This year’s buzzwords of mindfulness, disconnect and nature / forest therapy are helping raise awareness of the dependence on screen time and social media. However, does that mean anyone is doing anything about it, especially on a vacation? Dude ranch stays have been implementing these beliefs since their inception—obviously ahead of the trend and technology. How do they do it? Easily. With no cell phone reception on trails, or in many ranch buildings, connecting with the outside world can be easily sidetracked when simply not available. Forget cable television or trying to stream a movie off a ranch generator, some places turn that option off at 9 pm. Time to look at the stars (not Hollywood) or possibly, a ranch book. Fear not, there is never a safety risk by being disconnected from phone and iPad. There is always a landline for use and radios throughout all dude ranches, but you won’t need them, only to order up supper or to have the hot tub turned up. Disconnecting without the anxiety of outcome eases the strain of taking technology out of travel. Why do you need this form of nature therapy? Simply put, it is good for the soul!
This is one of the most remote ranches in Colorado. A rental car from Denver or Colorado Springs Airport is the easiest transportation. Located in the Badger Creek Basin with barely a tree on the property is a working cattle ranch that has the DRA’s lowest guest count capacity. Maxing out at eight guests, preferably seven, the ranch provides a slice of the Wild West that is authentic and isolated, yet community-oriented.
Guests can receive cell service in the main ranch house where meals are served and song commences in the evening. Once you leave the quarters, it’s signal silence. At 9,000 feet, you won’t need your cell phone, just the trusty guidance and leads of the two couples that co-own this rarity.
After an epic cattle drive in the Colorado sun, sneak off to the secret river a stone’s throw from the ranch, loaded with trout, waterfalls (in average to good run-off years) and incredible stream activity. There is also a buffalo jump where Native Americans chased the herds over the edge to trap, consume and utilize their precious materials. They certainly made it work with no cell phones, so you will have no challenge.
At night, enjoy the stars, song, hot tub and home cooking. You will be so exhausted you won’t even be able to keep your light on to read a magazine or finish a cookie. Disconnected and exhausted makes for a true night’s sleep.
Badger Creek Ranch – Canyon City, CO.
This place is remote; it’s barely in America. Rancho de la Osa is a 20-minute horseback ride to the border of Arizona and Mexico, the country. Even with all of the talk about “the wall” most people don’t realize that you can’t really talk by the wall, meaning, no cell phone reception. Take a ride out to the border and test it for yourself, you can take great selfies and landscape shots, but don’t bet on any connection to send those photos until you return home.
Upon returning to the ranch after a ride to remoteness you will be comforted in original adobe/southwest buildings, including the main house that in 1916 Pancho Villa raided and attempted to overtake, a cannon ball from the attack is embedded in the adobe wall of the Hacienda, which is on display today. The walls to these buildings are thick, don’t expect noise, or cell phone bands to get through the barricades.
Well, one exception to this rule. In the office of the main adobe there is continuous WiFi for guests and a landline to use. However, you’ll be too busy exploring the obscurity and rarity of this nearly 600-acre ranch bordering 120,000 acres of the Buenos Aires Wildlife Refuge that you won’t have much time but to grab a picture and move along. Surely you can rest your feet by the heated outdoor pool, but you’ll be preoccupied on a horse, on guided off-road tours to ruins and other Southwest natural landmarks, cruising through the desert on a fat electric bike, sport shooting, hiking, bird spotting and more.
Located at the highest elevation of any dude ranch in the state is Elk Mountain Ranch in Buena Vista. At 9,600 feet, any sort of play will be more strenuous and tiring, making texting and typing a bit more challenging. Come evening as the generators for the ranch are switched to off, don’t expect anything but stars, silence and sound sleeping as no electricity or cellar range is coming anywhere near your cabin or lodge room.
Elk Mountain Ranch has alternative plans for keeping you occupied. They’ve got the daily horse program and children’s program, but come time to get out of the saddle, there is also a rec room with a pool table, foosball, air hockey, board games, a library and there’s an outdoor volleyball and basketball court. Not enough activities to wear you out, there’s more. Campfires, s’mores, hayrides, hiking, white water rafting, hot springs visits, rodeos and more.
“We have adults that started coming for the September season a decade ago and now come back each year with folks they met during the adults-only week where they unplugged. It gives people the communality of shared experiences and conversing when the day is done that drives the friendships,” explains Tom Murphy, co-owner of the ranch.
Elk Mountain Ranch – Buena Vista, CO.
Most people have never heard of Lander, Wyoming it’s fathomable because it’s located in the least populated state in the nation and the town of Lander has a population of less than 8,000 residents. However, the town has food, entertainment and cell phone coverage. Allen’s Diamond 4 Ranch on the other hand, is far from society and offers different amenities for the traveler. It’s the highest altitude ranch in Wyoming at 9,300 feet and truly the most remote.
The maximum guest capacity remains at eight, and for good reason, this place is still a bit secretive after many decades, and it’s not from lack of beloved guests. It’s the extra journey to get to the disconnect. The ranch is nestled into Dickinson Park. Riders and visitors have range of 100,000 acres to roam, and so do cell phones. They roam once they leave ranch property.
Specialty weeks such as Wyoming hunting, youth camp adventure and guided pack trips will take you even further into the rugged Popo Agie Wilderness area that borders the ranch where guests are unplugged from technology and completely in awe of the mountain lakes formed from glacier and pristine forests that follow visitors to their log cabin porches nightly.
The ranch only has four guest cabins, well-kept and stocked for a Wild West adventure. This is a family owned and operated ranch, meals are served family style, so no cell phone coverage bodes well with this format as it would be rude to text under the table. The Allen family is not disconnected from traveler needs, rather trendsetting for sublime solitude.
It’s this uniqueness and unplugged nature that has guests from England, Texas, California and more returning to the respite and reprieve of modern technology. Forget television, you’ve got catching up to do with old friends.
There’s something about a boutique ranch that truly invites disconnection. Creek Ranch in Santa Rosa, New Mexico, has a maximum guest capacity of 12, and feels and operates much more like a working ranch than a Club Med on horseback. The 8,200 acres of desert arroyos, canyons, tumbleweeds, flora and fauna are stunning, but it’s the authentic location and purpose of the operation that put you out of touch with instant satisfaction of technology and enjoyment of journey and teamwork.
The most popular activity is obviously horseback, not spa, theatre or video games. Actually, there is no television! You can watch items on your own devices in the main house if need be where you can receive WiFi, but forget accessing anything else once you leave the main gathering spot, that includes your email, text message and other modern-era communication methods; it’s all about the disconnect.
Instead, you’ll be roping steers, cattle sorting and traversing desert terrain on your trusty steed. When not riding you can, fish the nearby Pecos River or relax at the ranch located on the Carrizo Creek bed. The hot tub is always warm and the New Mexico stars come nightfall are some of the most impressive in the nation, you won’t need to check in on the Hollywood ones.
Accommodations are authentic southwestern with comfy beds, remodeled bathrooms, serious attention to detail in each guest room and air conditioning, critical in the desert. All food is provided, you won’t go hungry wandering through the desert, but you will go unplugged.
Creek Ranch – Santa Rosa, NM.
Cherokee Park Ranch is located in Livermore, Colorado, not too far from major towns such as Fort Collins or even Denver. Don’t worry, it gets visitors off the grid quickly with loss of cell phone reception once you drive the dirt road to a late 1880’s stagecoach stop between Fort Collins, Colorado, and Laramie, Wyoming. Now, it’s one of the most family-friendly and awarded ranches in Colorado. However, don’t plan on using your cell phone. There is no reception within two miles of the ranch, unless you mount up on horseback and go for a ride with vista spots that also provide cell phone access. But, no need. Be mindful if you need to make a phone call. There’s an old-fashioned hand-held telephone to be used by anyone on the ranch. Selfies from modern day phones seem to capture this moment quite often!