Gene Kilgore’s Ranch Vacations

Ranch Vacations
The Leading Guide to Guest and Resort, Fly-Fishing, and Cross-Country Skiing Ranches in the United States and Canada, 6th Edition.

Find your best holiday: at a ranch


To many people, holidays are not voyages of discovery, but a ritual of reassurance.

— Phillip Adams


As we slide into November, we find the mood has changed along with the weather. The World Series is over and football is king. The year’s biggest holidays are near, when the kids will be out of school and families gather close again.

As snow dusts the mountaintops, wouldn’t it be wonderful to experience the seasons’ change with the family all around, enjoying the great outdoors? To enjoy those ‘rituals of reassurance’.

Of course, that’s not easy at home, with all the parties, visits by friends and neighbors, and all distractions of the wired world. How can you get young people to unplug and spend time with the family? Well, a quick escape to a dude/guest ranch might be one solution. Worried that you’ll miss the bargains at the mall? Well, if you haven’t started shopping by now, it’s probably too late anyway. (As of Thanksgiving Day, there are only 28 shopping days left before Christmas.) Solution: just get the family one BIG gift this year: time together on a ranch for Thanksgiving or Christmas. We have some suggestions. First, decide whether you want snow or sun, then make a list and check it twice.

Looking for some bragging rights at the office water cooler? Just tell them about your adventure vacation in Argentina (we suggest one below). Or consider a guest ranch set in the frosty beauty of snow country. Ranchweb members include dozens of ranches in snow country. Okay, so some folks would rather come back from their winter holidays with a tan instead of ski goggle marks on their cheeks, and for them the many ranches of Arizona, New Mexico, and southern climes beckon.

We offer some to start your ‘White Christmas’ or your “Sunny Holiday’ list with.

At some ranches, the season is nearing its end, at others, winter brings a renewal of spirit and a whole fresh list of activities, from horse-drawn sleigh rides to snowshoeing and skiing. If you’ve visited your favorite guest ranch only in summer, seeing it under a fresh mantle of snow is like seeing your high school sweetheart all dressed up for the prom—breathtaking.

Whether you seek snow or sun, we urge you to seek out for the widest choices of ranches open in November and December. Click on the Availability button to find out who has rooms available for your preferred week or weekend. We can’t possibly tell you here on the blog about all the ranches that are open each month, but the powerful search tools on can speed your search for the perfect ranch.

This month, we also chatted with Meris Esterly, of the Geronimo Trail Guest Ranch in New Mexico, about what it’s like being new to the ownership of a guest ranch (the Esterly Family just celebrated the sixth year as owners of the Geronimo Trail Guest Ranch). For her, seeing the Land of Enchantment through the eyes of her guests is like seeing the state for the first time all over again. It’s both a voyage of discovery and a ritual of reassurance.

Find the snow


Home Ranch


Home Ranch sits in the Elk River Valley, just beyond Steamboat Springs, Colorado, with the crest of Hahn’s Peak rising majestically in the distance. You’ll find it’s not unlike going back in time to a more idyllic landscape. No condos. No streetlights. Just Colorado as you hoped it would be, and as it once was. Or, as Home Ranch puts it “Big ranches. Blue skies. Real cowboys.”

You’ll find a host of winter fun here when the snow is generally at it’s deepest. Ski or snowshoe (guides and lessons available) on 30 kilometers of groomed trail around the ranch, enjoy backcountry guided trips. At day’s end, relax in a hot tub edged by snow, enjoy sledding or sleigh riding, sit beside a roaring fire, or dine on their famed Rockies cuisine in their renowned dining room.

Details: The Home Ranch (open December through March).offers five-day Christmas ski vacation packages every year, with gourmet holiday dinners and entertainment to match the holiday season. Vacations are all-inclusive. For more, please click here or call Johnny or Selina at 800.688.2982.

Vista Verde Ranch


Also close to Steamboat Springs, and the Steamboat Ski Resort, is Vista Verde Guest Ranch. A winter stay here layers all the benefits of a Colorado winter resort vacation over the relaxed and intimate atmosphere of a ranch vacation. Your first decision: head for the ski resort for fabulous downhill skiing in their champagne powder snow, or stay on site for a full program of activities (included in your stay): cross country skiing, sledding, sleigh rides, snowshoeing, horseback riding.

At Vista Verde, you’ll find there’s plenty of top notch gear available to make your winter activities all the more enjoyable, plus guides and instructors to tailor each experience to your interest and ability.

Staff members come around at mealtimes and you simply tell them what activities you feel like trying next. All you have to do is choose!

Details: Winter Carnival Package- Stay at the ranch during Steamboat’s Winter Carnival (Feb 5-8) and enjoy the ranch’s winter wonderland.  Then they’ll then transport you into Steamboat and set you up with a discounted hotel room for Saturday night so you can watch the street events on Saturday, the night show that evening and then more festivities on Sunday morning in charming Steamboat Springs.  Winter Carnival admission button included.

Valentine’s Day Romance Package-Start your Valentine’s Day off with breakfast in bed, followed by a day of as much outside activity as you desire.  In the afternoon, they’ll treat you to a private sleigh ride complete with hot toddies to keep you toasty warm.  Following that, the chefs will delight your taste buds with their Valentine’s Day aphrodisiac dinner. If evening finds you in the bubbling hot tub under the stars, that’s your call.


Lone Mountain Ranch


“Discover some Montana magic with your family this holiday season,” invites the Lone Mountain Ranch website. The allure is obvious: some 85 kilometers of meticulously groomed Nordic trails and 30km of snowshoe trails; ski and snowshoe rentals; Yoga programs; access to hot tub; entertainment in the ranch saloon and evening programs. Also available: a sleigh ride dinner; on-the-snow gourmet trail lunch (Jan-March);  wine and cheese social. Draft beer and house wine is available by the glass.  And there’s a Children’s program offered during the holidays.

Lodging is in one of 23 cozy log cabins or a room in Ridgetop Lodge. Western artifacts, log furnishings, vintage cowboy prints and patchwork quilts give each cabin a warmth and charm. Meals and snacks are included in most packages-just call to inquire.

Details: Their Downhill Package includes package includes subsidized downhill passes to The Mountain (Big Sky and Moonlight are now one resort), three incredible meals daily, lodging in a log cabin or a room in Ridgetop Lodge, an old fashioned sleigh ride dinner, entertainment in our saloon and evening programs. Call for full details. Can’t stay for a full week? Lone Mountain Ranch offers shorter stays throughout the winter. Transfers to and from the Bozeman, Montana airport, are available.

…or seek winter sun


Stagecoach Trails Guest RanchStagecoach_1

If you can book quickly, you can enjoy one of the best deals around: Stagecoach Trails is offering a 50 percent discount for stays in November.  Set within easy access of gateways like Las Vegas, Phoenix, and the Grand Canyon, Stagecoach Trails Guest Ranch is Arizona’s newest guest ranch.

As owners Dan and Carrie Rynders note, “We have worked hard to create a special, friendly atmosphere where you can get a glimpse into the old west while enjoying the beautiful northwest Arizona desert and all the peace and quiet one could hope for. We invite you to stay with us and be part of our ranch family, even if it is only for a little while.” Sounds like a perfect, stress-free Thanksgiving holiday to us! Details: Open year round except for June 1- July 15. Winter rates start at $120 per night.


Geronimo Trail Guest Ranch

IMG_3355Another small ranch (maximum capacity is 16) in the southwest is Geronimo Trail Guest Ranch. This neat ranch is located on the Geronimo Trail, one of New Mexico’s Scenic Byways. Reachable by good roads, the ranch is four hours from either Albuquerque or El Paso airports, via a journey that will take you through high desert, rolling plains, and cool pine forests.

The Esterly family bought the ranch six years ago this month, and we recently talked with Meris Esterly to tell us what she loves most about being in the industry. “Being part of a guest ranch been great,” she says over our morning cups of coffee. “One of the best parts is meeting people from all over America and the world and showing them our beautiful New Mexico. Seeing it through their eyes, I get a fresh perspective on the ranch life,” she notes.

“Fall on the ranch is a really nice time to visit. It’s great riding weather!” The ranch is open March through Nov.27, this year, and you can snap up end of season deals. “We offer a ten percent discount on the week of Nov 21-27 but we only have one  cabin left for that week,” Meris says, “but we have some cabins available for earlier in the month.” But you have to act fast.

Even next year is starting to book up. “We already have quite a few reservations, so reserve as soon as possible since we’re so small.”

“Our cabins are nestled in the pines; they’re are large but cozy with fireplaces, queen sized beds (and bunk beds), and covered porches,” says Meris. They also boast full bath/shower, sitting area with table and chairs, magazines and books, coffee maker, snacks and a cookie jar filled with homemade goodies. “They are comfortably furnished in a Native American style or a Cowboy motif, and you will have a cabin to yourself – we don’t mix groups.”

Wildlife abounds here in November. You might catch sight of bald eagles or waterfowl that overwinter here, and several bird species migrating south through ranchlands and nearby forests. They’re near the Gila National Forest , and wildlife includes mule and whitetail deer, black bear, Mexican grey wolf, porcupines, bobcats, ringtails, and coatis.

Details: open March through November, so they’re nearing the end of their season this month. Rates: adults $274/night for 3 or 4 night stay, 5-7 nights: $255/night, Children 4-11: $222/night, Non-Riders: $209/night, 7 or more guests: Call, click or email for special group pricing discounts.

Estancia Corralito

Way down South America way, this intimate, 10-guest ranch offers all the best in adventure rides, good horses, and good organic home-cooked meals.

The main building is a Spanish style school house from 1870, now converted into a guest house. Owners say that “Our horses are friendly and responsive, and our tack is good quality.  Rides vary; we sometimes ride into town for drinks, or visit a Serrano family or have a picnic next to a mountain stream. Or you may prefer hiking to observe local fauna and flora, or simply rest, read, sunbathe and enjoy life!”

Details: Open from July to April, this vacation is a plan-ahead experience, so start your research now.


Give the best gift of all: a family dude ranch trip

Children-riding-at-White-Stallion-RanchSMART RANCH TRAVELER

With high gas prices and a still-sluggish economy, families these days have to plan ahead to work a vacation in without stressing the budget. Turns out that staying in one place—a place that offers a variety of activities in one location—means big savings and less stress. And there’s no better time to plan a vacation than during the holidays, when the kids are home on school vacations and you’re all gathered together for the holidays.

A dude ranch vacation can be the perfect value vacation, for five great reasons. First, many dude ranches offer an all-inclusive deal where the meals, lodging, activities are all included. That makes it easy to plan accurately—unlike most cruises, where everything from soda pop to port fees and land excursions cost extra.

Secondly, on a dude ranch trip, you know where the kids are at all times (they’re having a blast—and they’re still being supervised), and you generally aren’t spending extra on babysitting.

Next, considering all the facilities and activities open to your use, a dude ranch gives you more bang for your buck.

Fourth, you can get some great deals if you plan ahead, go during the shoulder season (often June and October at mountain ranches) or low season (summer at the desert ranches) when you can find discounted rates.

Finally, when you consider all the memories you’ll make as a family: its a trip that is priceless.

At White Stallion Ranch in Arizona, shown above, they believe that an all-inclusive dude ranch vacation requires no intricate planning, keeps every member of the family happy with a wide variety of activities, and lets people experience a real slice of the American West – all in line with a budget, with no extras or hidden surprises.

To find a value ranch, click on


Act now for deals in Arizona

19590001HOT DEALS

Tired of the constant barrage of election news and political commercials? Maybe what you need is a quick getaway to a place that seems timeless–filled with autumn leaves, brisk air, peace and quiet. If you plan a trip now, you can find some great low-season deals in northern Arizona. Low season in Arizona’s northern region is generally November through April, when the bargains start to pop up in the high deserts.

For anyone on a budget, you’ll find great deals located around hubs like Flagstaff and summer-crowded parks like Grand Canyon. Bring a hat and warm jacket and load up the iPod with some grand tunes to match a grand landscape–you’ll appreciate them all here.

Hotel lodging rates dip by at least 10 percent in fall, more during winter in the region. Worried that there won’t be enough to do? Then you don’t know northern Arizona. Explore the mysteries of the Native American site of Canyon de Chelly, picnic with views of fall color in the San Francisco Peaks near Flagstaff, or take pictures with nobody else in them at the edge of a peaceful Grand Canyon. Plan a fall or winter escape to the state’s northern region and you’ll feel like you have Arizona all to yourself.
Then, after you’ve seen the gorgeous fall color or taken in a few snowy landscapes, perhaps you’ll want to warm up again by swinging back down to the state’s southern half.  Good thing you’ve saved some dough on the northern half of your trip, because fall and winter are high season here. But its worth it, because this is where most of Arizona’s working and luxury dude ranches are. And they boast some of the most amazing scenery in America. Bring sunscreen, a camera, and your sense of wonder–you’ll need them all here.RanchoDeLos_1

Take Rancho de los Caballeros, in Wickenburg, for example. Trial rides and jeep tours take you over rugged, saguaro-edged trails to views of purple mountains, then back to the spa to relax. And if you want the kids to learn a little bit of history while they’re sunning themselves, you won’t have far to look: Arizona has well preserved settlements from prehistoric Native Americans, Spanish vaqueros, and the Old West.

Details: For a list of Arizona ranches and a host of travel bargains, go to


Ranchweb blog has a birthday; pet-friendly ranches

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pet-Friendly Ranch Vacations


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

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


Hidden Meadow Guest Ranch

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

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


Bar W Guest RanchBarW_1

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

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


Making your dreams real

It was a brief note in her pocket, written in pencil and titled simply “My Dreams”. The woman was killed in an apparent hit-and-run accident on Christmas morning while she was on her way to work.

The 38-year old single mother died at the site; after the tragedy, the list of her life’s goals was discovered in her pocket. The list included dreams we can all understand: to find a great job, buy a house by the age of 45, to marry, and to watch her 8-year-old son graduate from college someday. And why was she going to work on Christmas day? “She was all about making her dreams come true,” a friend said later.

Most of us have thought about dreams and goals we’d like to attain, but never do anything to make them happen. As we start the year 2012, maybe you should be talking about things like your ‘bucket list’. What’s on it? Visit the Grand Canyon? Hike the Appalachian Trail? Or maybe to ride into the Wild West at a dude ranch and bond with your kids? 19590006

The point is, this gal made a list and was working on getting it done–and you can, too. Sure, some goals (like a big vacation), are easier to attain than longer range goals (like buying a house). But near-term goals like vacations can be vital. Vacations pull a family together, relieve stress, maybe even give a new perspective on life.  To pull off a dream vacation you’ll need some time and a plan. You’ll have to do some research, stroll around the Internet, and talk to friends. Hey, it’s all do-able. Just don’t wait.

The loss of that single mom is tragic. And I hope the friends and family who loved her will pick up her list and finish the last item on it–sending her son to college. But she left us all with an important lesson: Write your dreams. Then work on making them into reality.


Holiday gifts from ranch country


A perfect stocking stuffer for ranch vacation planning

Everybody’s doing more vacation plan-ahead work these days. It’s one way to save time, money, and hassle. And now is a good time to begin the planning process for your big summer getaway. Sure, you could surf the web (that’s what Ranchweb is for), but sometimes there’s nothing better than a real, honest-to-God book, with color photos to pour over, and tactile pages to flip through as you dream about the perfect ranch vacation with your loved ones.

There’s nothing better, more accurate, or up-to-date than Gene Kilgore’s Ranch Vacations 2011; ($22.95), now available on and on Amazon. On the cover: Wyoming’s newest, The Ranch at Rock Creek. Its a great way to find dude ranch deals, value vacations, backcountry getaways, and the best dude ranch food and wine. Inside, a total access guide to more than 100 great ranches across the West, the USA, and the world. It’s got details on pricing, dining, kids’ programs, plus loads of color pix, all in a handy glovebox size–a great stocking stuffer (just try stuffing a web page into that stocking).


Gifts right from the ranch

Sometimes, you want a memento from that long-ago ranch vacation. Where to find ranch-y things? Well, some ranches let you shop for their own branded, logo-ed duds and goodies online.


Alisal Guest Ranch

Alisal Ranch’s online store offers hats and gear, gourmet products, jewelry, spa products, branded apparel and gift cards. Here’s how they put it: “From a variety of Alisal-branded apparel, to our signature spa products, to Chef Pascal’s renowned barbecue blends, you will surely find the perfect gift for a family member, a friend or yourself. If you have any questions about a product that is offered in our General Store, please contact Guest Services at 805/686-7700.” At the site, you can choose from four of Chef Pascal’s custom spice blends. Also available are the Ranch’s Old Adobe Pancake Mix and its very popular granola blend. New from their sterling silver jewelry collection is the ranch’s popular charm bracelet with an Alisal brand charm (natch!). Every year a new charm will be introduced. Spa Products feature their signature Woodland Sage scent.
The Resort at Paws Up

Seeks out treasures of the West, some molded by hand, others by the hand of nature, but always “crafted with a spirit of adventure,” says the resort. Don’t look for typical western wear here. The hand-selected items are split into categories: Clothing and Apparel, House and Home, Montana food and snacks, and accessories and jewelry, it’s all unique. Want to bring a little of the flavor of the Rockies into your home? The Montana huckleberry honey, huckleberry jam or syrup will remind you of those high mountain berries every time you pop it into your mouth (for $8 and up). For more expensive tastes, order up a Silver Paw Belt Buckle (a hand-crafted, one-of-a-kind belt buckle made by a local Montana silversmith) for some $1,200. And there’s a lot in between.

How about a really BIG present?

How about buying a piece of a real dude ranch? You can at Colorado’s C Lazy U Ranch. As they put it, “Our guests only get to spend a week here, but owners can experience it as often as they wish for generation after generation and in every season. Inquire about our Colorado land for sale or our mountain homes for sale. Become a member of our happy vacation real estate community…become one of the family.”


Enjoy a traditional ranch Christmas

Families yearning for the traditional ambiance of the Old West this Christmas will find a ranch vacation to suit them on Gene Kilgore’s 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, 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.)

* 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.

* 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.

* 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.)

* 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.

* 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.

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.


Autumn leaves: falling for a dude ranch


fall color ranch“Split rail fences zig-zagging into golden groves of aspen. Chocolate brown horses stepping across a meadow. A tangerine alpenglow melting over the top of a nearby mountain. Those are some of the hues of a typical fall day around some dude ranches. You see, not all of the Ranchweb ranches close for the season at summer’s end.”

That’s how we started the Ranchweb blog three years ago this fall. Today, the blog and the Ranchweb home site that the blog springs from still anchors our place in new media. But recently we launched a Facebook page that opens up another door of communications between Ranchweb members and those who love ranches and are eager to know more about them. The latest hot info about them.

So now, as the kids are back in school and the autumn leaves are turning in the mountains, it’s a good time to reflect. Maybe this is your time. A time to treat yourself to a guest ranch weekend with a little leaf-peeping on the side. Here are four choices. but they aren’t the only ranches with fall color right now (if you hurry). For more, roam around the Ranchweb home site, pardner…

Hidden Meadow Ranch

Celebrate autumn at this luxury ranch, set in eastern Arizona’s White Mountains and bordered by majestic national forest. Near the historic town of Greer, Hidden Meadow Ranch is an escape from urban life—a peaceful retreat for relaxing in a hammock under the whispering pines or for reveling in the wonders of nature. At 8,500 feet, the aspen are turning fast.
Details: Fall Foliage Package: October 1-18. “Book three nights during the most beautiful time of the year in the White Mountains, and receive a scrapbook, compliments of Hidden Meadow Ranch. Fall brings the changing of the color of the Aspen leaves to vibrant yellows and golds. Imagine riding a horse beneath a canopy of colored leaves. It is a sight to see! Not to mention the cool mountain air that gives you a break from the heat. Bring your camera and fill your scrapbook with amazing photographs of fall color! The aspen trees are quivering with excitement for this beautiful time of year.”

Hunewill Guest Ranch

Just east of Yosemite National Park in the lush Bridgeport Valley, the Hunewill Ranch is a family-owned and operated. Here, the big attraction is great horseback riding. Ride through shimmering groves of aspen. Bring your rod and reel: streams and lakes in the beautiful Bridgeport Valley offer an angler’s paradise. Or kick back in the evening with cookouts, roping lessons, hayrides, some bingo, square and round dancing, campfires and sing alongs. Its fun the old fashioned way.
Details: October 7-11, Columbus Day Weekend 4 Night Stay. You’ll love riding your horse through this 26,000 acre expanse of cool lush meadow, bordered by timbered peaks. Hunewill offers you a full ranch experience, including evening activities such as talent night, family dance night, barbecues on the creek, or watching as young foals and yearlings are being gentled. There is world class trout fishing in the nearby East Walker River, and in the many lakes and streams in the adjacent Toiyabe National Forest. Home style meals are served in the dining room in the founder’s Victorian ranch house. You’ll stay in comfortable cottages near the horse pasture; allowing you to watch the horses come thundering in early each morning.”

Coulter Lake Guest Ranch

Enjoy the unspoiled scenery in the remote White River National Forest of northwestern Colorado. This year-round resort fall colors mid September into early October (hurry!) from groves of quaking aspen. The ranch is also open for hunting season, September thru November. Details: after Labor Day, low season rates apply. “Full American Plan includes all lodging, meals, horseback riding, swimming, hiking, children’s programs, trout fishing (in our private lake), and all evening activities. For a 6-Night stay: Arrive Sunday after 3pm and depart Saturday by 1pm after lunch.
For a 3-Night stay: Arrive after 3pm and depart by 1pm on the day of your choice.”

Red Rock Ranch

Fall is for fly fishing at Red Rock. The ranch is home to over 2.5 miles of private fly fishing water. Crystal Creek flows through the Red Rock Ranch, and it’s a famous fishery, noted for abundant native Snake River (Fine Spotted) Cutthroat Trout. Angling on the private waters of Crystal Creek is for fly fishing/catch and release only with barbless hooks. The ranch offers a guide service with local fishing experts who know the subtleties of this stretch of water (please book fly fishing guides in advance; service rate can be added to your final billing). Details: The weekly all-inclusive per person rates include cabin accommodations (keeping an authentic western ranch feel), a private sitting area and sun porch, all ranch meals and snacks, complimentary house beer and wine during nightly cocktail hour and through dinner service,  ranch activities, horseback riding, kids program and fly fishing on stocked ponds. The rates for a six-night all-inclusive vacation (Sunday through Saturday) are: Adults 13 yrs. and older – $1,925; Children 6-12 yrs. – $1,425.


Ranch etiquette: how to tip at a guest ranch

Whether you’re at a restaurant, on a cruise ship, or visiting a guest ranch, knowing just how to tip can make you look like a sophisiticated world traveler…or a rube just off the boat. First, policies vary depending on the ranch, so you won’t be out of line by asking about tipping policies when you book your reservations. At one time, rates usually didn’t include gratuities, but that is changing. Some ranches now add on a gratuity of about 16 percent (of your total bill)  ‘for your convenience’ and are up front about it when you book. But do ask: an intimate, family-run ranch might have very different attitudes about tipping than a large, complex ranch.

Also, when you book outside excursions, you’re often expected to tip the outside guides (such as raft operators, fishing guides) directly (but ask ahead). Same goes for special services at the ranch, like a spa treatment; in that case, figure 15 percent as a base.



Take a tumble for Tumbling River Ranch

A mid-sized, family run ranch (capacity 50-55 guests), Tumbling River Ranch is best known for it’s fun-filled children’s and family programs. But the big news, say co-owners Scott and Megan Dugan, is in their shoulder seasons. “We’ve been really expanding our wedding offerings–just in the spring and fall–since we built a new Recreation Hall,” says Scott. “That gave us the space and options to hold events like weddings. Each wedding takes over the whole ranch, so wedding guests have their privacy. What makes a ranch a good choice as a venue for nuptials? “It’s a destination wedding-so guests who come here get a mini-vacation, too. That’s nice for everyone,” notes Scott.
“We don’t do it during our normal dude ranch season, so it doesn’t intrude on other guests,” notes Scott. And the new red hall has created a better venue for the ranch’s evening programs during dude ranch season: live music, square dancing, and such. So if you’ve got nuptials pending, consider heading for Tumbling River Ranch. “We’re on Guanella Pass, on the Front Range, about an hour from Denver, comments Scott.

Details: They’re open for weddings the last week in June and first week in Aug thru September (and may expand into October).


Want a mention in Ranchweb’s Oct. blog? Tell us!

Fall colors at the dude ranch–that’s the topic we started this blog with in, gulp, 2008. And it’s what we want to write about in October. Now you can help us. Post a note on our Facebook page.Tell us what kind of fall color trees your ranch guests can enjoy, when the fall color peaks, and how late in the year you’re open. We’re waiting to hear from all you Ranchweb members!


Winter ranches and rodeos

Hidden Meadow Ranch, Arizona

Hidden Meadow Ranch, Arizona

Winter ranches

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

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

Hidden Meadow Ranch

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

Conferences are unique at Peaceful Valley Ranch

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


Themed winter weekends at Montana’s Triple Creek Ranch

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

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

Ranch rodeos and gymkhanas

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

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

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