Guest ranches have become a staple of American lodging. 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.
1. Sorrel River Ranch Resort & Spa, Moab, Utah
For those seeking a horseback riding getaway with a generous side of luxury, Sorrel River Ranch is the perfect choice. Along with a private equestrian center, this 160-acre southwestern desert property features a full-service spa, fine farm-to-table dining with red rock views and boutique suites adorned with hand-crafted furnishings. Horseback riding experiences are available for all levels and include wrangler-led tours through the scenic highlands. When not saddling up, guests can sip and sup on tapas and wine on the river deck, sky dive over the red rock landscape, raft the Colorado River or day trip to the Canyonlands or Arches National Parks. Dating back to the early 1900s, the ranch offers history buffs a glimpse of its beginnings in its original two-room farmhouse.
2. Bar W Guest Ranch, Whitefish, Montana
Tucked between two pine-clad ridges at the base of Spencer Mountain, the Bar W Guest Ranch offers a full immersion ranch experience. Not only can guests take beginner cowpoke classes and horsemanship clinics, they can even try advanced lessons in roping, team penning and sorting cattle, and participate in a guest rodeo. At this year-round retreat, facilities include indoor and outdoor riding arenas, and there are hundreds of acres of foothills and open prairies to explore on horseback. For a unique getaway, sign up for the four-day cattle drive on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. Meals incorporate high-end ranch fare with highlights such as dinner wagon rides, and accommodations include lodge rooms and cabin suites. Less than four miles from Whitefish, the ranch also offers big pike fishing, archery, cross-country skiing, ice fishing and wildlife viewing, from mule deer and moose to mountain lions and bears.
3. Bar H Bar Ranch, Soda Springs, Idaho
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.
4. Red Horse Mountain Ranch, Harrison, Lake Coeur d'Alene, Idaho
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 or savoring a five-course wine dinner while the kiddies are off enjoying their own supervised activities. From June 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 lodge suites, complete with log furniture and covered porches or decks. Non-equestrian adventures range from yoga and archery to lake fishing and zip lining.
5. CM Ranch, Dubois, Wyoming
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 supervised activities such as roping a "dummy" steer, beginner riding skills lessons and visits to ancient Indian petroglyphs and the local fish hatchery. 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 property includes four miles of streams for excellent trout fishing and acres of Badlands wilderness dotted with sandstone mesas for scenic horseback trips. Down-home highlights range from square dancing lessons to evening cowboy poetry readings.
6. A Bar A Ranch, Encampment, Wyoming
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 loyal guests for generations. 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 dedicated to Western living and a private air strip. 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. When the day is done, guests can return to their guest house or cabin to relax before heading to the restaurant, with a menu that focuses on organic produce, naturally raised meat and fine wines.
7. The Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort, Solvang, California
Just 40 miles from Santa Barbara in the middle of wine country, 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: 10,000 acres of grazing fields, hills and canyons, in fact. This working cattle ranch dates back to the early 1800s and has been welcoming guests since 1946. Once the home of Kentucky Derby winner Flying Ebony, it keeps 100 horses for guest use. Private lessons are offered, and guests can participate in team sorting competitions at the weekly summer rodeos. For those who don't feel like saddling up, there's championship golf on two eighteen-hole courses, 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 wine, golf and spa retreats.
8. Vista Verde Ranch, Steamboat Springs, Colorado
Encompassing more than 500 acres in the Routt National Forest in Rocky Mountain high country, this ranch offers an opportunity to go beyond the basics of horseback riding. Specialized clinics focus on general horsemanship and competitive riding, and guests can even learn how to communicate with their steed. The log cabins and lodge rooms are sophisticated where it counts, with antiques, Western art and, in many cases, hot tubs on private decks. For daily dining, made-to-order "cowboy cuisine" features hearty breakfasts, al fresco lunches and gourmet dinners paired with fine wines. Better yet, all-inclusive really does mean just that, with rates including wine tastings, photography workshops, cooking classes, fly fishing and, in the winter, ski lessons, sleigh rides, snow shoeing, cross country skiing and much more. Kids' programs are offered in both the summer and winter seasons.
9. Southern Cross Guest Ranch, Madison, Georgia
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 also learn about grooming and tack. Soul Discovery on Horseback Retreats are a highlight, while the local town of Madison attracts visitors with its antebellum homes and antique shops. A haven of open pastures and wooded trails, the ranch is just an hour's drive from Atlanta.
10. Brasada Ranch, Powell Butte, Oregon
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. Canoe tours with lakefront beer tastings, miles of cycling trails, a golf course, access to Mt. Bachelor skiing 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 signature treatments feature a soothing sage-and-lavender scent, and house dining showcases farm-to-table cuisine. Along with hiking, fly-fishing, rock climbing and rafting, 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.
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