5280 Magazine – May 2012

Back at the Ranch – 5280 Magazine – by Lindsey Koehler

Vista Verde Guest Ranch

Steamboat Springs, Colorado

The sound of cowboy boots two-stepping across a wooden floor isn’t something you hear often within Denver city limits. But at Vista Verde Guest Ranch, you can listen to that heavy plodding—that is, big-belt-buckle-wearing men dancing with ladies in black Stetson hats—at its weekly old-fashioned barn dance. And if you’re sitting alone, tapping those newly purchased boots, it’ll only be a matter of moments before a polite young wrangler puts out his hand.

That well-mannered, congenial attitude permeates this small guest ranch situated on a petite parcel of land 27 miles outside of Steamboat Springs. No matter what you happen to be doing—sitting by the lake taking in the sunset or watching a band of horses graze in a nearby pasture—someone from the Vista Verde staff will ask if you need anything, and then smile and give a tip of the hat when you say you’re doing just fine. The truth is, you likely are doing better than fine because you spent the morning on a cattle roundup, ate a hearty lunch on the outdoor patio, took a short hike in the Zirkel Wilderness Area in the early afternoon, and now you’re nursing a beer while you wait for dinner to be served in the main dining room. Life is good here at the ranch.

In fact, at Vista Verde, the most stress-inducing decisions come in two categories: what to eat for dinner (there’s a choice of three entrées each night) and what to do after dinner (check out that barn dance or retire to your cabin’s outdoor hot tub to look at the stars). Fortunately, you can’t really go wrong with whatever choice you make.

The same can be said for the ranch’s recreational options. Most guests choose Vista Verde for its well-regarded horse program, which mixes clinics with trail rides and caters to every ability level. Ranch trainer Terry Wegener, along with a group of wranglers, seems to be able to teach guests more about horsemanship in one week than most others could in months. But if four-legged fun isn’t your thing, Vista Verde employs a host of guides—usually college-age kids with a ton of energy and skill—that can take you mountain biking, fly-fishing, and hiking whenever the mood strikes. And to be honest, it’s the overall mood—that balance of eager-to-please service, casual friendliness, and upscale amenities—at Vista Verde that makes it so darn enticing.

The Details

You’ll Love It If… You’re a wannabe horseman or horsewoman—or an advanced equestrian—looking to improve your skills at a riding-oriented ranch.

High Praise The accommodations here are sublime. The two-story Little Agnes “cabin” has plush linens, a small kitchen, a sitting room with a wood stove, a king-bed master suite, a queen-bed guest room, two bathrooms (one with a giant shower), and a front deck with a hot tub.

The Low Down Although Vista Verde offers fly-fishing, hiking, mountain biking, rafting, and other activities, many are not available on the ranch’s nearly 600-acre property, which can mean a long drive to reach your adventure.

Cost All-inclusive rates depend on accommodations and time of year, but a cabin generally runs $3,900 per week per person. Vista Verde does stay open for much of the winter season.