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.

Profile: Tim Singewald of DC Bar Guest Ranch

Tim Singewald didn’t start out life on a guest ranch, but it was his lifetime goal to own and run one. And he made it. Today, he’s owns and runs BRIDGER WILDERNESS OUTFITTERS/DC BAR GUEST RANCH in Pinedale, Wyoming. But his path to ranching was circuitous, involving pre-med studies, working in the Arctic, and finally working in the city, as a vice president in banking. pic11

“It was my goal to retire at age 30 and move to the woods,” says Singewald. “I was making good money in the city, with the country club membership and all, but I gave it up to live and work on a ranch.” That was 27 years ago, and he wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. But it hasn’t always been easy.

“The first year in the guest ranch business,” he remembers with a laugh,”I took no salary–the ranch needed every penny.”

“We grew up on Gene Autry, Roy Rogers and a variety of TV westerns where the cowboy way of life was always in front of people,” notes Singewald. “We learned from them how to treat your friends, how to tell the truth.” And to want to visit a dude ranch.

But today’s young people don’t really “get” what a guest ranch is, he feels. “I have found that the majority of the population have no idea what a Guest Ranch or a Dude Ranch is. A better way to describe it [a guest ranch] to today’s younger travelers might be to call it an adventure ranch or learning ranch.”

“I’d call it American Eco-adventures,” Singewald contends. “And to compete in today’s market, we have developed a lot of programs that teach a whole variety of outdoor skills—how to find edible plants, pack a backpack, catch a fish, build a survival shelter.

Indeed, visitors can find plenty of experiental learning on a ranch, and so many travelers are looking for that. “Ranchers might learn to explain to the public: you don’t just have a great time at a ranch; you learn something while you’re doing it: Have fun, learn new skills, and spend your vacation dollars at home,” he suggests.

Still, Singewald is optimistic; “as an elk hunter, I’m the definition of an optimist,” he explains. “…We chase one of the most elusive, majestic creatures on the continent, hoping that through some miracle it will all come together.  My goodness – it’s amazing how it all works out sometimes.  We’ve learned to keep working and work hard and things work out.”

Details: BRIDGER WILDERNESS OUTFITTERS/DC BAR GUEST RANCH has Two trophy class fishing rivers in the valley, scenery, adventure, horses, fishing, hunting, family guest ranch activities, beaver pond full of trout and overnight pack trips. For more information, click on BRIDGER WILDERNESS OUTFITTERS/DC BAR GUEST RANCH, or click/go to


5 reasons Americans need a dude ranch vacation NOW: Adventure and romance

19590022Romance, adventure, and tradition. That’s how the guest ranch (aka dude ranch) got its start—as an entry into the West we dream about, and the way of the cowboy.  As Tim Singewald, at Wyoming’s DC Bar Guest Ranch and Bridger Wilderness Outfitters reminded us, yesterday’s kids saw Roy Rogers, John Wayne, and even Spin and Marty (Disney’s cool ’50s teen cowboys) on television daily—every little boy in America wanted to be a cowboy.  Yet that image of the cowboy is missing from TV today and some of today’s kids don’t quite ‘get’ what’s so thrilling about being on a ranch and playing cowboy for a week. Or just playing in the great—really wild—outdoors.

“Many city kids don’t really know what a dude ranch is—and how much fun it is,” Tim says. “They think of a ranch vacation as rocking on a porch and looking out at the sunset” and they think: BORING. Or they think a guest ranch is only for an accomplished rider. So not true. “They don’t realize there’s so much action and adventure here, and so much to try: Learn to fly fish, learn to ride a horse, learn how to camp outdoors, learn to watch (or track) animals,” Tim notes. And at some ranches, the list goes on to include learning to rope a calf, raft a river, shoot a bow and arrow, pilot a canoe, mountain bike ride, take photographs, try new yoga postures, and maybe even learn to be a little stronger, healthier, and more fit.

And the old view of a ranch is, well, so five minutes ago. Now you can find a ranch with a candlelight dining rooms, even golf courses and spas and fitness centers where the ‘rents (parents, in kid lingo) can learn a few handy  things, too, like tips on handling stress back in the real world. At places like Lost Creek Ranch, classes on yoga, hiking, and cooking are a part of packages offered regularly. At California’s Highland Ranch, you can learn clay pigeon shooting, take a yoga class, or brush up on your musical skills (the parlor piano is always in tune). Many ranches have Internet hookups for guest use, so you’re never that far out of touch.

But the timeless thrill and romance? Well, it’s still here, in the horses galloping through the pastures (with you in the saddle), the froth of whitewater on an untamed river (with you paddling the raft),  and the tangerine glow of a campfire (reflected in your kids’ shining faces). And the adventures a child and the kid in all of us adults can have in the open air. Good times.

Right now, we’re all feeling the pull of nostalgia, the remembrance of easier, better, more honest times. What easier way to recapture, no, to LIVE those good times than to go off and play cowboy for a while? Take the plunge. Jump on that horse (or into that river raft). Make a new tradition for your own family, by following the traditions of America’s guest ranches and the romance of the cowboy way. Along the way, you’ll find romance, action, and adventure you never dreamed possible in this age of cold computers and blaring iPods. Thanks for the reminder, Tim.

Editor’s note: This is the third in a series, 5 reasons Americans need a dude ranch vacation NOW, a part of  the ongoing “Discover Ranch Vacations Campaign”.


New destination for a reunion: a dude ranch

Photo courtesy: Lost Creek

Photo courtesy: Lost Creek

Family reunion groups are discovering that a dude ranch is the perfect host for their unique gatherings. Consider the advantages: a dude ranch is by its nature warmly welcoming and family-friendly, so you’ve set the right tone immediately.

Everything is taken care of, so no need to worry about catering and setting up activities. And you’ve got a getaway with a single price (no annoying add-ons), so every member of the group can plan ahead.

And the setting and scenery are always something family reunion memories are made of. “We’ve come to look forward to such groups for certain weeks in the season,” says Mike at the Lost Creek Ranch.  “Typically we offer incentives for large bookings and encourage very large groups to book the entire ranch.  This allows us to cater to their specific needs/wants.”

Set near Jackson Hole, Wyoming, the ranch offers great rates in low season (May 31 – June 14 and August 30 – September 6).

A guest ranch is an ideal solution for such gatherings, with both indoor and outdoor options for your family meetings, whether it be in the great room in the ranch house or a conference room in the bunk-house. Look for a ranch that can accommodate groups.

More ranches to consider for family reunions: Angel Ridge Ranch, near Ridgeway and Ouray, in Colorado. And check the Lodge at Sun Ranch (formerly Papoose Creek) in Cameron, Montana.


TODAY goes to a dude ranch

Like Willie Nelson, the TODAY hosts are going “on the road again.” And they’re going to a dude ranch (we’re just not sure which one).

Matt Lauer, Meredith Vieira, Al Roker and Ann Curry will pack their bags and head to some of America’s most beautiful destinations on “TODAY Takes a Vacation”, a five-day series, begining Monday, May 4. “Kicking off our TODAY family getaway, we’ll be live in San Antonio, Texas,” Vieira said on the show Thursday. “We’ll spend some time at the oldest working dude ranch and, of course, we’ll remember the Alamo.”

We’re sure that when their fans see the show they (and America) will get the idea that a dude ranch is the perfect vacation for them.


Why choose an historic ranch

The West’s historic dude ranches are unique. They tap into years of tradition and often, storied tales of pioneering the West. Recently, we talked about some of Montana’s historic ranchespic1.  As a result of our story, Kelly Kelsy, from Nine Quarter Circle Ranch in Montana, wrote to tell us more about her historic ranch.
Set in Gallatin Gateway, the Nine Quarter Circle Ranch sits in the high country of the Montana Rockies. At 7,000 feet in elevation, surrounded by national forests containing a million acres of primitive wilderness, the ranch offers a variety of riding and unspoiled trout waters. The ranch history dates back to the 1800’s, when it was first homesteaded; Indians once ran elk herds here, Jim Bridger rode after buffalo, and Chief Joseph passed near here on his retreat to Canada.

Kelly offered up more reasons guests may choose an historic ranch. “Often, their family has been going to the same ranch for many years and they want to continue to do so,” says Kelly. “New guests may come to an historic ranch they want to get away from the hustle of their busy lives and get back to basics— as they certainly can at our ranch.”

Tradition is a vital part of the appeal of ranches like the Nine Quarter Circle. Kelly tells us theirs is one of the true traditional ranches and that many guests love coming back simply because the know things haven’t changed since the ‘50’s. “I think that is the thing they love most about us—we don’t change and take on all the latest “needs” that people think they want.”

What else the guests love: spending time with their family; “having real quality time, not superficial time”. And the time to make those memories that last a lifetime.  “We are seeing fourth-generation families coming back year after year,” she adds. “Many of the families that met here are now friends in their personal lives and have become involved with all the joys and sadness that comes with those friendships.” Those relationships are the kind that take time to build. And it helps to know the ranch will be there, when you’re ready to reconnect, just as it has been for decades.
More historic ranches: In Wickenburg, Arizona, the Kay El Bar Ranch has been operating since 1926, and is on the National Register of Historic Places.  And in California, the Hunewill Circle H Ranch has attracted guests since the 1930s and ranching since the 1860s. Now that’s historic!


5 reasons Americans need a dude ranch vacation NOW: family time

19590030Family time.

It sounds so simple to find, yet it can be more elusive than you think—even on some vacations. Well, quality time with the kids is all about balance. You want to be together—except when you want alone time, adult time, or just-kids time. It’s hard to find a vacation that makes all of that possible, until you think about a dude ranch.

How do you make sure you choose a ranch that will foster family time? Pick a ranch that caters to families with kids, and with select “youth activity leaders” designed to guide children into fun activities; then, you don’t even have to think twice about what the kids are up to all day. Or you can be with ‘em every minute: it’s up to you how you schedule things.

Either way, the end result is a happy child, relaxed parents, and good times spent together.

But first, take time to research your ranch destination. Not all ranches focus on families and children. Research, read, and talk to the ranch owners or past guests. At Colorado‘s  Lost Valley Ranch, owner Bob Foster says, “The number one thing we spend time on is finding young “supes” or supervisors who really enjoy being around kids and teens.” He adds, “Trying to find young people as supervisors who have a passion—that’s the key.”

Foster, with years in the business, has learned that kids don’t want to be pushed into ‘programs’, they want freedom. “But we guide them into fun things to do,” Foster notes. “It takes more time and staff to do it that way, but returning guests come back to Lost Valley Ranch because of our kids and teen programs.”

At California‘s Rankin Ranch, the counselors prepare activities daily, ranging from riding and nature walks, to treasure hunts, talent shows, and toy boat building   to learning about the area’s Piute Indians (and making Indian crafts). In any spare time, most kids enjoy feeding the calves and chickens skittering about on Sarah’s Farm area.

Don’t forget to think outside the box—or even outside the West. At New York’s Rocking Horse Dude Ranch Resort, there’s an outstanding children’s program and day camp (optional babysitting nursery available), plus a giant Fort Wilderness playground and pony rides.

So look for a ranch where they hand pick all their potential staffers, as Foster does, and then ask detailed questions about the kids’ programs. And don’t forget to ask your own children what they want in a ranch vacation. Oh, and, it’s okay to tell the kids what you’re looking for out of this vacation. After all, it’s okay for “the ‘rents” to have fun, too.

Seeing your children react to a new setting—with animals, in the outdoors— is bound to bring out a whole different side to them. And letting them see you —relaxed, happy, away from daily routines, and not in ‘parent mode” for a change—can only help your relationship.

Sitting next to your kids by a campfire at night singing songs, riding with them on the trail, or just gathering over chow at the end of a happy day; now that’s quality family time.

Editor’s note: This is Part 2 of a 5-part series running on consecutive Mondays: Americans need a dude ranch vacation NOW!


Ranch vacation bargains: spring specials

Shoulder seasons are always a good time to troll for travel bargainslone-mt-fly-fishing. And for a dude ranch vacation, this spring brings a saddlebag full of great deals.  Here are a few 2009 ‘Spring specials’; for more, go to the www.ranchweb home page and click on the Bargains link.

Lone Mountain Ranch, Montana: Spring Fly Fishing specials

Set the hook for great fishing at a 15% discount. Get an early start on the Montana fishing season at Lone Mountain Ranch, set amidst Southwest Montana‘s famed Blue Ribbon trout streams. They’re just four miles from the Gallatin River; their Orvis Endorsed Guides usually access the Madison and Yellowstone rivers in a dory style drift boat (seen at right).
The deal: Spring Fly Fishing specials; June 14, 2009 to Jun 20, 2009
The 6 night/5 days of fly fishing package is $2700/person (based on double occupancy in a small cabin) and includes 6 nights lodging, 5 days guided fishing, 3 meals daily, fishing license, flies and shuttle to and from the airport in Bozeman, Mt.      The 4 night/3 days of fly fishing package is $1740 per person ( based on double occupancy in a small cabin) and includes 4 nights lodging, 3 days guided fishing, 3 meals daily, fishing license, flies and shuttle to and from the airport in Bozeman, MT. The savings: 15% off.

Contact: when you call, be sure to mention “Ranchweb Travel Bargains”. 800/514-4644 or 800/ 514-4644 or click here.

More spring deals:

Rancho De La Osa Guest Ranch; Tucson Arizona. Deal: Spring 2009 Getaway Special – 5th Night Free- 20% Discount (approx). Details: Book four nights and get the fifth night free at Rancho De La Osa from April 1st through May 31st. You’ll find warm, sunny days and the desert in bloom! Offer is valid only for reservations booked directly with the ranch and no other discounts or promotions apply. Please mention RanchWeb to receive a complimentary upgrade to one of our Deluxe rooms. Contact: 800/872 6240 or 520/823 4257 or click here.

Red Horse Mountain Ranch; Idaho. Deal: 2009 Spring Weekend Getaways. Details: Good March 29, 2009 to Apr 26, 2009. Getaway to cozy accommodations in guest cabins and lodge suites, hot tubs, and home cooked breakfast, lunch, and dinner. On Friday night, enjoy a candlelight dinner and a cowboy poet/songwriter playing guitar by the main lodge fireplace. Saturday night brings a 7-course dinner featuring a variable select wine assortment and champagne. When you call, be sure to mention “Ranchweb Travel Bargains”. Contact: 888/689-9680 or 208/689-9680 or click here.

Stagecoach Trails Guest Ranch; 140 miles from Las Vegas, NV – 220 miles from The Grand Canyon and Phoenix, AZ. Deal: 2009 Spring Getaway Special. Details: Three-Night Special on stays between April 27-May 3, 2009; $399 single occupancy $329 per person double occupancy $299 per child age 4-11 represents about a 30% savings. When you call, be sure to mention “Ranchweb Travel Bargains”. Contact: 866/444-4471 or 928/727-8270.


Wedding at a ranch: Sylvan Dale

sylvan-dale-wedding-j-pondAfter last week’s story on Wedding at the ranch, we told you how, for prospective brides (and their mums), planning a wedding doesn’t get much simpler than choosing to hold it at a dude ranch. “No need to book a separate chapel, hire a caterer, or find a baker for that pesky cake. They can cover all of that for you, and lodge your out-of-town guests, to boot… ”

Well, that generated a nice note from Mary Bahus-Meyer at Colorado‘s Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch about their wedding packages. Mary told us about Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch’s romantic location—in a scenic spot in the Colorado Rocky Mountain foothills, just 7 miles west of Loveland, and an easy hour drive from Denver (DIA).

And if you’re looking for a memorable Rocky Mountain site for your wedding, consider Sylvan Dale. It’s aptly named, with wide open spaces, tranquil ponds and lakes, and the Big Thompson River flowing through the 3,200-acre property. They’re open year-round for weddings, and the most popular dates are (‘natch) May through mid-October because “brides like to be married outdoors in our scenic setting”.  They can accommodate 50-180 guests.

The ranch’s wedding coordinator, Sue Bennett,  notes that”Brides like that they can have their rehearsal dinner, wedding, lodging, and other activities all here at the ranch—they don’t have to drive anywhere.”

And since Sue was looking out at a view of a glorious mountain ridge, with the trees just starting to bud, she added “And of course, there’s the natural beauty.”

But what about hearing from a bride who had her event there? A recent testimonial read: “Thank you so much for everything you did to make our wedding day so special. It was wonderful to have everything taken care of so beautifully. You really helped us enjoy the day without any stress. The food was delicious and the service was wonderful. We are so happy that we chose to have our wedding at Sylvan dale. It was a perfect day. Thanks again, Teresa & Bud.”

Mary tells us that ceremonies can be held in the Jessup Lodge (indoor or outdoor options); a two-story building with a dining room on the lower level, fireplaces, antique furniture and western charm. Reception facilities on the upper level overlook the twisting Big Thompson River. Another option: The Heritage reception room is a warm and charming spot, with dramatic stone fireplace, log trusses, oak flooring, a covered wood porch, and an adjoining game room.

Outside, the Daddy J Pavilion is a third choice; a 30′ by 60′ covered pavilion tucked into the bend of the Big Thompson River, for a casual, intimate gathering or a grand affair. The adjacent   ceremony site is beautifully landscaped with an expansive lawn, and edged by wildflowers and aspen trees.

Generally, all packages include: one-hour rehearsal, ceremony and reception sites, ceremony chairs, tables for guestbook, programs, unity candle, music, gifts, cake, bridal party, guests, buffet, and bar, white linens, tableware, glassware, napkins, dinner menu, non-alcoholic beverages, fresh fruit, cheese, and crackers, champagne and sparkling cider toast, cake-cutting services, wait staff and bartenders. Contact: Sue Bennett – wedding coordinator – 970/667-3915 x. 11. E-mail: And please, tell ‘em the Ranchweb blog sent you!

PHOTO COURTESY: Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch


5 reasons America needs a dude ranch vacation

Part one: Stress relief

Let’s face it, stress is a fact of life these days. And we all know how bad it can be for your overall health to let stress get to you. Heart problems, weight gain, insomnia—all have been linked to stress. And now they’re telling us, stress can even affect kids. Yikes!

So you make a to-do list, try to stay cheerful, eat right, exercise, and not let the pressures of parenting overwhelm you. But sometimes you need to break the whole unhealthy cycle with something bold. So do something really proactive, like take the whole family on the kind of trip where you’re all sure to leave your worries behind: a dude ranch vacation.

“There’s nothing better for the inside of a man than the outside of a horse.”  Former President Ronald Reagan said it often, although the quote has also been attributed to Winston Churchill. No matter who said it first—these guys have a good point.

Yep, just get out of Dodge (or San Francisco, LA, or New York) and into the saddle. Step into a place where healthy doses of exercise and good food are all part of the package. And just take in a lungful of all that clean, pine or sage-scented air and sip that good, clean water. If cities could bottle that air, they would have tried a long time ago.

One you’ve booked the ranch and gotten yourself there, that’s just about the last of your worries. You step onto the property, you pretty much are in their hands for the rest of the week.  And that means your only cares are what to have for breakfast and which activity to jump into.

The silence out on a remote ranch—especially at night— can take a bit of getting used to. Yeah, right—about a minute. Then you might realize what’s been keeping you up at night back home (all that ambient city noise, or maybe the neighbor with the barking dog).

That’s the thing about a dude ranch vacation. Out here, you have time again. You can do a lot, or a little. Ride, fish, hike your buns off, or just laze in a hammock with a good book and the cheery call of a meadowlark piercing the silence. Either way, you just might get the best night’s sleep of your life out here on a ranch. And stress? It’ll just be yesterday’s nightmare.

Editor’s note: Check in every Monday for the rest of the series: 5 reasons America needs a dude ranch vacation…now!


Wedding at the ranch

Simplify, simplify, said Thoreau, and it’s not bad advice, especially when planning a wedding.   And for prospective brides (and their mums), planning a wedding doesn’t get much simpler than choosing to hold it at a dude ranch.double-d-wedding

I know, it’s thinking waay outside the box. But consider: by choosing a ranch, you instantly simplify your life. No need to book a separate chapel, hire a caterer, or find a baker for that pesky cake. They can cover all of that for you, and lodge your out-of-town guests to boot!

Take the Diamond D Ranch, outside Stanley, Idaho. Weddings have become increasingly popular  here since a chapel (at left) opened its doors here in 1997. “It is a truly unique experience to be married in God’s country, deep in the Frank Church Wilderness,” says rancher Linda Demorest. It took 11 summers to complete the intimate and unique chapel, which they built rock by rock. Demorest is also a minister and performs many weddings inside the structure, which overlooks Loon Creek. Others have chosen to be married out near the lake, in the gazebo, or even the spacious front lawn.

Diamond D Ranch wedding packages include a minister, accommodations (yes, there’s a honeymoon suite), use of all facilities, all activities- including horseback riding-and a fully catered gourmet menu (typically, a variety of appetizers, dinner, and next day’s brunch). Of course, set up and take down of all wedding  decor, flowers, tables, and such is included.  A wedding cake can be provided, and beer and wine can be served (an additional cost).

The chapel has hosted weddings of up to 150 guests. Notes Linda, “While we only have overnight arrangements for 35-40 guests at a time, there are lovely campsites along the river where many wedding guests have pitched a tent in the past.”

Beautiful, unique, and above all simple. What more could any bride want for her wedding?

More ranches with wedding packages: Try Colorado’s Sylvan Dale Ranch, just one hour’s drive from Denver or Rocky Mountain National Park; we’ll write more about Sylvan Dale’s wedding packages next week. And if you’re looking for a southwest setting for the nuptuals, check out Tanque Verde Guest Ranch outside Tucson.