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Top 10 wild west ranches in the US

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    Mountain Sky Guest Ranch, Emigrant, Mont.Gayot

  • vistaverde_gayot.jpg

    Vista Verde Ranch, Steamboat Springs, Colo.Gayot

  • cmranch_gayot.jpg

    CM Ranch, Dubois, Wyo.Gayot

  • alisal_gayot.jpg

    The Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort, Solvang, Calif.Gayot

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    The Ranch at Rock Creek, Philipsburg, Mont.Gayot

A century ago, ranch life was serious business, with cowpokes, chuck wagons and little dogies getting along. Today, much to our delight, ranches defy stereotype. While some still stick close to their historical roots, others have branched out and include spa treatments and gourmet dining with their hoedowns and cattle drives. Whether classic or creative, guest ranches have become a staple of American lodging, and for those who want to unplug from the modern world without sacrificing comfort, we've compiled a selection of the finest haycations in the wild, wild West. Happy trails. Click here for reviews and photos for all Top 10 Wild West Ranches in the U.S.

CALIFORNIA

Solvang
The Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort

Just 35 miles from Santa Barbara, The Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort is not as remote as many other ranches on our list. But it offers plenty of wide-open range on which to roam: ten thousand acres of grazing fields, hills and canyons, in fact. This working cattle ranch dates back to the 1800s and has been welcoming guests since 1946. Once the home of Kentucky Derby winner Flying Ebony, it keeps 100 horses — including quarter horses, thoroughbreds and mustangs — for guest use. Private lessons are offered, and guests can participate in weekly summer rodeos. For those who don't feel like saddling up, there's championship golf, tennis and bass fishing. While most guest ranches are all-inclusive, this one offers its activities à la carte, but packages are available for riding boot camps, round-up vacations and golf and spa retreats. Read a complete hotel review of The Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort

COLORADO

Steamboat Springs
Vista Verde Ranch

Encompassing more than 500 acres of forest, meadow and pasture in Rocky Mountain high country, this working hay and cattle ranch offers an opportunity to go beyond the basics of horseback riding. Specialized clinics focus on balance and rhythm, and even the art of horse whispering. Of particular note are the cattle drive weeks offered throughout the year; after getting comfortable with your horse through trail rides, arena sessions and a special horsemanship clinic, you will have the chance to herd cows down the Elk River Valley. The log cabins are sophisticated where it counts, with lodgepole pine beds, antiques and western art. Each also has its own hot tub on the deck. Better yet, all-inclusive really does mean just that, with rates including fine wines, photography workshops and, in the winter, ski lessons, sleigh rides, snow shoeing, cross country skiing and much more. For more information, visit http://www.vistaverde.com/

GEORGIA

Madison
Southern Cross Guest Ranch

A paradise for horses and horse lovers, this year-round equestrian escape in Georgia's "historic heartland" combines southern hospitality with old-fashioned ranch living. Home to a bed-and-breakfast and more than 150 paint and quarter horses, the farm offers a combination of all-inclusive hands-on riding programs for beginners and "relaxed rider" opportunities for those with more expertise. Guests can learn about grooming and tack, and depending on the time of year, witness a mare giving birth. Soul Discovery on Horseback Retreats are a highlight, while the local town of Madison appeals with antebellum homes and antique shops. A haven of open pastures and wooded trails, the ranch is just an hour's drive from Atlanta. For more information, visit http://www.southcross.com/

IDAHO

Harrison, Lake Coeur d'Alene
Red Horse Mountain Ranch

At the 300,000-acre Red Horse Mountain Ranch near Lake Coeur d'Alene, guests can spend days trail riding to wilderness viewpoints and starry nights sitting around a campfire listening to cowboy poetry, sipping Pacific Northwest vintages as elk provide a background serenade. From May through October, the ranch offers a selection of all-inclusive getaways themed for families, couples and even wine lovers looking for a unique escape. Rates include chef-prepared meals, a variety of riding programs for guests three and up, and accommodation in private cabins or suites, complete with log furniture and covered porches or decks. Non-equestrian adventures range from yoga and archery to lake fishing and zip lining. For more information, visit http://www.redhorsemountain.com/

Soda Springs
Bar H Bar Ranch

Hands-on means just that at this working ranch, where no more than six guests at a time saddle quarter horses, brand and vaccinate cattle, and ride parts of the old Oregon Trail. The nearly 12,000-acre ranch sits at the edge of the Caribou National Forest, home to elk and moose. Guests stay in rooms in the original ranch bunkhouse and dine on family-style meals that include homemade goodies such as pie and bread. Prepare to mend fences and rope little dogies rather than check your emails. This place isn't wired for the web ... no phones or TV here, either. The bottom line: good old-fashioned fresh air and amiable, down-home hospitality. Check out The World's Most Remote Hotels

MONTANA

Emigrant
Mountain Sky Guest Ranch

Sprawling across 8,000 wooded acres, this ranch enjoys a perfect location for horseback riding and hiking, as well as world-class fishing. But the biggest draw here is the warm Western hospitality and stylish one-, two- and three-bedroom log cabins, many with rock fireplaces and all with gorgeous views. Trail rides can include a creekside breakfast over an open fire or an all-day exploration of Paradise Valley. After a long day on the range, guests enjoy hayrides, Western dances (complete with instruction from wranglers) and fine cuisine served in the dining room or around a campfire beneath the star-filled sky. Additional perks include tennis courts, a heated pool and a Johnny Miller-designed nine-hole golf course, as well as numerous kid-themed activities. For more information, visit http://www.mtnsky.com/

Philipsburg
The Ranch at Rock Creek

Located within ten square miles of untamed Montana wilderness, this luxury property is ranch lite. But that's not a bad thing. We love it for its 2,000-square-foot, full-service spa, not to mention its countless activities, including exceptional fly fishing, kayaking, clay target shooting, hiking, biking, bowling and ghost town tours. Of course, trail rides are on offer, as well — there's no better way to explore the local scenery. Guests can choose from luxury suites, individual log homes or comfortable tents complete with gas fireplaces. The Granite Lodge restaurant features regional ingredients, from fresh herbs and fish to organic beef, elk and bison, while the Silver Dollar Saloon entices at the end of each day with cocktails for parents and a game room and movies for the kids. For more information, visit http://www.theranchatrockcreek.com/

OREGON

Powell Butte
Brasada Ranch

The town of Bend has long been a vacation mecca for families in the Pacific Northwest. Adding to the area's appeal is the nearby Brasada Ranch, an 1,800-acre retreat in the central Oregon high desert. Juniper trees, private lakes, a year-round golf course and an average of more than 300 days of sunshine annually make this a destination for all seasons. The eight-suite Ranch House Lodge and freestanding Sage Canyon Cabins offer a casual residential feel, as well as extras such as fire pits and hot tubs. Spa Brasada's treatments feature a soothing sage-and-lavender scent, and the restaurant's daily changing gourmet menu showcases true farm-to-table dining. Along with cycling, hiking, fly-fishing, paddling, rock climbing, rafting and skiing Mt. Bachelor, the ranch is home to its own equestrian center, where riders of all ages and levels of expertise can enjoy private instruction, group clinics and even solo trail outings. For more information, visit http://www.brasada.com/   

WYOMING

Dubois
CM Ranch
While most ranches are family-oriented, this one is more so than usual, with its kid-friendly dining, log houses (smaller cabins are also available) and emphasis on social activities such as softball and horseshoes. It is one of the oldest dude ranches in the state and sits in a valley in the Wind River Mountain Range near Yellowstone National Park. Matched with horses suited to ability, guests can join a variety of daily rides with wranglers knowledgeable about the history and geography of the area. The ranch property includes four miles of streams for excellent trout fishing and acres of wilderness dotted with sandstone mesas, making for scenic horseback trips. Down-home highlights range from square dance lessons to evening cowboy poetry. For more information, visit http://www.cmranch.com/

Encampment
A Bar A

Set on nearly 100,000 acres in southern Wyoming's Medicine Bow Mountains on the banks of the North Platte River, the historic A Bar A ranch has been welcoming generations of loyal guests. Along with expected activities such as fly-fishing and guided hikes, the property also features tennis courts, a nine-hole golf course, a sculpture garden and a private airstrip. For discovering the hundreds of miles of riding trails there are 130 horses of all levels, and guests usually keep the same steed for their entire stay. Custom expeditions such as fishing mountain streams or exploring cattle ranches are a specialty. And when the day is done, guests can return to their guest house or cabin to relax before heading to the restaurant, with its menu of organic produce, naturally raised meat and exceptional selection of wines. For more information, visit http://www.abararanch.com/ 

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