Tucked against the saw-toothed Baboquivari Mountains southwest of Tucson, Arizona, is a traditional family-owned and operated guest ranch offering horseback riding and relaxation for some 32 guests. A few days ago, I talked to co-owner Mary Miller recently about what makes Arizona’s Elkhorn unique. The Miller Family has owned and operated Elkhorn Ranch continuously since 1946 and enjoys the friendship of many returning guests and crew.
“We open next week on Sunday.’ said Miller, with a smile in her voice. “What we take a lot of pride in is the great ranch traditions,” Miller added. “We’re not a ranch that tries to makes things new every year! We’re a great family destination.”
Special packages for fall/winter
Miller was proud to tell me about the upcoming photography workshop that the ranch has offered successfully for years, covering natural history and digital photography, at no added cost (This season it is January 20-27, with Stweart Aitchison and Ann Kramer). New this year is a Music Workshop-January 6-13, focusing on the old-time music with workshops on guitar, banjo, fiddle. You can join in or simply listen and enjoy.
Miller also wanted folks to know that there is space available for New Year’s Week. “We have a fun night on New Year’s,” she noted, “with games and a piñata for kids. There’s a huge Mexican feast, and later in the night, the adults take over to celebrate.” And during that whole week, the weather is typically lovely. “It’s a great time to get away from the cold in the north,” Millers says with a laugh.
Further, she told me that Arizona’s Elkhorn Ranch has spring break space available in March and April; it’s sunny and warm then and the pool is pretty popular in the afternoon. The kids play outdoors and have hotdog cookouts, and as always rides are tailored to the abilities of the guests. “We focus on one week stays,” Miller explains. “It gives you time to enjoy the countryside and become comfortable with the horses, and enjoy the friendship of the other guests you get the most out of a one week stay.” A weekly stay is a better bargain than the shorter stays. And for longer stays for snowbirds or other sunseekers, the rates are even more favorable.
Listen to former guests sing the praises of Arizona’s Elkhorn Ranch. One says: “I’ve been to the Elkhorn several times over the past 20 years and I’m pleased to report that it never changes. I’ve heard it said that wilderness is the greatest luxury. If that’s the case, then the Elkhorn is exceedingly luxurious! However, it’s a subtle brand of luxury; no spa or marble bathtubs here (though you can get a massage!)”
Another calls it a ‘perfect family vacation,’ saying “We enjoyed an absolutely amazing week at Elkhorn! If you enjoy being in nature, this is your place. Beautiful nature with mountain and dessert surrounding the ranch. We loved the concept of having meals on communal tables with open seating and there were always interesting conversations with people from all over and all ages.
A third raved “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. We met folks from all over and all ages…this place is perfect for families and friends…go there…you’ll love it!”
You can’t buy advertising like that. But then, southern Arizona guest ranch Elkhorn Ranch doesn’t have to.
Scenic Sonoran desert country filled with unique and abundant birds and wildlife is the backdrop for the Miller family’s Elkhorn Ranch. Vacation here and you may enjoy riding ranch-raised horses through desert and mountain; hiking; swimming, tennis, shooting on the rifle range, playing ping ping, or horse shoes.
There’s a well stocked library and a groaning buffet table stocked with plentiful comfort food. Feed the birds on the patio of your cabin, watch for wildlife at dusk, or just enjoy riding the trails that wind toward the mountains. Kids love the freedom of the secluded ranch setting and the twice a day horseback trail rides. Families that lack a certain togetherness in the bustle of home life will love the fact that they can have all of their meals together, sharing the adventures of the day.
That’s Elkhorn Ranch: a great place to ride, relax, revive, recharge and reconnect.
Details: Open Mid November through end of April. Where: 50 miles southwest of Tucson. Call: 520/ 822-1040.
Notes from Elkhorn: Elkhorn becomes a home away from home where everyone enjoys the outdoors, riding, friendship, and the ease of a family friendly vacation where ordering breakfast is the big decision of the day. Everyone has the chance to relax and enjoy time together, as well as time apart – a perfect week long family vacation or gathering place for multi-generation reunions. Rides are arranged daily to suit individual interests and experience. All rides are guided, with small groups. Everyone enjoys the same horse and saddle throughout their stay. Kids must be 6 and older to ride. The 5 and under crowd may come at no charge, and have a ball exploring the ranch (note that Elkhorn does not provide supervised child-care). A heated swimming pool, tennis and basketball court, ping pong, horseshoes, hiking, birding, kick the can by the light of the stars and moon and peeking under rocks — plus a well stocked library and cupboard of games and puzzles keeps everyone busy when not riding. No television. Yes to wireless internet access. Fly to Phoenix or Tucson — visit the Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum on your way to Elkhorn Ranch!
Ranchweb and our own Gene Kilgore were featured recently in Canadian Living’s blog titled “Travel Talk: Family-friendly horse holidays” written by Doug O’Neill. The story included so many good tips on choosing the right riding or ranch vacation that we decided to pass it along.
Here’s what O’Neill had to tell his readers:
“Gene Kilgore, author of Ranch Vacations, is the go-to guy for the scoop on horseriding holidays, guest ranches, dude ranches and working ranches whether you’re holidaying in Canada, going to the United States or even further afield.
Gene is the equine-savvy expert who has provided all the horse sense (pun intended) behind www.ranchweb.com, which functions almost like a mini portal for all things related to horse-friendly vacations, and endeavours to match customers to the ranch or horseriding holiday that best suits their tastes.
We asked Gene a handful of questions sent in by our readers:
Reader question: How do I know it’s a bonafide, legit ranch? How do I check? What do I look for? Is there any kind of criteria to be met?
Gene Kilgore: If you’ve never taken a ranch vacation before, or if you need some guidance on where to start, we offer a handy check list of questions to help make the process easier. We suggest that people pose these questions to the individual properties, to gather more specifics on the activities and programs they offer.
A great way to find quality ranches is to see if they’re members of any associations. For example, many of Ranchweb’s British Columbia properties are also part of the BC Guest Ranchers’ Association whose members offer excellent horseback riding, a wide range of activities, and high quality accommodations and amenities.
Reader Question. “If my wife and I and the kids book into a ranch vacation for a week, what happens if we get bored or tired of horses after three days?”
Gene Kilgore: There are lots of activities available at most ranches for families that go above and beyond horseback riding. For parents worried about keeping their kids entertained, many ranches offer kids programs where their children can play, have fun with other kids, learn about nature, and enjoy the outdoors.
Some ranches have very extensive programs led by counselors that run from breakfast until after dinner, while others are designed to bring families together and integrate several activities and meals. If your family is keen to experience a range of activities during their vacation beyond horseback riding you’ll want to scope out each ranch’s offerings prior to booking.
Reader question: For the best scenery in Canada, what ranch vacation spots would you recommend?
Gene Kilgore: All of the Canadian ranches are incredibly picturesque, in my opinion. Think sweeping meadows, rolling hills, and incredible stargazing thanks to the clean country air. Many of the guest ranches in British Columbia can be found in the heart of Cariboo Country, in the interior of the province.
Ranches such as Echo Valley Ranch & Spa, in Clinton, B.C., Siwash Lake Ranch, set on 80,000 acres of pristine rangeland halfway between the Rocky Mountains and the West Coast of British Columbia, Three Bars Cattle & Guest Ranch, in Cranbrook, British Columbia, and Tod Mountain Ranch, in the southern interior of British Columbia, all offer peaceful and lush wilderness vacations.
Reader question: I like horse ranches and swimming. Could you recommend a ranch vacation in Canada where I could get time on a horse but also escape to a each every couple of days?
Gene Kilgore: If you’re a horse-lover who’s looking to stay close to the ocean, I suggest heading to Clayoquot Wilderness Resort, Tofino, Vancouver Island. There you can spend time in Clayoquot Sound World Biosphere on the western most edge of Vancouver Island, and on the one day you can go horse-back riding and whale-watching – and take a dip in the water.
Reader question: What wilderness camp would you recommend in Canada?
Gene Kilgore: Warner Guiding and Outfitting, shown below, is based in Banff, Alberta, and specializes in horseback riding in backcountry, deep into Banff National Park. Your companions will be seasoned cowboys who know horses and know the land.
Details: To search the detailed ranch directory to find the horse vacation to meet your wishlist, check out the Ranchweb directory.
Ask any doctor, lawyer, or other high-powered professional how they choose to relax from their challenging work and chances are they’ll opt for something physically demanding that they can do out in the fresh air. And if the activity is unique, all the better.
In that case, the best medicine for doctors or lawyers just might be a ranch vacation with a cattle drive thrown in. Call it our roundup Rx.
But unless you’re tough as Clint Eastwood, you may want to join a cattle drive that offers some comforts, like good food and outstanding scenery. Ranchweb.com to the rescue!
What does a dude wear to his/her first roundup? Good riding boots, well-worn (soft) jeans, and layers that include a rain jacket or poncho. DO bring a ‘stampede string’ or chin strap for your wide-brimmed hat. Ask what else to bring when you book your drive; some outfits will rent or sell chaps and chinks. Ask about weather and trail conditions, how long you’ll be riding each day, and so forth. What NOT to bring: No sneakers or spurs, please.
The Hideout Lodge & Guest Ranch
Just east of Cody and Yellowstone National Park is an upscale riding, horsemanship and working cattle guest ranch called The Hideout Lodge & Guest Ranch (pictured above). And while there are tons of recreational activities to choose from, cattle work is their signature activity.
And it’s not just laid on for the entertainment of ranch guests. Here, with more than a thousand cows, calves, and yearlings wandering across some 250,000 acres, cattle work is genuine and necessary work that guests can help with.
“Our key staff is trained in the Bud Williams Low Stress Stockmanship concept of handling livestock,” says ranch literature. “During your orientation on Monday morning you will learn the basic concepts. We can also organize a 1 day session during your stay given there are enough participants.”
Details: Ride into crisp fall mornings against a backdrop of aspen trees changing colors. Mid September through October is roundup time in the high country around the Hideout. Look for elk and wildlife moving down from the high country while you round up the calves and drive them back down to the valley basin. But note: “Cattle work hinges on range conditions and weather; we are seldom able to say in advance exactly when we’ll do a long distance drive.” To stay tuned, visit: http://www.cattle-work.com/
Bitterroot Dude Ranch
Spend all day in the saddle driving the herd, then return to your cozy cabin each night to spend all night in a comfy bed. Now that’s my idea of a cattle drive. You get all the adventure without all of the discomfort of sleeping on the ground and going days without a shower.
Guests who ‘ride well enough’ are allowed to pitch in with herding the cows into or back down from the mountains. It’s challenging work, since the cattle are spread out over 50 square miles of mountains, forests, and river valleys. You may ride off the beaten path in country where encounters with wild game like elk, deer, moose, wolves and grizzly bear are possible. But at the end of each day, you’ll head back to your cabin for all the comforts of home (like a meal, shower, and good bed).
Details: the first week of July or the last week of September. Meet at Riverton or Jackson, trip lasts 8 days/7 nights (with 6 days riding). Guests with riding experience only. $2,100 per person based on double occupancy.
Bucking S Ranch
Set near the foothills of the Seminoe and Shirley Mountains, the Bucking S is the real deal: an authentic working cattle ranch running some 200 cow-calf pairs. As if that wasn’t enough, they also help three ranch neighbors with their cattle work.
“The whole season from mid-May to mid-October we rotate cattle to new pastures as grazing conditions and water dictates. Between taking care of our own cattle and helping neighboring ranches, we have plenty of cattle drives every single week.”
Details: Open May through October 7. Located 65 miles southwest of Casper, Wyo., at altitudes between 6,800 and 8,000 feet. Rates from $ 1,550 per week/per person double occupancy (includes all ranch activities, meals, snacks and non-alcoholic beverages). “After you had a chance to browse through our web site, we would very much enjoy speaking to you personally about our ranch, answer any questions you might have and make sure you have a good understanding of what to expect from a ranch vacation at The Bucking S.”
Tanque Verde Ranch
If you’re new to riding, or don’t have the time to spend on a full cattle drive, there are loads of other ways to get your cowboy on and work up a sweat. At Tanque Verde, you can join the Team Penning Competition.
Team Penning pits you (and your teammates) against is a herd of eight sometimes-ornery cattle. Team Penning is done at a walk or trot, so riders of all skill levels may participate. The goal of this timed competition is to maneuver the cows through a series of obstacles and into one of three pens. (Doctors or lawyers may find this exercise akin to getting a patient or client to do what they’re supposed to do.) Or you may find it’s just a fun twist on your dude ranch experience and a great way to bond with friends, family or co-workers.
Details: May through October is Value Season, so rates are the best of the year. (Rates, from $395 per night, double occupancy, include three meals, all trail riding and horseback lessons, fishing, guided hiking and mountain biking, art classes, water aerobics, tennis clinics and lessons, and a fully supervised children’s program. Also included are outdoor BBQ cookouts (Wed and Sat), and breakfast ride. All rates INCLUDE service charge!)
You’ve heard about ‘glamping’ by now—which lets you combine the fun and adventure of camping with a touch of glamour and comfort. A canvas cabin with a real bed inside. A BATHROOM. And a floor. If its not exactly a bargain, it is one way to get a whole lotta luxury at the best price possible–especially if you go during the shoulder seasons of spring or fall.
But at ranches like Montana’s Paws Up (shown above) and Ranch at Rock Creek, they’ve taken the concept to whole different level. It’s as if someone took good old comfort food and gave it a gourmet twist. Put another way—if Ralph Lauren camped out, this is where he’d stay. Navajo-style rugs on the floor, hand-crafted furniture, twice daily maid service. Yeah, you can bet the drovers on the Chisholm Trail never camped out like this!
The Ranch at Rock Creek
The minute you arrive at Montana’s The Ranch at Rock Creek, you’ve got some 50 miles of mountains, meadows, lakes and streams to help you shake off the bonds of civilization.
That’s just for starters. Where you decide to lay your head at night is the rest of the story. If you’re looking for the perfect cross between comfort and a sense of being in the wilderness,The Ranch at Rock Creek offers three different options.
For example, you might want to try their canvas-topped cabins, with luxury bedding and a private bathroom. Choose ‘Glamping for Two’ and you get one of Rock Creek’s four Classic Canvas Cabins (each a generous 630 square feet), which give you a spacious main room for your bedroom with enough living area to include a comfortable sitting area.
Or consider the ‘Family Glamping’ option; each of the four Family Canvas Cabins (at 810 square feet) has two rooms separated by a curtain with space for a reading nook. And finally for two guests, there’s ‘Trapper’ for the most secluded glamping of all—‘the ultimate accommodation for those wanting to experience nature and luxury with maximum privacy’.
Details: Open year-round with amenities that include a full spa. Some 15 miles from Philipsburg, Montana, and 1 hour 20 minutes from Missoula. Glamping rates start at $950 per night and include ranch activities from archery to riding and fly fishing. All rates include full board with breakfast, lunch and dinner in the Granite Lodge and the Blue Canteen.
The Resort at Paws Up
Here, they call glamping ‘the original American Safari’, and that’s a pretty good description. Settle into one of 24 luxury tents featuring a rustic elegance that’s hard to find. Whether you’re looking for a romantic honeymoon destination or a way to ease the kids into camping (without having to listen to ANY whining), glamping at Paws Up is something else.
Beyond the tent, which looks like it was furnished out of a designer catalogue, there’s electricity, a deck, first-class service, luxurious amenities, and world-class dining. And can you say Personal Camping Butler? Yep, he’s the guy that makes sure your every whim is satisfied (as far as legally possible).
Details: Missoula International Airport is only 35 minutes away. Nightly rates start at $1555 (at the River Camp) and include meals and a mind-boggling list of activities, including guided activites, fun stuff for kids, winter sports, and wilderness workshops.
For more detail and photos, check out both ranches on Ranchweb.com.
I 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 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
SMART RANCH TRAVELER
Or maybe a better title for this particular story is How to NOT plan your ranch vacation. If you want to de-stress even before you take your family on a gust ranch trip, then here’s a term you’ll want to study: The all-inclusive vacation.
What a great concept for time-stressed parents. No hassles, no major planning required, just pack and show up at the ranch (or the airport–some ranches will arrange to pick you up from there). And Ranchweb can help you find ranches still offering all-inclusive vacations. Used to be, all dude ranch vacations came that way, but no more. The dude ranch industry has evolved to provide more customization—offering shorter, less costly trips and some inexpensive options that let you pay only for what you want (rather than one all-inclusive package).
Still, the all-inclusive option has a lot to offer, including lodging, sports, all meals, riding lessons, and so forth for one price. At some ranches, like Colorado’s Home Ranch (shown above), all inclusive means gourmet cuisine (some of the best dude ranch meals you’ll find), year-round multi-sport adventures and fly fishing guides (and gear), exceptional children’s programs, live music, roaring campfires, and even shuttle service to/from the airport.
Some of the larger ranches like Averill’s Flathead Lake Ranch, provide all kinds of play and sports gear for your use and optional side trips to national parks, along major rivers, and more. Those kinds of extras can make it worth the sometimes price tag that comes with the all-inclusive option. But think of it this way: how much would you pay simply for tickets for a family day at the amusement park–not including meals, lodging, transportation and so on? Thinking of it that way, the all-inclusive price tag— including all your meals, lodging, and your choices of so many unique amusements—seems reasonable.
And some ranches, like California’s Greenhorn Creek ranch (shown at right) offer all-inclusive packages and activities for weddings, reunions, special interest groups, business/corporate meetings & retreats. It makes planning those types of trips a breeze.
The all-inclusive option is designed to let parents relax and let kids have fun and a little (supervised) freedom in the great outdoors. Fresh air, great food, family bonding in a no-stress zone. That’s the promise of the all-inclusive ranch resort vacation.
The 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 Ranchweb.com 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 Ranchweb.com helps you find your perfect guest ranch vacation. Here’s a sampling of what as few of those ranches offer:
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 Lodge
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.
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.
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.
TIPS FROM THE RANCHERS
Kiplinger’s Magazine recently did a story titled “24 Best Travel Sites to Save You Money: Find the best deals online for plane tickets, hotel rooms, vacation packages and car rentals, both at home and abroad.” They divided it into categories like airfare (tops: Kayak.com), lodging (tops: Hotels.com), vacation packages (tops: Cruisecompete.com) and so forth. They could have also added Dude Ranch Vacations (tops: Ranchweb.com).
We like Kiplinger’s 24 picks (Read more: http://www.kiplinger.com/features/archives/best-travel-sites-to-save-you-money.html#ixzz1qu4cQcp8 ). But we and the ranchers we talked to have our own faves.
Kayak.com, expedia.com, Expedia.com, Orbitz.com,Travelocity.com, Sidestep.com
Travelzoo.com. But don’t miss these less well known sites: Lastminute.com, Skyauction.com, Dogpile.com, Accona.com, Quikbook.com, andUniversity Hotel Network.
Try mtSOBEK.com, Family Travel Network.com.
And of course when you’re dreaming of that perfect ranch vacation, we like Ranchweb.com (but then, we’re biased)!
For specialty ranch vacation info:
At Ranchweb.com, you’ll find details on sites specifically designed for:
FlyFishing Ranches and Lodges
Luxury Ranch Real Estate
Dude Ranch Jobs
Arizona Dude Ranches
Colorado Dude Ranches
Montana Dude Ranches
Wyoming Dude Ranches
Details: find links to all of these sites at: http://www.ranchweb.com/links
TIPS FROM THE RANCHERS
A relaxing yoga session sounds great anytime, but it’s even better in a setting as lovely and peaceful as a dude ranch. And since horsemanship is at the crux of Colorado’s C Lazy U Ranch experience, C Lazy U is offering for the second year its unique combination: A yoga and riding program. It’s called The Julie Goodnight riding and yoga retreat for women (that’s Julie at right).
Located at the headwaters of the Colorado River and in the shadow of Rocky Mountain National Park (just two hours from Denver International Airport), C Lazy U is a true retreat from the stresses of everyday life.
In cooperation with Julie Goodnight, the riding and yoga clinics take place May 18-21 and October 19-22, 2012. The internationally-respected trainer and clinician, Julie Goodnight, teaches riders how to be their horse’s leader and master their equestrian skills through understanding horse behavior. C Lazy U’s clinic is developed for riders of all levels, from beginners to advanced riders.
In tandem with the riding program, attendees will also enjoy yoga from instructor Ellen Mesaros, teaching Anusara yoga. In their free time, participants are encouraged to indulge at the “Lazy U” spa for world-class massages, facials and more.
The ranch will also offer a ranch riding adventurefor adult riders of all levels September 21-24, 2012, also in cooperation with Julie. All three weekends feature discounted rates for world-class accommodations with programming, riding, and yoga (during the yoga weekends) included. Some participants will bring their own horses and others will work with one of the Ranch’s 175 horses.
A sample itinerary 7:30 Breakfast, open seating; 9 Group One: Riding lesson; Group Two: yoga; 10:00 Break 10:30 Group One: Yoga / Group Two: riding lesson; 12:00 Lunch 1:30 Group One: riding lesson; Group Two: trail ride or free time;3:00 Group One: trail ride or free time; Group Two: riding lesson; 5:00 Yoga stretch for everyone; 6:30 Cocktails; 7:00 Dinner is served! 8:00 Horse talk around the campfire.
Details: C Lazy U offers a selection of 38 rustically-elegant cabin accommodations. All guest rooms boast beautifully-crafted western and southwestern style furnishings, and most feature stone fireplaces, refrigerators, sitting rooms, balconies, and some, a jetted tub. For more on C Lazy U, visit Ranchweb.
You know TripAdvisor, that popular travel website where guests can comment on their lodging experiences? Listen to TripAdvisor’s comments about Arizona’s Elkhorn Ranch: “Perfect family vacation” – 5.0 of 5 stars (Expatriat2012 March 27, 2012)”… an absolutely amazing week at Elkhorn! If you enjoy being in nature, this is your place. Beautiful nature with mountain and dessert…” And then there’s this: “Must be best small riding ranch in Arizona.” –5.0 of 5 stars (Griffon_10 December 12, 2010). “The Elkhorn Ranch, south of Tucson, is outstanding … If you enjoy riding, hiking and ranch life, this is for you…”
Elkhorn Ranch, located in the rugged Baboquivari Mountains southwest of Tucson, Arizona, is a traditional family owned and operated guest ranch offering horseback riding and comfortable living for about 32 guests. The Miller Family has owned and operated Elkhorn continuously since 1946 and enjoys the friendship of many returning guests and crew.
I talked to co-owner Mary Miller recently about what makes Elkhorn so special. “We are fundamentally a riding ranch. We have a swimming pool, ping pong, tether ball and a tennis court, but we’re a small, traditional riding ranch.We really tailor rides to your needs and abilities.”
It is family owned and operated, so you get that feeling of family hospitialty, too. which may account for all those rave reviews. “We have a lot of loving return folks,” Miller notes, “and people enjoy the comraderie of friends they make and return to visit here. But its wonderful to get new guests, too!” Miller adds.
And about that riding focus? “All of our rides are guided. Our horses are ranch raised and trained and only used here. They have summers off and we have a large variety of horses (and saddles) to match people’s abilities,” Miller contends. And rides here are kept small, with each one arranged for your needs and what you want to do.
“We talk to everybody before each ride and design rides accordingly,” Miller says, “so the emphasis shifts with the people we have here. At Elkhorn Ranch, they have a lot of country to ride–open deseert for loping rides and mountain and valley for scenic rides. “You’re well away from the city and you get really big views–that’s not easy to find these days.”
“It’s been a lovely spring,” Mary reports. “The cactus flowers are blooming and the mares should be foaling toward end of the month.” But don’t wait too long to decide to visit. “We close at the end of April, so call soon to hold your spot or try for next season (from mid-November to end of April)!” Thanks for the update, Mary!
Details: Elkhorn Ranch’s twenty cabins and Long House where you gather for meals are tucked amidst the mesquites of Sabino Canyon, surrounded by mountain views and the wide open Altar Valley. The cabins provide comfortable living for singles, couples or families, each with a private bath, electric heaters, good reading lights, a sitting area, and your own birdfeeder with unlimited birdseed. No phones or televisions in the cabins. Daily housekeeping and nightly bed turn-downs. They’re happy to take care of special needs. Check Ranchweb.com for details.