Ah, the Wild West. Even a century later, cowboys, horses and sprawling ranches still exist across the American frontier (particularly the present-day states of Arizona, California, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico and Wyoming). Perhaps, you’re a fan of old-school epic Western films. Or maybe, you’ve binge-watched the rugged dysfunction of the highly addictive Yellowstone. Whether you’re more of a John Wayne or John Dutton (yes, we know he’s a fictional character), dude ranches are the perfect place to play cowboy IRL for a few days. In fact, you can actually stay at the real Yellowstone Ranch that’s the backdrop for the show. OK, you likely won’t be wrangling any cattle. But there are still loads of activities (think: horseback riding, archery, fishing and campfire singalongs) to keep you and your kids off the iPads. Bust out your vintage cowboy boots and Levi’s for one of these awesome dude ranch vacays.
13 U.S. Dude Ranch Vacations to Live Your Best Cowboy Life
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1. Chief Joseph Ranch (darby, Montana)
When you think of the Dutton family ranch, peaceful might not be the first word that comes to mind amid the murders, deceit and missing cattle—and yet, doesn’t it still look dreamy? Lucky for us you can actually stay on the real ranch, Chief Joseph Ranch, about 65 miles outside of Missoula in the region’s majestic Bitterroot River Valley, where the show is filmed. Rent out Lee Dutton’s cabin overlooking the river or Rip’s cabin replete with two porches to take in the views—just keep an eye out for Beth lurking around….
2. C Lazy U Ranch (granby, Colorado)
Located in Granby, not far from Rocky Mountain National Park, C Lazy U Ranch is an ace-high (cowboy slang for upscale) all-inclusive guest ranch and the ultimate vacation destination for family fun with countless western-themed activities for kids, teens and adults. Not sure how it’s possible to pack horseback riding, fly fishing, hatchet throwing, archery, trap shooting, chuckwagon breakfasts and a Shodeo (basically, kids get to show off newfound riding skills and parents compete in stuff like pole bending and barrel racing) into a single trip—though, it’d sure be a blast to try. You’ll also find some unexpected thrills such as a ropes course and ziplining.
3. The Ranch At Rock Creek (philipsburg, Montana)
Sure, horses, hikes, archery and sapphire mining sound awesome, but add in a 25,000-gallon outdoor heated pool, billiards, bowling, shuffleboard, darts, karaoke, a private movie theater and a mercantile into the mix…well, now we’re completely sold. A vacation at The Ranch at Rock Creek also promises five-star service and luxurious accommodations. We’re talking glamping cabins replete with private cedar soaking tubs. As amazing as that setup may be (and it really is awesome), nothing outshines the spellbinding surroundings, especially at night. Stargazing anyone?
4. The Red Rock Ranch (kelly, Wyoming)
The Red Rock Ranch, situated just outside Jackson Hole, gives you all the American west dude ranch vibes but with polished amenities. So you can go horseback riding, fly-fishing and hiking before polishing off a gourmet meal, lounging by the pool and snoozing in a log cabin with wooden furniture and Western decor. It also has a really awesome kids’ program. The six-night, all-inclusive package is the most popular option for obvious reasons—by the end of the week, you’ll be bareback galloping through the Tetons on your trusty steed. Oh, and did we mention there’s square dancing?
5. Flathead Lake Lodge (bigfork, Montana)
Miles away from Zoom conferences, busy schedules and the go-go-go pace of everyday life, things are simple at Flathead Lake Lodge, a family-run, all-inclusive dude ranch that’s been welcoming guests for more than 75 years. Days begin with hearty, home-cooked breakfasts to fuel you up for horseback riding, biking and hiking through the forests, mountains and private elk preserve. Kiddos can also learn horsemanship fundamentals and basic rodeo techniques from trained wranglers. While a prime perch on the shores of Flathead Lake means plenty of opportunities for sailing, lake cruises, stand-up paddleboarding, wakesurfing, canoeing, kayaking and fishing.
6. Tanque Verde Ranch (tucson, Arizona)
An old-school cattle and guest ranch with 150 years of history and 60,000 arid acres to explore, Tanque Verde Ranch is dropped right in the Rincon Mountains, next to Saguaro National Park and Coronado National Forest. Besides beautiful views, this dreamy desert escape has biking, hiking, swimming, fishing, golfing, tennis, jeep adventures, mountain climbing, caving excursions and (you guessed it) horseback riding—on the equine front, there’s everything from basic lessons and intermediate horsemanship to team penning and sunset rides. If relaxation is more your speed, hit up the spa or take a yoga class.
7. Rainbow Trout Ranch (antonito, Colorado)
Rainbow Trout Ranch is a mecca of outdoor adventure and long-held traditions that caters to tenderfoots and experienced cowboys of all ages. Classic ranch activities include horseback riding (with over 100 horses, your perfectly matched equine companion is waiting), trapshooting, archery, fly fishing, hiking, whitewater rafting, horseshoes and campfire cookouts. Guests can also travel back in time to the pioneer era with a ride on America’s highest and longest narrow gauge steam train. Oh, and Midwestern hospitality isn’t just a phrase here…it’s a way of life. So gear up to hear a lot of “howdy ma’am.”
8. Darwin Ranch (jackson Hole, Wyoming)
Keen to really get off the grid? Let us introduce you to the most remote guest ranch in the continental U.S. After driving for 25 miles down a dirt road, you’ll arrive at Darwin Ranch, a picturesque property with green meadows, towering trees and hand-built, 100-year-old cabins. But don’t use up all your precious moments taking in the spellbinding surroundings—you’ll want plenty of time to ride and hike through the mountains and, of course, fly fishing. While soaks in the wooden hot tubs, sauna sessions, unhurried farm-to-table meals and cocktails on the porch are the perfect way to unwind.
9. Western Pleasure Guest Ranch (sandpoint, Idaho)
OK, we know what you’re thinking. We were scared to Google the name of this place, too. Rest assured the search results yield very wholesome results. Western Pleasure Guest Ranch is completely family-friendly and so beautiful. The mountains, fresh air, log cabins and horses will make you feel like you’re back in the Gold Rush era. On the more modern side of things, there are country-gourmet meals and hot tubs for some very necessary R&R—all while your kids learn to ride, care for horses and even compete in a horse show complete with ribbons.
10. Alisal Ranch (solvang, California)
Just because you’re vacationing a dude ranch doesn’t mean it’s all rough and tumble. Alisal Ranch, a dreamy 10,000-acre property that’s tucked in the Santa Ynez Valley (30 minutes north of Santa Barbara), is proof of that. It’s a dude ranch, so it has riding trails and Western-themed accommodations, but it’s also super luxurious. Expect tennis courts, a pool, a spa, fine dining restaurants, five-star service and two golf courses. Best of all, it’s surrounded by more than 75 vineyards and wineries. So exhaust the kids at the barnyard or arts-and-crafts stations and then go sip some vino.
11. The Hideout Lodge & Guest Ranch (shell, Wyoming)
You know it’s going to be a great day when some stirrup-clad cowboy tips his hat, smiles and says “mornin’” on the way into breakfast. That’s basically how every a.m. starts at The Hideout Lodge & Guest Ranch. The hours that follow are full of exploring alpine forests and dramatic red landscapes on foot or horseback. Another super cool aspect of this property is that it only hosts 25 guests each week. Bring along your extended family and you’ll basically have the place to yourself.
12. Secluded Rogerson Hideaway (twin Falls, Idaho)
It’s time to unbuckle your boot straps and relax while staying at the Rogerson Hideaway where you’ll be able to enjoy several hundred acres of working cattle ranch land a little ways outside of Twin Falls. The sounds of nature will be the only noises you’ll hear while on your secluded vacation away from any hustle and bustle. Take a mile stroll and enjoy the uninterrupted views around you, then roll up your sleeves and throw a steak on the grill and dine on the picnic table to finish off your evening.
13. Historic Lodge (jackson Hole, Wyoming)
Round up your large party and take a step into the Wild West when you stay in this historical, former guest ranch and hunting lodge built in the 1800s and located in Jackson Hole. With the choice of 5 cabins to rent, your party can enjoy fun nights in the game room, sip on whiskey in the bar room or rest up your feet after a long day out in nature taking in the Hoback River. And post up with your nightcap on one of the patios at night to gaze at the bright stars.