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Dude Ranches in the West

Dude Ranch Vacations - Colorado, Arizona and Idaho

The dude ranch vacation is a singular experience. It’s where, if only for a week, one can immerse oneself in Western ranch life. Vacationing guests head up the rocky trail on a trusted mount. They rope with wranglers and sing with cowgirls, wake up to the fresh scent of pine and fall asleep under a canopy of stars. While the chief appeal of the ranch vacation is its simple authenticity, many guest ranches, in order to appeal to a wider and in some cases a younger audience, are adding amenities and programs not necessarily part of the traditional Western experience.

Since 1926 the Dude Ranchers' Association industry in the West has been promoting and preserving the western ranch vacation. DRA Executive Director, Colleen Hodson says it’s a definite trend she’s noticed among the more than 100 DRA member ranches. “I've seen our ranches offering girl getaways, focus on fishing, photography classes, tennis clinics, mountain biking, weeks devoted to wine and food, or a spa experience. The great thing about all of these added activities and amenities is that they’re still done with the wonderful western hospitality we’ve been promoting for over 80 years.”

DRA member, Rancho de la Osa has several a la carte selections on the Ranch menu. One weekend is devoted to the heavens, as guests gaze upward, identifying and learning about the stars and planets of the nighttime desert sky. Special eco-tours (by horse or foot) are offered throughout the season when participants are introduced to native plants and animals including the gila monster that likes to hang out at the ranch. For the more decadent visitor, Rancho de la Osa presents a sinful “Chocolate Lovers Weekend.”

Many ranches offer special wine and foods as an enticement. The Smith Fork Ranch in Colorado (known for a wine cellar of more than 300 labels) is planning their fifth special “Annual Culinary Weekend” later this fall. While the White Stallion Ranch near Tucson offers guests a possible antidote to too many culinary weekends, with their “Boot Camp Fitness” program. For six days guests have access to weight loss experts and personal trainers motivating and challenging them to drop those extra pounds.

Want to cowboy up and plan your own dude ranch getaway? Check out some of these worthy properties, all of which offer cool, campy packages perfect for a summer out in the sun.

The Bellota Ranch in Tuscon

The Bar Lazy J Ranch in Parshall

Colorado Trails Guest Ranch in Durango

King Mountain Ranch in Granby

Twin Peaks Ranch in Salmon

Averill's Flathead Lake Lodge in Bigfork

Gros Ventre River Ranch in Moose

Paradise Guest Ranch in Buffalo

The Red Rock Ranch in Kelly

The Hideout at Flitner Ranch in Shell

(Source: Dude Ranchers' Association)