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.

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