Learn how to ride horses at a dude ranch. // © 2015 iStock
Feature image (above): Finding the best dude ranch for all ensures a better family vacation. // © 2015 Amy Whitley
On the first day of our dude ranch vacation at Triangle X Ranch in Moose, Wyo., my family and I were assigned our cabin, met our riding instructor and took a tour of the dining hall and rec room. We met our horses for the week, and right away the kids took off with new friends from the cabin next to ours. As the dinner bell rang, I realized why this all felt so delightfully familiar: A dude ranch vacation is like reliving your favorite summer camp — as a grown-up.
Before booking a client’s dude ranch trip, it’s important to note that all ranches differ in terms of what’s offered and what’s emphasized. To ensure you find the right ranch for a particular family, here are a few of our favorites.
Best for Additional Activities
Maybe you don’t want to ride every day. Three Bars Guest & Cattle Ranch, located in the Rockies of British Columbia, offers a range of supplementary activities for families, including mountain biking, tennis, river rafting and swimming in an indoor pool. The ranch has its full programming throughout summer, with reduced rates and activities in spring and fall.
Best for Horseback Riding
Horseback riding is the backbone of most dude ranch programs, and Triangle X Ranch gives families quite a bit of rein (pun intended). Two rides per day are offered, as well as all-day and overnight pack rides. Advanced riders can take their own fast-paced rides, and the kids’ riding program is top-notch as well. Triangle X is open year-round, with snow sports offered instead of horseback riding in winter.
Best for Luxury and Relaxation
Want spa treatments to ease the aches of horseback riding? Tanque Verde Ranch in Tucson, Ariz., offers a full spa as well as upscale cuisine. Guests are lodged in luxury adobe dwellings with a relaxing Southwestern theme. Don’t worry, kids aren’t forgotten; they have a full program of offerings. Tanque Verde is open year-round, with 25 percent off all-inclusive packages in the off-season.
While most dude ranches are all-inclusive, a few remain a la carte, which can be ideal for families staying less than the customary week. Central Oregon’s Aspen Ridge Resort offers upscale cabin stays, activities such as horseback riding, biking, hiking and tennis, and meals in their on-site dining room. Aspen Ridge is open year-round, with snowshoeing available in winter.