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.

5 reasons America needs a dude ranch vacation

Part one: Stress relief

Let’s face it, stress is a fact of life these days. And we all know how bad it can be for your overall health to let stress get to you. Heart problems, weight gain, insomnia—all have been linked to stress. And now they’re telling us, stress can even affect kids. Yikes!

So you make a to-do list, try to stay cheerful, eat right, exercise, and not let the pressures of parenting overwhelm you. But sometimes you need to break the whole unhealthy cycle with something bold. So do something really proactive, like take the whole family on the kind of trip where you’re all sure to leave your worries behind: a dude ranch vacation.

“There’s nothing better for the inside of a man than the outside of a horse.”  Former President Ronald Reagan said it often, although the quote has also been attributed to Winston Churchill. No matter who said it first—these guys have a good point.

Yep, just get out of Dodge (or San Francisco, LA, or New York) and into the saddle. Step into a place where healthy doses of exercise and good food are all part of the package. And just take in a lungful of all that clean, pine or sage-scented air and sip that good, clean water. If cities could bottle that air, they would have tried a long time ago.

One you’ve booked the ranch and gotten yourself there, that’s just about the last of your worries. You step onto the property, you pretty much are in their hands for the rest of the week.  And that means your only cares are what to have for breakfast and which activity to jump into.

The silence out on a remote ranch—especially at night— can take a bit of getting used to. Yeah, right—about a minute. Then you might realize what’s been keeping you up at night back home (all that ambient city noise, or maybe the neighbor with the barking dog).

That’s the thing about a dude ranch vacation. Out here, you have time again. You can do a lot, or a little. Ride, fish, hike your buns off, or just laze in a hammock with a good book and the cheery call of a meadowlark piercing the silence. Either way, you just might get the best night’s sleep of your life out here on a ranch. And stress? It’ll just be yesterday’s nightmare.

Editor’s note: Check in every Monday for the rest of the series: 5 reasons America needs a dude ranch vacation…now!


Twitter on the range

You’ve probably heard about Twitter, the messaging service that sends “tweets” or messages of up to 140 characters in length. It’s all the rage for keeping up on the latest articles and posts on blogs (like us—the Ranchweb Dude Ranch Blog).

But should dude ranchers, and dude ranch lovers, take up Twitter? Well, it depends. When it comes to influence, applications like Twitter can’t be ignored, certainly (you didn’t ignore the Internet, did you)? Time will tell if Twitter becomes as important as, say, email. But influence is not just about numbers–it’s about being one of the (and reaching) early adopters. And that can help in any business, including dude ranching, and with getting the latest in travel information.

Thing is, when you tweet, you only reach the people who have elected to follow you. So if you’re interested in hearing when we’ve posted new stories on the blog, become a Twitterer.

So if you just want to share thoughts or story ideas with us, well then, send us a note via Twitter at @calgrl.


Blue skies for dude ranches


Our recent conversation with Arizona’s Russell True, new President of the Dude Ranchers’ Association (DRA) and co-owner of White Stallion Ranch, included some good thoughts about the challenges facing dude ranches and their visitors in a tough economy. “We have to remind people that when you buy a ranch package, there are few to no add-ons,” says True. “If you compare a dude ranch to another resort, it’s apple to oranges: we’re all-inclusive and a very good value.”

But besides value, there’s another good reason to choose a dude ranch now, he continues. “Families need ranches because we create opportunities for real family time and some of our best family memories,” he contends. “You’re getting real experiences—not manufactured amusement park stuff,” True adds. “And we love what we do: it’s not just a job for any of us,” he notes.

The dude ranch is a uniquely American-born institution, and the first introduction to the West for some. Some ranches got their start at the turn of the century, so there’s history, culture, and tradition here, too.

“The Chinese word for crisis also means ‘dangerous opportunity’,” says True. “As ranchers, we’re must be more open minded, versatile, and adjust and adapt while protecting and expanding our future.” No problem, says True. “Ranchers are flexible-we’ll get better at our jobs. And there’ll be more of us standing at the end of all this.” And blue skies will return.

When you’re ready for an Arizona ranch visit, consider the Bar 10 Ranch, near the magnificent Grand Canyon; you’ll find western ranch activities, delicious country-style meals; and genuine western hospitality. And the Grapevine Canyon Ranch is famous for its riding program and friendly, highly personal service.


Winter weekend mystery at a Colorado ranch

Some winter weekends at Colorado’s Sundance Trail Ranch are a real deal: two nights, at $135/night/single or $189/night/couple, includes lodging, all meals, daily horseback ride, and use of all ranch amenities (jaccuzzi, frisbee disc golf, fishing). Oh, and the murders are thrown in for free. Wait, murders?

Yep, at Sundance Trail Ranch, there’s a Murder Mystery Weekend each month the rest of the winter; the rates are the same as other winter weekends, but you get a bonus: a five-act mystery spread out between meals and horseback rides. The plot thickens after Saturday supper, by which time everyone has been shown to have motive and means for the dastardly deed, and it’s all wrapped up by Sunday, when the “judge and jury” take the “condemned” out for a long trail ride into the forest.You all play a role and participants must be willing to take a whimsical view of blackmail, larceny, deceit, and murder. 

Details: all meals (starting with supper on arrival through breakfast before departing) are included; taxes and tips not included. Individuals  or groups can sign up (a minimum of 8 guests is required for the murder mystery to take place). Weekends are open to adults only, with bookings limited to the first eight players. Upcoming dates: Feb 20, Mr 20, and April 17.

For more on Sundance Trail Ranch, click here.


An invitation

Welcome to the wonderful world of dude ranching. We have a community of dedicated ranchers, loyal customers, hard working ranch hands, as well as travel adventurers anywhere. It’s been my privilege to meet many of these super folks over the years. I started a directory of quality dude ranches, called “Ranch Vacations” which is now in its 7th edition. As the world wide web developed and flourished we brought the same information and insights to our website,

What is so special about dude ranching? My dad said it best:

“Dude ranches to me are the essence of friendliness in an environment of natural beauty. It is here where we can be relieved of stress and where each day can be filled with joy and peace instead of the constant agitation of cell telephones, televisions and emails. It is on dude ranches that the values of life that are most meaningful and enduring are realized. It is here that the beauties of the planet come alive and where compassion amoung human beings can help to further more understanding between humans. It is the dude ranch experience that can generate humility as we stand in awe of life’s wonders, the planet and the universe.”

I look forward to sharing tips, observations, and stories with you all.