Experience the Wild West by Staying at a Dude Ranch
The Best Dude Ranch Vacations in the American West
If you are looking to escape the pace of everyday life and get away to the great outdoors to make lasting memories with that special someone, or enjoy quality time with the whole family, dude ranch vacations may be a good choice for your next vacation. We’ve rounded up some of the country’s best dude ranches to help inspire your next trip.
The American West is full of opportunities to stay at a dude ranch. If you don’t mind getting a little dirty and enjoying time outdoors, then staying at a dude ranch may be a good choice. Many of the properties offer the chance to really experience what it’s like to work on a real working ranch. However, even if you’d rather play than work on your vacation, you shouldn’t stop reading just yet. We’ve included several ranches that offer more luxury resort-style experiences as well.
You’ll find many types of ranches on our list: working ranches, luxury guest ranches, and both higher end and budget options. Many of the options on our list are kid-friendly, so you can book family dude ranch vacations as well. Each and every ranch offers a range of unforgettable activities set to make your vacation an experience you won’t soon forget.
If you’re looking for more traditional dude ranch vacations, take a look at one of the many working dude ranches on our list. Here, you’ll really get a chance to participate in daily life on a ranch and get your hands dirty. You’ll be caring for cattle, working on the property and feeding the animals that live on the ranch.
For those who want to experience the wild west but are still looking for a more upscale vacation, there are many resort dude ranches. These properties (which are often quite a bit larger) will usually offer full-service lodge accommodations and extras like swimming pools, fitness classes, and bonus activities like fly fishing and nordic skiing. You’ll find ranches on our list from both the higher end and lower end, and everywhere else in between.
Located just outside of Jackson Hole, WY, Red Rock Ranch is a family-owned guest ranch that offers the opportunity to work on the ranch a bit and experience a traditional dude ranch vacation, as well as a selection of polished amenities that create a unique guest ranch experience. There are numerous activities for families, kids and young people, such as horseback riding, tractor rides, fly fishing on more than 2.5 miles of private river, and numerous hiking opportunities.
This is a great dude ranch to choose for a family with kids as there is a dedicated kids program that offers fantastic fun for little ones, and a horseback riding program with classes for kids. You’ll go home talking about the delicious food you enjoyed from gourmet dinners to scrumptious barbecue meals and fresh homemade baked goods.
Another bonus of booking a dude ranch vacation at Red Rock Ranch is that this is one of the only ranches on our list that offers adult-only weeks. So, if you prefer to vacation without the pitter-patter of little feet then you may appreciate taking part in one of these special kid-free weeks.
Either way, you can experience all of this, set against the backdrop of the Grand Tetons. It’s also within a short drive of Yellowstone National Park, which makes Red Rock Ranch a good option for dude ranch vacations.
Photo Credit: Crossed Sabres Ranch
Crossed Sabres Ranch is a family-owned, all-inclusive dude ranch located in the middle of the Shoshone National Forest, just a short drive from Yellowstone National Park. There are a variety of ranch activities available with suitable options for everyone, from the littlest of guests all the way up to grandma and grandpa. You can choose for your vacation to be as active (or relaxed) as you want with options such as trail riding, fly fishing on the Shoshone River, touring Yellowstone National Park, shooting clay pigeons, whitewater rafting, archery, hiking and a trip to the Cody Nite Rodeo.
If you’d like to enjoy some time away from the kids, you can do so guilt-free with the ranch’s dedicated kids program designed to keep them active and engaged. Little cow-pokes will learn the ins and outs of horseback riding, archery and roping, and will have opportunities to take a break inside with pool tables, foosball and board games. Babysitting services are also available for very young guests so mom and dad can truly have a vacation.
Photo Credit: Tanque Verde Ranch
Tanque Verde Ranch has been giving guests the opportunity to make amazing memories for more than 150 years. Nestled right at the base of the Rincon Mountains near Saguaro National Park, you’ll find Southwest-style lodging and a range of activities for guests of all ages. There are resort-quality amenities including a swimming pool, a full-service spa, and more as well as plenty of traditional dude ranch activities. This ranch is rated as one of the area’s best destinations for horseback riding.
Other activities include hiking, biking, dancing and fishing, as well as enjoying the resort’s sports facilities. Several off-site activities are also available for booking including mountain climbing, downhill skiing, golfing and spelunking in area caves. The ranch allows you to reserve some of your activities in advance so you can guarantee a spot for activities you don’t want to miss out on.
Photo Credit: C Lazy U Ranch
One of Colorado’s most well-known dude ranches, C Lazy U Ranch, is a historic, all-inclusive dude ranch that is open year-round. Here you’ll find both luxury resort amenities and traditional ranch experiences. The accommodations take the form of luxury cabins and the meals are of gourmet quality, but your days will be filled with outdoor activities and daily trail rides.
The ranch is perfect for families traveling with kids as their dedicated Kids and Teens Program offers a full schedule for kids of all ages to enjoy while adults take part in cattle pushing clinics, shooting practice, fly fishing, mountain biking or just relaxing in the spa. While many ranches operate seasonally, C Lazy U Ranch offers an opportunity to enjoy a delightful Colorado winter vacation at a dude ranch. This option is perfect for those who want to capture the unparalleled views of the snowy Colorado Mountains from the beautiful Granby area.
Photo Credit: Rocking Z Guest Ranch
If you love horses and want to improve your horsemanship skills, we’ve got the perfect dude ranch vacation for you. The main activity offered at Rocking Z Guest Ranch is horse riding, with some guests spending up to eight hours a day on horseback. Guided by the principles of Parelli Natural Horsemanship, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to improve your horse riding skills. It’s perfect for city slickers who’ve never been in the saddle, and seasoned horseback riders alike.
You can learn to work cattle on horseback, take long trail rides or play around in the round pen. There are also private and semi-private riding lessons available at no extra cost, which makes it a more affordable dude ranch vacation.
Even though horse riding is the main event here, there are other activities available at the ranch including fishing, archery, shooting, hiking and viewing wildlife. The ranch saloon has even more fun facilities such as pool and card tables, volleyball courts, and a hot tub. Some evenings camp guests gather around the campfire to sing songs under the stars; what a memorable treat!
Photo Credit: CM Ranch
The CM Ranch is near both Yellowstone National Park and the charming town of Jackson Hole, WY. You’ll find plenty to do here for the whole family. Whether you prefer to explore the great outdoors on horseback, fish the streams or take to the hiking trail, or more low-key activities like getting a massage, taking a swim or relaxing on the grounds, there’s sure to be something for you.
There are group activities many evenings such as square dances, cookouts and rodeos, and other fun activities for kids and adults such as volleyball, horseshoes and card games. A highlight of most weeks is a night where they show a slideshow of photos taken by the ranch’s professional photographer, accompanied by music and cowboy poetry.
For kids 5 and over they offer supervised riding with the ranch’s “Kiddy Wrangler” who will teach them Western riding skills and other tricks of the trade. These are just the beginning of the numerous activities available for visitors of all ages.
Photo Credit: Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch
Secluded from the everyday hustle, but conveniently located near the city of Loveland, CO, Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch is a family-owned ranch with plenty of amenities for visitors. You’ll find a range of activities waiting for you including horseback riding, fishing, a challenge course, hiking and sports courts among others.
The accommodations take the form of rustic but airy cabins where you’ll be delighted to relax after a full day exploring the property, which includes more than 3,100 acres of Rocky Mountain foothills. Since you’re sure to be working up an appetite, you’ll certainly look forward to waking up each morning to enjoy the fluffy pancakes from the included country-style breakfast.
Photo Credit: Focus Ranch
To really get an authentic experience during your dude ranch vacation, you’ll need to book a stay at a working dude ranch such as Focus Ranch. This ranch is a traditional working cattle ranch that allows guests to take part in authentic daily life at the ranch without some of the frills that other resort-style ranches offer.
The main acts are horseback riding and cattle-working, and the specific ranch activities depend on what is happening with the cattle on the ranch. A number of special weeks exist where the schedule is extra flexible to make sure no one misses out on any of the ranch’s more exciting happenings.
Fly fishing, photography, hiking and fitness round out the ranch’s offerings. There are specific horseback riding programs for kids and other kid-friendly activities, so just because this is a real working ranch doesn’t mean you have to leave the youngsters at home.
Photo Credit: Klondike Ranch
Klondike Ranch is a real working ranch that has been raising cattle in the beautiful Bighorn Mountain region of Wyoming since way back in 1886. You’ll feel as if you’ve stepped back into the old American West when you arrive, and you’ll be doing meaningful cattle-working by participating in many of the real daily jobs that take place on the ranch.
In addition to real work and enjoying the beautiful surrounding area, the ranch also offers historical tours, amazing fishing, rodeos and much more. The Tass family who run the ranch have several nicely appointed cabins that are charmingly rustic but feature all of the modern amenities that you need for a good night’s sleep. The ranch is just a few miles away from the mountains so the views from your cabin and the rest of the property are absolutely amazing to wake up to.
Photo Credit: The Ranch at Rock Creek
If you’d like to experience a taste of the quintessential American West without giving up any of your creature comforts, check out The Ranch at Rock Creek. It offers an all-inclusive, luxury dude ranch experience tucked away at the base of the John Long Mountains. One of the poshest ranches on our list, this ranch is the first Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star ranch in the world, and is also a member of the National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World collection.
Historically, the ranch was a working ranch, but today it is purely a high-end vacation destination. The ranch truly offers a one-of-a-kind experience with luxury accommodations, a long list of amenities, gourmet cuisine and more than 20 guided activities spread over the ranch’s 6,600 acres. Rooms range from one-room suites all the way up to a spacious five-bedroom log home perfect for getting the whole family together in style.
The ranch is open year-round with Western activities available throughout every season. If you are looking for fishing, you’ll be in awe of the namesake Rock Creek that winds through the ranch; it’s one of just a few Blue Ribbon-designated fisheries in the world. If you are traveling with kids, they won’t be left out of the fun. The Little Grizzlies Kids Club provides a whole host of special activities for kids ages 4 to 12.
Photo Credit: Dixie Dude Ranch
Dixie Dude Ranch has been a favorite vacation destination for Texas families and visitors from around the world for more than 75 years. The ranch offers an opportunity to step away from everyday life and experience authentic daily life on an old-time working stock ranch.
The ranch raises longhorn cattle, pigs and Spanish goats, and visitors will get a chance to get their hands dirty and participate in daily ranch operations. You won’t have a chance to be bored during your Dixie Dude Ranch vacation with a selection of planned activities available such as horseback riding, fishing, swimming, hiking, campfires, dancing and other Western fun. The ranch grounds also have sports and game courts.
If you need some downtime, the resort also has licensed massage therapists on staff ready to help you relax and recover from a day of working on the ranch. All of these unique experiences are set against the backdrop of the beautiful Texas Hill Country: scenery you’ll not soon forget.
Photo Credit: Cibolo Creek Ranch
Cibolo Creek Ranch is billed as one of the oldest ranches in Texas where you’ll find a melding of history, art and Western experience. Whether you want to visit for a weekend getaway in Texas or longer, you can pick the length of time that works best for you.
Each day you’ll spend time exploring the ranch’s 30,000 acres. The property offers a long list of activities led by their highly trained ranch hands such as touring the grounds on foot or by ATV, viewing Native American rock art, and exploring the property’s three historic forts. You can also brush up on your shooting skills and then take a hunting excursion nearby.
Come together at the end of the day for a meal that is usually served at a long table in the ranch’s dining room. It’s perfect for encouraging a sense of togetherness during your vacation. This isn’t the sort of ranch that offers the chance to work, but if you simply want to get out and enjoy the beautiful outdoors with your family or partner and make memories together, then this could be the right fit for you.
Photo Credit: Flying L Ranch Resort
The family-owned and operated Flying L Ranch Resort offers a Western experience with all of the amenities of a resort. The ranch offers ample opportunities to hone your horseback riding skills, with ponies available for the kids. Take a horseback riding expedition along the San Julian and keep your eyes open for a variety of Texas wildlife such as deer, road runners, turkeys, armadillos and much more.
The kids will be spoiled with choices, with an on-site water park, putt-putt golf, basketball courts, tennis, volleyball and more. Each night there is entertainment, campfire songs, wagon rides or s’mores making available. And make sure to not miss the Saturday chuck wagon dinner and show.
When you are ready to tuck in for the night, you’ll bunk down in a comfortable Western-styled room with all of the modern touches you’d want in a resort stay.