10 things to know about staying at Rawah Ranch, part of Small Luxury Hotels of the World
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I’ve been closely following the integration of hundreds of Small Luxury Hotels of the World properties into the World of Hyatt loyalty program — including the most recent wave in July. However, despite some incredible resorts and the opportunity to get outsize value for my Hyatt points, I had never gotten the chance to actually visit one.
Fortunately, that recently changed — and it just may have been my best-ever Hyatt redemption.
That said, my experience did have a major hiccup (though it appears to now be fixed). And the property won’t be appealing to every kind of traveler. While we had a great time on the trip, it’s important to go into the process with your mind wide open.
Here are 10 things to know about staying at Rawah Ranch.
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You can use Hyatt points … but with some caveats
My daughter’s school here in Florida began a couple of weeks late in August 2020, so her last day got pushed into early June 2021. We started looking for a getaway to celebrate the end of kindergarten that would also take us out of the heat and humidity. After exploring Hyatt’s map feature, we were intrigued to see Rawah Ranch — a property in northern Colorado, just south of the border with Wyoming.
While Rawah is a Category 8 property in the World of Hyatt award chart, further research indicated why: It’s a mostly all-inclusive dude ranch that’s only open for part of the year (more on those items shortly). The property is also priced on a per-person basis — at $650 per adult per night (kids ages 4-16 are $435 per night). For me, my wife and our 6-year-old daughter, we would be looking at nearly $5,400 for a three-night stay if we paid in cash.
Alternatively, we could use 40,000 World of Hyatt points per night, and since I had a ton from last year’s Bonus Journeys promotion and a canceled Asia trip, we decided that was clearly the better option.
Given the paid rate, this resulted in a value of 4.5 cents per Hyatt points — well above TPG’s most recent valuations.
Note that there are many other ways to earn World of Hyatt points to book a stay here — including the ability to transfer Ultimate Rewards points earned from select Chase cards. In fact, the current welcome offer on the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card would get you most of the way to a three-night award stay.
That said, there are some important caveats to note if you’re looking to replicate our experience.
For starters, there’s a three-night minimum stay requirement. As a result, you’d need to use at least 120,000 Hyatt points if you want to experience the property. Searching for a one- or two-night stay will show as unavailable.
In addition, this property has been wildly inconsistent in terms of award availability. Initially, there was just one of the nine cabins that was showing as bookable using Hyatt points. However, when I booked in early February, all of the cabins were available — which allowed me to grab Ranch House West for the three of us. But then, later in the spring (and prior to our stay), none of them were showing as eligible for awards — even though the per-person price is the same for every cabin.
And now, it appears that only those cabins with a maximum occupancy of two guests are available using points — which are the following:
- Ranch House East.
And I have a feeling this new approach is directly related to the most significant problem I encountered with using Hyatt points here …
At the time of booking, the reservation including this cancellation policy:
50percent Deposit is Required at Time of Booking and It is Refundable According To the Rate Cancellation Policy. 50 PCT OF 3 NIGHT(S) DEPOSIT WILL BE CHARGED TO CREDIT CARD
This didn’t initially happen, but roughly five weeks before arrival, we saw a charge of nearly $2,700 post to the credit card on the reservation — an amount that was exactly 50% of what a standard, paid stay would’ve cost.
And unfortunately, things went downhill from there.
Three weeks before the stay, Hyatt (not the property) reached out to us with the following information:
For Small Luxury Hotels, points can be redeemed for a maximum of 2 guests per reservation. An additional supplement of $435 per night will be added for a child.
And around that time, our deposit was partially refunded — minus the $435-per-night supplement for our daughter. This fee was not disclosed at booking, nor was it included on the reservation confirmation. However, Hyatt pointed to the terms and conditions of the partnership with Small Luxury Hotels of the World to support the imposition of the fee, which says the following (emphasis mine):
Unless otherwise noted, Free Night Awards redeemed at a Participating SLH Property are valid for up to two (2) adults. A fee may be charged by the Participating SLH Property for additional guests.
We took the verbiage “may be charged” at face value. Since our reservation was booked and confirmed with no mention of the additional fee for our daughter, we felt that this wasn’t appropriate.
After returning from the trip (and still out more than $1,300 out of pocket), I raised this concern with Hyatt customer care, who initially cited the same terms above. However, I pushed back with a copy of the reservation confirmation, and finally, after more than a month, I received an email that approved the refund.
And it appears this system glitch has been fixed, as award stays are now limited to double-occupancy cabins.
Nevertheless, if you’re traveling with a spouse or other loved one, this still represents a fantastic award value. A three-night stay for two travelers in an award-eligible cabin would set you back $4,044.30 (including taxes and fees). Redeeming 120,000 points would thus get you a value of 3.37 cents per World of Hyatt point.
It’s only open from June through September
Another big limitation of the property? It’s only open for four months during the year — from June 1 through Sept. 30. This provides a very short window of time to book, and availability is hit or miss.
That said, at the time of writing, I do still see a few dates in August with award availability, including a pair of cabins from Aug. 15 to 18.
However, it appears that the only cabins left in September are those with a larger occupancy — and thus unable to be booked with Hyatt points.
Note as well that the property hasn’t yet opened up reservations for next year, so if you’re hoping to redeem your points for a 2022 stay, you can’t quite yet.
The cabins are comfortable yet rustic
As noted above, we were very fortunate to book Ranch House West using our Hyatt points, but we did get a glimpse into some of the other cabins as they were being cleaned or via invitation from some of our new friends. And the rooms were well appointed with comfortable beds, plush linens, small refrigerators, Keurig coffee makers and either a fireplace or wood-burning stove (though it got warm enough during the day that we never lit ours).
We were especially impressed by the setup that greeted us upon arrival — robes, a tube of trail mix, two decks of playing cards and a portfolio that quickly became my daughter’s de facto art supplies for the week.
That said, none of the cabins have air conditioning, and they can get warm during the day. We were there the second week in June, and high temperatures were already climbing into the 80s. I can imagine that July or August would be even warmer. There was a standing fan in our cabin, but we found that the best course of action was to keep the windows open — which cooled the cabin down overnight and kept it at a manageable temperature during the day.
In addition, there was a notable lack of outlets in our cabin, which made plugging in the fan and our electronic devices a bit challenging.
However, that wasn’t a huge problem given another “rustic” feature of the property …
There’s only Wi-Fi in the main lodge — and zero cell service
If you’re looking to stay connected on vacation, Rawah is not the spot for you. The only Wi-Fi hot spot on the property was in the main lodge — and it wasn’t anywhere near the fastest we’ve experienced. Sure, you can still accomplish basic tasks like browsing the internet, answering emails and making calls. However, I wouldn’t count on the ability to stream services like Netflix, and I don’t know that Zoom or other video-conferencing technologies would work.
Not only that — there is no cell service at the ranch. Not as in a “weak” or “intermittent” signal. Zip, zero, zilch. In fact, we found that it cut off over an hour before we even arrived on the property. As a result, the second we ventured more than 20 or 30 yards away from the lodge, we were essentially cut off from the digital world.
(Note that our cabin — Ranch House West — was the closest to the main lodge. The Wi-Fi signal occasionally popped up while we were in the room, but it was very sporadic, so none of the other cabins would even have a chance of picking it up.)
All that said, this wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. When you take the time to visit a place like Rawah Ranch, you don’t want to have your eyes glued to a screen. And that option was simply off the table. Even if you felt the urge to check your email while horseback riding or wanted to send a quick text during a break from mountain biking, it just wasn’t possible.
In fact, it was the first time since our 2008 honeymoon to Fiji that my wife and I were truly disconnected for extended periods of time. And while it took some mental adjustment, by the second day, we were truly on a relaxing vacation.
It’s not easy to reach
This probably comes as no surprise given the lack of cell coverage, but Rawah Ranch is not easy to reach. It’s a roughly three-hour drive from Denver International Airport (DEN), which is how we got to Colorado after finding a terrific paid fare on United. And much of that drive is through the wilderness, first on Route 14 for 50-plus miles through Rustic (and trust me, the town’s name fits) and then on County Road 103 for the last 15-20 minutes to the ranch.
Our flight landed around 10:30 a.m., and we stopped for lunch and some supplies in Fort Collins. Even then, we didn’t actually arrive until just after 3:30 p.m.
Another option to reach Rawah is to fly into Laramie Regional Airport (LAR) in Wyoming and then drive an hour or so to the property. However, the only flights to Laramie are currently from Denver — so once you factor in a layover, the additional flight time and the generally higher prices for flying to a smaller airport, going to DEN is likely the best option.
On our way home, we had an evening flight from DEN, so we opted to drive up into Wyoming and through Laramie before cutting back down to Colorado. While it was nice to go a different route for a change of scenery, the other way was much prettier — and a bit faster.
Note as well that the last 11 miles to the ranch are on a dirt road, and we were very grateful to have rented an SUV. A regular car could’ve handled it; we just felt much better in the larger vehicle.
Read more: How to never pay full price for a rental car
It’s almost entirely all-inclusive
One of the most appealing things about Rawah Ranch is that — with a few (minor) exceptions — everything you need is included with your stay. This includes morning coffee service to your cabin, three meals a day, all drinks and all excursions.
There are just a handful of items that will cost extra:
- If you want to go fly-fishing for more than a half-day.
- If you want any spa services (there’s an off-site therapist they bring in, so be sure to inquire about availability ahead of your stay).
- If you want anything from the gift shop.
It was really nice to not worry at all about every incidental charge — as those can frequently add up when you redeem hotel points.
The activities are fun but laid-back
When it came to the included excursions, they were a lot of fun with a relaxed, laid-back vibe.
Each night, there’s a sign-up sheet for guests to select their activities for the next day. When we signed our liability waivers before arrival, it made it seem like things were very structured.
Fortunately, we found that it wasn’t nearly as regimented — and the staff was very accommodating in working out schedules for us to do what we wanted.
We had a pair of days to fill — and we knew that our daughter would be tied up with the kids program each morning. As a result, we opted to go riding each afternoon with her, and we spent the mornings doing the activities that she wasn’t able to do.
The first day, we went “mountain biking”.
(I put that in quotes because my wife and I essentially live at sea level in Florida and thus have zero experience biking on hills. We certainly felt that we went biking in the mountains — though purists might take issue with this characterization.)
Two of Rawah’s employees loaded up bikes into a pickup truck and drove us down the road about 5 miles to the West Branch trailhead. From there, the four of us took a gently sloping ride up the ridge on a wide path, stopping occasionally to take in the scenery.
As we neared our starting point toward the end of the ride, I was in the lead and happened to glance to my right — and saw a beautiful moose with a full rack standing in knee-deep water. He must’ve been no more than 40 or 50 feet away, but sadly I wasn’t fast enough with my camera to snap a picture before he meandered away. Thankfully, this wasn’t our only moose encounter (more on that later).
The following morning, we connected with Angelo, the on-site fishing guide, and he took me and my wife fly-fishing on the Laramie River (which runs right through the ranch). The water was flowing swiftly, so we were forewarned that we likely wouldn’t catch anything — which wound up being true. However, we had an awesome time.
For starters, Angelo was a terrific instructor for first-timers like us. He had us start on the grass and practice our casting motion, and he made sure we were in a good spot before heading to the river. And he continued offering tips and suggestions throughout, even moving us multiple times in an effort to find the fish.
Most importantly, however, both my wife and I found it incredibly relaxing. For roughly two hours, we simply stood in the water (wearing waders — Rawah provides all of the equipment you need) and cast our lines. The only sounds came from the river rushing by and the birds and insects in the surrounding landscape. My wife even came out of it talking about “taking a trip where we only fly-fish” — which is quite the statement coming from a generally non-outdoorsy individual like her.
(Colorado state law requires you to have a license to go fly-fishing, so we stopped at the Walmart in Fort Collins to buy one for each of us.)
Each afternoon, once we wrapped up lunch, we headed toward the stables to go riding. The first thing to note is that there’s a giant selection of boots to borrow — so don’t feel like you need to bring your own or invest in a new pair prior to the trip. And this storage room also included helmets (which was a requirement for our daughter but optional for us).
Then Britta, the lead cowgirl, helped get us situated with horses and coordinated our journeys.
The first day, we ventured west of the property, crossing the Laramie River and exploring the forests at the base of the hills. Our next day, we went in the opposite direction, crossing the road and taking a beautiful trail up to and around Lily Pond Lake — giving us gorgeous views of the valley below.
On both rides, it was just our family of three plus a pair of guides, and it felt like we were the only people in the entire state.
And if the prearranged trips aren’t enough, the property has a number of “self-service” activities. There’s a nicely furnished game room in the same building as the stables.
There was also ladder golf on the front lawn outside the main lodge.
And the lodge itself featured many games and books for guests to borrow and use at any time — ideally in the colorful rocking chairs that adorned the building’s spacious front porch.
As for the advertised “Children’s Program” on Rawah’s website, it was offered during the morning, and since my daughter was the only kid there for those two days, it wound up functioning more like babysitting than a fully organized itinerary.
That said, she played some games, painted some rocks and enjoyed a couple of nature walks while we were on our adults-only excursions — and the staff members who spent time with her were terrific.
The food is outstanding
If I’m being honest, the term “all-inclusive” (to me) generally evokes boring buffets and uninspired cuisine — yet we found the food to be absolutely spectacular at Rawah.
As noted above, each day began with a tea-and-coffee tray delivered to your cabin (you note your selections when completing your waivers online prior to arrival). With the chilly mornings we encountered during our stay, we loved having a warm beverage to start the day in the comfort of our bed — and the baked goods were absolutely fantastic.
Breakfast was essentially order what you want — with choices including eggs, potatoes, bacon, sausage and pancakes. We did hear from a guest that the kitchen ran out of eggs one day prior to our arrival, but we didn’t find anything lacking for our morning meals.
On Fridays, the property does something slightly different than usual for the first meal of the day. Instead of breakfast in the lodge, you’re brought a more substantial tea-and-coffee tray to hold you over. Then, the chef and staff members set up a late-morning “cowboy brunch” in an on-property picnic area. Despite the rudimentary cooking arrangements, the food was no less spectacular — including a lemon-dusted pork belly that was heavenly.
Most of the guests chose to do a short trail ride on the way to cowboy brunch, but the property was happy to arrange our fly-fishing excursion that morning — and as we made our way up the river, we ultimately ended up right at the brunch spot.
Dinner begins with a cocktail hour from 5 to 6 p.m. in the main lodge, during which we were served drinks along with a variety of canapes prepared fresh by the chef.
Each night, we enjoyed a cold beer or a glass of wine in the comfortable sitting area — complete with board games and various coffee table books.
And when it was time to eat, we simply migrated to the other side of the fireplace, where the staff had set the table for the meal.
Each night featured a set menu of a starter, entree and dessert — though you can highlight dietary preferences ahead of time on your waiver, and we did see some on-demand requests from other guests that the chef was able to fulfill.
Our first night featured a beautifully poached salmon over vegetables with a side of seasoned quinoa.
The second night included a perfectly cooked steak over sauteed spinach topped with a delectable blackberry coulis.
And for our third (and final) night, we were treated to an outstanding, self-serve barbecue dinner on the screened-in porch, complete with pulled pork, slaw, dinner rolls and a terrific mixed salad. In fact, I was enjoying the food and the company of the other guests so much that I completely forgot to snap a picture!
The lodge also has coffee, pastries and granola bars available throughout the day.
All in all, you’d be hard-pressed to go hungry at Rawah.
You’ll be interacting with other guests and staff extensively
The entire ranch is a very communal experience. If you’re looking for seclusion and no one to interact with, this is not the place. Even though we did luck into four straight “private” tours without any other guests, meals were generally served as a group — particularly cocktail hour and dinner.
And then after dinner, Rawah employees would light a bonfire in the backyard outside the lodge, right on the Laramie River, providing more time for guests and staff to socialize. Naturally my daughter equates campfires with s’mores — so she very craftily asked the newest employee there if there were supplies for doing so on the first night. And who’s going to argue with a 6-year-old?
Throughout cocktail hour, dinner and after-meal festivities, we got to know many of the other guests — including a wonderful couple from the Atlanta area and (funnily enough) a TPG reader and his 91-year-old father from California (he had also used Hyatt points for the stay).
Both my wife and I are natural extroverts, but we also treat vacations as precious time to spend as a family. That said, we never once felt put out by the level of interaction — aided by the fact that we were both fully vaccinated months ahead of our trip.
One particularly memorable moment came when our new Atlanta-area friends came flying up to the lodge in a golf cart (each cabin far from the main building has one for guest use). They knew our daughter was desperate to see a moose, having missed out on the one my wife and I saw while mountain biking. It turned out that a moose and a deer had made their way into the backyard of their cabin, making for a perfect photo op.
Now, our memories of the trip include not only our quality family time but also the great conversations and interactions we had with the other guests — and the moose!
The staff is great, and the service is ‘ranch-polished’
I also have to point out that every single staff member we encountered was fantastic. From Laura (who simultaneously led excursions yet also coordinated dinner service) to Britta and the other wranglers to Angelo, everyone was clearly there to help the guests enjoy their time in the beautiful setting. We especially enjoyed the nightly turn-down service, even finding a complimentary bag of jelly beans on our bed one evening.
That said, it’s worth noting that the service isn’t as refined as what you’d find at a luxury, five-star hotel.
Everything is laid-back at Rawah Ranch, so you may find yourself waiting a few extra minutes for that second beer you ordered, and your dinner may come out five minutes ahead of your travel companion’s. The coffee tray in the morning may not have the same items you asked for the previous day, and when you’re told that the trail ride leaves at 2:30, it may not actually depart until 3 p.m.
And you know what? We didn’t care.
The point of a property like Rawah is to kick back and leave your first-world problems behind. Forget about that email. Don’t worry about reading that report. And if there’s a small delay or minor mistake in getting something you’ve asked for, that’s not a big deal either.
Sure, I think some additional customer service training and support for the staff could help, but ultimately the minor service failures didn’t really sour the experience — especially given that we were there in the first weeks of the property being open for the year.
Our trip to Rawah Ranch represented an outstanding use of Hyatt points, and it was a great way to start our summer. We did have an unfortunate experience with the undisclosed fee for our daughter, but ultimately, Hyatt customer service came through and agreed to refund that additional cost.
And since Hyatt is currently limiting award stays to cabins for two guests, this issue appears to be a moot point now (which makes us the lucky ones for enjoying the property as a family of three at no additional cost).
I don’t think I’d pay $1,300 per night (plus taxes) to go back as a couple, but given the terrific food, wonderful staff and array of activities, it was well worth the 40,000 Hyatt points per night.
Featured photo by Nick Ewen/The Points Guy.
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