Horsing Around at Dude Ranches in North America
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Perfect for families (and great for a guys’ or girls’ weekend, or even a romantic getaway), a dude ranch vacation offers a break from the rat race— it’s hard to check your email when you’re learning to canter—with long days on horseback, nights under the stars, and plenty of good, old fashioned fun in the fresh air. Offerings run from rustic compounds to full-service resorts with perks such as spas, gourmet chefs and ample amenities. Rounded up by TPG Contributor Alyssa Schwartz, here’s a rundown of some of the best dude ranches in North America.
The Resort at Paws Up, Montana
Love everything about the idea of a wilderness vacation except the idea of roughing it? The Resort at Paws Up near Missoula, Montana offers 37,000 acres of big sky country right at your doorstep—and what a luxe doorstep it is. Accommodations consist of palatial Wilderness Estates, private homes of up to 3,000 square feet decked out with slate showers and jetted bathtubs, fine linens, WiFi and surround-sound entertainment systems, and in the summertime, luxe outdoor tent suites complete with ensuite bathrooms. The award-winning wine-focused dining program isn’t your typical campfire grub either. And while this authentic cattle ranch offers adventures on horseback aplenty, you can also take in the view from up high via hot air balloon or ease those muscles with a “four paws” tandem massage. From $444 per person per night, including meals, wine and beer.
Pinegrove Family Dude Ranch, New York
East coasters, you don’t have to fly cross-country for an Old West vacation. Located less than a two-hour drive from Manhattan, Pinegrove Family Dude Ranch is located on 600 acres of New York’s most rugged, beautiful terrain. Nestled in the Shawangunk Mountains, the resort is home not only to more than 100 horses, but also to deer, red fox, wild turkeys, coyotes and nocturnal opossum. Accommodations at this family-centric getaway fall on the more basic side, but there’s heaps of fun for the little ones, from a “young cowboys and cowgirls” riding program to arcade and waterslides. From $169 per night for adults and $69 for kids.
Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort, California
For those times where you just want to frolic outdoors but your beloved’s pushing for a vacation that’s a little more refined, we present the best of both worlds—no compromise required. Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort is set in the Santa Ynez Valley, half an hour north of Santa Barbara and in the heart of wine country with more than 75 vineyards and wineries within a few minutes’ drive. There’s championship golfing (two 18-hole courses, in fact), a 6,000 square foot fitness center and spa and locally-drive dining. As for the riding: Alisal has 100 horses and 50 miles of trails which meander through canyons and over hillsides and brooks. Just call it “the relationship saver.” From $525 per night.
The Ranch at Emerald Valley, Colorado
Just eight miles from its sister property, the Broadmoor Resort in Colorado Springs, the Ranch at Emerald Valley offers up a similarly indulgent experience but in a remote wilderness enclave set within Pike National Forest. Featuring 10 romantic cabins (each with a wood-burning fireplace) and capacity for just 32 guests, this intimate seasonal camp offers riding for all levels, as well as hiking, fly fishing and canoeing (guests also have access to all the amenities at the Broadmoor, including golf, tennis and swimming pools). Open May-October, from $750 per night for two people, all inclusive; member of the iPrefer loyalty program.
Rancho Las Cascadas, Mexico
If you’re a city slicker in search of a cowboy adventure with a kick of exotic culture, consider Rancho Las Cascadas, an equestrian resort in the Mexican highlands. Just an hour and a half from Mexico City International Airport, this intimate property combines everything you want in a dude ranch vacation – beautiful horses (a mix of Quarter Horse and Criollo), professional wranglers and scenic trails – with the culture, history and flavors of central Mexico. During downtime, you can even pamper yourself with a margarita pedicure, which includes a lime oil massage and salt scrub. From $295 per night.
Lucasia Ranch, Alberta, Canada
Rustic and family owned, Lucasia Ranch provides a more authentic dude ranch vacation minus some of the luxury frills you might find elsewhere. Set on a working cattle ranch which was founded in 1881, Lucasia offers a real deal cowboy experience – long days in the saddle, hearty rancher food and log cabin accommodations. A visit here is no mere dog and pony show – if you want to join a real cattle drive, you’d best know your way around a saddle. In order to participate in this Old West tradition, guests must be experienced riders, capable of spending a full day on horseback and comfortable riding on steep terrain. From $550 per person for two nights; weeklong cattle drive packages from $1,900 per person.
Crystal Waters Guest Ranch, British Columbia, Canada
Located in British Columbia’s remote, pristine Cariboo Chilcotin region, Crystal Waters Guest Ranch is a four-season playground – in the summer there’s kayaking, canoeing, swimming and fly fishing, while in the colder months, guests can try their hand at ice fishing or hit the slopes at nearby Sun Peaks Resort. And then there are the horses: the ranch has 20 to choose from, ranging from Paints to Palominos, and the wranglers tailor rides to each group’s riding ability and the amount of time they want to spend on horseback each day. Save some energy for Gymkhana, equestrian games played on horseback. $199 per night, all-inclusive ($145 for non-riding guests).
Have you ever stayed at a dude ranch? We’d love for you to share your experience with us…pardner!