Five Reasons to Take Your Family on a Dude Ranch Vacation

Everything They Want, Everything You Need! Horseback riding and high-end luxury. Cookouts and craft wine. Zip-lining and line dancing. Rodeos and rafting. On a dude ranch vacation, you can have it all… and more. Indulge in the finest cuisine, pamper your senses, or satisfy your sense of adventure. Whatever you’re seeking, you’ll find it here on a dude ranch vacation.

1. Focus on the Family Your teenager’s a thrill seeker. Your little one wants to explore. And you’re caught between craving some peace and quiet, and some quality family bonding time. Dude ranches pride themselves on their ability to provide all of it: plenty of activities for all skill levels, opportunities to get close to nature, and chances to slow down, team up, and enjoy time together as a family.    

2. Delicious Food Home to cowboy barbecues, farm-to-table fresh cuisine, and elegant wine selections, dude ranches offer an impressive culinary scene to rival that of any four-star resort. The foodies in your party will definitely find something to enchant their taste buds!

Deep Canyon Ranch

Deep Canyon Ranch in Montana is a great location for your family.


3. Variety of Activities Maybe you’d like to refresh your spirit on a leisurely horseback ride, or wade in a stream and fish. Or you might want to earn your keep by working the cattle with the ranch hands. Perhaps you prefer the adrenaline rush of whitewater rafting or soaring over the treetops on a zip-line. And what if your idea of “adventure” is trying all the spa services offered over the course of your stay? Well, there’s a dude ranch vacation for you, too. You’re sure to find something that appeals to you among a ranch’s impressive range of offerings.  

The Home Ranch Family Vacation

The Home Ranch in Colorado is spectacular for a leisurely trail ride in the spring.

4. Nightlife Immerse yourself in a vibrant nighttime scene unique to the dude ranch experience. Sing and dance the night away at a saloon or a dance hall, to the tune of the fiddle and joyful laughter. Or, relax around the campfire with some s’mores after a full day of adventures, and enjoy an unobstructed view of the stars.

5. Options With over one hundred ranches to choose from, you’re sure to find one that will fit easily into your next national park trip or Western heritage adventure. Many are located near small towns boasting of local character, history, cuisine, and crafts; as well as national parks and monuments for an easy day trip. There’s plenty to make a dude ranch the perfect choice for your next vacation! This story has been created in partnership with DUDE RANCHERS’ ASSOCIATION.               

 Take your Family on a Dude Ranch Vacation

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Team Work Makes the Dream Work - Ranch Team Building

Staying on a dude ranch will offer tons and tons of activities in addition to horseback riding. At an Idaho ranch you can take your family and/or your coworkers for a week long, adventure filled vacation with activities designed for team building. For starters, there are challenge courses, zip lines, climbing walls, cattle work and river rafting. Then, once the team work is completed you can enjoy some solitude in the mountains.  Take a look at the different specialties offered.  

Challenge Course

At the Red Horse Mountain Ranch the challenge course is unlike any other experience you will have. Elements range from the ground to high elements like the 300 foot zip line. The course is designed to challenge you and your group mentally and physically with each element progressing in difficulty. The challenge course is a fantastic way for all ages to build confidence, work as a team and achieve new heights. Your challenge course facilitators will accompany you at the course; each is well trained and professionally certified to provide a fun and safe climbing environment.  Once you complete this course you have many, many other fun things to do before you leave the ranch.  

Working Cattle Ranch

If you are looking for a less traditional approach to team building, consider a working cattle ranch.  There's real teamwork in the ancient cowboy tradition of tending a herd of cattle. Wait, what? Yeah, at the McGarry Ranches your group becomes a part of the cowboys.  You might venture into a thousand acre pasture to find, gather and move 150 mama and calf pairs. Or, you might be sent off to rustle up some in the trees below. Doing authentic cattle work will be a wonderful change to any other type of group meetings.  Not only will you grow in confidence in yourself, your confidence in your companions' abilities will grow as well.  

White Water Rafting

White water rafting with the Seven Devils Lodge is, most definitely, a team building exercise. This rafting trip will take you down the world famous Hells Canyon, one of the most famous rafting destinations.  Be sure to go during high water for the most intensity. If you have ever been on a rafting trip you know that everyone has to paddle to ensure safety. Everyone works together to make the adventure fun and safe. It takes a team. And, team work makes the dream work on the river, in the office, at home, and everywhere else you are a part of a team.  Do yourself a favor - build your team somewhere fun, memorable and full of adventure - at a ranch.

Contact the Dude Ranch Team

Call the Dude Ranchers' Association for more information on planning your team building event or family vacation.

Red Horse Ropes Course Team

Challenge Course at Red Horse Mountain

McGarry Ranches Cowboy Team

Cowboys and Friends at the McGarry Ranches

Seven Devils Lodge River Rafting

Hells Canyon View by the Seven Devils Lodge



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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.  


 

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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An Authentic Experience at a Working Dude Ranch

 Bonanza-Cattle-Lodge

Agritourism – otherwise known as agriculture-related tourism – is a growing trend in a variety of destinations. These rustic getaways allow tourists to sample the day-to-day lifestyle of the people who work in these unique, hands-on vacation spots. The idea of relaxing in awe-inspiring locales while assimilating into a different kind of life regimen is part of the appeal for vacationers looking for a rewarding getaway. In fact, Travelmarketreport.com, recently reported that “creative tourism” is one of the growing travel trends in 2014 as many people are looking for authentic experiences.

 So where can agritourists go to find this one-of-a-kind vacation experience?

 Look no further than an all-inclusive vacation at a working dude ranch: the perfect destination for agritourists – paired with thrilling adventures, opportunities to recharge and a chance to explore the “Wild West.” Think horses, hats, hospitality, heritage, honesty and heart. And that’s just the beginning. At a working dude ranch, guests can choose from a variety of activities to sample the day-to-day lifestyle of the people who tend to the livestock such as cattle drives, branding, gathering and sorting cattle, roping, checking on windmills in the wide open pastures, pack trips, team penning and much more. Below are some great examples of what to expect at an authentic Working Dude Ranch Vacation..

At Bonanza Creek Ranch cattle work is usually done once or twice a week. Moving herds from pasture to pasture, bringing the bulls home, checking for sick or injured cattle, or moving the cattle to better grass and water is all great fun. It’s great to have a job to do on horseback.

For cattle work, riders should be proficient enough to ride on their own without a wrangler by their side. However, don’t worry that you need to already be an experienced cowboy. Our wranglers, who grew up in this country working with horses and cattle, will give you instruction on how to work with cattle and how to accomplish the specific task.  

At Klondike Ranch, 90% of their spring, summer and fall work is spent horseback and working cattle every day. And every day is a new adventure. While you help them get their job done, you also get to experience beautiful Wyoming scenery with the luxuries of a guest ranch without riding in single-file lines. Every time there is a job to do you will be riding with the owners of the ranch or a full-time ranch hand. If you like trail riding, you will love riding for a purpose.

During various seasons of the year McGarry Ranches invite you to join the cowboy crew in activities to include, calving, doctoring , branding, gathering, the move to the mountains from the valley ranch and the drive from the summer range to the fall range.'Day to day activities also include roping, driving cattle to new pastures, fence mending and never ending odd jobs, all of which maintain the integrity of the herd, which numbers the better part of 2,000 head of cattle. We do our work with the cattle as the need arises, not a specific activity at a specific date. Most of the week is spent scattering cattle on the range, doctoring cattle, packing salt for cattle, trailing cattle to a new pasture on the mountain, and gathering up stray cattle in some of the most scenic mountain country of Idaho. Almost all of the work is performed from the backs of ranch broke Quarter Horses. You will be matched with one or two horses to be used by you for the duration of your stay at the ranch. We maintain approximately thirty horses for use in cattle operations. A saddle will be provided for your usage or feel free to bring your own.    

Step back into the Old West and satisfy the cowboy in you as you come alongside the cowboys of the Rowses 1+1 Ranch. Their 7,000 acre ranch, set in the beautiful sand hills of Nebraska is the perfect setting for your getaway & some of the most spectacular horseback riding ever. Get involved as much or as little as you want in their daily ranch activities such as cattle drives, branding, working cattle, gathering & sorting, roping, checking cattle & windmills in the wide open pastures. Arena activities are also available as time allows - riding lessons, team penning, tracking & roping lessons.You will be matched up with one of our ranch raised quarter horses that you can call your own during your entire stay. Ride away from the city, and embrace the laid back atmosphere of the old west. No hassles, no schedule, no worries. Arrive as a guest, leave as family.

At the Heart of every Dude Ranch Vacation is the Horse

 At the heart of every Dude Ranch vacation is the horse. However, novices need not be overwhelmed with visions of straight backs, dress coats and bouncing up and down on tiny saddles, the whole ethos of Western riding is based on comfort and control. Those old time cowboys would be on the go all day and Western saddles reflect this being higher in the back, with pommels in the front and wide long stirrups. The horses are also schooled to stop, go and turn with the minimum of effort which basically means you do not need to be an Olympic standard equestrian to enjoy this style of vacation. Equally, those with riding experience are more than well catered for as one guest explains, ‘having horses of my own and riding on regular basis for the past 30 years I thought I would find the riding a little regimented and more geared to just the beginner rider. Well was I wrong! They truly can accommodate any riding level from the most inexperienced to the most experienced.’ Furthermore , ‘the wranglers at Dude Ranches are some of the most well rounded, diverse people I have ever been around,’ she laughs. ‘You may get a kid who grew up on a cattle ranch working cows since he was four, or a kid that just graduated from Cornell and was on the polo team, and everything in between. The one thing they all have in common is their love of horses and people.’ 

With the vast array of different experiences on offer, the Dude Ranch experience can be pretty much tailor-made. Further considerations therefore must also be given to the type of environment you want to ride in, i.e. meadows, mountains or prairies (as this will dictate the geographical location) the type of riding you would like to do and the level of comfort of the ranch itself. Accommodation is a lot simpler to choose from and basically consists of three different types. A working ranch, which will let you experience some real cowboy activities rounding up livestock, a Classic Dude Ranch which again will emphasis the riding but is usually combined with outdoor activities and last but not least, the resort Dude Ranch where western riding is obviously a feature, but also offer a diverse selection of activities and onsite facilities.

DRA ranches offer excellent diversification of accommodation, terrain and conditions. Where the Rocky Mountains meet the high plains providing breathtaking backdrops for your adventure on horseback. From the world famous Yellowstone and Grand Tetons national parks with their steaming geysers, stunning waterfalls and deep canyons. DRA ranches offer a choice ranging from the rustic to the luxurious with a range of activities both on horseback and off, as diverse as the stunning landscape.   

Guest expectations may have changed  over the years and ranchers have had to change with them, but the core principles and foundation of every Dude Ranch remain the same HORSES, HATS,HISTORY, HEART, HONESTY  and HOSPITALITY. There is a little cowboy in all of us come find yours at DRA Dude Ranch.  

Lone Mountain Cowgirl Loping Dusty Adventure

Western Dude Ranches Appeal to Worldwide Travelers

There are some folks that drive across their home state or province to visit a dude ranch.  Others make a trans-Atlantic journey and don’t speak the same language as their hosts. Colleen Hodson, Executive Director of the Dude Ranchers’ Association says Western dude ranches (found throughout the plains, deserts and mountains of the US and Canada,) have mass appeal. 

DRA Brown Tag -1In fact, it seems they cross cultural barriers.  “I would say about 10 to 20 percent of our dude ranch guests are European, with folks from The UK and Germany representing the largest share,” notes Hodson. What is the tremendous lure of the Western dude ranch?  For starters, there’s the call to adventure, exhilarating freedom instilled by the wilderness, definite experience of place, sociability and camaraderie. 

 For more than a century, these are a few of the elements that have enticed visitors from around the globe and keep them coming back year after year. The opening of dude ranches in the American and Canadian West to paying guests has a long and illustrious history.  Media reports on the Western adventures of Teddy Roosevelt followed by the “Western” movie and prime time television shows like “Gunsmoke” and “Bonanza” fueled the public’s fascination in the US and abroad with ranching and cowboys. 

In 1926 the Dude Ranchers’ Association was formed to represent the interests of the rapidly growing industry. Today the organization remains strong.  More than 100 ranches in the Western US and Canada are members of the DRA, as it’s often called. Each DRA member ranch has its own distinct character and charm. Before selecting a ranch visitors are encouraged to contact the DRA for suggestions of ranches matched best with their own style and preferences.  

There are several factors to consider including the classification of the ranch into one of three broad and sometimes overlapping categories.

Types of Western Ranches

First is the traditional Dude Ranch, centered on the horse and horse related activities.  Guests can ride to their hearts content and try their hand at wrangling, barrel-racing and may even perform in the weekly ranch rodeo. People who prefer this category of ranch tend to love horses and other rugged outdoor activities. 

 

The Resort Dude ranch includes riding as an activity along with many other pursuits and a variety of onsite facilities in addition to the stables.  These ranches are generally larger, able to accommodate more guests at one time and often appeal to the traveler who opts for a vacation with more luxuries. 

Finally, there’s the Working Dude Ranch.  These ranches are working cattle or sheep operations, with the riding adventure dictated by the work schedule surrounding the livestock.  Visitors of these ranches are immersed in the life of a working cowboy. The decision upon which ranch to visit is a personal one.  But it’s highly recommended the ranch selected is a DRA member.  This guarantees visitors from near and far that it  meets the highest industry standards in quality, safety, and authenticity.  (Not all ranches that apply for DRA membership qualify.  In fact 30% do not meet the strict standards!)   

Ranches accepted for membership are on probation for two years.  Every DRA ranch is inspected on a regular basis to ensure high DRA standards are maintained. No matter how far folks travel to reach their DRA ranch vacation destination and no matter what language they speak they can be reassured knowing a quality vacation experience awaits them.

 

 

Ranch Recipe: Sinful Brownies from Rowse's 1+1 Ranch

There are few things in life more enjoyable than riding a beautiful horse all day, chasing cows and enjoying the vast outdoors.  The only way to top this type of experience is to end that glorious ride by arriving back at the ranch to the smell of fresh baked chocolate brownies made from scratch.  Tammy at Rowses 1 + 1 Ranch in Burwell, Nebraska is an amazing cook and she has kindly offered to share her recipe with us. Tammy's own chocolate brownie recipe will have you itching to visit  1+1 Ranch to get your hands on some of her delicious baked goods and if you're worried about just how sinful they are, get yourself to the ranch for a working ranch vacation and work up a real cowboy appetite for these gooey brownies! Here's the recipe... 

Ingredients

1 cup margarine

1 cup peanut butter

1 cup sugar

1 cup brown sugar

3 eggs

2 tsp vanilla

½ cup flour

1½ tsp baking soda

2 cups chocolate chips

Method

1. Beat together the margarine, peanut butter, white and brown sugars, eggs and vanilla, until creamy

2. Add the flour and baking soda, and mix well.

3. Finally, stir through the chocolate chips until evenly combined

4. Spread the mixture into a greased cookie sheet and bake for 25 minutes in a 350F degree oven.

As long as you're careful not to overbake, the brownies will come out good and chewy!

Recipe for Brownies

Live a Movie Moment through Real-Life Working Cattle Drives

For a truly memorable vacation, nothing beats a Western cattle drive. Straight from the big screen, these working cattle drives, offered through various members of the Dude Ranchers’ Association, transform a movie moment into a real-life vacation experience unlike any other.

The cattle drive experience varies from ranch to ranch, with some ranches providing only two drives (one in the spring and one in the fall) while others offer cattle drives almost every day. The purpose of the drives, however, is universal—move cattle from one location to another without losing any animals along the way. Guided by expert wranglers, cattle drive participants shoulder important responsibilities as they keep the herd together, chase down stragglers, and stay on the move.

For just a taste of the cowpoke life, dude ranch visitors can participate in cattle drives that last only a few hours. When cattle need fresh water, new grass, or simply a change of pace, a cattle drive is the answer, and on working dude ranches, guests saddle up with the hired hands to make things happen.

Days-long cattle drives fill the urge for the morFocus Ranch-Riders on the Mesae adventurous to taste the true Western experience. These drives often include river crossings, mountain riding, and range roaming as the herd travels miles from one location to another. Of course, long days of riding are rewarded with evenings of fly fishing, card playing, and other rest and relaxation—just like in the cays of the real cowboy.

Cattle drives appeal to riders of all levels, although some riding experience is obviously beneficial. However, there’s no better way to improve riding skills and abilities than to spend a day in the saddle riding with a purpose. The exhilaration of combining real work with real pleasure is impossible to ignore, and nothing beats riding herd in the board expanse of the Wild West.

 Of course, no cattle drive is complete without plenty of good grub, and every DRA member provides outstanding cowboy cooking. After a day on the range, ranch guests love the hearty meals, down home entertainment, and cozy lodging that are the hallmarks of every dude ranch experience. 

Since 1926 The Dude Ranchers' Association has been helping folks find quality ranch vacations by establishing and enforcing high standards for its members. The association’s original membership of 35 ranches from the Yellowstone area has now grown to 100-plus member ranches in 12 western states and 2 Canadian provinces. In spite of this growth, the Association today remains dedicated to preserving the beauty, natural resources, and the original western ranch experiences that attracted the first visitors.

For more information about a real working cattle drive or any of the other unique features of a dude ranch vacation, or to request a brochure, call 1-307-587-2339 or visit www.duderanch.org.

Hunewill Circle H Guest Ranch

Bridgeport, California Phone: +1 760-932-7710 Hunewill Ranch is a family owned and operated cattle and guest ranch located near Yosemite National Park in the beautiful Bridgeport Valley. Horseback riding and cattle work are our featured attractions for a vacation experience suited to families, singles, or couples.    

McGarry Ranches Rexburg, Idaho Phone: +1 866-593-4455 A working ranch with a herd of approx 2,000 head, managed on approx 55,000 acres in the Big Hole Range of the Rocky Mountains. If you wish to experience the lifestyle of the working cowboy while riding daily in scenic mountains we invite you to cowboy up with the ranch crew. Major Credits Accepted    

Klondike Ranch Buffalo, Wyoming Phone: +1 800-362-2982 Klondike Ranch is a working cattle ranch with accommodations for 6 to 10 adult guest 14 years and older. We trail the cows and calves to the mountains the end of June and back home the end of September. Throughout the summer we move them from pasture to pasture. Our guests are welcome to join.    

Rowses 1+1 Ranch Burwell, Nebraska Phone: +1 308-346-5530 The 1+1 Ranch invites you to experience the old west & life as a Cowboy on a Real Working Ranch. Guests can participate in all ranch activities & can expect up to 6 hours a day in the saddle. New log cabins, delicious meals, great horses & tack await you. Dont Just Dream the Cowboy Dream... Live It!    

G Bar M Ranch Clyde Park, Montana Phone: +1 406-686-4423 An Authentic Ranch Experience -AGRITOURISM G Bar M is a Working Ranch, which means we are an operating horse and cattle ranch that encourages guests to share in our lifestyle.    

Focus Ranch Slater, Wyoming Phone: (970)583-2410 A traditional ranch, guests contribute to the successful yearling cattle operation. Ride for a purpose in beautiful landscapes. Fly fish in the Little Snake. All ages enjoy participating and experiencing the cultural heritage. Since 1938, generations have embraced the authenticity of Focus 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.    

Fall Cowgirl Roundup at Sylvan Dale Ranch

August 13, 2012 Loveland, Colorado

This fall, cowgirls will reunite at Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch to enjoy a weekend of horseback riding adventure, good food and fun. “Cowgirl Round-up” is a unique “ladies only” package, providing a weekend of horseback adventure and pampering, to refresh, renew and rejuvenate the body and spirit.  It’s perfect for moms and daughters, sisters, college roommates, single travelers and best friends seeking a respite from their busy lives. Riding Adventures Whether you’re a first-timer or an experienced Cowgirl, the handsome ranch-raised and trained quarter horses are friendly and reliable, and always eager to please. Horseback riding activities include scenic trail rides, cattle work, team penning and gymkhana games on horseback. Pampering The weekend of outdoor activities, crisp mountain air and brilliant sunshine serve to re-energize the mind, body and spirit.   Guests can partake in a variety of activities, including Yoga Classes, Campfires & S’mores and a classic Cowboy Serenade. Treat your body right! Massages are performed indoors or out, subject to the weather.  All natural oils soothe the skin and open pores…  Citrus Blend, Peppermint and Eucalyptus are current favorites. A deep tissue, therapeutic massage relieves sore muscles and rejuvenates the body.  Another option is the Relaxation Massage, offering a lighter touch to relax the overall body and mind…it’s so relaxing that many guests fall asleep! Sylvan Dale’s hot tub is a favorite of guests seeking a hot soak at the end of the day.  It’s a great place to share laughs and stories with new found friends. Wine and cheese tasting  Enjoy a tasty selection of wines, accompanied by platters of artisanal cheeses, chocolate dipped strawberries, and special treats that take advantage of local farm-grown crops. Cowgirl Round-up takes place September 27 – October 1st, 2012, and the 4-night package starts at $995 per person.   For additional information, contact Karen Burbank at 970-667-3915 or KarenB@sylvandale.com.  Additional information can be found at www.sylvandale.com. Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch is an authentic working horse and cattle ranch on 3200 acres in the Rocky Mountain foothills.   Over 70% of Sylvan Dale Ranch land is under perpetual conservation easements, protecting the surrounding view and wildlife from development. Sylvan Dale is in Loveland, Colorado,  one hour north of Denver International Airport, and a half hour from Ft. Collins.

Hosting Guests Helps Ranchers Endure Lean Times

Fount this article at Capital Press and thought you might enjoy it!

By JOHN O'CONNELL Capital PressWestern-Pleasure-Blog-Contest-Danielle-Ottis-Winner-2014-Bareback

When cattle and sheep prices dipped eight years ago, Lava Hot Springs, Idaho, rancher Ken Andrus and his family supplemented their income by opening their home to visitors. The customers still come from throughout the world to ride horses and experience the open space and cowboy life at the Andrus Guest Ranch. Andrus, the Republican chair of Idaho's House Agricultural Affairs Committee, enjoys the stable revenue the side business generates and the opportunity to employ his children on the ranch, which he runs with his brother. They raise 350 head of cattle and another 350 head of registered Suffolk sheep. They also offer two-hour trail rides for $50 each, a bed and breakfast for $100 per person and a six-day guest ranch experience for $800 per adult, with reduced rates for children. "Compared to the ranch it's minimal," Andrus said of the added income, "but it does help." Startup costs included renovating lodging for guests, creating a website and obtaining liability insurance. They entertain roughly 100 customers per year. On July 11, the de Froidmont family of Belgium checked in. "For us, America is also Western," said Anne de Froidmont, adding she grew up watching spaghetti Westerns. "And to experience the ranching lifestyle is very interesting." Andrus advises any rancher interested in starting a guest ranch to take breaks between visitors. "The guest ranch thing can be quite draining because you're with people all the time," he said.  Janice and Roley Schoonover carved a niche for themselves and their children at the family's ranch in Sandpoint, Idaho, by opening Western Pleasure Guest Ranch, which serves about 3,000 guests per year, counting weddings, sleigh rides and trail rides. They leave the actual ranching to Janice's brother. "Ranch people are very tight. You want your kids around you," said Janice, who heads a loose association of about eight Idaho guest ranches. Colorado, Montana and Wyoming are the major guest ranching states, according to the Dude Ranchers' Association, which represents more than 100 U.S. guest ranches. Only a few operations remain in Washington and Oregon. Dick and Shirley Bloomfeldt opened their Long Hollow Ranch in Sisters, Ore., to guests in 1998, after hearing a presentation from the Oregon Department of Agriculture about alternative agricultural income sources. The guest ranch now represents the majority of their income. "If you don't like people, you won't like this. They eat three meals a day with you," said Dick Bloomfeldt. Based largely on inspiration from the movie City Slickers, Don Guglielmino opened Bull Hill Guest Ranch in Kettle Falls, Wash., in 1995. "We were looking at a way of diversifying and creating a cash flow that would help carry us through those lean times," Guglielmino said. Guglielmino, who has a background in the hotel industry, oversees the guest business, which now accounts for more than 70 percent of the operation's income. His brother Pete runs the ranching. "You have to have the right mix of personalities in the business and family to make it happen," Guglielmino said.

'Veg Out' on Vacation on a Working Farm or Ranch in Colorado

Sylvan Dale ReunionsDENVER, May 23, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- A lifestyle that incorporates locally grown and produced food is sweeping the nation. People today want to know where their food comes from and that it is sustainable. This summer, Colorado combines its fresh agricultural offerings with an experiential vacation to create opportunities for travelers to get their hands dirty and enjoy the fruits of their labor on farm and ranch stays. Across Colorado, sustainable working farms and ranches have incorporated a tourism element to the overall experience. Travelers can take part in organic cooking and butchery classes; cultivate crops; herd cattle or bison; and actually take part in the development of a farm or ranch. These authentic experiences speak to today's travelers and offer a window into the world of Colorado's 'agritourism' or 'agritainment' offerings.  Below is a sampling of the varied ways travelers to Colorado can enrich and immerse themselves into an experiential vacation.  (read more...) Ranch Life Firsthand:

  • Smith Fork Ranch is a private luxury ranch nestled in Colorado's North Fork Valley offering fly fishing, horseback riding, hiking and a unique farm-to-table experience. Smith Fork has a garden farmstead that provides the majority of the vegetables and herbs for the ranch meals. They also raise free-range chickens that provide farm fresh eggs. What is not grown on the ranch is brought in from local farms including meat, cheese and produce. The ranch also offers guided and unguided local farm and winery tours. www.SmithForkRanch.com
  • Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch is a historic working cattle ranch in the Rocky Mountain foothills near Estes Park. Activities include cattle drives, overnight pack trips, western riding instruction, scenic trail rides, fishing, hay rides and more. Many of the entrees served at Sylvan Dale include Heart-J Natural Beef, from their own herd of free-range steers. Visitors can also buy beef to take home. www.SylvanDale.com
  • Zapata Ranch is a 103,000-acre authentic working cattle and bison guest ranch located on the eastern wall of the San Luis Valley bordering the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. Owned by the Nature Preserve, vacations at the Zapata Ranch revolve around learning through experience, about real ranch life and the great outdoors. Zapata prepares meals with their grass-fed bison and beef and locally grown produce. www.ZRanch.org
  • Black Mountain Ranch is a full-service working guest ranch, dude ranch and cattle ranch located between Vail and Steamboat Springs. Stays include horseback riding, overnight pack trips, longhorn cattle drives, whitewater rafting, fly and spin fishing, rifle and trap shooting, archery, and a local rodeo. The cattle drives include moving the ranch's herd of longhorns through the Colorado high country, roping practice and instruction and doctoring and branding the cattle. www.BlackMtnRanch.com

Cattle Drives - A Truly Western Experience

For a truly memorable vacation, nothing beats a Western cattle drive. Straight from the big screen, these working cattle drives, offered through various members of the Dude Ranchers’ Association, transform a movie moment into a real-life vacation experience unlike any other.


The cattle drive experience varies from ranch to ranch, with some ranches providing only two drives (one in the spring and one in the fall) while others offer cattle activities every day. The purpose of the drives, however, is universal—move cattle from one location to another without losing any animals along the way. Guided by expert wranglers, cattle drive participants shoulder important responsibilities as they keep the herd together, chase down stragglers, and stay on the move. Days-long cattle drives fill the urge for the more adventurous to taste the true Western experience. These drives often include river crossings, mountain riding, and range roaming as the herd travels miles from one location to another. Of course, long days of riding are rewarded with evenings of fly fishing, card playing, and other rest and relaxation—just like in the days of the real cowboy. The exhilaration of combining real work with real pleasure is impossible to ignore, and nothing beats riding herd in the broad expanse of the Wild West.

For just a taste of the real cowboy life, dude ranch visitors can participate in other cattle activities. Moving cattle for the day or gathering and doctoring are just a couple of the “real” experiences while saddling up with the hired hands.

For more information about a real working cattle drive or any of the other unique features of a dude ranch vacation, or to request a brochure, call 1-307-587-2339 or visit http://www.duderanch.org/.

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