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.

Expert tips on family-friendly horse holidays

sundancelodgeRanchweb and our own Gene Kilgore were featured recently in Canadian Living’s blog titled “Travel Talk: Family-friendly horse holidays” written by Doug O’Neill. The story included so many good tips on choosing the right riding or ranch vacation that we decided to pass it along.
Here’s what O’Neill had to tell his readers:

“Gene Kilgore, author of Ranch Vacations, is the go-to guy for the scoop on horseriding holidays, guest ranches, dude ranches and working ranches whether you’re holidaying in Canada, going to the United States or even further afield.

Gene is the equine-savvy expert who has provided all the horse sense (pun intended) behind, which functions almost like a mini portal for all things related to horse-friendly vacations, and endeavours to match customers to the ranch or horseriding holiday that best suits their tastes.

We asked Gene a handful of questions sent in by our readers:

Reader question: How do I know it’s a bonafide, legit ranch? How do I check? What do I look for? Is there any kind of criteria to be met?

Gene Kilgore: If you’ve never taken a ranch vacation before, or if you need some guidance on where to start, we offer a handy check list of questions to help make the process easier. We suggest that people pose these questions to the individual properties, to gather more specifics on the activities and programs they offer.

A great way to find quality ranches is to see if they’re members of any associations. For example, many of Ranchweb’s British Columbia properties are also part of the BC Guest Ranchers’ Association whose members offer excellent horseback riding, a wide range of activities, and high quality accommodations and amenities.

Reader Question. “If my wife and I and the kids book into a ranch vacation for a week, what happens if we get bored or tired of horses after three days?”

Gene Kilgore: There are lots of activities available at most ranches for families that go above and beyond horseback riding. For parents worried about keeping their kids entertained, many ranches offer kids programs where their children can play, have fun with other kids, learn about nature, and enjoy the outdoors.

Some ranches have very extensive programs led by counselors that run from breakfast until after dinner, while others are designed to bring families together and integrate several activities and meals. If your family is keen to experience a range of activities during their vacation beyond horseback riding you’ll want to scope out each ranch’s offerings prior to booking.

Reader question: For the best scenery in Canada, what ranch vacation spots would you recommend?

Gene Kilgore: All of the Canadian ranches are incredibly picturesque, in my opinion. Think sweeping meadows, rolling hills, and incredible stargazing thanks to the clean country air. Many of the guest ranches in British Columbia can be found in the heart of Cariboo Country, in the interior of the province.

Echo-Valley-Ranch--SpaRanches such as Echo Valley Ranch & Spa, in Clinton, B.C., Siwash Lake Ranch, set on 80,000 acres of pristine rangeland halfway between the Rocky Mountains and the West Coast of British Columbia, Three Bars Cattle & Guest Ranch, in Cranbrook, British Columbia, and Tod Mountain Ranch, in the southern interior of British Columbia, all offer peaceful and lush wilderness vacations.

Reader question: I like horse ranches and swimming. Could you recommend a ranch vacation in Canada where I could get time on a horse but also escape to a each every couple of days?

Gene Kilgore: If you’re a horse-lover who’s looking to stay close to the ocean, I suggest heading to Clayoquot Wilderness Resort, Tofino, Vancouver Island. There you can spend time in Clayoquot Sound World Biosphere on the western most edge of Vancouver Island, and on the one day you can go horse-back riding and whale-watching – and take a dip in the water.

Reader question: What wilderness camp would you recommend in Canada?

Gene Kilgore: Warner Guiding and Outfitting, shown below, is based in Banff, Alberta, and specializes in horseback riding in backcountry, deep into Banff National Park. Your companions will be seasoned cowboys who know horses and know the land.allenby-pass

Details: To search the detailed ranch directory to find the horse vacation to meet your wishlist, check out the Ranchweb directory.


A Roundup: Rx for stressed-out doctors and lawyers

Ask any doctor, lawyer, or other high-powered professional how they choose to relax from their challenging work and chances are they’ll opt for something physically demanding that they can do out in the fresh air. And if the activity is unique, all the better.


In that case, the best medicine for doctors or lawyers just might be a ranch vacation with a cattle drive thrown in. Call it our roundup Rx.

But unless you’re tough as Clint Eastwood, you may want to join a cattle drive that offers some comforts, like good food and outstanding scenery. to the rescue!

What does a dude wear to his/her first roundup? Good riding boots, well-worn (soft) jeans, and layers that include a rain jacket or poncho. DO bring a ‘stampede string’ or chin strap for your wide-brimmed hat. Ask what else to bring when you book your drive; some outfits will rent or sell chaps and chinks. Ask about weather and trail conditions, how long you’ll be riding each day, and so forth. What NOT to bring:  No sneakers or spurs, please.

The Hideout Lodge & Guest Ranch

Just east of Cody and Yellowstone National Park is an upscale riding, horsemanship and working cattle guest ranch called The Hideout Lodge & Guest Ranch (pictured above). And while there are tons of recreational activities to choose from, cattle work is their signature activity.

And it’s not just laid on for the entertainment of ranch guests. Here, with more than a thousand cows, calves, and yearlings wandering across some 250,000 acres, cattle work is genuine and necessary work that guests can help with.

“Our key staff is trained in the Bud Williams Low Stress Stockmanship concept of handling livestock,” says ranch literature. “During your orientation on Monday morning you will learn the basic concepts.  We can also organize a 1 day session during your stay given there are enough participants.”

Details: Ride into crisp fall mornings against a backdrop of aspen trees changing colors.  Mid September through October is roundup time in the high country around the Hideout. Look for elk and wildlife moving down from the high country while you round up the calves and drive them back down to the valley basin. But note: “Cattle work hinges on range conditions and weather; we are seldom able to say in advance exactly when we’ll do a long distance drive.” To stay tuned, visit:

Bitterroot Dude Ranch

Spend all day in the saddle driving the herd, then return to your cozy cabin each night to spend all night in a comfy bed. Now that’s my idea of a cattle drive. You get all the adventure without all of the discomfort of sleeping on the ground and going days without a shower.

Guests who ‘ride well enough’ are allowed to pitch in with herding the cows into or back down from the mountains. It’s challenging work, since the cattle are spread out over 50 square miles of mountains, forests, and river valleys. You may ride off the beaten path in country where encounters with wild game like elk, deer, moose, wolves and grizzly bear are possible. But at the end of each day, you’ll head back to your cabin for all the comforts of home (like a meal, shower, and good bed).

Details: the first week of July or the last week of September. Meet at Riverton or Jackson, trip lasts 8 days/7 nights (with 6 days riding). Guests with riding experience only. $2,100 per person based on double occupancy.

Bucking S Ranch

Bucking-S-Cattle-Drive-to-LakeSet near the foothills of the Seminoe and Shirley Mountains, the Bucking S is the real deal: an authentic working cattle ranch running some 200 cow-calf pairs. As if that wasn’t enough, they also help three ranch neighbors with their cattle work.
“The whole season from mid-May to mid-October we rotate cattle to new pastures as grazing conditions and water dictates. Between taking care of our own cattle and helping neighboring ranches, we have plenty of cattle drives every single week.”
Details: Open May through October 7. Located 65 miles southwest of Casper, Wyo., at altitudes between 6,800 and 8,000 feet. Rates from $ 1,550 per week/per person double occupancy (includes all ranch activities, meals, snacks and non-alcoholic beverages).  “After you had a chance to browse through our web site, we would very much enjoy speaking to you personally about our ranch, answer any questions you might have and make sure you have a good understanding of what to expect from a ranch vacation at The Bucking S.”

Tanque Verde Ranch
If you’re new to riding, or don’t have the time to spend on a full cattle drive, there are loads of other ways to get your cowboy on and work up a sweat. At Tanque Verde, you can join the Team Penning Competition.

Team Penning pits you (and your teammates) against is a herd of eight sometimes-ornery cattle. Team Penning is done at a walk or trot, so riders of all skill levels may participate.  The goal of this timed competition is to maneuver the cows through a series of obstacles and into one of three pens. (Doctors or lawyers may find this exercise akin to getting a patient or client to do what they’re supposed to do.) Or you may find it’s just a fun twist on your dude ranch experience and a great way to bond with friends, family or co-workers.

Details: May through October is Value Season, so rates are the best of the year. (Rates, from $395 per night, double occupancy, include three meals, all trail riding and horseback lessons, fishing, guided hiking and mountain biking, art classes, water aerobics, tennis clinics and lessons, and a fully supervised children’s program.  Also included are outdoor BBQ cookouts (Wed and Sat), and breakfast ride. All rates INCLUDE service charge!)