ‘The Dude Ranchers’ Association takes great pride in all of our ranches and we are particularly fond of the adventures and warmth that guests can enjoy during the winter months at our Southwest ranches, says Colleen Hodson, executive director of the DRA. ‘These ranches offer a scenic escape from the bleak winter conditions many people are experiencing at this time of year and guarantee a vacation that is anything but ordinary.’

Check out these genuinely lovely Dude Ranch Locations of the Cowboy State...

7D Couple Trail

7D Ranch

The 7D Ranch is Wyoming's premier family guest ranch since 1958. Extensive trail riding in a pristine mountain setting. Fly-fishing with instruction. Supervised children's program. Western cuisine. Hiking from the ranch as well as in the Beartooth Mountains. A weekly trip into Yellowstone is offered.  

Heart Six Guest Ranch

Heart 6 Wedding Horseback

Heart Six Guest Ranch is located in Beautiful Jackson Hole Wyoming. With great views of the Grand Teton Mountains the scenery is second to none. Our main activity is horseback riding, but we have lots to offer guests of all ages - from very young to very young at heart!    

Lazy L&B Ranch

Lazy L&B Kid Moment

The Lazy L & B Ranch has a quality horse program for all ages and abilities with extensive riding through wildlife habitat, forest, river gorges and high desert in small groups. There's also great fishing, hiking, swimming (pool or river) and just hanging out.    

Vee Bar Guest Ranch

Vee Bar Cattle

The Vee Bar Ranch, located near Laramie Wyoming, is a family-friendly vacation destination that is sure to please the horse loving cowboy or cowgirl in you. A variety of activities, ranging from horseback riding to river tubing, will suit each member of your group. Experience true western hospitality here!  


 

Celebrating 90 Years of Preserving, Protecting and Promoting the Western Way of Life

Historic Dude Ranch

Created in 1926, the National Dude Ranchers’ Association (DRA) was founded to preserve, protect and promote the unique experience and identity of a dude ranch vacation. And 90 years later, the association has stayed true to its mission – while also evolving to offer guests the ultimate, all-inclusive Western vacation experience. While its core values and emphasis on horsemanship have remained the same, the DRA has continued to strengthen its presence and purpose each year through promoting new member experiences and innovative ideas within the industry. Nearly a century ago, the DRA was created as the official governing body of the West’s dude ranch industry. In September of 1926, the first official DRA meeting was held and attended by 32 ranchers, railroad and national park officials. During the two-day meeting, attendees discussed initial objectives, including standardizing dude ranch practices, transportation and proper care of guests.

Paradise-Ranch-Historic

2016 officially marks 90 years of introducing guests from all over the world to the Western way of life. Over the years, vacati on expectations have shifted, and the DRA and its member ranches have evolved their offerings to fit with changing times. The association is currently made up of more than 100 ranch members, all of whom have completed a rigorous two-year inspection and approval process, and over 150 affiliated members. Members represent a broad spectrum of guest ranches across North America, ranging from rustic, no-frills working ranches to luxury resort-style ranches offering five-star cuisine and spa treatments. True to the spirit of authentic Western hospitality, today’s guest ranch experience includes plenty of opportunities for fun and entertainment for families of all sizes, ages, ability levels and interests. 

Triangle-X-Historic-2

This “original Western vacation” introduces the unique beauty of the American West and seeks to foster dude ranch heritage and passion for wild nature. From horseback riding to overnight pack trips and hunting trips to cattle drives, there are plenty of ways to explore the outdoors at a dude ranch. Guests can also enjoy hiking and nature walks, interacting with the ranch’s animals at their petting zoos, fishing, archery and more. For those interested in activities beyond the saddles and cowboy boots, many guest ranches offer programs catered to photographers, foodies, artists, wine aficionados and more. Guests can even mix their love for the rustic outdoors with luxury amenities such as massage services, hot tubs, and workout facilities and classes.

The DRA will kick off its yearlong anniversary celebrations at the 90th Annual Dude Ranchers’ Association Convention on January 19-23, 2016, in Cody, Wyoming, where more than 60 member ranches are expected to attend the four-day event. Seminars will discuss topics related to the various aspects of the dude ranching and hospitality industries, such as new vendor introductions, marketing initiatives and risk management. We hope you will join us in celebrating the legacy built by the DRA. Its 90th anniversary milestone not only represents a history of success for dude ranches, but also looks forward to a future of upholding the ultimate Western vacation. By Wrangler Network contributor, the Dude Ranchers’ Association


 

4 Types of Dude Ranch Vacations

Whether you’re a staunch horseman who loves being in the saddle, or a rider that prefers activities to choose from in addition to riding, one of the members of the Dude Ranchers’ Association will fit the bill. All of the member ranches uphold the highest standards in the industry and are committed to preserving the Western way of life. The below sampling of ranches is sure to appeal to a variety of travelers:

Klondike Guest Ranch

Working Ranches Located at the base of Wyoming’s Big Horn Mountains, Klondike Ranch can accommodate six to 10 guests at a time. Guests are encouraged to work cattle with the ranch hands. Other activities include camping, fishing and hiking.      

Bar W Trail Ride Credit Danny Nestor

Traditional Ranches In addition to the riding program, guests of all ages at C Lazy U Ranch in Colorado can enjoy fly fishing, trap shooting, a ropes course, and an outdoor heated pool and hot tub. At Bar W Guest Ranch in Montana, 30 guests per week can ride on a million acres of varied terrain, as well as skeet shooting, archery and roping. The riding program at Greenhorn Ranch in the High Sierra Mountains of California accommodates all levels of experience and even encourages trotting and loping.   Luxury Ranches

Tanque Verde Recipe Pork Chop

Established in 1868, Tanque Verde Ranch in Arizona is recognized as the last luxurious outpost of the Old West. It provides guests with plush accommodations, unparalleled amenities and an array of things to do including horseback riding, mountain biking, fishing and hiking.      

Hideout Horses Running

Working + Luxury Ranches Guests are treated like family at Red Reflet Guest Ranch in Wyoming, exploring the 25,000-acre ranch via horseback, working cattle, riding mountain bikes, and enjoying abundant wildlife. Hideout Lodge & Guest Ranch is a unique combination of an upscale working cattle, riding and fly fishing ranch. Located nearby Yellowstone National Park, it’s one of the biggest operational ranches in Wyoming. For a complete listing of all-inclusive Dude Ranchers’ Association member ranches, visit DudeRanch.org.


 

Luxury and Kids Go Together at Resort Guest Ranches

Resort-style guest ranches combine the adventure of dude ranch vacations with the luxury of all-inclusive resorts for your kids and yourself. The Dude Ranchers Association has over 100 member ranches across the western U.S. and Canada with many hosting special programs and activities for kids. Below are a few ranches that do Luxury and kids like no other destination vacation spot.

At Colorado’s Tumbling River Ranch kids from age 3 to teen find adventure and independence. Kids are split into groups by age and spend their days going on scavenger hunts, hay rides, camp outs, horseback rides, hikes, and more. Teens love hanging out with the college-aged counselors while rock climbing, rafting, fly fishing, playing capture the flag, and going on an overnight pack trip.    

From morning until bedtime, Montana’s Mountain Sky Guest Ranch offers a variety of fun children’s activities that will entertain and delight all ages - like horseback rides, games in the heated swimming pool, fishing in the ranch pond, sing a longs, arts and crafts, nature walks, rodeos, tennis, and fun surprises cooked up by the creative staff .     

Wyoming’s Lost Creek Ranch and Spa, made famous last fall as the setting for Modern Family’s season premiere, lets kids leave their “boring parents” relaxing at the spa, playing golf, or exploring Grand Teton National park. Special kids-only activities are tailored to the interests and abilities of participants.      

Lone Mountain Ranch has an Outdoor Youth Adventure program that is designed for young people (ages 3-18) to have fun while developing an appreciation for nature and building their self-confidence through a wide variety of outdoor recreation activities. These experiences are geared to entertain and challenge the interests of varying age groups. When you combine the experiences we offer with our kind, energetic and knowledgeable staff, the kids can't help but have fun and look at life from a different perspective. The confidence they gain with their peers outdoors is something they can take with them wherever they go.  

The Home Ranch, in Colorado, is a family-friendly ranch that requires no advance planning, no childcare arrangements, no dinner planning, and no stress. You and your family can simply follow your individual bliss while we take care of everything else for you. Our all-inclusive children’s program and dedicated kids counselors offer a wide menu of daily activities and adventure for kids and teens - and make it very easy for the whole family to unwind, relax, and do what they want, when they want, how they want to do it.    

Lone-Mountain-Winter-Sleigh-Ride-Snow


 

 

Head South for the Winter

If you’re planning a getaway or full-fledged vacation during the heart of the winter, consider heading South. There is wide range of options available from the member ranches of The Dude Ranchers’ Association. Winter provides an ideal opportunity in the warmer climates of the Southwest for a traditional dude ranch vacation. Across Arizona, for instance, ranches operate either year-round or seasonally from fall through spring. Horseback rides through inspiring stretches of the desert or on stunning mountain trails are just the beginning. Hiking, mountain biking, swimming, scrumptious meals, and plenty of time to kick back and relax amidst the region’s natural splendors makes for a great ending.Circle Z Icon

Want to stay in a traditional setting?  Circle Z Ranch this winter will be an enchanting vacation. This ranch has seven historic Spanish- style adobe guest cottages that dot the plateau on which the ranch lies. Accommodations vary from individual rooms to suites with living rooms or entirely private cottages, each reflecting Southwestern charm. The Casa Rosa (arch way pictured above) is an adobe building in the Spanish Revival style embracing a fountain courtyard. There are eight double rooms, each with a private bath and courtyard entrance. This is a favorite of many returning guests. Several of the rooms have connecting doors for families.

Western style horseback riding at Elkhorn Ranch provides adventure and a great way to see the incredible scenery of the Baboquivari Mountains. The ranch’s ten thousand acres provide plenty of remote canyons and mountain country to explore, a true wilderness experience. Experience gentle or loping rides through the desert and more vigorous trips up into the mountains – including all day ventures with sandwiches or a mule-packed hot lunch. You won't forget this winter vacation. Flying E Celebrate a cowboy Christmas at the ranch. Take a step back into old west days and celebrate the season. Make ornaments to decorate a real Christmas tree, eat cookies by the fire, and sing carols while waiting for Santa to arrive on Christmas Eve. Christmas morning breakfast ride offers a western breakfast at Yucca Flats. Hotcakes on the campfire griddle, ham, sausage, cowboy potatoes, eggs and the best dutch oven biscuits you have ever tasted. The best gift is the gift of family time. Additional Arizona Ranches: Rancho de los Caballeros White Stallion Tanque Verde


 

5 Cattle Drives not to Miss

McGarry-Ranches-Cowboy-Team'I should've been a Cowboy

I should've learned to rope and ride

Wearing my six-shooter riding my pony on a cattle drive

Stealing the young girl's hearts

Just like Gene and Roy Singing those campfire songs

I should've been a cowboy'

Well, unlike the song says, you still can be a cowboy. Take your next vacation to another level. Here are 5 cattle drives on a working cattle ranch you are sure to enjoy as an authentic cowboy.

55,000 acres is the amount of land at the McGarry Ranches. That's more than a few miles of fence line to monitor and maintain for 2,000 head of cattle. Here the cattle are organized in units and usually they visit more than one unit a day. Tracking and gathering strays are usual occurrences. Trailing them back is now a part of your job. 1,500 pounds of cow has to be convinced to go where you and your horse want them to. Don't worry, that's why you have a guide and probably his trusty cow dog to help.   

  Or maybe spending all day in the saddle is your thing. Moving cattle from pasture to pasture is just as exciting as it sounds. Can you feel the sense of awe and wonderment in this picture of the Klondike Ranch's guests moving 650 cow/calf pairs to the high pastures of the Big Horn Mountains?     

Since the 1870's Bonanza Creek Ranch hands have roamed the range and worked cattle along the banks of Bonanza Creek. A century later, very little has changed...the only difference is now there is a place set at the table for you. Personal attention is the norm with only 8 - 12 guests per week. The demand to conform to a strict routine simply floats away on the Montana breeze. Hospitality, responsive horses, challenging cattle work, tasty home cooking, and comfortable cabins will make you want to come back year after year. 

  You might be wondering what it was like for Gus and Captain Call in Lonesome Dove when they took several months to move their herd of cattle from Texas to Montana. The Burntwell Guest Ranch offers a three or four night taste of this life. Five to ten hours a day are spent in the saddle. Hot meals are cooked in a Dutch oven over an open fire. You will camp out under the stars in a bedroll like the ones the cowboys used in the olden days.    

Our Association has many ranches that offers that authentic cowboy experience. Some others are Focus, Rowses 1+1, Zapata, Lonesome Spur, Hubbard's Six Quarter Circle.

For a more detailed description of this type of vacation give Leah or Colleen a call at the Dude Ranchers Association. 307.587.2335. Thanks

  You still can be a cowboy. Take your next vacation to another level. Here are 5 cattle drives on a working cattle ranch you are sure to enjoy as an authentic cowboy.

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5 Ways the DRA Facilitates Your Travel Planning Experience

We are often asked how The Dude Ranchers Association can help the potential guest with the planning stages of their dude ranch vacation. Below are 5 real ways that either the DRA web site or the DRA office can help in your search. Please feel free to give us a call if you have any questions or need any help.

Customized Searchability The DRA’s advanced search capabilities eliminate the stress of having to research and compare hundreds of ranches individually. With the click of a button, you’re able to refine your search by selecting the activities and amenities on your vacation wish list. Or, if you’re looking for a ranch in a specific geographic area, you can narrow your search by state/province, or even proximity to National Parks.  

One-on-One Guidance Personalized help is important to the DRA both on and off the ranch. If you’re still stumped as to which ranch the best is fit for you, the DRA wants to hear about it. They have a toll-free number staffed with experts that are knowledgeable about each one of their distinct member ranches. They’re available to talk through any and all questions you may have. Warning: they may even offer an unsolicited tip or two!  

Dude Ranch Experts If it’s your first time (on a dude ranch), you’re sure to have a list of questions and concerns about just how this whole guest ranch vacation is going to play out. What should I wear? Do I need to know how to ride before I get there? What kind of food will there be? Will there be plenty for my kids (and me) to do? From riding and ranch offerings, to travel insurance and what to pack, the DRA is your go-to source for dude ranch insider information.  

Get a Second Opinion There’s an entire section on the DRA’s website dedicated to what other people have to say about us! This section features accounts from national and regional travel writers and bloggers who have visited a DRA-accredited ranch to see what it’s all about for themselves, providing you with unbiased, second opinions, and answers to many of the same questions you may have.  

Experience the ‘Best of the West’ The DRA has been preserving, protecting and promoting dude ranches and the Western way of life since it was founded in 1926. All of its member ranches are required to uphold the highest quality and standards within the industry (membership is actually a two-year process!), so you and your family can rest easy knowing that a trip to one of the DRA’s member ranches will be filled with authentic, Western hospitality and the core principles that haven’t changed for nearly a decade: horses, hats, heritage, honesty and heart.

Focus Ranch-Riders on the Mesa

Dude Ranch - The Cure for Nature Deficit Disorder

Richard Louv, child advocate and writer of the bestselling books The Nature Principle and Last Child in the Woods, has coined the term Nature-Deficit Disorder. He explains a growing body of research indicating the lack of nature in today's online generation. This term parallels the lack of nature to the growing trends of childhood obesity, attention disorders and depression. He explains, "Direct exposure to nature is essential for healthy childhood development and for the physical and emotional health of children and adults"(richardlouv.com). At a dude ranch your are guaranteed to get your nature fix and spend the majority of your vacation outdoors in some of the most beautiful locations West of the Mississippi. With three square meals a day planned out carefully by a professional chef, you won't have to worry about feeding your children fast food on the road. Once you know your kids are eating right, what kind of outdoor activities will they be doing all week? There is something for all ages at a guest ranch, balancing quality time together and apart. For the little tikes there is a children's program, equipped with a weeks worth of activities including pony rides, field days, crafts and all sorts of toddler friendly activities. Look at this little girl (pictured left) riding for the first time at the A Bar A Ranch in Wyoming.  

For the kids old enough to go out on trial ride, I’m sure they will team up with the other children and tackle every hill and trail with their new favorite wrangler. Pictured Right is a young cowgirl racing around the barrels in the arena activities at the Tumbling River Ranch in Colorado. The older teens might end up fishing or going on an all day hike, hanging out with the crew and other guests their age. They won't even realize how much time they'll spend in nature, except for the repeated application of sunscreen. A vacation this summer will inspire them to go outdoors and explore. Who knows- when they become of age they might end up working a summer or two for a ranch. No matter how much time you spend at a dude ranch physically and emotionally you and your whole family will leave refreshed and full of memories. If you're seeking a healthy, active outdoor vacation to combat Nature-Deficit Disorder take a look at the following ranches with activities designed with the whole family in mind. R Lazy S Kids Program

R Lazy S Pictured left is the Kid’s Wrangler, Will, jamming to Musical Chairs during Gymkhana. Along with Musical Chairs, they had fun riding horses while balancing an egg on a spoon, a 3-Legged race, and the famous M&M’s hidden in whip cream race. This, followed by a hamburger/hot dog barbecue, makes for a perfect day.  

Cherokee Park The Cherokee Park Ranch is a family owned dude ranch nestled in the beautiful Colorado Rocky Mountains. We cater to families with kids of all ages, horse back riding, river rafting, rodeos, fishing, music, dancing, cow wrangling, swimming, ropes/challenge course, skeet shooting and mountain biking.    

Greenhorn Creek A truly all inclusive guest dude ranch vacation, we provide the perfect location for family vacations, reunions, weddings, corporate and business retreats, meetings, special events, equine guided education and so much more. Still serving up the best hospitality in the west!    

Three Bars Three Bars Guest Ranch The adventure ranch of the Canadian Rockies invites you to experience the ultimate horseback riding vacation. Located just south of Banff National Park, Three Bars Ranch offers the most diverse vacation activities available anywhere. Voted Canada's #1 Dude Ranch in 2012.    

Drowsy Water Winner Tripadvisor Travelers' Choice Awards #1 All Inclusive Vacation. For over 90 years Drowsy Water Ranch has been providing folks from around the world with Western vacations. Under the same owner/management for 35 years, we promise nothing less than real down home hospitality and memories.    

Lone Mountain Endless recreational possibilities at this historic ranch offering horseback riding, hiking, canoeing, mountain biking, fly fishing and Outdoor Youth Adventures just 18 miles from Yellowstone National Park. Cozy, comfortable log cabins with western furnishings.  

Dude Ranches Pioneer Educational Travel

The Travel Effect Campaign reports that adults who took educational trips as kids are 12 percent more likely to graduate from college and earn more than those who didn’t. Statistics  have more parents searching for family vacation options that make learning fun. Filled with experiences rooted in local culture and history, two items that 77 percent of respondents in the Travel Effect Campaign cited as having a lasting impact, we are dedicated to preserving and promoting the genuine western way of life. By offering kids the ability to experience this way of life, dude ranches are helping future generations appreciate nature, wildlife and Western culture.

A dude ranch vacation offers a variety of programming for kids of all ages, with daily schedules that are so engaging kids won’t realize they’re learning along the way. Kids programs and activities, many of which are overseen by dedicated wranglers and staff members, are designed to educate and entertain with activities ranging from ropes courses, scavenger hunts, horseback riding, panning for gold, wildlife excursions, overnight camping trips, campfire sing-a-longs, capture the flag, hay rides and much more. “I think one of the best parts about our kids programs is that it really engages kids’ adventurous spirit and teaches them about many things they wouldn’t learn within the four walls of their classrooms,   the experience has a lasting effect on the child. You can ask any kid the name of the horse they rode while vacationing at a dude ranch in a month or even a year and they will be able to tell you as well as the names of the kids and wranglers. It’s a unique memory that stays with them for many years. To embark on your next educational adventure go to www.duderanch.org/listings_search.php and search for the kids program that is right for you and your kiddos. Below are a few ranches with great kids programs to get you started: Horseshoe Canyon Fall Colors

4UR Ranch

Vista Verde Ranch

Wind River Christian Dude Ranch

A Bar A Ranch

Wilderness Trails Ranch

Horseshoe Canyon Ranch

Elkhorn Ranch

Lost Valley Ranch

Three Bars Guest Ranch

Averill’s Flathead Lake Ranch

CM Ranch

 

A New Mexico Cattle Drive

Burnt-Well-Icon-Cattle-ColorBurnt Well Cattle Drive - by Mark Bedor Anybody who’s ever seen the movie City Slickers has dreamed about going on a cattle drive!  I was fortunate enough to be one of ten people who had come to Burnt Well Guest Ranch in New Mexico from as far as Florida and California to go on a weeklong cattle drive to move more than 150 cows to their summer pasture. The cattle drive would put us in the saddle of that real cowboy world all week. The chance to do this was a dream come true for many in our group, like 73-year old Kathy from New Jersey. “I’ve always wanted to do this,” she told me as we rode along that first morning. “I figured if I don’t do it soon, it’s gonna be too late.” Starting out Monday on the Burnt Well's  24 square mile spread (relatively small by arid New Mexico standards), a willing, yet inexperienced group of guests would help push the herd across four neighboring ranches,  before finally arriving at Bonney Canyon Ranch, where Kim Chesser, owner of Burnt Well along with his wife Patricia,  had leased pasture land to graze those cattle for the summer. When they say “pushing cows,” that is an accurate description. Without constant pressure, the herd of 156 animals including 30 heifers (females that had never given birth), six bulls, and 60 pairs of momma cows with brand new baby calves, would  just stop and eat. The unspoiled ranch lands we rode through are the very definition of wide open spaces. With a rugged beauty all its own, this horseback view of New Mexico is a jaw dropping sight to people who spend most of their lives in a congested city. “I’ve never been in a place this open in my life,” beamed  Liz Edwards, here from Boston with her husband Chris. “There’s so much beauty.” The couple had flown in a day early, and got a taste of the area’s cowboy culture when they made a side trip to nearby Ruidoso, New Mexico.  Saturday night they dined and danced at the town's very Western Texas Club. “Just a completely different side of the United States,” marveled Chris. “We’re all Americans... same as us... but it’s a totally different world." The cattle drive gave us the chance to visit with some of the area’s real working cowboys, as the ranches we crossed provided horseback escorts through their property. These guys are real pros and they make stringing out a herd and keeping it moving look easy. “This is the fun part of cowboyin’,” smiled rancher Kevin Floyd.  As we rode along, Kevin talked of the very difficult challenges ranchers face, not the least of which is a largely urban public’s misguided perceptions of the cattle industry. “I saw an article... a serious editorial in a newspaper... that said if all you ranchers would go to the grocery store like the rest of us to get your meat...you wouldn’t be harming animals!” There are lots of tough issues. Ranchers can be sued by trespassers who get hurt on their property. Sheep ranching, once a thriving business here, is being decimated by out of control predators.  Inheritance taxes and land values make it next to impossible for young people to get into ranching. “But it’s still a wonderful life,” smiles Kevin, as we ride along, enjoying perfect horseback weather on a cool and cloudy morning. “You get to be with God out here.” That Wednesday morning we were up, with bedrolls, tents and personal gear packed in time for breakfast at six. We’d been told to be prepared for a twelve hour day in the saddle. And that was no exaggeration. Local horse trader and  veteran cowboy, Dave McIntosh saddled up to ride with us on what would be the toughest day of the trip. It started out easy enough, with Dave showing us how it’s done, we had those cows stepping out nicely. “Most everybody thinks that cattle drive from the back,” revealed Dave, when I asked for his views on the best way to drive a herd. “But if you work the sides and keep 'em pushed in... and keep the front end goin’ somewhere... the back end’ll want to stay up with the front.” Lunchtime found us at the base of that imposing barrier known as Border Hill. Steep and rocky, it wasn’t the easiest place to just ride a horse, let alone drive cattle. “It’s gonna be tough,” warned wrangler Tim. It was tough, and we had to push hard on those cows and our horses every step of the way. Slowly but surely, we climbed that steep and rugged incline. We made  it to the top and at six that evening, we reached the corrals where we’d park the herd for the night and refill our depleted canteens.  After settling the herd in for the night we still had another hour’s ride to get to camp. Finally, we arrived!  We'd been in the saddle almost twelve hours on the dot when we stepped off those horses. As we plopped into camp chairs, and savored a cold beer, the trials of a long day were suddenly replaced by a great sense of both achievement and camaraderie. “We all came together as strangers... and look what we accomplished,”  reflected Linda from Minnesota. “That’s so cool!” And many of those in our group of ten had done it with very little riding experience. Linda, an accomplished rider who owns her own horse back home, was very impressed with not only the horse she rode, but the other mounts of the Chesser string. “I look at Cheyenne and Mickey and Mo,”  she observed of the horses the beginners had ridden. “They take good care of people.” After three days and some 35 miles,  we’d spend the next two nights at this last camp. We had one short two hour ride Thursday morning to push the cows from their holding pens to the pasture where they'd spend the summer. That  afternoon we had  another easy ride, checking some five miles of fence with wrangler Tim, a great chance to relax in the saddle and soak in the beautiful vistas of New Mexico. There were other treats to enjoy before we’d ride out to the trail head on Friday morning.  Thursday evening Patricia’s fiddle came out, and our camp meadow became an impromptu dance floor filled with fun and laughter.  And in this part of New Mexico, where you can’t see any lights of civilization and the heavens don’t shine any brighter, many of us also took advantage of the perfect dry weather to sleep out under the stars. Staring at the stars from a sleeping bag is not something Chris and Liz do very often in Boston. “We’re officially converted!,” she laughed on Friday morning. It had been quite a week, not to mention  all the wildlife we saw, like abundant mule deer, jack rabbits, wild turkeys, and even a bobcat!  Yes, there were moments when it was hard, but as we rode out Friday morning I felt so good. Restored. Alive. And I wasn’t the only one. “I’m coming back actually feeling better than when I arrived,” said 69-year old Addie.  “Very refreshed! Coming back. It’s something a lot of guests do who visit the Burnt Well Guest Ranch. I'd like to come back myself. Burnt Well Guest Ranch is a member of  The Dude Ranchers’ Association which was formed in 1926 to preserve this special way of life and the wonderful environment in which dude ranching takes place. When you vacation at a Dude Ranchers’ Association Dude Ranch, you can be sure of a quality vacation. Membership in the Association is a rigorous two year inspection and approval process, to assure that guests are treated to genuine western hospitality combined with the lodging industry’s highest standards. Our Dude Ranches offer all-inclusive vacations that are perfect for everyone, from the littlest rancher to Grandpa and Grandma.  Horseback riding, hiking, petting zoos, swimming holes, rodeos, fishing, games, skeet shooting, archery, art classes, cooking classes and more await your discovery on your next Dude Ranch Vacation.  Horses, Hats, History and Hospitality – they’re the foundation of every ranch. There is a little cowboy in all of us… come find yours… For More information about Burnt Well Guest Ranch  you can visit www.duderanch.org or call 866-399-2339.    

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