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What To Consider When Taking a Dude Ranch Vacation

Since every ranch is a direct reflection of the family operating it, there are no two dude ranches alike. For our first time guests, we’ve created a list of basic questions. We encourage you to visit the ranch web sites and The Dude Ranchers’ Association web site  For guest comments, try looking the ranch up on or a similar web site. Call or e-mail the ranches that you are interested in and ask them to help you. If they don’t offer everything you’re looking for, they will recommend a ranch that does. Association dude ranches work together in a spirit of cooperation to insure that your next vacation is your best vacation, a ranch vacation!

How do we get there? When making your reservations, discuss your travel plans with the ranch. They will gladly advise you. Most guests travel by commercial airlines and have the ranch pick them up at the nearest airport. Ranches are frequently located near regional airports which accommodate private aircraft. For those of you within reasonable distances or wishing to explore more of the West, driving is always an option. (Although, you won’t use your car once you get there.)

Where are most ranches located? Member ranches are located in the following 12 Western states and 2 Canadian provinces: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oregon, South Dakota, Washington, Wyoming, Alberta and British Columbia, Canada.

Who takes ranch vacations? People from all walks of life enjoy ranch vacations. Because they are a family -oriented, intimate environment, they are perfect for people traveling alone. Staff and guests are quick to include you as part of the group. Families enjoy ranch vacations for the wholesome environment which fosters quality time and valuable learning experiences. Children experience an amazing sense of freedom on a ranch. It’s a safe haven where the only people they will come in contact with are staff and guests. Active adults enjoy ranch vacations for all the outdoor activities and the unique socializing. Many ranch guests form lasting friendships and plan their vacations together. The love of horses and the wilderness brings people together from all over the world, to create a unique and diverse group of friends.

Are there ever discounted or special rates? Dude ranches are similar to hotels and resorts in the sense that they have busy periods and quiet times. It is quite possible that you will receive a discounted or special rate if you are traveling during a slow period. If you have some flexibility in your travel plans, be sure to ask the ranch for details. You will often see their “specials” highlighted on their web sites.

When should we make our reservations? Ranches enjoy a large percent of returning guests each year, but you should be able to make your reservations in the same time-frame as any other vacation. Just remember that ranches are small, (compared to most hotels and resorts) and you will want to choose a busy or a quiet time based on your expectations. School vacation periods are typically busy – perfect if you’re traveling with children. For more of an “Adults Only” experience, just ask the ranch to recommend a quiet time, or inquire about special programs for adults.

When are they open? You can plan a ranch vacation any time of the year. You’ll find the southern ranches are most popular in the winter months and the northern ranches are the most popular in the summer months – some ranches are open year round and some seasonal ranches offer special holiday activities.

What are the rates and what is included? The “all inclusive rate” concept originated at Dude Ranches. Rooms, meals and activities have been included in the rate since the late 1800’s. Typical Full American Plan rates are inclusive of food and lodging. With the exception of one or two ranches, the riding program is included as well. You may find extra charges for riding lessons, alcoholic beverages, airport transfers, river rafting, pack trips and cattle drives. But, for the most part, you will find that your rate includes a full day of activities as well as your meals and lodging. Ranch vacations are a great value and make it easy to stay within a budget. Because of the high ratio of staff to guests, a gratuity is usually added to the final bill and distributed to all employees. Rate cards for all ranches clearly state what is included and any additional charges that may apply.