SMART RANCH TRAVELER
At the recent Dude Ranchers’ Association Annual Convention in Cody, Wyoming, one of the keynote speakers was Nancy Schretter (at left), Managing Editor of The Family Travel Network. That’s the award-winning family travel site featured on the The Today Show, CNN, America Online, Parents Magazine and in USA Today.
Ranchweb’s own Gene Kilgore attended the conference and was impressed with Schretter’s talk. “It was upbeat and positive,” says Kilgore, “ explaining how much guest ranches have to offer to families and how guest ranch owners can position a ranch vacation as a multisport family travel outlet.” So we set out to learn more about Schretter and her online Family Travel Network (FTN).
Launched in 1995, FTN serves readers as an’ unbiased source of family travel advice, reviews, bargains, and articles by travel industry experts’. According to the website, FTN is the nation’s ‘oldest and most comprehensive free online site devoted exclusively to family travel and planning great vacations with kids’. Based in McLean, VA, FTN is produced by Beacon Interactive, a division of The Beacon Group, Inc.
FTN’s Managing Editor, Nancy Schretter, is an award-winning travel journalist and editor, mom, and a busy gal. But in between deadlines, we pinned Schretter down for a brief chat with her to talk about how she got into the world of family travel, how dude ranches can work best in a families’ vacation plans, and how ranchers can work smarter to appeal to families.
Here is Ranchweb’s Q&A session with Schretter:
Ranchweb: How did you get started with FTN?
Schretter: The Beacon Group (parent company of the Family Travel Network) was publishing newsletters in 1995 and we saw the need for more information on family and multi-generational travel. America Online (AOL) came to us to talk about partnering to take some of our other newsletters online. I told AOL about the family travel newsletter and they suggested that we do it online with them. It turned out to be a winning combination—we launched and grew with AOL, reaching hundreds of thousands of families. Eventually, we moved out onto the Internet where our content can be seen by everyone.
Ranchweb: How is FTN’s coverage different from other travel sites?
Schretter: The Family Travel Network is an independent, award-winning online travel magazine providing unbiased coverage of family travel destinations and lodging options. The site provides extensive firsthand destination information and city guides; detailed reviews of resorts, cruises and lodging options; lots of family trip planning advice; a wide variety of vacation ideas; “been there-done that” family travel tips; money-saving hot deals; and more. We do not sell travel of any kind, so we can cover whatever we think is best with no hidden agendas. Our articles are written by seasoned family travel journalists and travel industry experts who are also moms and dads who travel extensively with their own families. Our coverage is widespread, so we have information on great family places that are around the corner or across the globe.
Ranchweb: We heard you’ve taken a ranch vacation in New York. What did you love most about your dude ranch trip?
Schretter: Our family loved the horses, the outdoors, and all of the cool things there were to do. My kids and I were very into horses and animals, so that was a huge attraction. There were lots of activities that we could do as a family, which made for great memories and bonding experiences. In addition to all of the horseback and pony rides, there were sports activities, water fun, kids programs and lots of evening activities, too. The kids liked the sing-alongs. We packed a ton of fun into our short time there. The fact that it was all-inclusive was also a big plus.
Ranchweb: How can the dude ranching industry (and ranches specifically) work harder to get its message out to the world of family travel – especially to moms?
Schretter: Picking the right ranch can be a confusing process, and Moms are always stressed for time when searching for the perfect family vacation. That’s why I love Ranchweb. It’s a great informational resource for families. Ranchweb cuts through all the Internet clutter and helps parents find the perfect match between their family’s need and interests and what individual ranches offer. That’s a real time saver!
When I started looking into ranches, I was blown away by the number and types of ranch experiences that are available for families. There are so many different options, and there’s definitely a ranch to suit almost every type of family. There’s no one “set” ranch experience, so it’s important to get rid of any preconceived notions. Parents need to understand that there are also so many different things that families can do on a ranch. It’s more like a multi-sport vacation: you can do horseback riding, hiking, fly fishing, rafting, swimming, mountain biking, and so much more. It’s impossible to get bored!
Moms need to hear how well a ranch vacation works for all ages – from younger children, ‘tweens and teens all the way up to grandparents. Ranches need to get their message out to everywhere moms are: online, via social media, print, and broadcast. It’s also important to hear the message from moms who have taken ranch vacations so they can get firsthand information and an accurate feel for all the activities and what makes ranches so great for families. I also think that people need to understand how great the owners and staff are. That’s definitely a big part of the ranch vacation appeal. It’s families catering to families, and that makes it very special.
Ranchweb: Thanks, Nancy! We hope moms who follow the Family Travel Network will try Ranchweb to help them in their search for the perfect ranch vacation. And we’ll make sure to ask our readers to take a gander at The Family Travel Network.
Families yearning for the traditional ambiance of the Old West this Christmas will find a ranch vacation to suit them on Gene Kilgore’s Ranchweb.com. Add holiday traditions like a sleigh ride through the snow, a visit from Santa, Christmas trees decked out in their finery, and celebratory meals, for a family holiday experience to remember.
When it comes to ranch stays, Gene Kilgore, author of Ranchweb.com, the leading guide to ranches worldwide, has been a reliable source of ranch vacations for 30 years. “Ranch vacations are a perfect way for families to spend quality time together,” says Gene Kilgore. “What better place to celebrate the magic of the holidays than at a guest ranch, where traditional values, a warm welcome and healthy outdoor activities await.”
With a vacation for everyone, Ranchweb invites guests to pack their saddlebags and celebrate the holidays Ranch-style:
* At Triple Creek Ranch , a luxury resort high in the pristine Bitterroot Mountains of the Montana Rockies, clean mountain air and freshly fallen snow create the perfect backdrop for A Christmas to Remember. Guests take a brisk horseback ride or an invigorating snowmobile expedition through the powder, and then enjoy the festive Christmas splendor back at the ranch. Cabin rates start at $750 US per couple per night, inclusive of accommodations, three gourmet meals, house wines and spirits, as well as featured on-ranch activities. (Three-night minimum stay required.) www.triplecreekranch.com
* A stay at historical 320 Guest Ranch in Big Sky, Montana, features all the traditions of ranch hospitality with the romance of winter activities. Book the Sleigh and Stay package and cozy up in the star-lit sleigh ride pulled by majestic Percheron draft horses, enjoy cowboy cuisine at the Steakhouse & Saloon, and settle into one of the log cabins. Rates begin at $220 US per night for two people, from December 10, 2011 – March 31, 2012. Tip: you can even request the historical McGill Cabin. www.320ranch.com
* Staying in the land of blue skies and big mountains, for a more active winter vacation 320 Guest Ranch has also created the 2012 Celebrating Snow Special, including dog sledding, a snow coach tour of Yellowstone National Park and Old Faithful, an evening sleigh ride and hearty ranch meals. Discounted tickets to Moonlight Basin are also slipped into the package, which runs at $465 US per adult and is valid January 2 – March 15, 2012. Rates are based on double occupancy. Taxes, park passes and gratuities are excluded. www.320ranch.com
* And if you prefer your Christmas a few degrees warmer, then Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort offers all the trimmings and traditions of the holiday season, in Santa Barbara County wine country, the heart of California’s central coast. The Holiday Package features plenty of Christmas spirit, along with unlimited horseback riding, golf green fees, tennis and fishing, complete with a studio accommodation for two nights. As well as 50 miles of riding trails and a ride in a carriage drawn by Belgian horses, families will enjoy building a gingerbread house, a visit by Santa, and nightly carols and hot chocolate. The package costs $550 US for two people, and runs from December 1 – January 25, 2012. (See the website for children’s discounts as well as blackout dates for the Christmas season.) www.alisal.com
* Located on 60,000 acres of Tucson’s desert landscape, Tanque Verde Ranch is a working ranch, situated beside the Rincon Mountains in Arizona. Families love Tanque Verde Ranch for its range of activities: fishing, hiking, mountain biking, horse back riding lessons and rides, kids programming, and evening cook-outs. The New Year, New You all-inclusive package runs from January 3 – 20, 2012, and starts at $230 US per person, per night, with activities and three daily meals included. Guests booking a three-night stay will receive the fourth night free. www.tanqueverderanch.com
* Rancho de los Caballeros, named for the horsemen who first settled in the southwest, is a historic ranch resort on 20,000 acres in the Sonoran desert near Wickenburg, Arizona. Each Christmas, Rancho de los Caballeros turns into a western holiday hideaway as flickering luminaries line the paths throughout the Ranch. Guests return year after year to take part in special traditions like decorating the tree, and leaving their boot “stockings” by the fire on Christmas Eve, hoping for a gift from Santa when he arrives on horseback. To enjoy the setting of crisp, starry nights and warm crackling fires book the Ranch Getaway Package at $335 US per night, double occupancy, featuring three meals per day and unlimited scheduled horseback rides. www.ranchodeloscaballeros.com
A note about Ranchweb
Ranchweb, founded in 1995 by Gene Kilgore, has become the ultimate ranch finder for ranch vacations in North America. More than a directory, Ranchweb is a resource for anyone considering a ranch vacation. Kilgore has travelled the world for 30 years to bring the best ranches to his readers. The guide features over 100 of the best, from dude ranches to working cattle ranches, horseback-riding vacations to fly fishing ranches, each offering a different experience. Kilgore also publishes Ranch Vacations, just out in its eighth edition, a full-color handy guide to all the ranches, including tips on how to select the perfect one for your family.
Smart Ranch Traveler
Moms are often the ones who end up doing the background research for any vacation. That’s especially true when they’re hunting for a dude or guest ranch vacation for the family. Any mom would agree: it’s always good to start your selection process early. But even August isn’t too late-ask about cancellations. (In fact, you can find some great last-minute bargains even in dude ranching’s high season– see item below).
Begin asking friends and family if they’ve been to a good dude ranch (posting a query on Facebook is guarenteed to garner some good ideas). Then, on the Internet, start with sites that narrow the search (like Ranchweb, the Dude Ranchers Association, and state tourism sites). Query ‘last minute deals’ or click over to thhe site’s deals section (like http://www.ranchweb.com/special.htm).
Then work the phones. When you’ve selected your top choice ranches, ask each for a list of past guests that wouldn’t mind a call from you (that is, guests who came with kids). Then call and ask if they have time for a few questions about their ranch stay: how child-oriented they felt the ranch was; what kinds of kid-programs they participated in and what ages the programs worked best for; what their kids really loved (or not) about the ranch.
Finally, ask if you can get a short taste of ranch life for you and your family. Most ranches request that you stay at least a week, but some kid-friendly ranches, like California’s Rankin Ranch, allow stays as short as one night.
See if there’s anything out-of-the-ordinary the parents suggest you should bring for the kids when they visit a ranch. You might get some surprising answers. And if your “little dudes” have any special considerations, mention them; if their children share those considerations, you’ll find out how the ranch accommodated them. You’re sure to get some great ideas from the vast—and helpful—network of parents out there. And you might even make a new phone friend.
Details: great ranches for kids are easy to find on the Ranchweb site. Go to the category ’selecting a ranch’, then click on ‘for kids’.
Canada’s Echo Valley Ranch & Spa is calling you, girlfriend
In beautiful British Columbia, Echo Valley Ranch and Spa is calling all ‘wannabe’ cowgirls. If you’ve ever wanted to ride the range and throw a lasso, yet still like a little luxury at the end of the day, then the Echo Valley Ranch girls getaway is a vacation to think about.
Start your day with an early morning Thai yoga class, then saddle up and ride the golden hills of British Columbia’s eastern side, taking a break to enjoy one of chef’s gourmet picnic lunches. At the end of the day, you can restore your mind and body with an Asian or European spa treatment, then watch the sun go down.
Priced per night from $605, this vacation isn’t for budget-minded gals, but it can include: One half day horseback ride and wilderness picnic; One signature Western or Asian spa treatment during the stay; Group manicure/pedicure; Lasso throwing lessons from the local cowboys; Self guided hiking program; Daily Thai yoga (Ruesri dat ton ) stretching classes, and more.
Details: To book the Girlfriends Getaway Package please contact Echo Valley at 800/253-8831 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Summer/Fall Dude Ranch Deals
Right now is the right time to find great bargains in dude and guest ranch vacation. Take California’s Rankin Ranch, offering a 50% Discount: Rest and Relaxation Week October 2nd-5th. Or Colorado’s Laramie River Ranch: : 30% Discount for Adults Only Special in September! The Lodge and Spa at Brush Creek Ranch has Home on The Range Summer Package. Colorado’s Elk Ranch has ‘the more the merrier’ 15% discount (check details); Wyoming’s 7D Ranch has 10 % discount weeks in September (adults only).
Details: Find these deals and more at http://www.ranchweb.com/special.htm
The Lodge & Spa at Brush Creek Ranch
Wyoming’s newest guest ranch, The Lodge & Spa at Brush Creek Ranch aims to offer something different. In talking to Michael Williams, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the ranch, we ask him what sets the ranch apart. “We want to be different from a typical dude ranch,” he notes, “so we have so much to offer in terms of activities: in our selection and availability, and our four-season range of activities.”
At Brush Creek Ranch, guests may explore more than 50 miles of spectacular wild country. Choose your adventure: roam by hiking, biking, trail running, horseback riding or angling. Swing into the saddle on guided rides or cattle roundups. You’ll be offered instruction from the best riders around: individual instruction, clinics, and trail rides. Then you can canter across some 13,000 acres and 50 miles of trails or work your horse in the indoor arena.
Cast a line into the North Platte, or challenge the private waters on Brush Creek Ranch, and you’ll be assured of an unforgettable fly fishing experience. Choose waders or drift boat, or start out with pond fishing on the ranch (a great spot for beginners). The fly fishing is multi dimensional, from the North Platte River to nine miles of private water and those five stocked ponds. Why so many stocked ponds? “Because we want to tell guests that in high water-which is what we’re in right now-they can still fly fish here,” Williams explains. Levels are way up on Brush Creek and the North Platte—too high for good angling right now.
Learn more about the ranch with a Ranger Tour, a guided tour with a narration of Brush Creek Ranch’s storied history and its sustainable plan. Or tackle a mountain biking escapade—guided or solo—exploring a trail system and challenge course designed by endurance and adventure sport racer Mike Kloser.
Into hunting? “In season, guests will be now be able to hunt for chukars and pheasant, as well as Wyoming’s famous bigger game.” The Brush Creek Bow and Gun Club has a ten-station sporting clays course, a five-station skeet course and competition archery, plus its own casual clubhouse. In the fall, the ranch offers “a limited number of big-game hunts for antelope, deer, elk, moose, buffalo and mountain lion. Guests can also experience one-on-one or two-on-one guided Wyoming hunting excursions.”
Still have some energy left? Try paintball, geocaching, or orienteering right at the ranch. With all the adventures, bring your own gear or use the equipment provided by the ranch
And don’t worry about getting bored here. “We literally have up to 20 activities going at any one time,” Williams says, “and we have capacity for 150 people in those activities, so rarely will you want to do something you can’t do.”
“But let’s talk food and beverage,” Williams insists, “because it’s not an afterthought here.” He tells us that the ranch chef is a Culinary Institute of America (CIA) graduate and offers a variety of ‘distinct culinary experiences, each uniquely inspired by the character of the Rocky Mountain region’, from casual to sophisticated. “Plus we have many places to dine,” Williams adds, “from the elegant Trailhead Lodge to an open air chuckwagon and our creekside dinner camp. We can do multiple groups at once, and they won’t even bump into each other.”
Details: Pricing is all-inclusive (per unit, not per person), so a cabin costs x amount, for however many are in your cabin (to its stated maximum). All food and beverage (including premium beer, wines, and spirits), all dining and activities on ranch are included; gratuities are a simple 10 percent service fee added upon checkout.
When it comes to a great choice for families with children, one venerable ranch leaps to mind— Lost Valley Ranch in Deckers, Colorado. When Walt Disney stayed here years ago he suggested, “If I had this place, I’d do all that I could not to change its character.”
Owners Bob and Karen Foster have stayed true to Disney’s advice, which is why Lost Valley remains such a wonderful place for families. Children’s programs range from supervised crafts, nature walks, and storytelling for the younger ones to riding, river tubing and dances for the teens.
But while they love the kiddies here, there’s also a ttime set aside for adults only. Several times, in fact. Coming up: Fall Cattle Week Round Up: Sept. 25 – Oct. 2. Fall Colors Week Sept. 18–25. Horsemanship Weeks Ride Ride Ride: Sept. 18–25. Wegener: Sept. 11–18. Krause: Oct. 9–16. Check the ranch’s brochure for details on these special weeks.
And if your corporate or company group wants a really memorable meeting getaway, consider getting lost–at Lost Valley Ranch. Lost Valley Ranch offers a variety of special rates to groups during Spring and Fall. Rates are based upon number in your party (up to 65 members), length of stay, arrival date, number/type of accommodations required and special services/activities you may require.
While the ranch celebrates tradition, it hasn’t let technology pass it by. Check out the photo gallery on their website or take a peek at their live webcam.
Details: Season is March through November. Spring (March 1 – May 22, 2011) and Fall (September 3- November 28, 2010), minimum stay is two nights. Summer (May 27 – August 28, 2011), minimum stay is seven nights, from Sunday to the following Sunday. Located near Deckers, the ranch is some two hours from Denver or Colorado Springs.
Tips from the ranchers
What to know before you go
When you pick your guest ranch and book your vacation, you’ll find that a lot of key information is right there on the website (either on Ranchweb or the ranchs’ own site). But every ranch is different, so make a quick call to your chosen ranch so you can brush up on some particulars before you go. Here are some of the details you should ask about.
–If you just gotta stay connected, ask about cell phone and internet service; both are possible at more and more ranches, but be sure to confirm it.
-Scope out out how many kids of your own children’s ages will be there during your visit; the answer may determine whether your child will need to bring that Gameboy or not.
-Find out what is included in the rate. Typically, rates are all-inclusive, covering meals, horseback riding, all facilities, children’s and teen supervision, special programming. But sometimes extra options—spa treatments, trap shooting or fly fishing school—are extra.
-Check what activities beside riding, hiking, and fishing you need special clothes or shoes for. You may want to add a skirt or your dancin’ shoes for that square dancing evening.
-Clarify check- out and check-in times—they’re different from most hotels. Often, you’re okay to check in at 2 PM and asked to check out by 10 AM (exceptions are made individually).
-Find out if the ranch has a liquor license and, if not, what their policy is about guests bringing their own bottles. Some ranches will let you bring your own bottles but ask you not to consume it in the public areas, in order to preserve a family atmosphere. Check ahead.
-Medical needs are an issue for some guests. Ask if their staff is Red Cross First Aid certified and where the nearest hospital emergency room is located and how long it takes to reach. If your family members have serious medical issues, you may want to select a ranch that’s fairly handy to a major city.
-If you’re a smoker, be sure to ask about the ranch’s smoking policy. In Colorado, for example, a new law restricts smoking in public places so you’ll be asked to step outside before you light up. Many ranch cabins are non-smoking now, as well.
-Don’t assume Fido will be welcome. Ask what the ranch policy is first. Many ranches prohibit pets, as their safety may be at risk (among the cattle, herd of horses, and ranch dogs).
We thank our friends at the Lost Valley Ranch for their help in compiling this list.
June news at Colorado’s Vista Verde Ranch
Our pal Stephanie, at Vista Verde Ranch, tells us that Steamboat Springs’ snowpack made history this year. “As we get ready to open on the first weekend in June, I’m happy to report that the summer views at Vista Verde will be especially green (hence the name vista verde).”
Steph also told us about some new programs at Vista Verde, like My Horse Said What? “A horse can say some amazing things – if you know how to listen. At Vista Verde, guests are eager to learn theories of horsemanship and how to communicate with their horses. Our in-depth riding clinics and trail instruction forever change the riding experience by teaching guests to hear what their horses are saying – and how to talk back effectively.”
Next is: Why is Santa Yelling? “Holidays are often more stressful than fun. Smart families have a great strategy for managing holiday stress: leave it behind. In recent years, Vista Verde has seen more guests giving the gift of a holiday getaway. Guests trade endless shopping, cooking, cleaning and entertaining for sleigh rides, sledding and back country skiing. Even Mom gets to relax while the family spends time together and creates memories that last a lifetime.”
Final new program: Win-Win for the Family. “Some family resorts entertain the kids while the parents watch. Others stash the kids with babysitters while adults play. Here’s a novel idea: a vacation for parents and kids. Vista Verde’s kids and teen programs offer a slew of “can’t do it at home” activities such as a kid’s rodeo and outdoor rock climbing. Parents have just as many choices, from mountain biking to wine tasting and herding cows. And there are plenty of chances for kids and parents to have a great time playing together.”
Thanks for the update, Steph!
Tips from the ranchers
Match the right dude and guest ranch with your family’s needs
Our mission at Ranchweb is to help you match the right ranch with your family. When you get that perfect match, you can form a lifelong connection, and have a dude ranch vacation you’ll never forget. But what kind of ranch to visit–luxury resort, working cattle ranch, kids-oriented or spa-oriented, or a combo of several types? And do you want to go to Wyoming, Colorado, or a state much closer to home? Given the hundreds of dude ranches there are, finding that match can be like, well, herding cats.
At Ranchweb.com we’re here to help. Gene Kilgore and his team have personally visited ranches throughout the world, and have documented all the details (and photos) you could ever want about hundreds of ranches. And the amazing search programs at Ranchweb will make your search a computer-aided breeze. Click over to it and you’ll find several special features to help narrow your choices (and we provide detailed information on more than a hundred ranches located all over the country).
Check out our exclusive Space Availability Finder and the Dude Ranch and Guest Ranch Search Engine helps you check out ranches and lodges that meet your preferences. For example: the price range, ranch activities you want, and whether or not you will be traveling with children.
Then, narrow the list by selecting a specific state, province or country, and click one of the resulting ranches or lodges to find more details on activities, accommodations, rates, food, kid’s programs and an array of photographs.
Or just go to the Ranch Categories page, showing more than 100 categories designed to help you find ranches that meet your specific interests. Want to combine some fishing with your guest ranch vacation? Click on Fishing and more than 80 ranches show up. Golf? See about 75 ranches. Or look for ranches with spas, pack trips, winter programs, conference facilities, riding specialties, resorts, working cattle ranches, cattle drives, and so forth.
At Ranchweb’s Interactive Map, you get a bird’s-eye view of the area you would like to travel to. Click on an area of the map and zoom into a state or province to see a listing of dude ranches and guest ranches. Then, just click on a ranch listing for more information; use the navigation tools at the top or bottom of the page or use the back button on your browser to review additional ranches and lodges. Finding the right ranch for you and your family can be a breeze.
Hot off the presses: Gene Kilgore’s latest Dude Ranch Vacations guide
There’s a NEW BOOK coming out soon. Gene Kilgore’s Ranch Vacations 2011 ($22.95), the ultimate guidebook to all the best dude and guest ranch resorts around. Featuring more than 100 ranches across the country and the world, the guide this year takes on a new format and an easier-to-use size. Featured on the cover is Montana’s newest ranch, the luxurious Ranch at Rock Creek.
The book, Ranch Vacations 2011, will be available on soon on Amazon and also on Ranchweb.com. Look for it!
Spring ranches: Arizona and California
It’s peak season in Arizona right now. From the Bar 10 Ranch to the White Stallion Ranch, Arizona has great spring weather and a ton of variety.
Bar 10 Ranch
Bar 10 is near the magnificent Grand Canyon and serves up a choice of western ranch activities, delicious country-style meals, and real western hospitality, and lets you combine your trip with an exciting river rafting trip on the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. Its run by the Heatons, fifth generation ranchers on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.
White Stallion Ranch
White Stallion is set in the wide open, unspoiled Arizona desert, yet is easy accessible to Tucson. With the the True family at the helm, White Stallion Ranch has established a reputation of caring about customer service and a real dedication to providing quality family vacations. The southwest ranch style cabins offer everything from small rooms for singles to deluxe suites. All rooms have plenty of comforts: air conditioning, private bath, tub/shower combination. Most have a queen bed plus a twin bed or a king and the deluxe suites have fireplace, whirlpool tub, king-size bed.
Ranches in the land of Hollywood, movie stars, and Silicon Valley? Yep! Ranching has a long and fabled tradition in the golden state, and you can still tap into that history at some seven dude and guest ranches here, from the lovely Alisal Guest Ranch in SoCal to the luxurious Sierra Ranch Retreat in the high country. Spring is glorious in California (and so are the spring package deals).
Alisal Guest Ranch
Golf, horseback riding programs, and fabulous dining. A storied past includes visits from the Reagans, the Clark Gables, and many more celebs who didn’t want their names mentioned (no pictures, please!). What more could you ask (except, maybe 73 cottages range from one-bedroom studios to executive suites).
Sierra Ranch Retreat
In the northern Sierra Nevada Mountains, Sierra Ranch Retreat is just two hours by car from Reno and a world away from stress. This six- bedroom custom-built log home features six river rock wood burning fireplaces, a complete gourmet kitchen, private baths in each room, Jacuzzi tubs and spectacular views. This is just the place when you want your vacation to be truly “one of a kind.”
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Don’t forget to check us out on Facebook (www.facebook.com/ranchweb) for news, fun, and even a few horse laughs.
Set in south central Wyoming’s wild and beautiful North Platte River Valley, Brush Creek Ranch has been a homestead and ranch since the 1880s. Now, its long and storied history bears a new coda: The Lodge & Spa at Brush Creek Ranch. Ah, but that’s not how the last chapter of the tale of Brush Creek Ranch was initially supposed to be written.
In late 2008, the Chairman and CEO of premium hotel brand White Lodging, Bruce White, bought Brush Creek Ranch, outside of Saratoga. His intent was to create a family sanctuary and perhaps even a place to hold charity functions for the Bruce and Beth White Family Foundation. “The White family has had a passion for service and hospitality for more a quarter of a century and as our next venture, we wanted to create a Western getaway that utilized our vast experience in the industry while striking a perfect balance between wholesome recreation, economic sustainability, environmental stewardship and preservation of the culture of the West,” said Bruce White. “The Lodge & Spa at Brush Creek Ranch is the fulfillment of this vision and exemplifies the true spirit of the West.”
End of story? Not exactly. Eventually, the Whites realized they wanted to share this truly luxurious setting in the heart of the American West. So they’ve opened it to guests who are looking to ‘experience authentic outdoor adventures along with a spirit of genuine hospitality’. Set for a spring 2011 Grand Opening, the Lodge & Spa at Brush Creek is now accepting some ‘pre-opening reservations for weddings, corporate retreats, individual guests, and group events in an all-inclusive format that includes accommodations, food and beverage and activities’.
But it is all done in the spirit of responsible conservation. So a big chunk of the ranch is preserved in a conservation easement, and White and the staff are committed to ‘harmoniously balancing the needs of wildlife, livestock, the land and watershed through an ongoing land, stream, pond and forestry restoration and management plan, ensuring that Brush Creek Ranch will flourish for generations to come’.
Casual sophistication best describes the facilities. And while it is still a real working ranch, there’s plenty to do besides ride and rope; in fact, there’s a long list of activities in all seasons. The ranch sits on 13,000 acres of private land and borders the vast Medicine Bow National Forest, so the fund can include riding, hiking, hunting mountain biking, and cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and more.
But perhaps the most amazing experience here is for anglers. In the Orvis- endorsed fly fishing program, guests can cast a line into six miles of sparkling private waters on the ranch (including 3.5 miles on Brush Creek, known for its incredible wade fishing), plus there’s pond fishing (great for beginners) and float fishing.
The Lodge’s facilities offer yet more: a spa, a state-of-the-art fitness center, the Cattle Baron’s library, a covered U-line equestrian center, a mustang arena, and a sports and recreation center that features a large indoor center court and cross court for basketball, volleyball, broomball. Want more? Then choose indoor simulated golf and shooting, shuffleboard, air hockey or foosball.
Lodging options in 37 spaces accommodate 150 guests and range from Log Cabin Residences, to Trailhead Lodge Rooms and Cabin Rooms & Suites; all are complete with luxury amenities.
Details: Lodge Rooms start at $720 per night (off-peak) to $1,300 per night (peak). Cabin Rooms & Suites start at $720 per night (off peak) to $1,600 per night (peak). Log Cabin Residences start at $1,800 per night (off peak) to $6,600 (peak). Pricing is per unit, per night (not per person, not based on double occupancy). For more, click here.
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.
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 Ranchweb.com home page. It’s another handy sorting tool.
Details: For a wildflower update, go to
What’s a Valentine ranch? Well, perhaps it’s the most unusual gift you can give your sweetie this year. What do you look for in a romantic escape? Surely the must have list includes a destination that’s unique, somewhat quieter and more secluded, in a spectacularly lovely setting (such as California’s Highland Ranch, at left). We found some dude and guest ranch resorts that fill the bill perfectly. All of these are open in February and offer specialized romance programs, packages, or rooms.
Rancho de los Caballeros
Wickenburg (50 miles northwest of Phoenix).
Isn’t it romantic: It’s the perfect getaway to a slice of the Old Southwest. Rancho de los Caballeros is true resort, with full resort amenities (everything from golf to horseback riding and a spa). Still, if offers up the feel of a cozy bed and breakfast. Retreat for a weekend or longer. Ride or stroll among 20,000 acres of open range in the spectacular Sonoran desert. You’ll feel at ‘home on the range’, as they say at Rancho de los Caballeros.
Romantic escape: You may never want to leave the tastefully furnished room, with its handcrafted items, fabrics, and artifacts. Original Ranch rooms capture the flavor of the southwest, while the Maricopa suites are luxurious, each casita featuring a private patio that serves up the tranquility of the outdoors. There’s also a private bath, air conditioning, TV, and telephone with dataport. Package: The Ranch Experience: for those who want to experience all the Ranch has to offer, but still want to have time to savor the peace and quiet of the desert, this four-day/three-night-minimum package includes some time on a horse, at the Spa and on the links. Call the reservations desk for details.Rates starting at $329 Single and $524 Double * Extra Person in Room – Adult $175 / Child (13 or younger) $145. Rates subject to change. Not included: 8% sales tax and 15% gratuity charge in lieu of tipping. Single occupancy rates available.
Circle Bar B Guest Ranch
Goleta, California (30 minutes north of Santa Barbara).
Isn’t it romantic: Couples might enjoy a local wine from the full bar, taking a dip in the pool, and cozying up in front of the lodge’s stone fireplace. The gals can settle in with a romance novel in a private library, while the guys blow off steam over a pool table, Foosball, satellite TV, or ping-pong. Then get together on a romantic stroll or horseback ride on easily accessible trails on Circle Bar B’s 1100 acres, take a short drive on California’s Coastal Highway 101 to access the Refugio Beach, visit Santa Ynez Valley wineries, or Santa Barbara’s world-class shopping and golf.
Romantic Escape: One amazing room features a king bed, Roman tub, hardwood floors, air conditioning, wet bar with coffee maker and fridge, a secluded porch, as well as a welcome basket with chilled champagne and fresh flowers upon arrival. This room sleeps 2 adults only. There are also private cabins, creekside cottages, and deluxe ranch rooms.
Above the Anderson Valley, about 2 ½ hours north of San Francisco.
Isn’t it romantic: Looking for the perfect Valentine’s Day getaway? Highland Ranch is the ideal place to enjoy an unforgettable weekend full of relaxation and romance, including the featured Winery: Scharffenberger Cellars. Go for a romantic horseback ride through the redwoods to a beautiful vista and then cozy up together next to the fireplace in your cabin.
Romantic Escape: Individual cabins are cozy and comfy, with fireplaces and covered porch with rocking chairs. The main ranch house is 110 years old and overlooks an orchard. Valentine’s weekend special: Come stay at the ranch Friday night and get 3 nights for the price of 2. Enjoy a menu of romantic meals fresh flowers and complimentary Scharffenberger chocolate and champagne. Plus, enjoy one FREE massage per couple. Reserve today at email@example.com or call (707)895-3600.
Estancia los Potreros
Argentina (1 hour by plane from Buenos Aires).
Isn’t it romantic: Some may look for the stereotypical hot Latin here, but others will search for the romance of history and beauty in an exotic local. The estancia dates from 1574 (in it’s early days, the ranch bred mules for the silver mines in Peru). Today, it is an idyllic retreat for both horse lovers and nature lovers, an organic working farm that breeds Paso Peruano horses and Aberdeen-Angus cattle. Horseback ride with the gauchos, taste wine, watch polo or wildlife, or trek across the Cordoba Hills.
Once here, you’re on a farm, where all the accommodations are simple yet comfortable; each room is decorated individually (antiques abound) and each has a private bathroom. On those cooler winter nights, you’re warmed by log fires and wood-burning stoves. What could be more romantic?
In the midst of summer’s heat, the picture of a handsome mountain lodge set beside a cold mountain stream is pretty inviting. Gaze at the image of Laramie River Dude Ranch, shown at left. Now picture yourself there, or at any of several amazing dude and guest ranch resorts that focus on fly fishing. Don’t you feel cooler already?
It’s not too late to make plans for a summer angling adventure at any of the eight ranches listed below. And if you don’t have a rod and reel, or can’t cast a line worth beans, don’t worry. All these ranches have you covered with gear, instructions, and whatever you need. And when you call, be sure and mention Ranchweb.
Hunewill Guest Ranch
Combine a trip to nearby Yosemite with a visit to the Hunewill Guest Ranch, one of California’s oldest working cattle ranches. Horseback riding, through 26,000 acres of cool, lush meadows and heavily timbered peaks, is the main attraction here. As is cattle work, family fun, and just sitting back on the porch watching the sun set. But trout fishing on the nearby Walker River is world class. And don’t overlook the many lakes and streams in the adjacent Toiyabe National Forest and throughout the Eastern Sierra escarpment. Details: New for this year: The Week of the Buckaroo Moon: August 21-28, 2010 (and August 21-26 (5- Day Package). Take a moonlight ride and barbeque under a full Buckaroo Moon, enjoy campfire and singing by the pond, do a walking historical tour of the ranch, team penning and trailer loading on horseback and take a rare chance to horseback ride and tour the ghost town of Bodie. The week winds up with a special cattle gather in the Sweetwater Mountains.
Coulter Lake Guest Ranch Inc.
The Rocky Mountains is your playground when you base at this dude ranch resort near Rifle, Colorado. Take a scenic horseback ride on miles of trails throughout the White River National Forest, or hike up a canyon trail or trek to Rifle Falls in Rifle Mountain Park. Whitewater rafting through beautiful Glenwood Canyon on the Colorado River is another incredible experience nearby. Details: the guest ranch has its own beautiful, spring-fed lake, well-stocked with rainbow trout. There are small boats ready for you to use, or you can cast right from the banks. The ranch can provide basic fishing equipment (ideal for kids and beginners), or you can bring your own gear. Nearby Rifle Creek (license required) is the hotspot for stream fishing for rainbow and brook trout. Ask about their Fly Fishing Skills and River package (20% discount) including a seminar by a master fly fishing casting instructor and a float or wade trip on the Colorado or Roaring Fork rivers.
Laramie River Dude Ranch
Can you see yourself in the snowcapped Rocky Mountains, casting a line for wild brown trout? Horseback riding is their specialty, but this guest ranch near Glendevey, Colorado, also has a unique naturalist program, a full children’s program, very comfortable accommodations, excellent food, and exceptional fly fishing. The Laramie River Dude Ranch has fly fishing and spin-casting opportunities for anglers of all abilities. Ranch guests have private access to over two miles of the Big Laramie River and a mile of LaGarde Creek. Or choose to take advantage of the public fishing access to the nearby Hohnholz Lakes. And owner Bill Burleigh adds, “Fishermen love to talk with our guide about the hatches that are underway and strategies for catching the most fish – which fly, fishing on the surface or below the surface with a nymph, etc. Those interactions are almost as much fun as talking about the day’s fishing in the evening. In addition, our “mature” fishermen and women sometimes need a hand accessing all the different parts of our river. Our two miles doesn’t really tell the whole story with twists, turns, and oxbows winding their way through the property. Some need a lift to the end of our property so they can fish back to the ranch compound which sits roughly in the middle. We’re happy to provide that service.”
Burleigh notes that lake fishing enthusiasts enjoy Hohnholz Lakes but may want to bring along more of their equipment. Boats are easily accommodated if the angler would like to bring their own. “More often, we’ll see anglers bring their favorite belly boat for some lake floating. Guests who fly in and don’t have a rental car are welcome to arrange travel to and from the lakes with your guest coordinator Kathy.” Details: Want to learn the ins and outs of rods, reels, and flies? Once a week, the ranch’s pro guides offer free fly fishing instruction. Casting techniques are taught out on the front lawn and then everyone heads for the river to practice. And the ranch has equipment that guests can borrow free of charge. July Special: Take 30% off any three, four, or seven night stay starting during the week of July 18th-25th, 2010. You can ride the Rockies and then take in Cheyenne Frontier Days (which start Friday 7/23). And just for Ranchweb blog readers: They normally offer anglers who choose not to ride horses a 10% “Non Riding” discount. Anyone who mentions this blog post could qualify for a 20% “Non Riding” discount for any member of their party who comes to fish and does not partake of the riding program (riding members of the angler’s party would pay normal rates).
North Fork Ranch
Commune with nature beside the clear mountain streams of the Colorado Rockies. If fly fishing is your passion, you’ll love North Fork Ranch’s pristine stretch of water— over two miles—and all located just one hour southwest of Denver. Their professional guides will make sure you have an angling experience to remember. A stone’s throw from their back porch, you find the tranquil North Fork of the South Platte River teeming with Brown, Cutthroat Rainbow, and Steelhead trout. Details: Fishing is year round, guided only; choose a full or half day trip. Details: Guys, make it more than just a fishing trip: bring your gal for a Bed and Breakfast Fishing Package. Fish all day, then enjoy the two of you can a romantic evening, with a hayride, singing by the campfire, or square dancing.
Diamond D Ranch
Set in the lush Frank Church Wilderness and enveloped by the Salmon River mountains, the Diamond D guest ranch has a long menu of activities. In summer, take your pick from hiking, gold panning, swimming, horseback riding, and, of course, fly-fishing. You could title your summer adventure “A Creek Runs Through It”, because Loon Creek runs right through the ranch. That means fly fishing is huge here. Throw out a line for cutthroats, rainbows, and other native trout in streams just yards from your cabin. Or try your luck in the ranch’s own lake (rowboats available). Details: The guest ranch provides: rods, reels, all flies, lines, leaders, tippet, nets, and professional instruction. Fishing Licenses may be purchased through the ranch.
Lone Mountain Ranch
Long, sunny days, and angling on southwest Montana’s blue ribbon rivers and trout streams. What could be better? Lone Mountain is one of Montana’s premier dude ranches, with comfy cabins, gourmet food, and a gorgeous mountain setting. And for anglers, it’s ideally located. The ranch sits outside Big Sky, just a few miles from the Gallatin River and handy to the Madison or Yellowstone rivers; best of all, you can fish with their Orvis-Endorsed Fishing Guides. Details: Get an early start on the fishing season with their Fly Fishing Specials – 15% Discount (approx); join Lone Mountain Ranch for 6 nights/5 days of fly fishing or 4 nights/3 days of fly fishing on southwest Montana’s blue ribbon trout streams (other combinations available). The 6 night/5 days of fly fishing package costs $2850/person (based on double occupancy in a small cabin) and includes 6 nights lodging, 5 days guided fishing, 3 meals daily, fishing license, flies, and shuttle to and from the airport in Bozeman, Mt. The 4 night/3 days of fly fishing package costs $1850 per person ( based on double occupancy in a small cabin) and includes 4 nights lodging, 3 days guided fishing, 3 meals daily, fishing license, flies and shuttle to and from the airport in Bozeman, MT.
Triple Creek Ranch
A luxury resort high in the Bitterroot Mountain Range of the Montana Rockies, the Triple Creek Ranch is a member of the prestigious Relais & Châteaux. And along with the world-class accommodations and food, you’ll find top-notch angling nearby. Let the experts at Triple Creek help plan an off-ranch special adventure of guided fly fishing or scenic river floating. At the ranch, you can learn the fundamentals of fly fishing and casting a fly rod. Beginner, intermediate, or expert anglers can also float with an experienced guide down the beautiful Bitterroot River, West Fork or East Fork of the Bitterroot River, for a memorable day of trout fishing. Details: It’s an Orvis-Endorsed fly fishing lodge and they’ll set you up with local guide services; complimentary Orvis fishing gear is available from Triple Creek Ranch and your guide will furnish the rods, reels, flies and his or her expertise. Ask about the Selway/Bitterroot Fly-Fishing Package (a 10% discount on a five-night package, a 5% discount on a three-night package); guests fly from nearby Hamilton to the banks of the Selway River, where a guide awaits with horses to ride to the best fishing spots along this catch-and-release river, famous for its cutthroat, rainbow, bull and steelhead trout.
Flat Creek Ranch
At this Jackson Hole-area dude and guest ranch, they find that hiking and fly fishing is just as popular as horseback riding. And why not? This Wyoming dude ranch owns a 1.5-mile stretch of upper Flat Creek’s challenging waters and the 45-acre Flat Creek Lake. And anglers have access to another 5 miles of fast riffles and deep pools on public land just west of the ranch. Their rule is: fly fishing only, catch-and-release. Their favorite spot is the “Curt Gowdy hole,” a deep bend in Flat Creek where wily cutthroats and brook trout congregate. For dry fly purists, Flat Creek is blessed with prolific hatches of caddis flies, mayflies, and a host of others. Details: The ranch can lend you fly rods, reels, nets and waders; they also provide a free fly-fishing clinic for those who want to learn or brush up on fishing techniques.
Just 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 www.elkhornranch.com.
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 www.ranchweb.com/coulter/index.html.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org