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.

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


A grand horse show: Las Vegas National Nov. 13-18

Las Vegas NationalNEWSFLASH

Is your daughter, son, wife, or husband horse mad? If so, we have the perfect event for them. The Las Vegas National at the South Point Equestrian Arena, from November 13-18, 2012. Exhibitors are already signed up and on their way, and the producers, Blenheim EquiSports, expect a big turnout, so if you want to attend, start your trip planning now.

This annual hunter-jumper show is a big deal for riders and trainers. For the spectators, the free admission and a ton of giveaways are just part of the draw. You’ll see Olympic and international level show jumpers, get to meet many of the riders, attend autograph sessions and maybe take a guided barn tour. Tuesday through Sunday, a show-wide raffle includes prizes from sponsors and vendors from free Tee-shirts up to a $5,000 saddle.

Each day has a different focus: Thursday, November 15 features the $32,000 FEI Jumper Classic (7:30 PM); its also Barn Night and features raffles and T-shirts. Friday, November 16 is the Salute to the Community. Just World hosts the $30,000 Las Vegas Speed Classic (7:30 PM). And on Saturday, there’s the $10,000 Royal Champion Classic (5:30 PM) and the $50,000 Las Vegas World Cup Grand Prix (7:30 PM) plus a raffle and autograph session.

Spectators will also get the chance see Rich Fellers, the reigning Show Jumping World Cup champion and the highest placing US Olympic Show Jumping Team Member.

The free event is all produced by an equestrian-event management company called Blenheim EquiSports, based in San Juan Capistrano, California. The company produces over thirty events per year in three locations: San Juan Capistrano, Del Mar and Las Vegas, NV. The events include 18 USEF “A” or “AA” rated hunter-jumper shows featuring several World Cup Qualifying Grand Prix, USHJA International High Performance Hunter Challenges, Pony Finals, Medal Finals and more.

While at the event, check out (or into) the South Point Hotel, Casino & Spa. The South Point  is a 2,200-room resort in Las Vegas, providing “affordable luxury while catering to visitors and locals alike’’. This hotel has a world-class spa, a bowling center, eight restaurants, showroom, , convention center, exhibit hall, bingo and all of the casino games that made Las Vegas famous–and, of course, a major equestrian arena.

In fact, the South Point Equestrian Complex is considered by those in the horse world to be among the finest indoor horse facilities in America. It boasts a 4,600-seat arena and 1,200 horse stalls (all climate-controlled, of course); that’s why the South Point Equestrian Center hosts some of the world’s grandest equestrian events.

Details: If you want to be a VIP, you’ll have access to a private bar, the best seat in the house, special VIP hours and access. The three-night VIP package costs $250 per person; call Melissa Brandes at 949/234-1695.
For more, click here.


Ranchweb blog has a birthday; pet-friendly ranches

Happy  birthday to us! Yep, it’s been four years since we started writing the Ranchweb blog. Let’s step into the ‘Wayback Machine’ and see how our first post began: “Split rail fences zig-zagging into golden groves of aspen. Chocolate brown horses stepping across a meadow. A tangerine alpenglow melting over the top of a nearby mountain. Those are some of the hues of a typical fall day around some dude ranches. You see, not all of the ranches close for the season at summer’s end.”

While we might not phrase it as, ahem, colorfully today, the basic thought is still true. Fall is still a great time on the ranch, and you can find some pretty fantastic vacation options out there this month. And the Ranchweb blog remains ready to help you choose your dude and guest ranch vacation.

Who else is celebrating a birthday today? Well, Amazon is marking five years since the unveiling of a cloud infrastructure (aka cloud computing). Oh, and five years ago Apple started a little thing called the iPhone. That’s pretty good company to be in (maybe we should send Apple a piece of our birthday cake).

As long as we’re in the ‘Wayback Machine’, let’s pause to remember what other things were like in October 2008 (or are you trying not to)? See, that’s also when we marked the start of the economic crunch (or, as the Financial Times reports, “It’s been five years today since the economy went to crap,”).

While not as much has changed since 2008 as we would all like, the American economy has pulled back from the brink and in the U.S., we’re gaining jobs instead of losing them. And although we feel for those spreads in areas suffering through terrible drought conditions, life is still good in ranch country.

Here at Ranchweb, we’re offering more services than ever: trip planning help through a concierge service; tips, news, and laughs on our Facebook page; targeted website help (from sites like; and more up-to-the-minute information on deals, gear, food and dining, and general ranch news in our just-launched free quarterly newsletter, the Ranch Roundup (sign up for e-delivery on our website).

So stick around, Ranchweb fans, and let’s see what the next five years will bring!

Pet-Friendly Ranch Vacations


Dogs, cats, horses, and other fauna are a regular fixture at almost every ranch, but that doesn’t mean your own little Fido is necessarily welcome. It’s always best to check first to find out what the policy is on pets at any lodging, but especially at a dude or guest ranch, since there are so many other animals around that might not be ready to interact with your little pal.

What to do if you want to/have to bring your pet along on vacation? Luckily, Ranchweb has your back. Our website features a whole list of categories that let you select out just the ranches you want to consider. Pets Welcome is one such category. Here you’ll find places like the Hidden Meadow Guest Ranch in Arizona and the Bar W Guest Ranch in Whitefish, Montana, and many others.


Hidden Meadow Guest Ranch

Open year-round is Hidden Meadow Ranch. They love pets so much, they created a limited number of pet-friendly cabins.  As they put it, “Your animals friends will enjoy a vacation with a high level of service, too!”  Currently, three cabins (Squash Blossom #1, Blue Quill #6, and Trail’s End #12) accommodate pets with attached dog run/play yards. But the ranch does need to know about your pet ahead, so make arrangements for Fido at the time you make your reservations (there is an additional charge for pets, please see the website).

At most ranches, visiting pets must have proof of current vaccinations, must be kept on leash while on the ranch except when in the cabin dog run or in  fenced play area, where pups may play with owner supervision. And Hidden Meadow has other rules: If the owner is not in the cabin, pets must be in the dog run/play yard or crated.  Food and water dishes are provided in pet-friendly cabins, along with fleece sleeping mats to protect the furniture and bedding. Please see their website for full details.


Bar W Guest RanchBarW_1

The Bar W understands you wanting to bring your pet on vacation and so they welcome your pets.  But, as they say, “Because other guests may be allergic, they cannot sleep in the lodge or the cabin.  They can stay in very comfortable stalls in the barn with dog beds, shavings and water.  And due to the horses and other guests on the property, they must be on a leash when roaming the ranch.” There is a slight charge: $15 a night for dogs or no charge with a package.$25 a night for horses or no charge with a package – includes grass/alfalfa mix – 3 flakes – twice a day.  We will need a health certificate and Coggins test for horses staying at the ranch. Otherwise, “If you have any special needs for your pet or horse, or have any questions, please give us a call, we will be happy to work with you.”

Details: Please remember that many ranches are located in national forest lands or Wildlife Habitat Areas, so there are predators and ranch animals around.  Respect other guests and keep your pets safe by having your pets on leash.


July is rodeo month

spur_mFor a real dose of Old West tradition, rodeos are a true reality check. They’re a transformation of some of the real, back-breaking work that takes place on a ranch—roping calves, taming bulls—and sometimes the cowboy comes out the worse for wear.

But the contest between man and bucking bronc is always breathtaking (and a bargain for the all-day family entertainment you get). July and August are big rodeo months, with major events all across the country (and in Canada, too). You can even find some ranches with their own rodeo arena (like Malibu Ranch, mentioned earlier this month); for a complete list, click on Ranchweb’s list here.

Here’s a brief roundup of some of the more unusual rodeos this month:

The State’s Largest Night Rodeo
July 18-21, Pretty Prairie
It’s the big 75th this year! Offering the country’s best professional cowboys, top-quality stock, and prime family entertainment, this little Kansas town has it all. For more, check or 800/638-2702

Last Chance Stampede & Fair
July 25-29, Helena
Country Music Stars, a PRA rodeo and the Demolition Derby, plus fun family-friendly events like a kiddie stick horse rodeo, an amusements carnival, and more make the Last Chance one popular event. Lewis & Clark County Fairgrounds; or call 406/457-8516.

Now through-Sept. 29, 2012
Cowtown Rodeo, rural Salem County
What? Cowboys in New Jersey? You bet! Come experience Cowtown Rodeo every Saturday night at 7:30pm. Set in The Boss’s home state, Cowtown brings it, with all seven of the rodeo events that are sanctioned by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, from bareback bronc riding to girls barrel racing. At some 57 years of age, it’s been called the oldest weekly running rodeo in the U.S. For more, or call 856/ 769-3200.


Surprising Malibu Dude Ranch


Malibu_Ranch,_Bull_Riding,_5x7,_100_dpiI admit I was intrigued when I saw this on the website for Pennsylvania’s Malibu Dude Ranch:
“Think you’ve got what it takes to be the next rodeo star?? Sign up for one of our speed events and compete against other guests during our guest participation rodeos, held during major 3-day holiday weekends.
I knew the ranch had recently added a sanctioned arena and announcer stand so that they could host professional rodeos and shooting competition events (newsflash!). What I didn’t realize was that guests could also star in their own rodeo show!

Somehow I’m not surprised. That’s the kind of entertaining twist  Allan “Doc” Detweiler and his wife Phyllis brought to the ranch when they bought it in 2010. In purchasing Malibu Ranch, they saved it from total destruction (a townhouse style residential community was one plan for the property), and in so doing, they saved an East Coast tradition.

And its all been onward and upward ever since. This day, it is 80 degrees, sunny and warm as Doc Detweiler tells me about how he came to own the Malibu Ranch. “I’m the ranch’s sixth owner—the last one owned it for 46 years!” he says. “I hope to God I own it as long!” Doc laughs. “I came to the ranch in 1974 as a kid—I wanted to be a cowboy when I was five. Now my whole family rides—my daughters barrel race.”Malibu_Dude_Ranch,_4x5,_100_dpi

Malibu Dude Ranch is located not on the California coast near the iconic movie enclave of Malibu, but in the scenic Pocono Mountains of northeast Pennsylvania, just 75 miles from New York City. When I ask how an East Coast ranch got the name of a California coastal town, Doc explains how the first owner (a rich Wall Streeter in the 1920s) had grown up in the California town and named his ranch after Malibu. Eventually, he opened it up to the public. Today, the 800-acre ranch offers something for all ages and tastes- from archery to fishing, skeet shooting and horseback riding galore.

Established in 1928, the ranch has a long history of entertaining guests: it is described as the oldest authentic working dude ranch east of the Mississippi River. Thanks to Doc and Phyllis, it still provides the Old West cowboy experience and horseback riding on woodland trails. The ranch suffered a fire in 1973 that took out the original lodge, but the massive two-story stone fireplace in the lobby is a survivor; it showcases the grand entrance to the lodge just as it always did.

Doc first visited the ranch as a youngster not long after the rebuilding that resulted from the fire. That ranch stay molded his young character and he credits it with helping him stay focused on goals later in life. Eventually, Allan became a doctor of family medicine with a main practice is in Long Island, New York (he also employs many physicians in five locations in New York, New Jersey, and Florida).

“I feel this ranch is a legacy, so there’s an obligation to keep this up,” Doc notes. “We’ve put in more than $4 million to renovate the ranch. We updated the entire infrastructure and added the arena, brought our own cattle onto the property, and added a Wild West show for the kids. Everyone who comes leaves pleased.” Doc knows the timing of the ranch’s purchase—during a tough economy—wasn’t in his favor but he’s hoping that the economy will soon turn around and “we’ll reap the rewards.” Now the biggest hurdle is to let the public know (and that’s where Ranchweb can help).

Saddle up (and other diversions)
There’s horseback riding, a Saturday night bonfire and hayride, fishing or row boating out on the lake if you’re into nature.  If you’re not so much into the great outdoors, there’s always tennis or basketball, horseshoes, board games, and an indoor pool. In the evening, hang out at the country western nightclub or check out the cable TV on a flat screen.

Not into horses? That’s okay: ride the trails on your own ATV or snowmobile. Enjoy stargazing in the ranch’s clear night skies; shoot skeet or archery on the rifle range (the ranch also offers a hunter package the first three days of the deer rifle season). Golfing is 15 minutes away. Any season, there’s plenty of fun at the Malibu Ranch.

“Come cowboy with us and keep the tradition of an East Coast ranch alive!” Doc says. “We’re only an hour’s drive from Manhattan, about two hours from Philadelphia, and three hours from Boston.”

Details: Malibu Dude Ranch is set in the Pocono Mountains of northeast Pennsylvania, a 3-mile drive from Milford and 75 miles from NYC. It makes a great location for family vacations, reunions, and anniversaries and is a place for Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts to earn merit badges (ask about group rates). Stay in private cabins among the trees, chalet and motel style rooms near the main lodge, or in the lodge itself. Not ready for a full commitment yet? Ride the ranch’s horses by the hour, take lessons, or bring your own and board your horse here.

PHOTO CREDIT: Photos by Teresa Crerand


Ranch getaways for grownups only

horsebackThe other day, my friend C was telling me about how her six-year-old daughter has learned how to really push C’s buttons, and that on those occasions, a long soak in a bubble bath just wasn’t enough of a getaway. It’s true. No matter how much we love the little ones, sometimes you just need to leave them with the grandparents and sneak away for a little ‘grownups time’.

Maybe you work with other people’s kids and need a getaway with no rugrats for a change of pace (teachers, we hear you!). Or maybe you just enjoy a big slice of peace and quiet with a side of adult conversation. Whatever the reason, specialty weeks like Adults-Only weeks at a dude or guest ranch resort can be a real lifesaver.

They’re easy to locate when you use the right tools. Check out the Ranch Categories on and look for Adults Only section. You’ll find some 30 ranches listed with such weeks, from Averill’s Flathead Lake Lodge in Montana to the Sweetgrass Ranch in Wyoming. It’s just another way helps you find your perfect guest ranch vacation. Here’s a sampling of what as few of those ranches offer:

Rankin Ranch
Best known for its children’s programs, Rankin Ranch is a cattle and guest dude ranch that offers horseback riding, haywagon rides, barbeques, fishing, square dancing and evening activities for all. It has since branched out to included adults-only periods built around special activities. Its set in Central California in the beautiful secluded mountain valley of Walker’s Basin at the southern tip of the Sierras, about a 1 hour drive northeast of Bakersfield.
Details: Art Week: May 20-25 (special rates/ adults only; Off Season Rates Apply). Scrapbooking Weekends: Oct. 18-21; Oct. 25 to 28; Nov. 8 to 11 (special rates/ adults only); $379 for Fri. & Sat. Nights Additional $100 for Thursday Arrival.

Black Mountain Ranch
Call it a guest and dude ranch, or a working ranch, Black Mountain offers everything from horseback riding to cattle drives, fly fishing, trap shooting, and over night pack trips. Choose among four private cabins and eight cozy suites each featuring a private bath, fireplace, sitting area and custom log furniture built right on the ranch. What’s included: Unlimited horseback riding and instruction, genuine longhorn cattle drives EVERY WEEK, overnight pack trips, whitewater rafting, skeet shooting, riflery, archery, children’s program, trip to the rodeo in Beaver Creek. They pride themselves on the quality of their herd. Details: ADULT ONLY WEEKS:  May 27 – June 3, June 3 – 10, June 10 – 17. All options of accommodations available.


Flathead Lake LodgeAverills_1
Join the crew at the Flathead Lake Lodge for their annual Adults Only Fall Getaway set for September 2-6. What’s included: lots of horseback adventures (breakfast rides, arena lessons, an extended luncheon ride, guide horseback rides), plus lake cruises, sailing excursions and an evening of music around the campfire. Guests can relax at the pool or explore the shores of Flathead Lake, and all the lodge’s outfitters will be on hand for fly fishing, lake fishing, whitewater rafting, massage and so much more.
Details: per-person, 4 night package rate of $1,500.00 is all inclusive of ranch recreation, lodging, meals, tax and service charge. Contact 406/837-4391 or click here.

Sweetgrass Ranch
A sixth generation, family-owned working ranch and guest ranch on about 10,000 acres, Sweetgrass is set in the Crazy Mountains of Montana. You’ll find unparalleled riding opportunities, including cattle drives, lessons, swimming horses and wonderful adventures for families and singles. Hiking, packtrips, fishing in the Sweet Grass Creek, numerous alpine lakes and local ponds, horsemanship clinics, photography are also possible. Details: Adult-only weeks:  September 2-16.

7D Ranch
Set in the remote and pristine valley called Sunlight Basin, the 7D has been giving families great vacations for over fifty years. You can’t buy experience like that.  Details: Adults Only Weeks are offered: August 26- September 2, September 2 – 9,  September 9-16.


Ride ’em cowboy! Find a rodeo near you…


Can you think of a more All-American activity to attend this July 4th weekend than a true Western rodeo? We can’t. Going to a Western rodeo is like taking a mini-vacation to another country. Heck, it’s like another world, where iPods and Blackberries haven’t been invented yet and the only communication skills that matter are how a rider communicates with his horse.

But if you think a rodeo is totally about buckin’ broncs, you are wrongamundo. There are activities for moms and kids, too, often including stylish horse shows, parades, children’s petting zoo areas, and places where city kids can learn about real farm animals and see pretty ponies. And of course, you’re likely to see some pretty cowboys and cowgirls, too, all decked out in their fanciest duds, widest-brimmed hats, and belt buckles the size of dinner plates.

Luckily, the home page has a button to click to help you find a rodeo near  you. They are everywhere. There are some 100  events listed in July alone. You’ll find biggies like the Cheyenne, Wyoming’s, Frontier Days and Salt Lake City’s Days of 47, to smaller events like Jacksonville, Texas’ Tops in Texas event.

This month, stampedes are big. Nampa, Idaho has the Snake River Stampede; Elgin Oregon has the Elgin Stampede; Nevada has the Silver State Stampede in Elko; and Mitchell, South Dakota, has the Corn Palace Stampede (I’ve been to the Corn Palace and its exterior is all covered in murals created out of corn–amazing!).

One of the oldest is Cheyenne’s Frontier Days.  Frontier Days is a world-famous annual celebration of the American West featuring the ‘Daddy of ’em All,’ the largest outdoor rodeo in America. I covered the rodeo a few years back and was amused to find that even the media is required to ‘dress the part’ when covering the rodeo. My photographer and I were required to wear western shirts and western hats, boots, and jeans. I loved it (and I still wear that hat).

Details: This year, the 114th edition of the “Daddy of ‘em All” returns on Friday, July 23 and all the rodeo action begins the next day. There’s a host of satellite events from downtown parades to “Frontier Nights” evening concerts to free pancake breakfasts.  – The action draws cowboys and rodeo and music fans from throughout the country for a spirited, ten-day celebration of Western heritage.

Nine days of rodeos sanctioned by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) will run from Saturday, July 24, through CFD’s conclusion on Sunday, August 1.  Pre-show events begin at 12 noon; rodeos begin at 12:45 p.m.  Nearly 1,500 contestants will be vying for a share of the more than $1 million in money and prizes, plus the prestige that comes from winning America’s best known rodeo.

Like so many rodeos, Frontier Days unites the community and serves as an important boost to Cheyenne’s economy. Across the rural West, smaller rodeos play their own part in boosting their local economies. And just as important, rodeos play a role in keeping a part of our Western culture alive.

So relive a little bit of our Western heritage this July, and go out to a rodeo near you. And if you can’t make one this month, not to worry, they spread across the calendar, and across the map. You’ll find them in cities like San Francisco (the Grand National Rodeo, Horse and Stock Show and Junior Grand National Stock Show to be held October 14-23, 2011) and Denver’s National Western Stock Show.


Holiday at a dude ranch

Holiday fun, ranch style. If you’re looking to escape the December craziness, crowded malls, and repetitive jingles, we can’t think of a better escape than to a guest ranch. Chose a peaceful mountain ranch wrapped in a mantel of snow, a warm California ranch getaway, or a sun-drenched Arizona guest ranch resort, then sit back and let the ranch staff take care of your meals, entertainment and decorating–you’ll be in good hands. Make it a holiday getaway, or a post-holiday respite. Either way, your winter ranch escape will be unforgettable.
Stagecoach Trails Guest RanchStagecoach trails
You’ve gotta love a ranch that’s located on a street called S. Doc Holliday Road (named for the famed Western gambler and gunman), and that’s just where you’ll find Stagecoach Trails Guest Ranch. Open year-round (except June- July 13), this Arizona ranch has a ten-year history and a loyal following. You can help them celebrate their big anniversary in January. The special Ten Year Anniversary rate for January amounts to a 60 percent discount (approx).

Dates and rates: Between January 1-10, 2011.  Rate: $99 single occupancy, $79 per person double occupancy, $69 per child ages 4-11. Valid on reservations made after November 23, 2010. No minimum night stay requirement.
They’ll continue the deals with  February and March specials adding up to a roughly 50 percent discount. Dates and rates: February 7-17 and March 2-6, 2011, rates are single occupancy $119 per night, double occupancy $89 per person/per night, Children ages 4-11 cost $69 per child/per night. No minimum night stay requirement. Valid on reservations made after November 24, 2010.

The Alisal Guest Ranch and Resortalisal
Discover the warmth and spirit of the Alisal during the Holiday Season. Lavish decorations, twinkling lights, and eight uniquely themed trees transform the resort into a winter wonderland the whole family will enjoy. Set in Solvang, the Alisal offers a Locals Only Holiday Package including:
• Cottage with wood-burning fireplace  • Golf on two championship courses
• Gourmet breakfast and dinner  • Horseback riding • Fitness Center & Spa access and more.
Dates and rates: Available December 1-23 (excluding nights of December 17 & 18) on a space available basis; two-night minimum is waived.  $395 per night double occupancy*, $295 per night double occupancy (without activities)* *Must mention this ad and reside in Santa Barbara County to receive special rate.  Taxes & service charges are additional. Or buy an Alisal Gift Card by Dec. 23 for a special Holiday Package rate which can be used from January 2 – March 31,2011. (Space available basis. Excludes weekends and holidays.)


Chico Basin Ranch

Chico Basin Ranch is an 87,000-acre working cattle ranch 35 minutes southeast of Colorado Springs, Colorado. “It’s a unique experience,” notes Caroline Ferguson, Executive Director. “Our message is working together to live with the land.”cowboywithpond

Part of what is special is that the ranch is owned by the Colorado State Land Board and managed under a one-of-a-kind lease by Duke and Janet Phillips and their family. The ranch offers education and recreation opportunities for both adults and children, and the Chico Basin Ranch is a working cattle ranch that derives its main income from grazing and running cattle. For guests, Chico Basin Ranch is open-year round, but to get the full experience, most guests visit spring thru fall. That’s when they can watch or participate in the most activities–from branding to cattle drives. And you can send time with ranch hands and families. You’ll stay in on of just two guest rooms that share a bathroom, sitting room, and full kitchen. Guests cook their own meals or chose to dine in their cabin on the ranch’s chef-prepared meals.
Since it is dedicated to the enhancement and preservation of the natural world and of western heritage, as are many ranchers themselves. In philosophy and style, staying at Chico Basin Ranch is a little like being a rancher–without the worries.
Dates and rates: book any 2011 week vacation before December 31,2010 and you’ll get a 10% discount off of the weekly rate.


Lone Mountain Ranch

Hankering for a really white Christmas? You can’t miss with snowy Montana. Check out the wintery fun the holidays  at Lone Mountain Ranch. From snowshoe treks to gourmet meals, and side trip to schuss down the alpine slopes at nearby Big Sky Resort, there’s a lot to choose from at Lone Mountain Ranch. Saturday, December 18, 2010 Full Moon Snowshoe with one of our guides.  Explore the Ranch trails by moonlight!  A festive snowshoe through the woods and up to the hill to overlook the cabins and the Ranch glowing in holiday lights.  Includes snowshoes, hot cider and hot chocolate, cookies, trail pass and guide.

Christmas at Lone Mountain Ranch Christmas week has always been special at the Ranch. What a magical place to spend the holidays with snow laden trees, festive holiday meals, and the Lodge and cabins dressed in their holiday finest. Christmas week is December 19-26, 2010.  Each year we “surprise” guests with something new and special, whether it’s a Christmas Eve feast, complete with ice carvings and Santa or a Christmas torchlight ski.

Triple Creek Ranch
Turns out,  Triple Creek Ranch is set a place that happens to offer terrific winter birding–the Bitterroot Valley. With the help of guides, guests can search for the 250 species known to visit the valley (just don’t get distracted by the spectacular mountain scenery). Watch a peregrine falcon swoop from the sky at 150 miles per hour as one of their local falconers shows off her prize bird. Visit Lee Metcalf Wildlife Refuge to see migratory ducks, geese and swans, then move on to the CB Ranch to watch eagles and hawks soar through Montana’s big sky. Also look for majestic bull elk, moose, mule deer, big horn sheep, antelope, an occasional shy wolf and the track of the silent mountain lion. Ask for the Ranchweb Special: Nature Lover’s Birding Weekend. Dates and rates: January 21, 2011 to January 22, 2011; February 25, 2011 to February 26, 2011. Beginning at $750 per night, per couple.
Powder1smallSki Package: Triple Creek offers a new “Ski the Northern Rockies” package, with downhill skiing at Lost Trail Powder Mountain Ski Resort (shown at right) and cross-country skiing at Chief Joseph Pass, through February 28, 2011. The 4-night* “Ski the Northern Rockies” package** includes downhill ski passes, snowboard and ski rental, and transportation to Lost Trail Powder Mountain; cross-country equipment use and transportation to the eight ski loops at Chief Joseph Pass on the Montana-Idaho border; accommodations in a luxury log cabin; all meals and house wines and spirits; complimentary bottle of wine upon arrival with freshly baked cookies and trail mix; to-go lunch and snacks for all winter excursions. On-ranch activities including horseback riding, hiking, and snowshoeing.
Dates and rates: Now through the end of February, the four-night* “Ski the Northern Rockies” package is priced at $2,700 based on double occupancy (*Additional nights are available at a discount of 10% off nightly $750 rate;** Blackout Dates:  December 23-25 and December 30-January 1).

And for those who want to brush up their horsemanship skills, don’t forget Western Horsemanship Weekends. All riding levels are welcomed in, but only real cowboys and cowgirls will check out from Triple Creek Ranch after their Western Horsemanship Weekend. Dates and rates: January 7, 2011 to January 8, 2011; January 28, 2011 to January 29, 2011; February 25, 2011 to February 26, 2011. Beginning at $750 per night, per couple

Geronimo Trail Guest Ranch
Set in the Gila National Forest, between the Gila and Aldo Leopold Wildernesses, the Geronimo Trail Guest Ranch is located in southwest New Mexico. Cozy cabins are nestled in the pines; they are large, with fireplaces, queen beds (and bunkbeds), coffee maker, full bath/shower, reading chairs, magazines and books, snacks, table/chairs, covered porches, and a cookie jar filled with homemade goodies. Cabins are comfortably furnished in a Native American style or a Cowboy motif. Dates and rates: Open March 1 – New Year’s (Closed for Christmas, but open December 27 – New Year’s). Groups of seven or more save 10 percent.


Running -R Guest Ranch

Diane at the Running -R Guest Ranch tells us that the ranch has two specials going on. The first offering: Stay 3 nights get the 4th night free (excluding holidays).  Dates and rates: January 2, 2011 through February 28, 2011 (NOTE:  Must mention code 344 to get the discount.)  And don’t miss out on the big Running –R Guest Ranch Cattle Drive, set for February 25 through February 27. On this special three-day event, you get the chance to taste life as a cowboy as you drive cattle across the Texas Hill Country State Natural Area.  One thing’s for sure: you’ll get a lifetime of memories. But don’t delay or you will miss out on this unique experience.
Dates and rates: The cattle drive will take place rain or shine Feb 25-27. Space on the cattle drive is limited and they expect this to sell out very quickly.The cost of the three-day event is $150.00 per night for adults, and $110/night for children from 10-16 (plus tax), which includes horse and tack, park entry fee, camping fees, meals, the assistance of park wrangler guides. Check out the Texas Hill Country site at Email for more information.

The buzz about Arizona’s Elkhorn Ranch

Our friends at Arizona’s Elkhorn Ranch dropped us a note about their latest ventures into the cyber world. “Some of us are a bit reluctant to launch ourselves into the world of social networking, but luckily we have young people around to help us! Facebook and Twitter are a fun way to keep up with friends and share news, so we’re out there! If you’re on Facebook, our “fan page” is ElkhornRanchAZ. We’ve got some new photos up that you might like. If you’re into Twitter, you can get our latest “tweets” by following ElkhornRanch. And if you aren’t so keen on high tech news, rest assured Elkhorn Ranch will greet you with old fashioned paper a few times a year!’

‘We’ve also adventured onto TripAdvisor, which provides traveler reviews and opinions. We’d love to have yours on the Elkhorn Ranch listing! You can find our listing by copying and pasting this link into your browser:” Thanks to our pals at Elkhorn for the news.


Winter ranches and rodeos

Hidden Meadow Ranch, Arizona

Hidden Meadow Ranch, Arizona

Winter ranches

Just as winter is approaching, you may be thinking the dude ranch season is over. Sure, some ranches in the high country roll up the welcome mats when the snow flies, but others just switch gears, trading hay wagons for sleighs and hiking boots for cross country skis. And for many of the Southwest (and South America) ranches, like Hidden Meadow Ranch (shown at right), winter is their high season, when temperatures rise and snowbirds flock to sunny climes. From Idaho’s Western Pleasure Guest Ranch to New York’s Pinegrove Dude Ranch & Family Resort,  to Wyoming’s Vee Bar Guest Ranch, you’ll find the welcome mat is out this winter.

Here’s a reminder of some of the winter fun you’ll find at Ranchweb’s member dude and guest ranch resorts.

Hidden Meadow Ranch

Don’t expect a desert getaway. Set in eastern Arizona’s White Mountains, you’ll find a log cabin hideaway surrounded by 2 million acres of majestic national forest. Their motto: escape from everything but luxury. Choose from tons of fun here:  horseback riding through the snow (weather permitting); horse-drawn sleigh rides; sledding; snowshoeing; back-country excursions via the ranch’s exclusive 24-passenger snowcat; ice fishing; cross-country skiing on the area’s groomed trails; skiing and snowboarding at Sunrise Ski Resort, within 30 minutes of the lodge.
Details: Guest cabins include wood-burning fireplaces, covered porch, pillow-top mattresses or feather beds, down pillows, hand carved wood and leather furniture, fine art and antiques, digital music channels. And if you must stay connected, you can with Internet access via Wired in the Woods®.

Conferences are unique at Peaceful Valley Ranch

How about some snowmobiling, snowshoeing, or cross country skiing in between your meetings? That’s a perfect conference mix at Peaceful Valley Ranch, near Lyons, Colorado. There’s everything your group needs for a successful conference: a big meeting room, AV equipment, meals and beverages for your breaks, plus a pool, game and exercise room when your team needs to blow off steam. And for that group bonding experience, a hay ride through the snow would give them something to talk about. Details: Families and small groups are welcome at the ranch in winter, which is open year-round. There’s plenty of winter fun: snowmobiling, snowshoeing, or cross country with ranch guides through the Roosevelt National Forest. Equipment is available for rental.


Themed winter weekends at Montana’s Triple Creek Ranch

That ultra-luxurious all-inclusive property in Montana’s Rocky Mountains, Triple Creek Ranch, recently introduced themed weekends to showcase the resort’s varied wintertime appeal. Triple Creek Ranch was recently named the #1 inn in the Continental U.S. and Canada, and the #2 hotel overall worldwide, in the 15th Annual Travel + Leisure World’s Best Awards survey.

Themed weekends and seasonal celebrations at Triple Creek Ranch include: A Christmas to Remember; Ring in 2011 New Year’s; Western Horsemanship Weekends; Cooking School Weekends; and more. The next two themed weekends coming up are A Christmas to Remember and Ring in 2011.
Details: Rates include all meals (including hearty breakfasts, candlelit gourmet dinners and picnic lunches), house wine and house cocktails, snacks, unlimited use of the fitness center, and all ranch activities, including on-ranch trail rides, guided nature tours, ice fishing, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. A Christmas to Remember. All decked out in holiday finery, the ranch’s celebration features Christmas Eve and Christmas Day gourmet dinners served with fine wines and accompanied by live entertainment. Rates from $650 per room, per night, per couple, excluding $150 holiday premium per room. Three-night minimum required. Ring in 2011. Fireworks over the Bitterroot Mountains and an evening horseback ride are highlights of the ranch’s New Year’s Eve celebration on December 31, 2010. A gourmet dinner, live entertainment, and all ranch activities are included. Rates from $650 per night, per couple, excluding $150 holiday premium per room. Three-night minimum stay required.

Ranch rodeos and gymkhanas

In winter, you can watch or sometimes join in ranch rodeos at spots like White Stallion Ranch in Arizona. At White Stallion, their Saturday rodeo has been a tradition for over 60 years. The rodeo is narrated with an eye to the history and tradition of ranching and rodeo in the West. It’s fitting, since the ranch owners, the True family, have been rodeoing since their youth; now their third generation is trying the sport. You’ll see some of the White Stallion wranglers, family, and friends compete in several events. Catch all the breathtaking action: barrel racing, team roping, breakaway roping, steer wrestling, and more.

At Arizona’s Rancho de los Caballeros, the one rodeo event takes on a whole new meaning to the corporate cowboys and cowgirls: the Rancho de los Caballeros Team Penning Program. For business groups meeting at the ranch conference facilities, it’s a unique way to train team members in the art of communication, motivation, and relationship development. Team Penning entails dividing your group into teams of three or four, plus a cowboy who’ll give as much or as little help as you wish. Each team takes turns riding into an arena to cut three yearling steers out of a herd; they then drive them into a pen as quickly as possible. Deceptively simple, this timed event is guaranteed to provide a challenging and exciting learning experience for all. Just ask one of the Rancho’s sales staff for details on team penning and other events tailored around your existing company programs or customized to your specific goals.

Or plan ahead to get in on the action yourself in summertime. Several ranches offer summertime gymkhanas—games on horseback—that guests can join (for a full list of ranches that offer gymkhanas, see’s R Lazy S Ranch welcomes children of 7 years and older from June through August (September is an adults only month). Their special riding program includes instruction, half-day trail rides, all-day rides to nearby mountain lakes and lively gymkhanas. You should also check out Colorado’s Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch, Wit’s End Guest Ranch Resort & Spa,  Montana’s Sweet Grass Ranch, and Wyoming’s CM Ranch, T Cross Ranch, Vee Bar Guest Ranch, or Heart Six Ranch.


Ahhh, wilderness pack trips

pic5Wilderness. It speaks to something different in each of us, something elemental that’s hard to get at in the over-protected and all-too-virtual world of civilization. A pack trip puts wilderness within your reach. Consider a wilderness pack trip can be your all-access pass to secret trout streams and hidden fishing holes, to trails into some of the most pristine areas left in the world, and perhaps even to a wilder part of your soul.

Fall is prime time for pack trips, for not only hunters and anglers, but for those hunting up crisp, cool days and photographs of dazzling autumn colors. A pack trip can make it a lot easier to reach those remote rivers alive with fat trout, and hills and vales that hide bears, coyotes, elk and deer.

Traveling to high mountain lakes, river gorges, through mountain passes and meadows, pack trip vacations do not always involve dude ranches, but many extraordinary pack trips originate from dude ranches or are offered in conjunction with dude ranch vacations. Pack trip vacations can be an overnight trip, a weeklong holiday or longer. Generally the packers, or outfitters, pack supplies on sturdy mules and horses and trek into the back country.

Choose a trip that’s fully guided, or a spot pack trip (where your ggear is ferried to a pre-arranged spot and dropped off, then picked up at trip’s end).

The Ranchweb site lists links to 43 ranches and outfitters that offer pack trips. Here’s a quick sampling:

Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch
The Cow Camp adventure is a for many a vacation highlight, a true Old West experience (no electricity, no plumbing). Cow Camp is a rustic log homestead from the late 1800s, set in the aspen trees along Cedar Creek. On this overnight pack trip, you’ll enjoy the open air, mountain stillness, and starlight, and who knows, you may just see your friends, family, or co-workers in a whole new light.

Triple Creek Ranch
Whether you prefer extreme sports, a true western adventure or simply the serene beauty of mountain fishing, there is no more scenic backdrop than the Bitterroot Valley. Enjoy a guided trip into the Selway River country, perhaps the most pristine fly-fishing river in America (available through October).

CM Ranch
Take a pack trip as part  of or separate from a traditional week-long dude ranch vacation.  Guests can go to the CM’s base camp at Union Lake, and find glacier-fed lakes are just a short ride away. Or choose a progressive trip and camp next to a different lake each night.  They also drop gear for hikers and backpackers who wish to see the area on foot. Call ahead for pack trip schedule.

The Hideout Lodge & Resort

“We see trophy deer and elk, fox, coyote, lynx, big horn sheep, mountain lion, black bear, and moose,” says the Hideout.  They’ve made efforts to enhance their habitats to ensure the stability of game herds on the Flitner Ranch properties, and hunting is one of the tools used to accomplish this goal. Their motto: “Every management decision made on the ranch takes our hunting habitats into consideration.” They partner with Powder Horn Outfitters, based out of Sheridan, Wyoming, for pack trip through November.

Triangle C Ranch
For a pack trip in the Greater Yellowstone Area, and a real western backcountry experience, Thunder Mountain Outfitters at the Triangle C Ranch can take you there from June through September.

October specials

Triple Creek focuses on cowgirls during “100 Klicks for Chicks” and artistic passion

Known for its spectacular setting in the Montana Rockies, its luxurious accommodations and superb, personalized service, Triple Creek Ranch is an award-winning member of Relais & Châteaux. Set under the Montana Big Sky, the ranch is rated the number one US inn in Travel + Leisure’s 2010 World’s Best Awards. This month’s events:  Klicks for Chicks: Venture into deep canyons, over mountain passes, past crystal-clear lakes and through open meadows to discover the true frontier of the Rocky Mountain West. Cowgirls are invited to participate in a one-of-a-kind horseback riding adventure, created and led by Triple Creek Ranch owner Barbara Barrett.  The first annual Klicks for Chicks 100-kilometer ride is the flip side of the existing all-male 100-mile Los Caballeros and Bohemian Grove endurance horse rides. The ride is for women only and cowgirls will ride rugged all day but return to the luxury of the Rocky Mountain resort at night.   Gourmet evening meals are followed by crackling fires in Triple Creek’s luxurious cabins; a relaxing outdoor hot tub is your reward for a long day in the saddle.

Artists’ Workshop Weekends: (Oct. 7-10, Oct. 14-17, Oct. 21-24) and David Stoecklein Photography Weekend¸ (Oct. 28-31). Arts-loving guests will have an opportunity to fine-tune their skills alongside some of the West’s most accomplished professionals. The series of four-day/three-night workshops each features three celebrated artists leading morning and afternoon hands-on workshops.  The all-inclusive weekends include luxurious accommodations in a mountain cabin with wood-burning fireplace and hot tub (in cabin or nearby), gourmet meals and complimentary house wine and spirits, ranch activities, artists’ welcome reception, a guided tour of the Ranch’s art collection and farewell art exhibit.

Mountain Sky focuses on food

Mountain Sky Guest Ranch

This month’s Flavors Out West event (Oct. 15-19) promises to be a world-class culinary experience. Head chef Brian Bielen and pastry chef Pam Comstock open their kitchen for the first time to share the secrets behind thier cuisine.  Learn the how-to’s of each gourmet dish, or let the sommelier guide you through the perfect pairing of wine with each dish.

Join in on hands-on workshops, or simply revel in luxurious accommodations, cast a line into Big Creek, take a hike through Paradise Valley’s fiery foliage or follow the wranglers to the ‘top of the world’ on horseback.

Details: Flavors Out West; October 15 – 19, 2010; $1475/person. Package price includes: lodging, all meals, on-ranch activities, use of all ranch facilities and amenities, and  complimentary wines with workshops. For more, go to