Dude, Where’s My Ranch? By Joyce Shulman
The west is overflowing with guest ranches that range from uber-luxury to affordable. Here are a few to check out.
Vista Verde Ranch in Steamboat Springs, Colorado is a small luxury ranch with beautiful facilities and accommodations. An extensive family program is coupled with an effort to maintain its down-to-earth, warm and friendly vibe. With only about 40 guests at a time, Vista Verde strives to provide a personal and tailored experience for its guests. With a new pool, a mountain setting and lots of other activities, like most guest ranches, the horses are at the center. “Everyone is matched with an appropriate horse for the week and for many that results in a sad farewell at the end of their stay,” says the Resort. We can imagine. The fun for the kids extends beyond the riding program, with treasure hunts, pow wows, campfires, boat races, gold panning and a ride on a fire truck to the local store for ice cream help to round out the week. Their teen program is a nod to the reality that teens need their own space to explore at their own pace. Of course, adventure for the entire family the experience together abounds, with family horseback riding, hiking, mountain biking, fly fishing, rock climbing and more. Vista Verde looks to us like one to check out.
The Vee Bar Guest and Dude ranch near Laramie, Wyoming is a family-friendly ranch that emphasizes horseback riding, but that is only the beginning of this Wyoming family vacation. The ranch activities include hiking, fishing, river tubing, trap shooting, camping, herding cattle, hayrides and more. A historical setting at the base of the Snowy Range Mountains, the Vee Bar ranch prides itself on providing True Western Hospitality. Vacation activities center around western horseback riding and the Vee Bar claims one of the best horseback riding programs to be found at any guest ranch and offers a range of riding experiences … from the meadows to riding across the top of Sheep Mountain in the Medicine Bow National Forest. Children six and older are eligible for horseback riding activities with parents or other children. All children can work on their horsemanship skills by competing in the gymkhana or moving cattle while receiving pointers and coaching from family-friendly wranglers.
Harmel’s Ranch Resort in Almont, Colorado delivers family fun at affordable prices in a superb location, near Crested Butte and Gunnison. This family dude ranch has been operating since 1958 and brings a touch of old world style to everything they do. No fancy-schmancy accommodations, just cozy cabins and tons of action and fun … horseback riding, fly-fishing, white water rafting, evening hay rides and more. Their overnight ride to high camp, junior wrangler program and weekly steak/crab cookout have gotten two thumbs up from loyal guests. Unlike many guest ranches, Harmel’s gives families the flexibility to arrive any day of the week and to stay as long as they wish. And, for those of us who hate to leave our dogs behind, Harmel’s is pet friendly (though there are breed restrictions, so be sure to check their website).