Where are the Best Dude Ranches?

Best Dude Ranches

     There are hundreds of dude ranches across the globe. How could you possibly filter through them all and narrow the options down to the best dude ranches? Scrap the ones that aren’t all-inclusive -the ones that are going to charge you for every activity and meal separately. Keep the ones that have a genuine, friendly Western welcome with staff, food, accommodations, facilities and activities to authenticate it. You would still need to sort through the, again, HUNDREDS of ranches. So, the Dude Ranchers’ Association did the leg work to make it easy for you! The DRA has 95+ approved member ranches. These ranches go through a rigorous 2-year long application process to ensure that they are of the highest standard in the dude ranching industry. They are all all-inclusive (i.e. meals, lodging, and most activities), have a main focus on horseback riding, and offer a vacation experience like no other destination!

Let’s explore the best dude ranches by state and province!

Arizona

Best Dude Ranches

     Arizona is home to some of the most colorful characters in American history: Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, Pancho Villa, Billy the Kid, and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Staying at an Arizona ranch puts you right in the middle of that rich history. Explore nearby gold mines, ghost towns, and hideouts, even Skeleton Canyon where Geronimo finally surrendered. Your Arizona ranches provide an authentic ranch experience. Guests may ride over grasslands, through Saguaro studded desert and along mountain trails morning, afternoon, and into the sunset. Sunsets in Arizona are not to be missed – they are the most dramatic and breathtaking in the country. A sunny day in the saddle, a brilliant sunset with a margarita on the patio and a hearty home-cooked dinner will make your Arizona dude ranch day complete!

Arkansas

Best Dude Ranches

     Typical Arkansas vacation ranch activities include horseback riding, caving, and rock climbing. Searching for Native American arrowheads is also popular, as is exploring National Parks and Wilderness Areas. Unlike many states, mechanized vehicles are not allowed in any Arkansas Wilderness Area, and a lovely quiet pervades. Guests of Arkansas Dude Ranches ride horses, canoe, and hike through this wilderness, sometimes feeling as if they were the first to ever do so. Arkansas has a long tradition of welcoming guests to the state. People have traveled to Hot Springs and the surrounding area for over a century to soak themselves in the restorative thermal waters. Try a different type of restorative therapy - lots of fresh air and activity at an Arkansas dude ranch.

British Columbia

Best Dude Ranches

     British Columbia is a remarkable place. It stretches from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Ocean, Washington state to the Yukon and Alaska. Some of the wildest, most rugged mountains on the continent are found here; indeed, the Coast Range has been dubbed the Himalayas of the west. Tall, rocky peaks tumble down into valleys that rival the Grand Canyon in depth, width, and magnificence. Those who journey here are richly rewarded. Consider a dude ranch vacation in British Columbia, one of the most striking parts of the world!

California

Best Dude Ranches

     California conjures images of sun-kissed beaches, foggy San Francisco Bay, and giant redwood forests. The diversity of the state is unmatched by any other in the nation. Luxury dude ranch vacations in the state of California may include fly fishing, river rafting, and panning for gold. Guests may explore the land on bikes, watch birds, or rock climb. In addition, California vacation ranches offer their guests an authentic ranch experience. Guests may ride over grasslands and along mountain trails morning, afternoon, and at sunset. They may even participate in cattle round-ups and cattle drives, just like true cowboys. 

Colorado

Best Dude Ranches

     Colorado is known for its natural beauty. Much of Western Colorado is covered by the Rocky Mountains, where more than 50 mountain peaks reach over 14,000 feet. The eastern third of the state is the start of the high plains. Evergreen and aspen forests, deep canyons, and sand dunes - all are found in the state. Colorado dude ranch vacations are as varied as the ranches. Some focus on horseback riding, with trail riding and rodeo taking center stage. Some are all about luxury - the food, the lodging, the spa. Most offer a variety of activities for all ages: hiking, rafting, biking, skiing, riding, and fishing. All Colorado Dude Ranches specialize in creating unforgettable vacations full of fresh air, activity, and friends.

Idaho

Best Dude Ranches

     Idaho is comprised of rugged and beautiful terrain that stretches from British Columbia to Nevada and Wyoming. The Rocky Mountains cover much of the eastern border of the state, while Hell's Canyon, the deepest canyon in the country, is found along the Oregon and Washington border. Idaho is a lovely spot for a dude ranch vacation, for the wilderness beckons. Ride through grasslands and along forested trails. Head into the mountains, follow a stream bed, and spend a week as a cowboy. Everywhere there is fresh air and a beautiful natural setting, perfect for a luxury ranch vacation.

Montana

Best Dude Ranches

     Variously known as "The Big Sky State" and "The Last Best Place", Montana is truly a state of vast open spaces, incredible wilderness, and stunning scenery. It seems the proper place for a dude ranch vacation; and Montana dude ranches do take advantage of their spectacular surroundings, leading guests into national parks, through the Rocky Mountains, and across the prairie lands. Some dude ranches in Montana offer guests the opportunity to drive cattle like a real cowboy. Others specialize in sharing the wonders of fly fishing on pristine rivers and mountain streams. Some shower guests in luxury, spa packages and gourmet meals; others make you feel like a part of the family, with homestyle meals and marshmallow roasts around fire pits. Whatever your idea of the perfect dude ranch vacation, you will surely find it in Montana!

New Mexico

Best Dude Ranches

     There is much to see in New Mexico, from the wondrous Carlsbad Caverns to the Black Range Mountains and the brilliant gypsum dunes of White Sands National Monument. Guests of New Mexico dude ranches have a unique opportunity to explore the land and gain insight into the culture. They offer guests a chance to experience the cowboy life, with a bit more luxury if desired. Become a ranch hand and participate in rugged cattle drives, or ride along miles of fence looking for breaks in need of repair. After a day in the saddle, revel in simple luxuries such as soaking sore muscles in a hot tub or stretching out by a fire under a vast canopy of stars. Now that's a vacation!

Oregon

Best Dude Ranches

     Oregon is breathtaking, plain and simple. Western Oregon is cool and green, while Eastern Oregon is dry and vast. Mountains stand in the middle, running north to Washington state and south to California. A stay at a luxury Oregon dude ranch allows guests time and leisure to explore some of the natural beauty of this state. It stands to reason that vacations at Oregon dude ranches include a wide variety of outdoor recreation. Go horseback riding on forested trails and through grassland. Experience the thrill of fly fishing on a private stretch of water, with mountains tall in the distance. Hike into one of Oregon's many wilderness areas or along a stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail, or rock climb up a sheer cliff. There is whitewater rafting spring through fall, and skiing in the winter.

Washington

Best Dude Ranches

     The diverse natural beauty of the state encourages outdoor recreation. There are four volcanos in the Cascades which range in elevation from 8,300 feet to over 14,400. The Olympic Peninsula, west of Puget Sound, is home to the Olympic National Park, Hoh Rain Forest, and long stretches of wild, wind-swept Pacific beaches. Eastern Washington boasts sunshine, world-class wineries, and vast open spaces. Time spent at a Washington dude ranch will inevitably include outdoor recreation. Imagine horseback riding through grassland ringed by mountains or deep into evergreen forests. Additional activities may include angling in lakes or rivers, tubing down a river, biking or hiking. A dude ranch vacation in Washington is an ideal way to reconnect with nature, bond with family, and make new friends!

Wyoming

Best Dude Ranches

     The Rocky Mountains meet the High Plains in the state of Wyoming. This is true cowboy country with few people and vast, open spaces. The bulk of Yellowstone National Park is in Northwest Wyoming. Many Wyoming dude ranches include excursions into Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park. Hundreds of trails traverse the parks, providing access to deep backcountry areas, remote lakes, and scenic overlooks. Moose, elk, and bear inhabit this stunning area and are frequently spotted during guided excursions. These ranches may be rustic or luxurious. Guests may ride all day and herd cattle or soak in a hot tub and enjoy a massage. Activities may range from horseback rides through the mountains to fly-fishing to river rafting. Wyoming dude ranches strive to create the perfect vacation for guests.

     Whether your perfect dude ranch is in Arkansas, Washington, or somewhere in between, we’re sure that it will be one of our DRA approved ranches! There is a little cowboy in all of us. Come find yours today! 

Need help narrowing down the options further? Contact one of our dude ranch experts! info@duderanch.org • 308-587-2339

Best Dude RanchesBest Dude RanchesBest Dude Ranches

Western Dancing Found on these Dude Ranches

What dude ranch experience would be complete without a little bit of western dancing? Western dancing is a fun, evening dude ranch activity that the whole family can enjoy. At these ranches odd numbers and resistant teens are no challenge. There are female and male wranglers waiting to sweep your teenagers off their feet (only in the literal sense). They have been trained in the ways of western dancing. Some ranches offer a variety of styles for your dancing entertainment. You might find some combinations of line dancing, square dancing, the country swing, the polka or just some silly kicking up of the heels. Even if you have two left feet, it doesn’t matter. The ‘callers’ or dance instructors will help you learn the steps at a fun pace. Any kind of dancing you participate in or learn is energetic, full of laughs and a great way to make memories with your group and meet other families staying at the ranch.

Vista Verde Western Dancing

If you would like, take a look at the different styles of Western Dancing and ask your hosts how the ‘get down’ at their ranch.

Line Dancing - Everyone stands in a line in rows and does the country version of the Cha Cha Slide.

Square Dancing - 4 couples gather in, you guessed it, a square. There is a caller that tells you what's next. There are also square dances that include everyone in a big circle, but there is still the caller who says things like ‘do-SE-do with your partner’

Swing Dancing - Individual couples swing around the dance floor. Just be light on your feet and let your cowboy or cowgirl 'swing' you around the dance floor.

Polka Dancing - Please see Swing Dancing.

Fun filled family vacations are what dude ranches are all about. Western dancing is only a part of what your host will offer. There will be a variety of other nightly activities such as talent shows, camp fire sing-alongs for the kids, live music, cultural presentations and star gazing.  During the day you can enjoy horseback riding, hiking, river trips, fishing, etc.

The all inclusive family vacations available at the dude ranches listed below will satisfy even the most active among your family. The kids and teens program will keep everyone in the family having fun with age-appropriate activities, while giving mom and dad a much-needed rest. Even if the kids decide not to tag along when you head to the Western dancing, it will be because they’ve been tired out from a long, fun day in the beautiful outdoors.

Dude Ranches with Western Dancing

Latigo Ranch, Kremmling, Colorado Drowsy Water Ranch, Granby, Colorado Vista Verde Ranch, Steamboat Springs, Colorado Goosewing Ranch, Jackson, Wyoming Paradise Guest Ranch, Buffalo, Wyoming Triangle C Ranch, Dubois, Wyoming Cherokee Park Ranch, Livermore, Colorado Colorado Trails Ranch, Durango, Colorado


 

Give Mom and Dad the Gift of Memories this Year

Most Moms and Dads have more than enough “stuff,” and if asked, they may confess they haven’t even opened last year’s gift. This year, how about thinking a little outside the box when it comes to their special day? Why not consider sending Mom and Dad on a Western adventure vacation to a dude ranch? It’s surely a gift they will never forget. Whether they are traveling with or without the kids there’s the right ranch to fit all vacation plans.

Elk Mountain Ranch Mom Special DayElk Mountain Ranch Mom Special Day

Deals for the Parents

Elk Mountain Ranch is offering a complementary airport transfer (a savings of $375) and a complimentary cowboy hat for Dad during the weeks of June 21 - 28. Goosewing Ranch is offering a 40% discount special off the peak season rates for any package if you book your 2015 summer vacation before Mother’s Day, May 10, 2015. Let Mom enjoy her vacation; They will handle the cooking, cleaning, planning, and organizing, Mom just needs to sit back, relax and enjoying being surrounded by loved ones. Daily adventures and one Massage included in all our packages! For Father’s Day Goosewing Ranch is offering 40% discount special off the peak season rates for any package booked during the dates of June 11th - 28th 2015. Here Dads will enjoy fishing, exploring on UTVs, skeet shooting, and much more.

Kid’s Program for Your Freedom

Elk Mountain Rafting Silly Mom and Kids

Majestic Ranch in Durango, Colorado is offering a 30% discount for both Father’s Day and Mother’s Day. They have an awesome kids program so Mom and Dad can spend all the time they want with the kids or some much needed alone time.  Here the counselors, who have all worked with kids of all ages before working here, do an amazing job keeping all the kids busy so parents can rest easy while they enjoy their vacation. All kids ages six and up are able to ride trails while younger kids are given the option to ride in the arena. Additionally, kids pan for gold, play laser tag in our Old Western Town, learn to shoot bows and arrows and BB guns, spend time supervised in the pool, take part in a rodeo, and sleep under the stars in Teepee Village. Parents consistently make comments about how excited they are to see their kids, usually glued to their phones and game consoles, playing outside and smiling all day. While your kids will probably need a bath before going to bed, they will definitely sleep well each night.

Pampering for Mom

C Lazy u Mom and Dad

Enjoy a weekend getaway and treat your mom to a Mother’s Day escape at C Lazy U Ranch. Refresh her body, relax her mind and feed her soul with a serene combination of fine dining and elegant accommodations. For the ultimate pampering mom can take advantage of the ranch’s spa. Flowers will be budding and the trees will be in full bloom as she horseback rides, hikes and mountain bikes across C Lazy U's extensive trail system. If that’s not enough excitement she can do some fly fishing, shoot trap or archery, tackle the ropes course or zoom across the zip line. Spoil Mom and kick off spring with a fun getaway she will never forget. • DATES: May 8-10, 2015 • 2 night minimum • $375 per adult per night • $125 per child per night 3-17 Fly Fishing for

Dad

Focus Ranch Fly Fishing Sqaure

What Dad does not like spending time on the river bank trying to outsmart the cut-throat trout? Focus Ranch on the Wyoming, Colorado boarder will be offering a fly fishing clinic in 2015. Whether you are new to fly fishing or just needing some tips, this clinic is designed to tailor the content to participants’ needs -providing practical experience. It covers a broad range of skills-novice to experienced. Those who want a thorough introduction to the sport, will receive hands on instruction. Those who are already proficient, may benefit from his guiding skills. Topics to be covered include: fly casting techniques; gear; knot tying; trout behavior; water entomology and flies; river anatomy; fishing strategies, catch and release and trout fishing techniques.  

Triangle C Mom Dad

I have often heard “the best part of Memories is making them” and I would have to totally agree. So grad your Mom and Dad and give them memories that will last a Lifetime!!


 

9 FAQs of Dude Ranching

The Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) of Dude Ranching

G Bar M Ranch

1. Why choose a Dude Ranchers’ Association (DRA) ranch? With more than 100 DRA  accredited ranches, the perfect ranch experience is out there for you. The DRA’s expert staff helps travelers and travel agents customize the experience, guiding visitors to the perfect ranch to suit their needs and desires. The DRA requires its members to uphold the highest quality and standards within the dude ranching industry. Membership into the DRA is obtained only after a rigorous two-year inspection and approval process.

2. What are some of the typical activities for those visiting a dude ranch? While most people usually associate dude ranches with cowboys and cattle drives, they are so much more. Dude ranches are the original all-inclusive vacation, committed to preserving and sharing the Western way of life. Guests are able to customize their ranch experience to plan their ideal vacation. From yoga and cooking classes, to fly fishing and hiking, to swimming and bird watching, a vacation to a DRA accredited guest ranch guarantees a memorable experience unlike anything else. Horseback riding is a top activity at most DRA accredited guest ranches, as is fishing. Many guest ranches have added spa offerings and other luxury amenities to their properties for guests’ enjoyment. Other activities include whitewater rafting, hay rides, western dancing, golfing, ATV riding, trap shooting, hiking, mountain biking, baseball games and more. Almost all DRA accredited ranches of-fer evening activities such as campfire cowboy singers and s’mores, casino nights, Western movie nights and stargazing.

3. What does “all-inclusive” mean?

Vista Verde Ranch Snow Trail Ride Family Square

The “all-inclusive rate” concept originated at dude ranches – rooms, meals and most activities have been included in the rate since the late 1800’s. Dude ranch vacations are priced competitively with respect to other similar all-inclusive vacation options. Ranch vacations are a great value and make it easy to stay within a budget. There are no hassles because everything is taken care of, from transportation to lodging to meals to activities. All-inclusive does not mean watered down drinks or sub par food. It simply means everything is included in the price.

4. Where are DRA accredited ranches located? Dude ranches are located in some of the most spectacular areas in the country, from valleys complete with untouched Rocky Mountain backdrops to desert sunsets across the Southwest. Member ranches are located in 12 Western states and two Canadian provinces: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oregon, South Dakota, Washington, Wyoming, Alberta and British Columbia, Canada.

5. What transportation options are available to a dude or guest ranch? Guests should discuss their travel plans with the ranch they’ll be visiting. Most guests travel by commercial airlines, and the ranches provide shuttle service to and from the nearest airport. For those guests within reasonable distances or wishing for more of a “road trip” experience, driving is another option.

6. What should I consider when planning a dude ranch vacation? We recommend taking four main things into consideration:

  • Style of Riding – Choose the riding environment that appeals most to you: open meadows, prairies, mountain trails or southwestern desert. The location of the ranch determines the terrain.
  • Accommodations – Guest ranch accommodations vary depending on the ranch from luxurious and elegant to rustic and cowboy-chic. Whether you are staying in your own private cabin or in a lodge room, rest assured you will sleep on comfortable beds, in superbly kept rooms, with all the amenities you will need for a pleasant and relaxing stay.
  • Time of Year – May to October is peak dude ranch season. Some dude ranches are open year-round and some seasonal ranches offer special holiday activities. You’ll find the southern ranches are more popular in the winter months, while the northern ranches are the most popular in the summer months. Any time of the year is a great time to visit a dude ranch!
  • Ranch Size – Smaller ranches may only be able to host several families at one time, while larger ones can host a couple hundred people.

7. How do I choose the perfect ranch for my vacation?

Colorado Cattle Company

The best way to start narrowing your options is to go online to the Dude Ranchers’ Association website. You can search for ranches according to a variety of criteria, such as activities/amenities or location (state or province), or even by proximity to national parks. Modify your search until you find exactly what you’re looking for. You can even put your favorite ranches into your “saddle bag” for side-by-side comparison. As you narrow down your choices, call one of the DRA’s expert staff members at (866) 399-2339 to help guide you to the perfect ranch selection based on what’s most important to you.

8. How authentic is the ranch experience? Most DRA accredited ranches are multi-generational owned and operated, so they are the real deal.

9. How can I learn more about the DRA? Visit us online at any of the following places: Website: www.duderanch.org Blog: www.duderanch.org/blog Facebook: www.facebook.com/DudeRanchers Twitter: https://twitter.com/duderanchers YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/DudeRanchers


 

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.


 

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