Retired horses grazing in a field

Choosing the Best Ranch

“How in the world do I choose a ranch? There are hundreds to choose from!” The answer is simple; choose one of the 90+ member ranches of the Dude Ranchers’ Association (DRA).

The DRA has dude ranch experts in the West to help you find the perfect ranch to fit your needs and wants. There are usually four main questions these experts ask to help narrow down the list for each traveler. Keep reading to learn how to choose the best dude ranch for your next vacation!

How do you go about choosing a ranch to match your dreams?

1. What time of year are you wanting to visit a dude ranch?

Typically, the ranches in the northern states and Canada are the busiest in the summer months, while the southern ranches offer warm weather riding in the fall, winter, and spring months.

2. Where do you want to go geographically?

Dude ranches are not in the middle of the suburbs of Denver, CO or Phoenix, AZ. You will want to keep in mind travel distances as well as major and regional airport locations. Be sure to take into consideration your travel plans when deciding where to go geographically.

3. What activities are most important to the group you are traveling with?

There are many different activities offered at dude ranches. Scroll through the list on our activities page to give you an idea of what these ranches have to offer. If you are looking to host a special event like a wedding or family reunion, dude ranches are a great location! Many ranches also offer adult-only weeks.

4. What kind of atmosphere and accommodations are you looking for?

Dude ranch atmospheres range from rustic to luxurious and everything in between, but they are always extremely clean and comfortable. Some guests want TVs, hot tubs, a daily massage, and wireless Internet. Others want to be far away from cell service, fix fence, and tend to the cattle. The DRA’s member ranches can be grouped into three categories to help you decide on the atmosphere you want:

  • Working Cattle Ranch
    These are true working cattle operations. Your horseback riding adventures will be determined by the ranch’s livestock and the work related to them. Working ranches provide an atmosphere that allows guests to live the like the cowboys do, but don’t worry, they still offer great meals, comfortable, rustic accommodations, and the friendliest service in the West!
  • Traditional Dude Ranch
    Horseback riding is central to these ranches. You will experience Western riding and a variety of outdoor activities. Known for their family-friendly atmosphere and home-like feel, these ranches are perfect for all types of travelers: multigenerational family reunions, couples, solo travelers, and even corporate events. There is something for everyone!
  • Luxury Dude Ranch
    Horseback riding is featured along with an array of diverse activities and onsite facilities. These are apt to be the larger ranches with added luxuries like spa services, massages, high-end accommodations, and gourmet food. The perfect mix of Western flair and luxury comfort!

5. Ranch size and capacity

A stay at a ranch with only 8 guests is a dramatically different experience than choosing a ranch that hosts 50 or even 100+ guests. While people are usually spread out across the ranch, the difference is most noticeable in the dining and social experiences. Do you want something more intimate or a chance to meet and mingle with other visitors?

With over 90 unique ranches in the association, we have one to match your dreams. As you narrow your choices to a couple of ranches, call and explain to them what’s most important to you – they’ll help you make the best choice! If you are struggling to narrow the list, the folks at the Dude Ranchers’ Association are always happy to help and can be contacted at info@duderanch.org or 307-587-2339. Above all, choose a Dude Ranchers’ Association member ranch when choosing a vacation and ride the West with the best!

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