Family Summer Camp — 5 Reasons Why You Need A Dude Ranch Vacation

Would you like to escape your mundane, urban life and experience the Great Outdoors? The best way to experience America’s beautiful countryside is on a dude ranch vacation. 

Staying on a working ranch is a wonderful experience for anyone who feels stuck in the rat race at home. At a dude ranch, you and your whole family can enjoy horseback riding, mountain biking, fishing, white-water rafting, kayaking, swimming, camping, hiking, and any other popular outdoor activity you can imagine. 

Whatever you enjoy doing in the wilderness, you’ll find a dude ranch that caters to your needs.

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#1. Horseback riding

If you like horses, you’ll love the feeling of freedom you experience horseback riding along a trail. Horseback riding is the core activity at the DRA dude ranches. Whether you’ve never sat upon a horse before or you’ve competed in the Kentucky Derby, you’ll find a guest ranch that’s perfect for you and your interests.

Check out all the guest ranches affiliated with the Dude Ranchers Association. Many ranches provide special programs to educate kids (and interested adults) in horse care and horse-riding skills. You’ll find patient instructors for beginners and professional coaches for more experienced equestrians. Just select what you’re looking for on the association website. 

Take Tanque Verde Ranch in Arizona as an example. Tanque Verde is a multiple award-winning resort that has operated as a dude ranch for over 150 years. It is located adjacent to Coronado National Forest and Saguaro National Park. 

At Tanque Verde, you can experience riding across breathtaking desert landscapes in the shade of the Rincon Mountains. As well as providing horse riding instruction and trail riding, Tanque Verde also makes a great base for hiking, mountain biking, and fishing.  

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#2. Campfire sing-a-longs

No childhood is complete without a campfire sing-a-long. A guest ranch is a wonderful place to take your kids so they can get closer to nature and enjoy wonderful cultural experiences like this. 

And if your childhood didn’t include one, it’s time to catch up now. A campfire out in the wilderness near a dude ranch is a great way to experience the quiet of the great outdoors but with the security of knowing civilization isn’t too far away.

Without the light pollution of the big city, the skies are clear, and the stars are bright. With the eeriness of the city a thousand miles away, you can wander off into the night and walk under the open skies.

If you’re an amateur astronomer, don’t forget to take along your telescope. A guest ranch is the perfect location for stargazing. Especially when the ranch is up high on a mountain range, and the stars are a few thousand feet nearer. 

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#3. Mountain biking

Mountain biking is a great way to get fit. Biking gives you a great cardio workout and doesn’t put too much strain on your joints. And biking in the countryside provides you with a wonderful change of scenery. 

Many dude ranches are located in mountainous regions and near state or national parks, so they make a fantastic base for mountain biking adventures. The best thing is that the biking trails near many guest ranches aren’t located near cities and crowded. You’ll be out in the wilderness, enjoying amazing scenery, and breathing the fresh mountain air. 

You can hire a mountain bike at some dude ranches, but you’ll probably feel more comfortable using your own. To transport your bike safely to the ranch, consider purchasing a bike travel bag

4UR Ranch is a historic guest ranch located in a stunning valley in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. They have provided accommodation and trail riding to guests for over 120 years. And with the Rocky Mountains on the doorstep, you can enjoy fantastic mountain biking experiences.

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#4. Fishing

Not everyone escapes to the countryside to go on long trail rides. Some people want to pursue a more relaxing activity that still gets them out into nature. Fly fishing is a perfect way to spend time beside the water on lakes or rivers. And many dude ranches offer private ponds, lakes, or riverbanks for eager anglers.

For example, Allen’s Diamond 4 Ranch in Wyoming is located right next to the Wind River and within easy reach of hundreds of alpine lakes stocked with wild trout. The fly fishing there is world-class, and with so many fishing spots to choose from and so few people out there in Dickinson Park and Shoshone National Forest, you’re spoiled for choice. 

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#5. White water rafting and kayaking

Adrenaline junkies can find lots of activities to enjoy on a dude ranch. With so many guest ranches located near mountains and fast-flowing rivers, lots of guest ranches offer white water rafting or kayaking experiences. 

Some of these Class III and Class IV rapids are undiscovered by the majority of water sports enthusiasts. If you search through the list of dude ranches in America, you’ll find many that make wonderful bases for a thrilling water-borne adventure.

And you’ll often find other unique water-based experiences at dude ranches. Many offer gold panning, and swimming in private ponds is fairly common. Whatever you love to do on the water, you can do it at a guest ranch.

Marble Mountain Ranch in California specializes in rafting and riding vacations. They offer excellent equestrian instruction programs, trail riding, and white-water rafting. These adventures all occur in California’s Klamath National Forest, where the views of granite ridges and deep river valleys are stunning.

Embrace life and live a little!

As you can see, there are many great activities you can enjoy at a dude ranch. It’s a way you can safely enjoy a Wild West experience. On a guest ranch, you’ll definitely have a vacation you never forget. For more information or assistance in selecting the right dude ranch for you, contact the Dude Ranchers’ Association at! With almost 100 years of experience and over 95 ranches to choose from, we will help find the right ranch for you! 

This article was written in partnership with

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6 Dude Ranches with Great Kids' Programs

Kids' Programs for all Ages

Trying to plan a family vacation can be a hard thing to do. Arranging all the meals to make sure everyone is happy, including enough activities to keep everyone busy and finding accommodations that can fit everyone’s taste is nothing short of a challenge. Planning a family vacation is very tough and it seems like the options are never ending. One thing that is even harder in today’s world it seems, is trying to find a vacation where the kids are more excited about the activities happening everyday rather than the screens and devices in front of them. It has become increasingly harder to truly disconnect from the real world anymore, but on a dude ranch vacation disconnecting your entire family may have just gotten easier. Do you know what else got easier? Planning a family vacation to fit everyone’s needs and wants! 

One of the hidden gems of dude ranches is the fact that all of the ranches in the Dude Ranchers’ Association are all-inclusive. What does this mean exactly? This means that lodging, meals and most activities are all included in one price. Continue reading to learn more about 6 dude ranches that have great kids’ programs to keep everyone in your family entertained. The memories created at dude ranches will be talked about for years to come! 

Mountain Sky Guest Ranch – Emigrant, MT

kids' programs

The Mountain Sky Guest Ranch located in Montana, North of Yellowstone National Park is a ranch that truly has activities for everyone in the family to enjoy. This ranch takes a great amount of pride in their kids’ program. In order to ride at Mountain Sky, children have to be seven years of age or older. So, for kids under the age of seven, the kids’ program was developed in order to ensure no misses out on the fun at Mountain Sky. Some of the activities that Mountain Sky Guest Ranch’s kids’ program has to offer would be lead-line horseback rides, scavenger hunts, games in the heated pool, as well as many arts and crafts activities; those activities are just during the day! At night the kids are encouraged to join the buffet-style dinner tailored around the kids’ likes and appetites and then join the counselors for campfire cookouts, camouflage capture the flag, hays rides and many more great activities! Every age is welcome in the kids’ program at Mountain Sky, the programs are tailored to the age of the kids, and there is even a teen program! These programs facilitate parents to be able to relax and enjoy a wonderful vacation. The parents can enjoy a day riding, doing yoga, going to the spa or playing a round of golf. 

Marble Mountain Ranch – Somes Bar, CA

kids' programs

Looking for a great kid -friendly family vacation? Marble Mountain Ranch in California loves to have kids take over the ranch during the summer time! The folks at the ranch enjoying getting to teach kids what it is like to enjoy the outdoors and have a genuine fun time without electronics and screens. Marble Mountain really encourages the parents to be involved in the kids’ program they offer; they know how important it is, especially in today’s world, for kids and parents to bond. In the kids’ program, the activities include feeding small animals, harvesting chicken eggs, fishing competitions, campfires, lariat challenges, Western frontier games, river rafting and so much more! Families enjoy getting to raft together, fish together, eat together and ride as much as possible as a group. This ranch is a great destination for a family reunion or for a family that has some “water bugs” in the group! And if the parents are looking to enjoy some time of their own, there are adult programs too. The dude ranch allows families to create the vacation they really want; the freedom is a wonderful feeling! 

Wind River Christian Dude Ranch – Estes Park, CO

kids' programs

At Wind River Christian Dude Ranch in Colorado there is a kids’ program for every age and it gives the parents a great opportunity to relax and rejuvenate in a peaceful environment. Wind River Ranch takes pride in being able to provide correct child care for any age, even babies and toddlers! In 2012 the ranch built a nursery and every season it is fully staffed with child care providers to help make your vacation a great time for everyone. There are three groups in the kids’ program and they are broken out by age. Children ages 2-9 participate in “The Kids Club,” ages 10-13 are in the “Pre-Teens Club” and 14-18 can participate in the “Teens Club” if they choose. The activities for all of the kids include horseback riding for kids seven and older, ranch carnivals, pool parties, putt putt golf, guided hikes, kayaking and much more. The activities are endless for everyone and the ranch is a safe environment that disconnects kids and parents from technology and reconnects them with their families and nature. Wind River Ranch’s resort-like accommodations will please everyone in the family, and the activities will ensure that the kids, and parents sleep great at night! 

Three Bars Guest Ranch – Cranbrook, BC

kids' programs

Three Bars Guest Ranch located in beautiful British Columbia, Canada is the perfect family ranch vacation for the little cowboys and cowgirls of the family. Kids of all ages feel at home at Three Bars, and they experience a sense of freedom and comfort on the ranch. Kids ages six and older will have to ability to go out on trail rides and experience some of the best kids’ horses around! The kid’s horses at Three Bars have been around for many years and are trusted to take great care of their new riding companions each week. While out on the rides, the kids may find themselves stopping at destinations to catch frogs, pan for gold or build forts. This ranch has a special way of connecting kids to the outdoors world and making them forget about their tablet or phone sitting in the cabin. For the kids not old enough to go on trail rides, they will have the chance to gather chicken eggs, feed the sheep and see the other farm animals in the ranch petting zoo. The kids can cook marshmallows over the campfire and the parents are of course welcome to join, s’mores have no age limit! A ranch vacation at Three Bars can be as family oriented as you choose. The kids will make friends of their own and can still come together for family time on rides or in other activities. The accommodations and food are very family-oriented and the ranch strives to make everyone feel at home.

Red Horse Mountain Ranch – Harrison, ID

kids' programs

If you are looking for a ranch vacation where your toddlers can ride their very own horse, Red Horse Mountain Ranch in Idaho is definitely a place to consider. Ages three – six will get to ride their own horse and gain confidence while a wrangler leads them for a little extra guidance. Trail rides and lessons are available for ages three and up and learning as much about horses as possible is a big goal of the ranch. Along with horseback riding there is an abundance of other activities available. Ziplining, kayaking, mountain biking, shooting sports, bobbing for applies are just a few activities to do in the kids’ program. This ranch is a kid’s paradise! They will make new friends and create memories with those friends as well as family members that they will not soon forget. All of these activities are available for the parents as well! Test your skills on the climbing wall and ropes course or take a relaxing kayak trip out on the lake. The accommodations are beautiful and the food superb. When looking for a truly memorable family vacation to entertain every age, truly consider Red Horse Mountain Ranch! 

Red Rock Ranch – Kelly, WY

kids' programs

Your kids will be talking about the program at the Red Rock Ranch in Wyoming for many years and there is a good reason why! The kids’ program at the ranch is very horseback riding centered. The kids will become very confident of the back of a horse and will have top-notch wranglers helping improve their skills and confidence levels. Kids must be six years or older to participate and it is a completely supervised program. The kids will learn to brush, saddle, bridle and completely care for their horse while at the ranch. The kids will participate in Gymkhanas, full and half day rides, team penning, gymnastic skills (vaulting) on horseback as well as many other activities. When not around the horses, you can find the kids in the swimming pool, in a fly-fishing clinic, hiking and playing games. There is no need for devices or screens at Red Rock, the kids will simply not have the time! The parents will have the opportunity to watch their kids grow while at the ranch and can watch all of their activities if they choose. Parents will also have the option to go horseback riding, fly-fishing, square dancing or simply relaxing on the porch with a good book. The cabins at the ranch are perfect for families and have a great western charm. The food is fantastic and the baked goods, you will just have to test for yourself because they are too good to explain! A family vacation at the Red Rock Ranch may be the vacation your family has been searching for for a long time!

Dude ranches are the perfect destination to find activities for everyone! The Dude Ranchers’ Association represents over 100 ranches that are all different and each ranch has something unique to offer. There are activities for everyone on a dude ranch and the ranch vacation experts at the DRA can help you find the right ranch for your needs and wants!

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Memories created at dude ranches will be talked about for years! Read about 6 dude ranches that have great kids’ programs to keep everyone entertained!


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