So the cowboys are mostly gone, as is the rattle of stage coach wheels and Gold Rush madness, but there’s no reason to completely abandon your romantic notions of the Old West. For, tucked away here and there in the rugged folds of the Rocky Mountains find a long list of dude ranches glad to offer guests a home away from home - on the range, no less. That’s right: we’re talking trail rides and rodeos, cattle drives and crackling campfires. There’s a fairly lengthy list of possibilities to consider should you decide an all-in dude ranch vacation is just the ticket, so we’re here with a few pointers to help make it easier to avoid falling back on less exciting Colorado hotels.
For starters, consider the season. A number of dude ranches don’t open to guests until late spring and close in the autumn, like Laramie River Ranch and Wilderness Trails. Others, like Sylvan Dale Ranch near Denver, Peaceful Valley and Sundance Trail Ranch keep the bunkhouse open year-round. Looking for a place to hang your hat with hot springs in the vicinity? Try the likes of 4UR Ranch (where they also happen to have a Cordon-bleu trained chef) or Waunita Hot Springs, where you can work out all the ride-related knots with a hot soak. And for those folks fighting over whether to spend the week fishing or rounding up the herd, there’s a happy solution: settle on a dude ranch that offers easy access to fly-fishing hot spots. For example, the Rainbow Trout Ranch offers ready access to the Conejos River, a prime spot to snag a trout, and the North Fork Ranch even has professional guides on hand to help you find that sweet spot on the South Platte River.
Finally, it’s worth considering the demographics of your aspiring ranch hands. While most dude ranches are family-friendly, and offer a range of child appropriate activities, it’s also possible to enjoy an adult-only stay at places like Elk Mountain Ranch, where the month of September is just for grown ups. Hoping to make that mountain high a little more, well, spiritual? Add to your list Christian-oriented spreads such as Deer Valley Ranch or Wind River Christian Dude Ranch. You’ll be praying for an extra week of vacation, if nothing else.
So while you could always book a week-long stay in Colorado hotels of the chain variety, why not put a little bow in your legs instead? Try a dude ranch vacation. Your own family herd will love you for it, lasso and all.