Get a taste of life on the open range at one of the top guest ranches in America. Found in mountain valleys, endless meadows and desolate deserts, these properties offer an authentic Wild West experience, complete with log cabins, cattle drives, guided horseback rides and cowboy-style cookouts. Whether you prefer fly fishing and campfires or luxury glamping tents and pampering massages, we’ve scouted out the perfect spots for an unforgettable ranch vacation.
1. Vista Verde Guest Ranch - Steamboat Springs, CO
Nestled deep within Rocky Mountain high country, this ranch is ideal for those looking to take their equestrian skills to the next level. Specialized clinics focus on horsemanship theory and cattle work, and guests can even learn the secrets of a "horse whisperer." Lodge rooms and log cabins are sophisticated, with the latter featuring antiques, western art and hot tubs on private decks. Made-to-order "cowboy cuisine" includes hearty breakfasts, al fresco lunches and gourmet dinners paired with fine wines. Be sure to take advantage of complimentary activities such as wine tasting, photography workshops, cooking classes, fly fishing, sleigh rides and cross-country skiing. Kids' programs are offered year-round.
2. The Lodge & Spa at Brush Creek Ranch - Saratoga, WY
Thirty-thousand acres of open meadows and aspen-dappled forests provide the majestic setting for The Lodge & Spa at Brush Creek Ranch. Surrounded by Rocky Mountain wilderness in the Platte River Valley, this all-inclusive ranch boasts rustic-chic accommodations, Orvis-endorsed fly fishing excursions, horsemanship programs and scenic outdoor yoga sessions. Originally founded in 1884, the property pampers guests with minimal impact on the environment. Culinary experiences range from campfire meals at the Creekside Dinner Camp to fine dining in the Trailhead Great Room, serving ranch classics with a modern twist. Along with an indoor riding arena and more than 50 miles of trails, Brush Creek offers à la carte spa treatments and a Lil' Wranglers club for kids.
3. Bar W Guest Ranch - Whitefish, MT
Tucked between two pine-clad ridges at the base of Spencer Mountain, the Bar W Guest Ranch offers full immersion into western living. Not only can guests take beginner horsemanship clinics, they can also try advanced lessons in team penning and participate in a rodeo. Facilities include indoor and outdoor riding arenas, and there are hundreds of acres of open prairies to explore on horseback. For a unique getaway, sign up for the four-day cattle drive on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. Down-home cooking satisfies hearty appetites, and accommodations include cabin suites and luxury glamping tents. Less than four miles from Whitefish, the ranch offers big pike fishing, cross-country skiing, ice fishing and plenty of wildlife viewing — keep an eye out for mule deer, moose, mountain lion and bear.
4. Red Horse Mountain Ranch - Harrison, ID
At the 300,000-acre Red Horse Mountain Ranch near Lake Coeur d'Alene, guests can take afternoon trail rides to wilderness viewpoints and spend starry nights listening to cowboy poetry around a campfire. From June through October, the ranch offers a selection of all-inclusive getaways themed for families, couples and wine lovers looking for a unique escape. Rates include a variety of riding programs for guests 3 years old and up, accommodation in private cabins or lodge suites, and special meals like the weekly Wine Dinner for adults (meanwhile kids enjoy supervised activities). Non-equestrian activities range from pottery-making to yoga to zip-lining.
5. Tanque Verde Ranch - Tuscon, Arizona
With its adobe architecture, more than 150 horses and 60,000 acres of open desert and grassland, Tanque Verde is an old-school cattle ranch dating back to 1868. Today, the ranching tradition lives on with activities such as horsemanship fundamentals, team penning competitions and specialty classes like the basics of barrel racing. Old Homestead Breakfast Rides culminate with a hearty morning meal featuring blueberry pancakes. Trail rides in the fresh air give guests the chance to build up an appetite for ribs and homemade cornbread at the Cottonwood Grove Ranch Barbecue. Additional activities include guided hikes and fishing, or you can indulge in an End of the Trail body massage and a prickly pear margarita at the Doghouse Saloon.
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