What is a dude ranch? Dude ranches are the original Western vacation! Back in the late 19th century, ranches allowed visitors from the East Coast and Midwest to escape the crowds of their suburban lives to experience the unique rejuvenation of spirit that ranches had become known for. Ranches quickly became a “home away from home” as returning guests became lifelong friends with the staff and guests. It’s a quality that still exists today, as dude ranch vacations continue to provide that special brand of Western hospitality that nourishes body and soul.
For dude ranches who are members of the Dude Ranchers’ Association, this is an all-inclusive immersive vacation that includes lodging, meals, horseback riding, fishing, hiking and more. With almost 100 members in the DRA, the experience is unique at every ranch with a specialty in horseback riding over unique terrain, cattle work and/or luxury amenities. From small, intimate ranches to large resort-style ranches there is a ranch to fit every budget and dream vacation. Take a look at the sampling of ranches below to get a better understanding of what is a dude ranch.
Snapshot: Lazy L&B Ranch is located in Dubois, WY, nestled in a lush green cottonwood river bottom, surrounded by 80,000 acres of wildlife habitat, high alpine country, desert-painted plateaus, sand wash canyons, and dramatic rugger river gorges.
Capacity: 35 Dates Open: May 31 – September 12
Activities: Lazy L&B Ranch has rides on some of the most diverse terrain imaginable and every ride is completely different. Aside from the riding program, kids love the petting zoo and treehouse. Square dancing in Dubois is a hoot and you’re also welcome to participate in the local rodeo. You can do as much or as little as you want. The folks at the ranch are there to make your vacation what you want it to be!
Snapshot: Located in the heart of cowboy country, the Stagecoach Trails Guest Ranch family is dedicated to providing you with one of the best dude ranch vacations you can find. They create a special, friendly atmosphere where you can get a glimpse into the old west while enjoying the beautiful NW Arizona desert.
Capacity: 42 Dates Open: January 1 – December 31
Activities: Besides horseback riding Stagecoach Trails offers free mountain bikes that you can use to ride out in the desert. You can relax by the swimming pool and hot tub or just soak in the sun on their lounge chairs. For more active folks you can rent one of the ATV’s for a ride out to the gold mines of the bygone days, or head out to the shooting range for some cowboy action shooting with the wranglers.
Snapshot: Once guests drive into the Upper Ruby Valley and see the mountains surrounding Upper Canyon Outfitters & Guest Ranch, it is clear they are about to indulge in a true Montana vacation. You will be greeted with a warm welcome and Western hospitality that will make you feel at home. Their spacious and modern lodge offers guests a panoramic view of the mountains surrounding the lodge through their floor-to-ceiling windows.
Capacity: 24 Dates Open: June 1 – December 1
Activities: Upper Canyon Outfitters & Guest Ranch’s activities can suit any type of outdoor enthusiast. With miles of horseback riding, fly fishing on the beautiful Ruby River, and incredible hiking opportunities, summer days are filled with lots of time outdoors enjoying the great Big Sky. After a busy day of activities, you can relax on the front deck of your cabin while enjoying the natural surroundings.
Snapshot: Family fun abounds at Colorado Trails Ranch located in the beautiful San Juan Mountains just outside of historic Durango, Colorado. With its comprehensive Western riding and children’s programs, plus some of the best fly-fishing in Colorado, the ranch offers and an array of activities for the entire family. The vacation is perfect for both singles and couples as well!
Capacity: 55 Dates Open: June 21 – September 13
Activities: Colorado Trails Guest Ranch’s horseback riding caters to all levels. They offer instruction for beginner to advanced riders. Rides are grouped by ability and type of ride desired with a maximum of 6 riders to a guide. Their fly-fishing program is also for everyone with over two miles of private river nearby plus several stocked ponds. They offer riflery, archery, trap shooting, full children/teen’s programs for three separate age groups, each with their own counselor, plus hiking, swimming, rafting, relaxing and evening programs.
Snapshot: Greenhorn Ranch is located in beautiful Plumas County, “The Friendliest County in California” between the historical towns of Graeagle and Quincy, just 70 miles from the Reno/Tahoe International Airport. The ranch is also just miles from the scenic Feather River Canyon and the most rugged trans-sierra railroad line in California. This is truly a recreational paradise for people who love horseback riding, fishing, swimming, hiking, mountain biking, fresh mountain air, blue skies, spectacular views, starry nights and unconditional relaxation!
Capacity: 60 Dates Open: June 1 – October 31
Activities: Greenhorn Ranch boasts one of the largest activities lists of any dude ranch around. While horseback riding is their main activity, you can also enjoy fishing in one of two fully stocked trout ponds, swimming in the heated pool, dancing, karaoke, horse-drawn wagon rides, rodeo games, archery, skeet shooting, cookouts on the trail, golf at premier local golf courses, and access to some of the most beautiful hiking trails in California.
Want to learn more? Contact the Dude Ranchers’ Association and they will help you find the perfect ranch for your dream vacation! A dude ranch vacation is really the vacation that will keep you coming back!