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.

Sunset Magazine features Ranchweb member ranches!


Check the May issue of Sunset Magazine: their great cover story on ‘Camping in Comfort and Luxury Adventures’ features several dude and guest ranch resorts that are Ranchweb members.

Look on pages 68 thru 71 and you’ll see terrific small articles on The Resort at Paws Up and Wyoming’s Hideout Guest Ranch. And our feeling is that any positive publicity for dude and guest ranch resorts benefits us all. Great job, Sunset. Thanks!


Spring into an Arizona guest ranch resort

rancho de caballerosSeasonal special

Ah, springtime in the desert. The desert wildflower season in Southern Arizona and the Tucson area (where so many dude ranch resorts are located) is a bit unpredictable. A good flower season requires early winter rains, and then a warm and unusually wet spring. So far, things are looking promising for a great wildflower display in the desert. But no matter what, there is sure to be something great blooming from February through May, from brittlebush to giant saguaros.

Imagine saddling up at your guest ranch resort and riding through a spectacular show of brittlebush (already blooming now) and magenta hedgehog cactus. The spindly ocotillo—with its fire engine red blossoms— is blooming along with the low-growing fairy duster with its misty pink flowers.

Slow Old Paint down to a walk, look down from the saddle and you may see splashes of yellow from gold poppy, bahia, fiddleneck, paperflower, desert hibiscus;  pink from Parry penstemon, and blue from lupine, and blue dicks)

Now’s the time to go out in the desert and nip away for a warm, sunny dude ranch resort vacation. But which ranch to choose? Since Arizona ranches have so much to offer, it can be a challenge. If its an upscale hideaway you want, try Hidden Meadow Ranch (near Greer), with its elegent log main house and 12 luxury log cabins; or the Rancho de los Caballeros (which has an Old West lodge, and championship golf) in Wickenburg, with its 79 charmingly elegant casitas.

Bar 10
If you’re looking for casual and family-friendly, consider the Bar 10 Ranch near the Grand Canyon, with its big, country-style meals and genuine western hospitality (the Bar 10 sits at almost 4,200 feet in elevation, so March is still the off-season here, which means rates are lower). And near Wickenburg, the Flying E Ranch is loaded with family-friendly fun, wide-open spaces, and bountiful meals served family style.

Both White Stallion Ranch and Tanque Verde Ranch outside Tucson offer a ton of fun things to do, from nature walks to swimming and gourmet cuisine, along with the kind of classic southwestern design and décor that many clients come for. Tanque Verde even has tennis courts and a swanky little spa out by the swimming pool. This is living!

If you need help planning side trips while you’re in Arizona, don’t forget Arizona Country Excursions, which can take you on guided horseback or ATV trips through the Arizona desert.

But if you need more help with your selection, turn to Ranchweb for help. To begin, click on Selecting A Ranch and you’ll see groupings of ranches by lists of all the options that various ranches have to offer, from riding, fishing, and cattle drives to spas and luxury options. If you’re looking for deals, click on Travel Bargains on the home page. It’s another handy sorting tool.

Details: For a wildflower update, go to


A winter spa-cation at a dude/guest ranch

pic4-1When you’re talking about a relaxing, rejuvenating winter vacation, the words “spa” and “ranch” don’t often come in the same sentence. Yet there are dozens of dude and guest ranch resorts that combine those two fabulous ideas. Imagine taking a dashing horseback ride through the snow, or showshoeing up hill and dale, and then coming back to steamy soaking tub and a massage. Or on a warmer note, heading for a sun-drenched Southwest ranch for a day of riding hrough the saguaros, followed by a facial or a mani-pedi? A real  ranch spa-cation. Now that’s what I’m talking about.

After a tough 2010, you deserve all the pampering you can get; these ranches are sure to help you unwind and rejuvenate. Here are some ideas to get you started:

Snowy ranches

Resort at Paws Up

Look for first-class service, luxury accommodations, gourmet cuisine, and amazing adventures on Paws Up’s 37,000 acres nfear Greenough, MT. Winter spa-cation: If that’s not enough, how about taking a canter in the 74,000 square-foot equestrian center with indoor arena. But perhaps the most popular spot in January is Spa town® at Paws Up, set on the edge of a silent, snow covered meadow. You’ll find eleven large, well stocked tents, in one of the most unique spas you’ve ever seen. Stroll through the snowy woods along a wooden boardwalk that brings you to a little tent town where relaxation lives. Enter the massage tent and you’ll find relaxation for your body and mind.  It’s a great way to end a winter’s day at the ranch.
Fun and fit/winter activities: skiing and snowshoeing, snowmobiling, winter atv, dog sledding, sleigh rides, snowmobiling, cross country skiing, winter horseback riding.

The Ranch at Rock Creek

Montana’s Big Sky, and the Ranch at Rock Creek’s Big Luxury. What a combo; accommodations range from the Granite Lodge, the Luxury Tent Cabins, and the Log Homes. It’s near Philipsburg, MT, open year-round. Winter spa-cation: professional massage therapy treatments available in a dedicated five-room spa inside the stone-and-timber Granite Lodge. Swedish deep tissue massage, warm mountain rock treatments, high-tech or all-natural facials, and the signature ‘Rock Creek Ritual’ are always welcome after a vigorous day outdoors. Hair and nail styling is also available. Peruse the inviting options on a daily spa menu, tell them what time is best for you, and their staff will take care of the rest.
Fun and fit/winter activities: Horseback riding, downhill skiing at Discovery Basin with 60+ runs of all skill levels, fly fishing, sleigh rides, sporting clay shooting, ice skating, gourmet ranch cuisine, a spa and luxury amenities.

Sunny ranches

Tanque Verde Ranch

Just east of Tucson and next door to the fabulous Saguaro National Park and Coronado National Forest, Tanque Verde is one of the most loveliest Arizona ranch resorts. And now it boasts new, lower rates and a January 2011special: Buy 6 nights…Stay 7 nights. Winter spa-cation: Looking for a special spa getaway, girls spa retreat, or romantic spa escape to soothe the muscles and refresh the spirit? At their La Sonora Spa, you’ll find it all, from spa massages and Arizona body treatments to nail treatments and hair salon services. Ask about their spa packages.
Fun and fit/winter activities: Horseback riding, dancing, desert hiking trails, fishing, mountain biking, swimming, tennis, watercolor painting, and learning in the desert nature center.

Rancho de los Caballeros

An historic guest ranch and golf club with true Southwest flare, Rancho de los Caballeros is a warm winter wonderland. Set near Wickenburg, AZ, the ranch boasts 20,000 acres of rugged trails for horseback riding, championship golf, fine dining, and spa treatments. Winter spa-cation: Take a desert bath, in a soothing herbal bath or an actual milk bath (hey, it worked for Cleopatra). Get a wrap, a scrub, or just chill out with a mani-pedi. A facial or a massage.     Fun and fit/winter activities: tennis, swimming, trap and skeet, Los Caballeros golf club, nature program and birdwatching, exploring historic Wickenburg, evening entertainment. You’ll love taking long rides through the Sonoran desert landscape, or just breathing the warm scented air undisturbed by anything except, perhaps, the call of a cactus wren.


Alisal Guest Ranch

Just north of Santa Barbara, this  famed resort ranch offers golf and horseback riding on 10,000 acres. (it’s also great for families, thanks to its extensive children’s programs).
Winter spa-cation: You should be calmed and invigorated just by experiencing the fresh air, open spaces, and natural beauty of the Santa Ynez Valley. But it that’s not enough, head for the fitness center and spa, where you can work on weights and cardio equipment or join a fitness class (yoga, Pilates, Zumba and ab sculpting). Next step: the spa for soothing Swedish and deep tissue massages, gentle cleansing facials, or a therapeutic mud and herb wraps (great for the skin, some say). Fun and fit winter activities: Horseback riding is big here, but so is golf and tennis. You’ll also find a private lake and some of the best bass fishing in the state (fishing on Alisal Lake is reserved for guests of the Ranch exclusively. All bass are natural spawn wild fish and fishing is catch and release.) Want more? Try bird and nature walks, archery and air rifle range, and a gourmet restaurant.


Cowboy up: join a dude ranch cattle drive

Dudes and wranglers herd cattle at the McGuinness Ranch

Dudes and wranglers herd cattle at the McGuinness Ranch

A nice vacation can thoroughly relax you—and be forgotten in a week. A really memorable vacation can actually transform you. That can happen on a dude ranch. Since the late 1800s, dude and guest ranches have taken city slickers, put them atop gentle horses and into the great outdoors, and, in the process, unlocked their inner cowpoke.

And some dude ranches give you the ultimate in involvement—the chance to be a real cowboy or cowgirl for a time. A number of ranches offer you the chance to saddle up and actually work with cattle—driving them across high pastures and helping out with all manner of cattle work. Finding a dude and guest ranch with the option of joining a cattle drive is easy on Ranchweb—just click the Selecting a Dude Ranch button and toggle over to Cattle Drives.

Below, we’ve listed six ranches from Colorado to Ecuador that offer cattle drives in fall or spring; some let you take a hand in all manner of ranch work throughout various seasons. It’s more than a good idea to be physically fit and able to ride fairly well in order to participate on most cattle drives. And just for fun, before you go, rent a DVD of the John Wayne classic film Red River. You’ll get a sense of what adventures the old time cowboys faced on their cattle drives (most of which, hopefully, you’ll avoid).

But then, after a week or so of playing cowboy, you’ll feel right at home on the range. And thoroughly transformed.

Chico Basin Ranch
This 87,000-acre ranch, near Colorado Springs, remains one of Colorado’s largest historical cattle ranches. It is said that famed cattleman Charles Goodnight grazed his cattle herds in the region of the Chico Basin Ranch in the late 1800’s. Today, the ranch offers ‘active participation for guests interested in hands-on’ experiences: cattle herding, natural horsemanship, cowboy traditions, land positive range management, and the chance to see wildlife in its natural habitat. WHEN: Fall and spring, plus other various times; call ahead.

Vista Verde Ranch
Don’t wait to sign up for their Fall Cattle Gather, one activity where luxury meets rustic. Guests enjoy all Vista Verde’s fabulous amenities, meals, and accommodations, but will be doing the hard work of cowhands during the day.  The week begins with a quick review of cattle work during clinics in the arena; the rest of the week is spent riding to find and gather the cows and calves on more than 16,000 acres of forest land.  WHEN: cattle gather weeks are September 12-19 and September 19-26.

McGarry Ranches

The McGarry Ranch is a working cattle outfit that’s really three ranches. They’re all in spectacular locations in southeastern Idaho, in the upper Snake River Valley and along the South Fork of the Snake River (some 90 miles west of Jackson Hole, Wyoming). Owner Theron McGarry is a fourth-generation rancher and the real deal: a lifelong cowboy.

And when you stay at the McGarry guest ranch, you can (at various times of the year) become cowboy or cowgirl for a spell, helping out with the cattle operations. Join the cowboy crew and help with whatever: branding, calving, doctoring, gathering the herd to move to the mountains or on the drive from the mountains back to the valley for the winter. Plus, there are always fences to mend, roping to do, and other jobs around the ranch. As the family says, “Thank you for your interest in our way of life. Come share a bit of the cowboy dream with us.” WHEN: Various times, call ahead.

McGinnis Meadows Cattle & Guest Ranch

Outside Libby, MT, you’ll get lots of riding in (not the boring head to tail chain of horses kind, but real riding). Cattle drives start during the third week of May; you can drive cattle all summer long throughout 75,000 acres of spectacular country surrounding Lost Trail Wildlife Refuge in Northwest Montana. You can help with moving cattle to new pastures, riding for strays, and pushing cattle up to the high country. The wranglers at McGinnis will teach you about the ways of cattle, and even add tips about proper land management. WHEN: The ‘Fall Gather’ runs through all of October and throughout the peak of fall color. You’re welcome to participate as much as you wish.

Burntwell Guest Ranch

Near Roswell, you’ll find the real deal: at an authentic working ranch, join authentic week long cattle drives. You’ll sleeping, eating and living with the cattle—just like John Wayne in Red River. WHEN: Their fall drives will be October 3-9, 2010 (Bonney Canyon Ranch Drive) and October 24-30, 2010 (Kerr Ranch Cattle Drive).  They have no details yet (go to the webpage for more). Details and dates on the spring 2011 drives will be posted later on.

Hacienda La Alegria

Okay, Quito is a bit farther West than John Wayne ever got, but they know horses there. And this is a family-run organic farm in the heart of Ecuador’s “Avenue of the Volcanoes”. Join a South American-style cattle drive, true horseback riding adventures (even a volcano ride), delicious food, and a warm family environment. The Cattle Round-up Ride lasts 10 days and the riding difficulty is listed as: Moderate to Advanced (the itinerary can be customized for non-expert riders). WHEN: Call ahead for dates and details or write to

Get a kick out of a great boot

A really great pair of cowboy boots, like a great vacation, can also be transformative. Just check out the Share Your Boot Stories archive on the Justin Boots site ( and you’ll see how people feel about their boots. (One writer even related how his boot saved his foot in an accident on the ranch!) The story of the Justin Boots company itself began in 1879, when founder H.J. Justin left Lafayette, Indiana to ‘start a new life’ in Spanish Fort, Texas. Today the brand is so well respected for quality and tradition that the firm was purchased by Berkshire Hathaway, managed by financial genius Warren Buffet. (According to the company, it takes more than 100 steps and over 16 square feet of leather to produce one pair of Justin Boots.) To see their new fall line, due soon, check

Ask anyone who knows about footwear and chances are they’ll have heard of Lucchese boots—considered by many to be the Ferrari of cowboy boots. They’re sleek, stylish, distinctive—and they often have a price to match. It’s no accident that Lucchese  has a line of boots called Diva. Those are the kind of boots you might see on the red carpet at a film premier. They also have the rough, rugged, and ranch ready Resistol line of boot under the Lucchese umbrella. Sam Lucchese started the brand in 1883, and the company is still making hand-crafted quality boots to this day. The new Fall 2010 Lucchese Collection is coming soon; go to

Getting the right boot fit is about more than style. Hint: the boot should fit properly in the instep, ball, and heel of your foot. Here’s a complete explanation.


Now is the time to book a summer dude ranch vacation

Summer at a mountain ranch

What with all the economic uncertainty, we understand if you haven’t gotten around to planning your summer vacation yet. But you know what? There’s still time to book your best summer vacation ever—at a dude and guest ranch resort.  Even some of the smaller, more intimate ranches have availability for this summer. If you’re new to the idea of a dude ranch vacation, roam around this blog for tips on how to choose a ranch resort, what to bring, how to dress, and what to expect. But don’t wait too long to book, or your choices will narrow and you risk not getting the exact ranch on the exact dates you want.

Todd Mountain Guest Ranch, BC Canada

At the Tod Mountain ranch, you have room to roam— to be exact, 30,000 hectares (that’s the Canadian equivalent of tons of acres). Explore old logging and cattle trails in the Louis Creek Valley in British Columbia by mountain bike or horseback. The Tod Mountain Guest Ranch is surrounded by majestic mountains, but it’s not so remote that you can’t get Internet access. Cute cabins blend modern comforts (think pillow top mattresses and feather duvets) with traditional style. Ask about specials: the August holiday weekend deal and the Labour Day Weekend at the Rodeo offer.

Highland Ranch, CA

Ride horseback through old-growth redwoods? You can at California’s Highland Ranch. Above the Anderson Valley, just about a 3-hour drive north of San Francisco, Highland Ranch combines great riding and hiking programs with fishing, mountain biking, swimming and boating. Plus there are the extra special options, like skeet shooting, yoga classes, and massages. One nice extra: all the wine tasting you can do in the Anderson Valley on your way home from the ranch. Ask about their “7th night free” offer.
Bar H Bar Ranch, ID

Hike in the pines, fish in snow-fed streams, ride through glorious aspen. Idaho’s rustic and intimate Bar H Bar Ranch offers simple pleasures and plenty of natural beauty. It’s a working cattle and horse ranch and guests are invited to pitch right in with branding cattle or fixing fences. Or you can cast a line into the frothy Bear River and pretend you’re Brad Pitt in A River Runs Through It. It’s your vacation to craft as you choose.

G-M Ranch Cattle and Guest Ranch, MT

Set outside Bozeman, the G-M is a working horse and cattle ranch run by one of Montana’s most respected ranching families, the Leffingwells (Mary Leffingwell’s father homesteaded the ranch at the turn of the century and Mary and her husband began taking guests in the 1930s). Tradition, hospitality, and good stewardship of the land are important here. And so is making sure guests have a good time, whether its from helping out with ranch work (from checking fences to moving cattle between pastures) or just plain relaxing. If it’s an authentic ranch experience you’re looking for, you’ll find it here, with some bookings still open into the summer.

Sweet Grass Ranch, MT
Near Big Timber in Montana’s Crazy Mountains, the Sweet Grass Ranch is one of the West’s oldest ranches, ranching since 1880 and hosting guests since 1930. This is the real deal, a working cattle ranch high in the cool mountains and rolling foothills. Riding is a big focus here. And guests can dive into the real life of a working rancher—from helping move cows and wrangling horses to feeding the pigs. Or they can just enjoy the old-fashioned fun: swimming in the creek, hiking and riding, playing horseshoes or singing around the campfire. Bookings are available for summer stays in their small, rustic log cabins, family cabins with more amenities, or the main ranch house.

Clear Creek R, NC

Cool off in Clear Creek, NC

Cool off in Clear Creek, NC

Clear Creek Ranch, in Burnsville, is just 50 miles north of Asheville, North Carolina. Set in the cool, beautiful Great Smoky Mountains, this is a ranch you can reach easily by car and, if time is short, you can visit for less than a full week.  From swimming and volleyball to fishing in the private pond and nearby South Toe River, there’s plenty to keep your heart pumping. And in the evening, enjoy line dancing classes, cookouts, or horse drawn carriage rides. Nearby, you can visit the Roaring Fork Waterfall, play a round at the Mount Mitchell Golf Course, or join a local craft tour. Whether you want to stay in a cabin or the main lodge, it’s not too late to book for the summer.

Geronimo Trail Guest Ranch, NM

In New Mexico’s Black Range Mountains, Geronimo Trail Guest Ranch offers all the color, magic, and mystery of the southwest. A day at the ranch may take you riding or hiking into the cool, scented forests of tall Ponderosa pine, following the outlaw trails of Billy the Kid, or roaming Native American ruins from 1150 AD. Adventures range from bird and wildlife watching (elk to coatis) New Mexico has a rich history of outlaws, gunfighters and cowboys, some of whom rode the same territory that you can at  Geronimo Trail Guest Ranch and there are several fine museums nearby where this history comes to life.


Autumn ranch news: from Arizona to Rockies pack trips

pic5Just got a note from Mary Miller at Elkhorn Ranch in Arizona, who tells us  they’re getting ready to open the ranch for another lovely Arizona winter season. “We’ll be ready for guests in mid-November,” notes Mary. “We are quite full for the holidays, but still have scattered openings in mid-November and early December—quiet times with great riding weather! In the new year, January has openings every week.” Mary adds that February, March and April are filling fast, so guests hoping to stay then should call soon. Book: 520/822-1040 or check out their new web site at

Russell True writes in from Arizona’s White Stallion Ranch to tell us that “business does seem to be definitely on the upswing for the Arizona ranches.” One reason? “They are offering more specials, not only in pricing but in terms of more ladies weeks, weeks built around rodeos, bridge (as in cards), Elderhostel programs, horsemanship, self-improvement using horses as a catalyst, family camps, and more,” he notes. And that’s not all that’s going on in Arizona. “The other story is that many of the ranches are allowing shorter stays in response to people having less time and money,” says True. Book: 888/ WSRANCH or 520/ 297-0252.

Meanwhile, don’t forget how lovely autumn is in the high country of the Rockies, where fall pack trips are just getting going. As Gene K. says, “Fresh mountain trout, horse bells, and the good old-fashioned wilderness make dude ranch pack trips one of the most exhilarating experiences on earth.” Here’s a list to get you started:

Coulter Lake Guest Ranch CO
Established in 1897 and operating as a guest ranch since 1934, this small, family-oriented outfit has made it’s name with it warm western hospitality, lovely lakeside setting, and unspoiled setting in the White River National Forest of northwestern Colorado. Here, the scenery and wildlife are a photographers delight and hunters can sign up for guided or unguided hunts for deer and elk. In the evening, gather in the lodge to play cards or perhaps sit around the campfire and discuss the day’s sightings with your new friends. Book: (800) 858-3046 or (970) 625-1473 or via

Turpin Meadow Ranch, WY

Autumn at the ranch is a time for relaxation and inspiration. It’s ideal for retreats, group activities, and peaceful family outings: enjoy a hike into forests filled with autumn colors, join a fishing expedition for beginners or experienced anglers; take day trips and tours of Yellowstone Park.
Set in Wyoming’s majestic Jackson Hole, Turpin Meadow Ranch offers a big game hunter’s dream trip—a six-day excursion, with one guide for every two hunters to lead you to the finest elk and mule deer. Or design your own pack trip of 3-10 days, riding with a string of pack mules into the wilderness, backcountry that has been little changed since the days of the mountain men. When you reach camp, you’ll find comfy tents and hearty meals, arranged by professional, personable wranglers and packers. It can be an unforgettable trek through the majestic setting of the Teton Wilderness Area/Bridger-Teton National Forest. Ask about Fall specials. Book: 800/743-2496 or 307/543-2000

Warner Guiding & Outfitting, Ltd. – Banff, Alberta, Canada
Wilderness tenting pack rides, rustic backcountry lodge rides, and learning enriched/interpretive pack rides—it’s all here. Join one of Warner’s unique ‘Holiday on Horseback’ pack trips (pictured above) and you’ll venture deep into the heart of Canada’s spectacular Banff National Park. Here, you can choose to stay in tents or enjoy a backcountry lodge stay at the historical Halfway Lodge or the beautiful Sundance Lodge. Enjoy the outdoors but don’t want the hassle of planning a camping trip? Then the wilderness tenting rides are perfect for you– meals are cooked for you, tents are set up, and you can just sit back and relax. Book: 800/661-8352, or local at 403/762-4551; e-mail to


End of summer roundup

pic1-1The weather is glorious out in the Rockies, from Colorado north through Wyoming and on into British Columbia. And down in Texas, around the Big Bend area, the weather is perfection, too. Sunny days, gorgeous sunsets, and nights so starry you feel like you’re in a planetarium show. The best news is, there’s still time to jump in and snag a week (or a long weekend) at a fabulous Rockies or Texas dude ranch before the weather cools.


At Drowsy Water Ranch, a family-oriented ranch outside Granby, you’ll find hayrides, horseback riding, jeep trips, trout fishing, swimming, western dancing, gymkhana rodeos, raft trips, and special children’s programs. Nearby, there’s golfing, hunting, and much more. NEWS: New this year: Cowgirl Only Week September 6-12; enjoy riding, guided hikes, massages, yoga, a mountain supper cookout, plus a sunrise ride, and a trip to local hot springs. And be sure to check out the ranch’s own blog at

Historic Pines Dude and Guest Ranch is a landmark in beautiful south central Colorado, and one of the state’s most revered ranches. There’s plenty to do here— even if you can’t stay overnight. The ranch offers hourly trail riding; sessions start at 9:30 and 1:30 daily Mon-Fri; and at 9:30 Saturday mornings. Call several days ahead to book your space. Trail riding is available May 1—October 3; call 800/446-9462. NEWS: The next Couples-Only week is September 13¬–19; the cost is a low all-inclusive rate of $1100 per person. The Parelli Natural Horsemanship Clinic runs September 19 & 20; bring your own horse (or not) to learn this method of natural horsemanship. A Parelli-trained coach will teach and demonstrate this new approach to understanding your horse; call for more at 800/446-9462.

Both a summer ranch and a winter cross country ski destination, Latigo Ranch (pictured, above) boasts some of Colorado’s most spectacular scenery (stand on the front porch of their historic log lodge and you’re looking at 100 miles of the Continental Divide). NEWS: Some prefer to visit Latigo Ranch when there are no young children here, so the week of  September 13–19  is reserved only for adults (no guests under 18 years of  age for the adults’ week).  The ranch is becoming increasingly popular for family reunions. For the latest news and info about Latigo, check out their new blog (click on the word blog). There, you’ll learn how the ranch is going green, about all the latest programs, and get a taste of the season.

Set high in the Colorado Rockies, the Waunita Hot Springs Ranch has been hosting guests for over 40 years. But they’re hip to technology here; in fact, you’ll never have to wonder what the weather forecast for your visit will be: a handy link gives you a complete weather map for the area ( NEWS: Green on the ranch: Waunita has a long ‘green’ history concerning heat and domestic hot water (the ranch uses no propane or fuel oil for heating buildings and homes, blessed with free hot water from the springs. They are now moving towards ‘greener’ practices with soda pop cans, plastic water bottles, milk jugs. Weddings: The front lawn of the ranch has been the site of two weddings, and is available for more. Staying in touch: the ranch has begun a “friends of Waunita” email list; if you’d like to stay up on the latest news and/or changes at the ranch, send an email to


The Red Rock Ranch is a classic, family-owned/operated dude ranch in a classic location: just outside of Jackson Hole, Wyoming. You can easily explore Grand Teton National Park from here. Besides an outstanding horseback riding program, the kids program  keeps families coming back for years, the Western log cabins are  richly appointed yet authentic. Anglers will go for the 2 ½ miles of private blue ribbon fly fishing waters running through the ranch, 4 stocked trout ponds, and a weekly fly fishing clinic. Miles of scenic hiking trails beckon both the beginning hiker and the more advanced. The limit of 28 guests makes for an intimate, relaxed atmosphere; sip your coffee in front of a roaring fire in the lodge, or roam the extensive ranch library. Red Rock is a good choice for family reunions and small corporate groups, due to its wide range of activities, amenities, and its conference center .

You just can’t be bored at Spotted Horse Ranch. Summer fun ranges from trail rides to trout fishing (their an Orvis partner) and exciting float trips on the beautiful Snake River. The Spotted Horse Ranch is handy to both Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks and if you’re looking for bright lights, there’s the quaint town of Jackson, with its stagecoach rides, weekly rodeos, and places to bend an elbow or listen to music. NEWS: Anglers here go for Snake River Fine-Spotted Cutthroat, Rainbow, and Brown Trout. These fish are fighters and they’re wily, so they offer flycasters a satisfying experience no matter your experience level. There’s a new spring-fed pond with its own Cutthroat population, a way to help anglers build confidence and improve casting skills. A free casting lesson is offered on Monday afternoons.

You want really close-up views of the Teton Range and Snake River Valley? Triangle X Ranch sits in the heart of Grand Teton National Park (the only operating guest ranch concession inside the park). This is a real working dude and horse ranch, so you’ll find a true western experience. And thre’s plenty of fun: riding, cookouts, square dancing, wildlife watching (and photography). You can also access a scenic rft trip, guided angling expeditions, and more. Sit back and relax or use Triangle X as your gateway to a wilderness adventure. In winter, the ranch becomes a hub for cross-country skiing.


A trip to Cibolo Creek Ranch is a journey back in time to the romantic old west. If you’re looking for rich history, boundless vistas, and timeless hospitality, this is the place for you. Cibolo Creek Ranch is ‘Texas big’, stretching over some 30,000 acres around the Big Bend area (and it has its own private airstrip!). It’s an oasis of luxury, adventure, and serenity. Set amidst the Chinati Mountains, the ranch sits in the cool, clean mountain air. Hop on your horse (or ATV) and explore, go fishing, hiking, swimming. Or not. Many guests enjoy simply relaxing by the pool, working out in the fitness center, or chilling out in the hot tub or sauna. But all enjoy the panoramas. There’s beauty all around, even in the ranch buildings themselves: stylish enough to have been featured in Architectural Digest Magazine.


High in the Canadian Rockies, Three Bars Cattle and Guest Ranch combines the setting for real adventure and western hospitality. Activities range from fly fishing to mountain biking and horseback riding. Three Bars is a working ranch and if the ranch is moving cows when you are here, there will be opportunities to go along. NEWS: Run by The Beckley family, the ranch was recently voted Canada’s Best Dude Ranch for 2009. An Adults Only Week is set for September 6-12; call the ranch for details. And from October through mid-May, the ranch is available for conferences.


5 reasons Americans need a dude ranch vacation NOW: connect with your wild side

Sometimes, in order to find a real escape, you just have to strike out into the wild and pit your skills against a wily fish or elusive game animal. It’s one way to really get away from it all, a sure effort to connect with your wilder side, and just the kind of wild adventure that many dude ranches specialize in.

Timeless adventures like these have also long been a popular means for anglers and hunting enthusiasts to reconnect with buddies, make new friends, or bond with brothers and sons. And who knows? You might find your hunting adventure of a life time here. You’ll find a range of hunting/fishing lodges at Three featured lodges include:


The Lodge at Chama (open year-round) is a 36,000 acre retreat in the rugged San Juan Mountains of Northern New Mexico and owned by The Jicarilla Apache Nation. Over the past five decades, the lodge has developed a widely-acclaimed game management program that has helped establish thriving native populations of deer, elk, buffalo, bear, turkey and grouse. Elk hunting is a speciality at the Lodge, but you can also try fishing/ flyfishing, hiking, wildlife tours or photography, hunting, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, ice fishing and shooting the sporting clay.

In Texas, at the JB Hunting and Guest Ranch (near Palacios), the terrain varies from rolling grassland to thick woodlands and cactus-surrounded areas. They offer professional guided hunts with an authentic, down-to-earth enviroment. You can go for hogs, rams and many exotics, with a variety of different hunts such as rifle, bow, dog & knife, stand, safari and many more types.

Or go way outside the box, to La Pampa Argentina and the Poitahue Hunting Ranch. It’s a scenic ranch, where the terrain ranges from woods, to green plains, and rolling hills, all rich in various fauna. Its a mix that assures unique scenery and a truly wild hunting experience; go for red deer stags, boars, wild goats, blackbucks antelopes, pumas,  and  exotic species. Just remember: the season here is opposite of that in the northern hemisphere (their summer is December, January, February).

Editor’s note: this is the last in a 5-part series: Americans need a dude ranch vacation NOW.


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.