Gene Kilgore’s Ranch Vacations

Ranch Vacations
The Leading Guide to Guest and Resort, Fly-Fishing, and Cross-Country Skiing Ranches in the United States and Canada, 6th Edition.

Find your best holiday: at a ranch


To many people, holidays are not voyages of discovery, but a ritual of reassurance.

— Phillip Adams


As we slide into November, we find the mood has changed along with the weather. The World Series is over and football is king. The year’s biggest holidays are near, when the kids will be out of school and families gather close again.

As snow dusts the mountaintops, wouldn’t it be wonderful to experience the seasons’ change with the family all around, enjoying the great outdoors? To enjoy those ‘rituals of reassurance’.

Of course, that’s not easy at home, with all the parties, visits by friends and neighbors, and all distractions of the wired world. How can you get young people to unplug and spend time with the family? Well, a quick escape to a dude/guest ranch might be one solution. Worried that you’ll miss the bargains at the mall? Well, if you haven’t started shopping by now, it’s probably too late anyway. (As of Thanksgiving Day, there are only 28 shopping days left before Christmas.) Solution: just get the family one BIG gift this year: time together on a ranch for Thanksgiving or Christmas. We have some suggestions. First, decide whether you want snow or sun, then make a list and check it twice.

Looking for some bragging rights at the office water cooler? Just tell them about your adventure vacation in Argentina (we suggest one below). Or consider a guest ranch set in the frosty beauty of snow country. Ranchweb members include dozens of ranches in snow country. Okay, so some folks would rather come back from their winter holidays with a tan instead of ski goggle marks on their cheeks, and for them the many ranches of Arizona, New Mexico, and southern climes beckon.

We offer some to start your ‘White Christmas’ or your “Sunny Holiday’ list with.

At some ranches, the season is nearing its end, at others, winter brings a renewal of spirit and a whole fresh list of activities, from horse-drawn sleigh rides to snowshoeing and skiing. If you’ve visited your favorite guest ranch only in summer, seeing it under a fresh mantle of snow is like seeing your high school sweetheart all dressed up for the prom—breathtaking.

Whether you seek snow or sun, we urge you to seek out for the widest choices of ranches open in November and December. Click on the Availability button to find out who has rooms available for your preferred week or weekend. We can’t possibly tell you here on the blog about all the ranches that are open each month, but the powerful search tools on can speed your search for the perfect ranch.

This month, we also chatted with Meris Esterly, of the Geronimo Trail Guest Ranch in New Mexico, about what it’s like being new to the ownership of a guest ranch (the Esterly Family just celebrated the sixth year as owners of the Geronimo Trail Guest Ranch). For her, seeing the Land of Enchantment through the eyes of her guests is like seeing the state for the first time all over again. It’s both a voyage of discovery and a ritual of reassurance.

Find the snow


Home Ranch


Home Ranch sits in the Elk River Valley, just beyond Steamboat Springs, Colorado, with the crest of Hahn’s Peak rising majestically in the distance. You’ll find it’s not unlike going back in time to a more idyllic landscape. No condos. No streetlights. Just Colorado as you hoped it would be, and as it once was. Or, as Home Ranch puts it “Big ranches. Blue skies. Real cowboys.”

You’ll find a host of winter fun here when the snow is generally at it’s deepest. Ski or snowshoe (guides and lessons available) on 30 kilometers of groomed trail around the ranch, enjoy backcountry guided trips. At day’s end, relax in a hot tub edged by snow, enjoy sledding or sleigh riding, sit beside a roaring fire, or dine on their famed Rockies cuisine in their renowned dining room.

Details: The Home Ranch (open December through March).offers five-day Christmas ski vacation packages every year, with gourmet holiday dinners and entertainment to match the holiday season. Vacations are all-inclusive. For more, please click here or call Johnny or Selina at 800.688.2982.

Vista Verde Ranch


Also close to Steamboat Springs, and the Steamboat Ski Resort, is Vista Verde Guest Ranch. A winter stay here layers all the benefits of a Colorado winter resort vacation over the relaxed and intimate atmosphere of a ranch vacation. Your first decision: head for the ski resort for fabulous downhill skiing in their champagne powder snow, or stay on site for a full program of activities (included in your stay): cross country skiing, sledding, sleigh rides, snowshoeing, horseback riding.

At Vista Verde, you’ll find there’s plenty of top notch gear available to make your winter activities all the more enjoyable, plus guides and instructors to tailor each experience to your interest and ability.

Staff members come around at mealtimes and you simply tell them what activities you feel like trying next. All you have to do is choose!

Details: Winter Carnival Package- Stay at the ranch during Steamboat’s Winter Carnival (Feb 5-8) and enjoy the ranch’s winter wonderland.  Then they’ll then transport you into Steamboat and set you up with a discounted hotel room for Saturday night so you can watch the street events on Saturday, the night show that evening and then more festivities on Sunday morning in charming Steamboat Springs.  Winter Carnival admission button included.

Valentine’s Day Romance Package-Start your Valentine’s Day off with breakfast in bed, followed by a day of as much outside activity as you desire.  In the afternoon, they’ll treat you to a private sleigh ride complete with hot toddies to keep you toasty warm.  Following that, the chefs will delight your taste buds with their Valentine’s Day aphrodisiac dinner. If evening finds you in the bubbling hot tub under the stars, that’s your call.


Lone Mountain Ranch


“Discover some Montana magic with your family this holiday season,” invites the Lone Mountain Ranch website. The allure is obvious: some 85 kilometers of meticulously groomed Nordic trails and 30km of snowshoe trails; ski and snowshoe rentals; Yoga programs; access to hot tub; entertainment in the ranch saloon and evening programs. Also available: a sleigh ride dinner; on-the-snow gourmet trail lunch (Jan-March);  wine and cheese social. Draft beer and house wine is available by the glass.  And there’s a Children’s program offered during the holidays.

Lodging is in one of 23 cozy log cabins or a room in Ridgetop Lodge. Western artifacts, log furnishings, vintage cowboy prints and patchwork quilts give each cabin a warmth and charm. Meals and snacks are included in most packages-just call to inquire.

Details: Their Downhill Package includes package includes subsidized downhill passes to The Mountain (Big Sky and Moonlight are now one resort), three incredible meals daily, lodging in a log cabin or a room in Ridgetop Lodge, an old fashioned sleigh ride dinner, entertainment in our saloon and evening programs. Call for full details. Can’t stay for a full week? Lone Mountain Ranch offers shorter stays throughout the winter. Transfers to and from the Bozeman, Montana airport, are available.

…or seek winter sun


Stagecoach Trails Guest RanchStagecoach_1

If you can book quickly, you can enjoy one of the best deals around: Stagecoach Trails is offering a 50 percent discount for stays in November.  Set within easy access of gateways like Las Vegas, Phoenix, and the Grand Canyon, Stagecoach Trails Guest Ranch is Arizona’s newest guest ranch.

As owners Dan and Carrie Rynders note, “We have worked hard to create a special, friendly atmosphere where you can get a glimpse into the old west while enjoying the beautiful northwest Arizona desert and all the peace and quiet one could hope for. We invite you to stay with us and be part of our ranch family, even if it is only for a little while.” Sounds like a perfect, stress-free Thanksgiving holiday to us! Details: Open year round except for June 1- July 15. Winter rates start at $120 per night.


Geronimo Trail Guest Ranch

IMG_3355Another small ranch (maximum capacity is 16) in the southwest is Geronimo Trail Guest Ranch. This neat ranch is located on the Geronimo Trail, one of New Mexico’s Scenic Byways. Reachable by good roads, the ranch is four hours from either Albuquerque or El Paso airports, via a journey that will take you through high desert, rolling plains, and cool pine forests.

The Esterly family bought the ranch six years ago this month, and we recently talked with Meris Esterly to tell us what she loves most about being in the industry. “Being part of a guest ranch been great,” she says over our morning cups of coffee. “One of the best parts is meeting people from all over America and the world and showing them our beautiful New Mexico. Seeing it through their eyes, I get a fresh perspective on the ranch life,” she notes.

“Fall on the ranch is a really nice time to visit. It’s great riding weather!” The ranch is open March through Nov.27, this year, and you can snap up end of season deals. “We offer a ten percent discount on the week of Nov 21-27 but we only have one  cabin left for that week,” Meris says, “but we have some cabins available for earlier in the month.” But you have to act fast.

Even next year is starting to book up. “We already have quite a few reservations, so reserve as soon as possible since we’re so small.”

“Our cabins are nestled in the pines; they’re are large but cozy with fireplaces, queen sized beds (and bunk beds), and covered porches,” says Meris. They also boast full bath/shower, sitting area with table and chairs, magazines and books, coffee maker, snacks and a cookie jar filled with homemade goodies. “They are comfortably furnished in a Native American style or a Cowboy motif, and you will have a cabin to yourself – we don’t mix groups.”

Wildlife abounds here in November. You might catch sight of bald eagles or waterfowl that overwinter here, and several bird species migrating south through ranchlands and nearby forests. They’re near the Gila National Forest , and wildlife includes mule and whitetail deer, black bear, Mexican grey wolf, porcupines, bobcats, ringtails, and coatis.

Details: open March through November, so they’re nearing the end of their season this month. Rates: adults $274/night for 3 or 4 night stay, 5-7 nights: $255/night, Children 4-11: $222/night, Non-Riders: $209/night, 7 or more guests: Call, click or email for special group pricing discounts.

Estancia Corralito

Way down South America way, this intimate, 10-guest ranch offers all the best in adventure rides, good horses, and good organic home-cooked meals.

The main building is a Spanish style school house from 1870, now converted into a guest house. Owners say that “Our horses are friendly and responsive, and our tack is good quality.  Rides vary; we sometimes ride into town for drinks, or visit a Serrano family or have a picnic next to a mountain stream. Or you may prefer hiking to observe local fauna and flora, or simply rest, read, sunbathe and enjoy life!”

Details: Open from July to April, this vacation is a plan-ahead experience, so start your research now.


Arizona dude ranch offers new art, photo workshops



“My children are 3rd generation returnees to the Elkhorn Ranch. I cannot say enough how much I and my kids love that place!” That’s the kind of website comment any dude ranch would like to get from its guests.

For Arizona’s Elkhorn Ranch, its the norm. Tucked against the corrugated Baboquivari Mountains southwest of Tucson, Elkhorn Ranch is a traditional family-owned and operated guest ranch offering horseback riding and relaxation for some 32 guests.

Mary Miller, co-owner of the ranch, dropped us a note recently. “We want to let you know that we’ve done a lot of work on our website lately, and hope you’ll take a look!  It is a work in progress, but coming along!”

We think they’ve done digital just right. The new site boasts a clean, attractive design with great photographs and illustrations. When we checked it out we saw a story announcing Field Sketching at Elkhorn Ranch, Spring 2014 run by Ruthann Stoner (see her illustration, above), set for March 30 – April 6, 2014.  And the ranch recently marked the addition of a third workshop focused on Field Sketching with a horse twist.

7_1_jam-e1373393482387Other workshop weeks coming up include one on Digital Photography (led by Stewart Aitchison & Ann Kramer on January 19 – 26, 2014). And an Adventure Vacation and Old Time Jam Workshop (musical inspiration by: Rory MacLeod and Sandol Astrausky; January 5 – 12, 2014).

The Miller Family has owned and operated Elkhorn Ranch continuously since 1946, but that doesn’t mean they can’t change with the times. One guest commented: “We have been going to Elkhorn Ranch for many years, and if you include my parents, children and grandchildren for generations. We like its location at the base of the Baboquivari Mountains, the riding in the mountains or on the desert, the food and accommodations and above all the people.”

Another guest commented,”Spectacular views, universally wonderful people, and great rides for all age groups in the dessert and mountains. The wranglers are genuine and gracious and the rest of the staff is great too.” You can’t buy great advertising like that.

Elkhorn springDetails: the ranch (trail ride shown at right), is open from November 17, 2013 through April 27, 2014. Take a peek at their cool site at to learn more. Credit cards are now welcome at Elkhorn Ranch. For info, call the Millers at 520-822-1040 or go to


Fay Ranches looks at ranch real estate

You can make it happen—the dream of owning your own ranch. But you’ve got to move things beyond the dreaming phase, and you can do it with the help of ranch real estate experts. Recently, we profiled Gregory Fay, partner in Fay Ranches, Inc. Now, with their permission, we’re sharing tidbits from the Fay Ranches blog, just to whet your land-owning appetites.

For an interesting perspective on the ranch real estate market, read on…

An Optimistic Ranch Real Estate Market?

By Mike Fraley on Tue, 02/26/2013 – 2:12pm

With many things in the financial sector and federal government looking uncertain, one thing remains true: “Real estate is and always will be a quality long term investment”. Many ranch brokerage companies have reported record sales for 2012, supporting what appears to be a strengthening real estate market and an inviting time to invest. Interest rates are at all-time lows, and memories of the stock market’s crash are still at the forefront of everyone’s minds, causing many buyer/investors to take advantage of a great buying opportunity, choosing to invest in farm and ranch real estate.

In a recent article in the Billings Gazette, friend and managing broker Greg Fay is cited summarizing the market: “In looking ahead to this year’s market, Fay is cautiously optimistic.” He doesn’t entirely trust the market, although the economy seems more stable. He sees ranch prices as bottomed out, but not yet appreciably rising, making it still a good time to buy. There also could be more ranches for sale if there’s a sense that the market value is increasing. Greg is also quoted as saying, “There are excellent opportunities everywhere right now.”

I personally could not agree more. Along with one of my closest friends, a bank owner and agricultural lender, we are both astounded at how low interest rates are and how long they have remained low. It does not encourage investors to put money into the banks, but the inverse is an excellent borrowing environment. This coupled with a strong agriculture commodities market is bringing many buyers into the ranch market place and encouraging “conservative” farmers and ranchers to expand their operations. There appears to be some longevity to the strong agriculture market and real estate values have stabilized and show glimpses of increasing in value. Both of these factors make it a good time to invest in ranch real estate and enjoy some security in a quality long term investment.

Mike Fraley

Ranch Broker Associate

Mike Fraley and Fay Ranches represent the finest farms, ranches, and sporting properties for sale in the American West. Contact Us today to learn more, and start living the life you deserve.


Do horses get allergies? Find out on Facebook…

If you aren’t following Ranchweb on Facebook, you just don’t know what you’re missing. It ranges from the sublime (lovely photography of horses and other ranch themes) to the silly. Sometimes, you’ll find info that is downright fascinating.

For example, we asked recently on Facebook: Do horses ever get allergies? We got some interesting replies:

Anne R Horstman yes they do. mine was allergic to barkdust.

Denise Longland yup they do… my old horse had asthma.

James Randolph Thomas Jr. Yes, been sneezed on by ranch horses a few times. Must be ragweed or goldenrod.

Sherrie DeFreitas Johnson I had one who had Hives!

Stormy Harbour I worked with a horse that had to take steroids because she was allergic to pretty much everything. I felt so sorry for the poor thing. This fine specien doesn’t seem to have that problem though. Gorgous coat.

Gene Robinson Yep, they sure do. Had a working cow horse once upon a time. But when it came time to work, he wouldn’t. But if not under saddle, he would sure as hell chase ’em.

You can’t make this stuff up, so we don’t even try. We love our Ranchweb Facebook followers and hope you’ll decide to become one!


What to wear at the ranch

Children-riding-at-White-Stallion-RanchTIPS FROM THE RANCHERS

Riding into the mesquite. Fly fishing in a rushing mountain stream. Mountain biking down an alpine slope. Getting a mani-pedi in the spa by the pool. Whether you’re planning a dude ranch vacation that includes lots of lounging or lots of miles in the saddle, you’re going to have to pack accordingly. Yep, a guest ranch vacation is different, and all of those options require a little planning, and we at Ranchweb have talked to lots of ranchers to get the best packing list.

First, understand that you’re going to be outside. A lot.

So know what kind of climate and elevation you’ll find and check (and double check) local weather forecast. Arizona dude ranches can be in mountains or desert (or both). Colorado, Montana and Wyoming ranches are often at high altitudes. At any of these locations the weather can change quickly.

All of which means: layering, hats, and sunblock. If you’re traveling with children, you have to think about protecting their tender skin from sun with long sleeves, hats, and jeans (like the children shown above). Packing is easy if you remember that they’re always casual at the ranch; jeans, khakis, sweaters and wind and rain-proof jackets are all good. But some ranches are more upscale than others, however, and casual there might mean ‘cruise casual’.

For sun, choose a higher-rated sunblock and SPF-rated lip balm; hats are a must as are kerchiefs (especially if you’re riding the last horse in the string). Bring a daypack for those trail daytrips. And sorry, guys, but a ballcap doesn’t offer the protection of a wide-brimmed hat.

If you can bear the added expense, SPF-rated shirts and pants (found at sporting goods stores and even Costco) are worth the price. Choose hand washable and drip dry (if you’re really having fun you’re going to get a little dirty).

For riding, Gene Kilgore has a favorite tip for to a comfy week of riding: wear a pair of panty hose underneath your jeans to prevent chafing. Of course you want well broken-in jeans (pre-washed with fabric softener).

You’ll be on your feet a lot (if you’re having fun outdoors-that’s a given), so broken in hiking boots, tennies,  and for riding, boots with about a ½” heel. Throw in the flip flops for when you want to give your feet a break. Shorts, t-shirts, swimsuit, and extra socks are a must.

Find out what kind of evening activities the ranch offers (you may want some nice slacks/shirt for that square dancing party).

Pack a jacket for sitting out beside the campfire, and don’t forget the just-in-case items: aspirin, Band Aids, bug spray, Pepto, and the like. And if you forget your camera, to record all the precious memories you’re making, you’ll be kicking yourself for years.

But at the end of the day, don’t stress it: a lot of ranches have small gift shops where you can pick up emergency items.

Packing list
Baseball cap or cowboy hat
Camera (and batteries or charger)
Cool looking shades (and a holder to make sure they stay on your face)
Day pack
Flip flops
Heeled boots for riding
Hiking/ walking shoesJacket
Long sleeved shirt (with SPF rating)
Pre-washed jeans
Slacks for evening


Glamour meets camping at Paws Up



The Resort at Paws UP

Take a ‘Safari’ without leaving the States. Remember all those Hemingway Africa stories where, after an adventure amongst the wilds, the tourists would nip into a luxury tent to change for dinner, and then emerge to find a lavish spread complete with fine wines?

That kind of rustic elegance is not hard to find in America—just head for The Resort at Paws Up. Whether you’re looking for a way to ease the youngsters into camping or the great outdoors, or just want something different that will give you a few bragging rights when you return from vacation, glamping at Paws Up is the answer.

First there’s the tent, which looks like something out of Architectural Digest magazine: comfort meets glamour. There’s high-thread-count bedding, electricity, first-class service, luxury amenities, world-class dining. There’s the River Camp, Creekside Camp, Pinnacle Camp, and Moonlight Camp–all with a Camp Chef and Personal Camping Butler to make sure you’ve got everything you could possibly need.


And by June this year, they’ll open  their newest and most luxurious camp yet: Cliffside Camp. Paws Up describes it as “located across Paws Up’s famous covered bridge and atop a soaring cliff that overlooks the confluence of the Blackfoot River and Elk Creek, Cliffside Camp combines luxurious amenities with the Resort’s most stunning views to create the ultimate glamping experience in Montana”.

Set on a sprawling 37,000-acre working cattle ranch in central, western Montana, Paws Up offers 28 vacation homes and 30 glamping tent accommodations in all.


Details: Missoula International Airport is only 35 minutes away. Nightly rates start at $1075 (at the River Camp) and include meals and a mind-boggling list of activities, including guided activities, tons of riding, fun stuff for kids, winter sports, and wilderness workshops. Go fly-fishing in the Bob Marshall Wilderness, or try hiking, boating, or rafting.

For more detail and photos, check out the ranch on


Good deal at a warm Southwest ranch


Tanque_1Cold there? Fly here! says the home page of Arizona’s Tanque Verde Ranch.  You can’t argue with that logic. The Midwest and East Coast are even now gripped in the clutches of various storm systems that— even when the snow stops falling—will leave behind a mess of clogged roads and snow-blocked cars.

So why not plan a Southwest getaway? In March, you might even catch the desert in bloom. Picture it: ocotillo waving their fiery-red blossoms in the breeze, barrel cactus sprouting yellow and scarlet tops, desert verbena spreading a carpet of pink across the sands. And you, not shoveling snow.


Tanque Verde Ranch

This month, there’s a hot deal being offered at Tanque Verde Ranch, where you can “discover the joys of the Sonoran Desert in spring time with a unique vacation”.

Just outside Tucson, the long-established  Tanque Verde boasts Southwestern hospitality along with magnificent mountain and desert terrain. There’s so much to do, you and the kids won’t have time to be bored: tennis (on four courts), a swimming pool and spa, mountain biking, fishing, basketball, volleyball and a nature program (with two full-time naturalists).Tanque_7

But most importantly, there’s an outstanding riding program (with 1- hour, 2- hour, all-day, breakfast, picnic rides and daily riding lessons for all skill levels). The children’s program is highly acclaimed and counselor-supervised (for ages 4-11), featuring tennis, crafts, and nature hikes. Parents can ride with kids within the program.

Food is hearty and high-end (a sample menu might include seared sustainable salmon with white anchovy-arugula salad or hop-braised lamb shank). As they say at Tanque Verde “Besides the three gourmet meals served each day in the dining room, several indoor and outdoor specialty dining events are held each week. These special events include the Old Homestead Breakfast Ride, Mexican Fiesta Night, and the Cottonwood Grove Ranch Barbeque with live entertainment.  Indulge in mouth-watering southwestern cuisine while also taking in the authentic dude ranch atmosphere of Tanque Verde Ranch!”

And at day’s end, when you want some ‘grown-up time’, you can relax at the ranch’s own Dog House–a free standing, full service bar.Tanque_3

Hot deal: “Desert in Bloom” package | March 1-19, April 8-17; Salas – $329* | Casitas – $369* | Haciendas – $399. What’s included: 2 nights southwestern-style accommodations; breakfast and dinner daily; private hike-planning session with experienced hiking staff; scheduled guided hiking excursions in Saguaro National Park; all additional scheduled hiking and nature activities; one sunset horseback ride for each adult; special discounted rates on scheduled mountain biking activities.

NOTE: Package requires a minimum of double-occupancy, and is based on limited availability for new reservations only.  Rates may vary based on room type and dates selected.  Package may not be combined with any other offers or specials and may be discontinued without notice. Not applicable to groups.  Additional per-person rates apply for parties with more than 2 people. Rates subject to AZ state tax.


Ultra ranches, continued


The Lodge & Spa at Brush Creek Ranch

How do you define ultra? Ask the dictionary?

ul·tra [uhl-truh]


1. going beyond what is usual or ordinary; excessive; extreme.

Well, when it comes to ranch resorts, we don’t need a dictionary to define ultra. Just visit The Lodge and Spa at Brush Creek Ranch. Or look at the website description and it’ll get your heart pumping:  “With inspired names like “Grand View” and “Rainbow,” the Wyoming cabins feature stunning views of the sprawling ranch landscape, plush furnishings, refined Western décor and modern amenities for a most luxurious and comforting stay.”


And clearly, the cabins at the Lodge & Spa at Brush Creek Ranch have it all, from sumptuous king beds to cozy bunks, the features in each of the Wyoming log cabins ensure a restful stay for your boutique resort. Nine luxurious Log Cabin Residences, range in size from 2-3 bedrooms and including full kitchens with dining areas, spacious living areas with potbelly stoves or fireplaces, washers/dryers and two bathrooms with tub/shower combos.

But a dude ranch resort is much more than a cabin, no matter how nice that cabin may be. And Brush Creek Ranch brings it. With fly fishing, hunting and shooting, riding, trail adventures (from hiking to biking and Nordic skiing), there is so much to do here. Check out some of the testimonials:

From the moment we arrived at the Lodge we were embraced and warmly introduced to world class service. We went with no expectations and left planning the next few trips back. The setting itself was amazing, hand picked by the owner of the property as his personal & family retreat. The staff were all highly qualified & attentive to our every need. Every morning & throughout every day, the staff would greet us with an accommodating…”so what would you like your day to look like now.”LodgeSpa_5

“It was the best vacation we have had since our honeymoon! While my husband spent his days adventuring around the Ranch snowmobiling, snow shoeing, cross-country skiing and at the shooting range, I spent my time enjoying the spa treatments, yoga and reading by the fire. We would reconnect at 4pm in the Saloon and catch up on each others day. Then we would listen to live music, dance and enjoy and then head out to dinner in the Lodge. The food was second to none. Each meal surpassing the previous in terms of flavor and presentation.”

Details: Season: May 25-October 20; December 21-January 1;Feb 2-March 31. Capacity: 180. 2013 Rates: from $900-$5000 per night, per unit based on standard occupancy and includes: accommodations, on-ranch activities, meals, premium beer, wines, and spirits, plus guides and gear. for more, go to


A day trip ranch in the Bay Area


Near Fairfield, California, Rush Ranch stretches across 2,070 acres of marsh and rolling grassland. For most of its working life, the ranch was operated by the Rush family, and they had great respect for the land. Unlike other landowners next to the Suisun Marsh, the Rush family did not dike or significantly alter the tidal action on their property.

Photo credit: Karen Vittorio.

Photo credit: Karen Vittorio.

Why is that important? Because with most tidal marshes in the United States managed or filled, their decision to leave the marsh to natural tidal ebbs and flows has proven to be an important contribution to tidal marsh science as a premier tidal habitat and in protecting plant and animal species of the marsh.Today, the ranch is owned and managed by the Solano Land Trust, so Rush Ranch is now open space and an important habitat for fish, bird and plant species.

And it’s open to the public, so if you want to get a low-commitment look at an early ranch that’s close to the Bay Area, you might stop by. Whether you’re a child or an adult, a hiker, birdwatcher, biologist, teacher, photographer, poet or painter, or just out for a picnic, this Solano Land Trust jewel will win you over. Within its boundaries are portions of the Suisun Marsh, one of the best examples left of a brackish tidal marsh habitat in the United States.

What’s special about a ‘brackish tidal marsh’? Well, first it is an important habitat for fish, bird and plant species, including many that are threatened and endangered (such as the Delta smelt, California clapper rail, Suisun song sparrow, and the American white pelican). Bird watchers have spotted some 230 different species of birds throughout the marsh and grassland habitats, and plant communities range from spring wildflowers to native bunchgrass and marsh-adapted vegetation.

Bring the family for a daytrip. There’s plenty to see: an historic blacksmith shop, a display of antique farm equipment, native plant garden. Perhaps the most interesting artifact is the visitor center itself–housed in a Sears Roebuck & Co. kit house. Ordered from the Sears catalog by the Rush family in 1932, it was delivered to the ranch on flatbed trucks and “assembled” at the very spot it stands today.

Coming up in April is the 23rd Annual Rush Ranch Open House. On Saturday, April 27 from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. guests can enjoy a celebration of nature, art, music, dancing, and traditional crafts at Rush Ranch.  Family fun activities include guided marsh discovery hikes, live music, square dancing, weaving and spinning, flint knapping, local Native American culture, horse shoeing, blacksmithing, bats, falconry, farm animals, raffle, art show and silent auction, and a children’s art activity station.  Admission is FREE.  For more information call (707) 422-4491 or visit or


In British Columbia, Echo Valley Ranch earns TOP TripAdvisor awards


The Key to TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice awards: Invisible luxury

It’s a new trend in hospitality, luxury you can’t see but certainly feel.  It’s a mix of tangible and intangible, visible and invisible at the same time, a rare quality that has brought repeated awards to Echo Valley Ranch & Spa. Recently, the ranch garnered Tripadvisor’s Travelers’ Choice Awards: #1 Small Hotel and #1 Hotel for Service in all of Canada and they wanted to hear all the details.

It is, in part due to this new trend that this British Columbia guest ranch earned these awards – both Canada wide – by the world’s largest travel site, TripAdvisor. These prestigious distinctions are especially meaningful since they were awarded in the Travelers’ Choice category. Over 180 reviews written by its satisfied guests to date indicate clearly that Echo Valley Ranch is doing something right.

For example, writes a guest, “What I got from my stay was totally different and so much better. If you are fortunate enough to stay at Echo Valley then get yourself ready to be welcomed into a family of inspiring people with a long standing tradition of achieving excellence in everything they do.”

“We call it invisible luxury,” says owner Norm Dove. “Many of the reviews on TripAdvisor and in our own guest book talk about it. It’s difficult to articulate, but I think it’s a combination of things. Of course we have the usual amenities ranging from high-end lodging to an excellent chef, and an emphasis on personal service, but the difference lays in our attitude towards our business. What we do we do naturally. It’s true passion versus compelled smiles. It’s warm caring versus butlers’ etiquette guide.  Whatever it is, the outcome is magical.”

Coming to Echo Valley is truly a vacation from all the artificial aspects of modern life. “We grow much of our own food, every building on the property has been placed in relation to the others, and the views are amazing. But it’s the intangibles that pull everything together.

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We say it is ‘made by nature,’ because it is,” said Dove. “Finding such natural luxury in the midst of remote grandeur literally takes people’s breath away. The intangible immediately becomes felt; the feeling of calmness and serenity can be gauged. It’s uplifting for one’s spirit.”

Echo Valley Ranch & Spa is located in the Cariboo region of British Columbia, at the foot of the Marble Mountain range, about a 40-minute-flight from Vancouver. Guests can enjoy horseback riding, wilderness hikes, a luxury Thai spa, fly-fishing, gold panning and wildlife safaris. Owner Dove says the ranch’s remote location is another draw, but its unique “sense of place” is the key to the extraordinary TripAdvisor guest satisfaction response.

The Dining Difference

Dining becomes an experience at Echo Valley Ranch & Spa as all guests come together to eat “family style” in our main living and dining room. That gives everybody a platform to chat with other guests, Norm & Nan or staff members – it’s the ideal opportunity to share thoughts about the adventures and experiences of the day.

Echo Valley is a Canada ranch that believes in the “eat fresh and eat local” ethos. Consequently, Echo Valley Ranch and Spa grows and produces much of its own food, which our Master Chef turns into a variety of healthy, gourmet meals. The ranch cuisine at Echo Valley Ranch and Spa is just as culturally diverse as its buildings.

Ranch cuisine at this unique Canada ranch will range from western-style BBQ cookouts to wholesome soups, intriguing salads, home-baked breads and many house specialties that change with the season. Special diets are easily accommodated and life-style dishes such as Eat for Your Blood Type are often incorporated into the menu plan. There’s even a specialty Thai Night where authentic Thai dishes sizzle alongside Thai entertainment. Bet this isn’t the ranch cuisine you were expecting on your Canada ranch vacation. And they serve a fine selection of beers and wine.EV 3  imgID198Mid

On the Echo Valley Ranch and Spa grounds, an organic vegetable garden grows a variety of fresh produce such as berries, mushrooms, vegetables and seasonal fruits, and the herb garden is an aromatic pleasure to explore. Check out the vegetables stored in the large root cellar and what’s new in the ranch resort greenhouse before it is prepared into delicious ranch cuisine. In addition to raising its own cattle, pigs, turkeys and chickens right on the ranch, Echo Valley sources other products such as artisan cheeses from nearby farms as well as fresh-caught seafood from Oceanwise suppliers in Vancouver.

East meets West

All therapists are trained by Thailand’s Ministry of Health – that is why the ranch is able to offer very authentic Thai Spa treatments. The western and eastern staff have been working together for so long its a family now. It’s about Thai and Canadian food and Spas with their different treatments. Indeed, their “Baan Thai Spa” is a work of the personal architect of the King of Thailand, Dr. Pinyo Suwankiri. He loved Echo Valley so much that he just wanted it to be there.

And all this is located on a ranch in the Cariboo wilderness. Just another amazing part of the world of members.

Details: Echo Valley Ranch & Spa is open April-October, December, January and can handle 40-50 guests. Set in ‘cowboy country” above the Fraser River in BC’s scenic Cariboo Region, the ranch is one hour west of Clinton, BC and a scenic 5.5 hour drive north of Vancouver. Minimum two night stay, rates start at $210 per night.