When you think of a dude ranch, what usually comes to mind is dust, dirt and the smell of animals.
But there are some luxurious Western-style resort that have taken out the grime and added in the glamor.
Here are eight dude ranches that ensure that even the most discriminating of visitors feel right at home on the range. No horse required.
1. Wildcatter Ranch, Graham, Texas
Situated in the North Texas Hill Country not far from Fort Worth is Wildcatter Ranch, a dude ranch for those who love the finer things in life. The 41 guest rooms include elegant cabin suites with leather couches, large fireplaces and patios for kicking back and soaking up views of the Brazos River. Better yet, book a stay in an elegant guest home with game room, theater, soaking tub and gourmet kitchen. When you’re not horseback riding, sport clay shooting or practicing archery, enjoy a therapeutic massage, a dip in the infinity-edged pool or a first-class meal fit for the hungriest of cowboys at the on-site restaurant Dinner Bell.
2. Mountain Sky Guest Ranch, Emigrant, Montana
At Mountain Sky Guest Ranch in the Paradise Valley of Montana, you’ll find breathtaking views, fine dining and lavish amenities. The resort, just a 40-minute drive from Yellowstone National Park, has been open since 1929 and offers historic refurbished cabins with stone fireplaces, picture windows and up to three bedrooms. Meals include gourmet offerings like freshly-baked pastries and homemade granola for breakfast, regional dishes like Mexican enchiladas for lunch, and three- to five-course meals featuring regionally-inspired entrees for dinner.
3. A Bar A Ranch, Encampment, Wyoming
Located in the heart of Southern Wyoming’s Medicine Bow Mountains on the North Platte River, A Bar A Ranch is one of the oldest guest ranches in the country, and at nearly 100,000 acres, it’s also one of the largest. In addition to your standard dude ranch activities like fly fishing and hiking, A Bar A offers both tennis and golf, but be sure to leave some quiet time to spend in the ranch’s Western-style sculpture garden, If you’ll be flying by private jet, they’re happy to let you land on its private air strip. In addition to the chef’s creative menus to satiate your cowboy appetite, the A Bar A’s wine cellar holds one of the largest selections of fine wines in the state of Wyoming.
4. High Lonesome Ranch, DeBeque, Colorado
Make like a cowboy in the Colorado Rockies at the High Lonesome Ranch near the small town of DeBeque just 40 minutes from Grand Junction. Not only can you fish, horseback ride and go white water rafting, you can use your time to take a cooking class, two-step dancing lessons or a winery tours. Don’t miss cocktail hour in the ranch headquarters. The ranch is ideal for the environmentally conscious, as it manages a variety of projects to help preserve the Western landscape of the Colorado Rockies. Even the dining at its restaurant, High Lonesome, reflects this mission. Most meats and produce are raised or grown on the property using sustainable methods.
5. Rancho de los Caballeros, Wickenburg, Arizona
This historic dude ranch resort, just over an hour from Phoenix, blends upscale amenities and authentic Western appointments. Envision horseback rides through the desert, meditation in the onsite labyrinth, hot stone massages at the spa, hot air balloon rides and games of golf on their Golf Digest top-five rated 18-hole course. Other offerings at Rancho de los Caballeros include tennis courts, a heated pool, two restaurants serving Southwestern fare and a saloon where you can drink one of their famous Prickly Pear Margaritas. Guests can also wander beyond the ranch to explore historic Old West streets, buildings and shops in Wickenburg.
6. Ranch at Rock Creek, Philipsburg, Montana
If you visit the Ranch at Rock Creek, located on 6600 acres of rugged Montana wilderness, choose from luxury suites in The Granite Lodge, glamping-style cabins along Rock Creek, authentic yet deluxe log cabins or historic barn accommodations. Keep yourself as busy as you want with creative options like bowling, geocaching (a global treasure hunt) and stagecoach rides, along with ice skating, snowshoeing and sledding in the wintertime. At the on-site Silver Dollar Saloon, described as “part cowboy saloon and part luxe club,” guests can play games like shuffleboard, billiards and poker, try their hand at karaoke or watch a flick in the private movie theater. Get fitted for your very own custom cowboy boots and hat from the ranch’s Mercantile before you head home. The property, affiliated with Relais & Chateaux, is only Forbes Five-Star ranch in the world and is the only U.S. property to be included in National Geographic’s Unique Lodges of the World.
7. Lost Creek Ranch, Wyoming
Originally a homestead in the late 1800s, Lost Creek Ranch is situated in beautiful Jackson Hole, Wyoming, in the wilderness near Grand Teton National Park. The ranch can accommodate up to 60 guests in its 10 rustic cabins, which have been featured in Architectural Digest. With natural beauty all around, the ranch offers a host of experiences for adventure seekers, such as technical climbing, float trips or white water rafting down the Snake River, and skeet shooting at their state-of-the-art range. Enjoy a massage in the fresh mountain air, take a mineral bath or get in a workout at the Spa at Lost Creek Ranch. In the evenings, gather in the main lodge for astronomy presentations, musical entertainment, campfires and fine Rocky Mountain cuisine prepared by ranch chefs and paired with a selection of wines, beers and liquors.
8. Echo Valley Ranch & Spa, British Columbia, Canada
Described as part ranch and part spa, the five-star Echo Valley Ranch & Spa is just a few hours northeast of Vancouver on 160 acres surrounded by pristine mountains, valleys, pine forests and desert canyons. Its “unpretentious” luxury accommodations include rooms in the Lookout Lodge with aboriginal art and sleeping lofts ideal for kids. For something more romantic, indulge in the Royal Suite with traditional Thai architecture, plush furnishings, steam shower and private terrace. Visitors can follow the old Gold Rush Trail and pan for real gold, take a photo safari to Fraser Canyon or experience a treatment at their Thai-themed spa. The ranch serves fresh, organic, local food grown on the resort, and even the drinking water is taken from one of the five natural springs located on the ranch.
Lyn Mettler is an Indianapolis, Ind.-based travel writer. She is the author of The Step-by-Step Guide to Earning Your Southwest Companion Pass. You can find her at www.GotoTravelGal.com or on Twitter at @GotoTravelGal.