Editors' Picks: The Best Dude Ranches in America!
A dude ranch has nothing to do with dudes. A dude ranch is also known as a guest ranch, which is a type of ranch designed to be welcoming to visitors and tourism. Dude ranches range from places where you can lend a hand to chores, sleep under the stars and participate in a cattle drive to where you can leave the chores to the staff, dine like a rock star and be driven to your golf game. Or, you can find a dude ranch that offers a little bit of both!
Dude ranches sport a range of features like programs for the dedicated horseman, excursions for the sophisticated angler and all-inclusive packages for families looking for a carefree western adventure. See what life is like on a dude ranch and how much of a city slicker you would be!
When you think dude ranch, you think cattle farm and maybe even "City Slickers" with Billy Crystal. Tanque Verde is one of the best examples of an authentic cattle farm and guest ranch. The ranch was established in 1868 and has modernized with the times to be "recognized as a luxurious outpost" on 60,000 acres of desert landscape surrounded by mountains and forests with easy access to fishing, hiking, horseback riding and mountain biking. Tanque Verde has received numerous awards over the years as a top dude ranch and family resort with services ranging from children's programs to spa treatments. Take a holiday for your health - the warm, dry Arizona air will do you a world of good!
Alisal looks and feels like an oasis. The 10,000 acre ranch in the Santa Ynez Valley includes 50 miles of horseback riding trails, a spring-fed lake and two 18-hole championship golf courses. In between tee times you can sneak off to one of dozens of vineyards and wineries in Santa Barbara wine country for a tasting tour or dash into the Danish-styled town of Solvang for a taste of Denmark in California. Alisal is an upscale ranch and resort offering a variety of activities for couples, families and friendly groups.
Don't let the word drowsy lull you into thinking you will be learning to whittle or make a whistle from a blade of grass. Drowsy Water Ranch is a family-oriented dude ranch on 700 acres in its "own private mountain valley" in Granby, Colorado. Drowsy Water is a member of the National Dude Ranchers Association and a fan favorite as an all-inclusive resort, so leave your wallet in the room, let go of the reigns and have a rollicking good time. Choose from horseback riding, trout fishing, hiking, rafting, swimming and numerous western activities in and around the ranch.
The Ranch at Rock Creek is the "World's Only Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Ranch," so think bucket list. Choose from luxe accommodations that include one-of-a-kind rooms in the lodge, Glamping Cabins (no roughing it, here), luxury homes or a historic barn (sans the animals). The Ranch at Rock Creek lets guests immerse themselves in a western adventure with trail riding, roping and rodeo events, along with archery, trout fishing, zip lining as well as seasonal activities like hiking and mountain biking or cross-country skiing and ice skating. Combine all that outdoor fun with gourmet food and first-class amenities for a trip of a lifetime that goes above and beyond the average dude ranch.
Montana is Big Sky Country, where the mountains meet the plains and the sky goes on forever. At Mountain Sky Guest Ranch you are invited to Relax, Rejuvenate and Reconnect-and we doubt that means with your email. Mountain Sky shares Paradise Valley with the birds and the bees, the flowers and the trees and backs up to the Gallatin National Forest. Activities on the property include horseback riding, fly-fishing, golf and yoga. Don't expect to rope cattle, but if you love horses, their "130 head of healthy and happy horses" ensure they can match you with the perfect mount for a memorable trail ride. Lodging at the ranch is advertised as "luxurious comfort amidst rustic surroundings" and takes the form of restored and updated cabins with stone fireplaces and mountain views.
Montana has more than its share of dude ranches, but that's because as a state it is ranked fourth in size, but 48th in population density. Ranching is a large part of the economy while tourism is the fastest growing sector, attracting visitors from all over the world who come for the national parks and wide open spaces and for unique resorts like Paws Up where you can camp like royalty in a luxury tent. The Resort at Paws Up declares a commitment to luxury and offers to make a stay special for couples, families and groups. Enjoy horseback riding, fly fishing, culinary events, concerts, courses and spa treatments. See what "glamping" looks like at The Resort at Paws Up.
While the majority of dude ranches are out west, horseback riding ranches and resorts are all across the country, even in places like New York. Kerhonkson, New York, located in the Catskill Mountains is one of those places New York City dwellers flee to on the weekends for the crisp, clean air and good, clean fun like a stay at the Pine Grove Ranch. Enjoy the wildlife in and around the 600 acres where you can get close to nature or take a horse out on a trail ride alongside a friend. Back at the resort, use the indoor or outdoor pools, ball courts and facilities or take advantage of the natural surroundings for rock climbing or fresh lake fishing.
Southern hospitality meets western adventure at the Clear Creek Dude Ranch in North Carolina and guests comment on feeling like family from the moment they arrive. The beautiful scenery and rustic ambiance attracts new visitors while the comfortable rooms, friendly staff, helpful wranglers and home cooked meals keep guests coming back each year. After an early morning at the trout pond or a late day on the trails, dip into the heated pool or hot tub to refresh yourself before the next round of activities.
The Red Rock Ranch gets high marks as a place for a family vacation with a welcoming owner and attentive staff. Activities include horseback riding, fishing, square dancing and children's programs and they promise a new adventure everyday in beautiful Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The private cabins are clean and comfortable, the dining options will keep you feted and full and Red Rock Ranch is a member of the National Dude Rancher's Association, ensuring a level of quality and authenticity for your dude ranch holiday.
Looking for a hideout? Look no further than Flitner Ranch, where you can hole up until things cool down (or until you really have to go back to the office). The Hideout offers a true dude ranch vacation complete with an opportunity to "work cattle under the guidance of experienced cowboys." You can also ride horses, learn how to fly fish, try your hand at archery or trap shooting or float down a river! You can even visit a dinosaur dig site. The Hideout offers all-inclusive vacations limited to 25 guests per week, so your stay will feel exclusive and you can have their 650,000 acres practically to yourself.