Live like a Western cowhand or rodeo star in the Northeast at New York’s Pine Grove Dude Ranch or other nearby Catskill Mountain dude ranches.
On a compact parcel of wooded land surrounded by the Shawangunk Mountains there sits a motel-style resort whose Wild West decor, outlying fields of cattle, and stable of horses qualify it for the name “ranch.” Maybe not a dude ranch any Westerner would recognize, but an attraction nonetheless for families and wannabe cow folk with limited funds.
At the Pine Grove Dude Ranch, in the heart of New York’s Catskills resort region near other weekend ranches, you’ll find the only cattle drive east of the Mississippi.
A Cowboy for All Seasons
A dude ranch in the Catskills? “Oh, you must mean one of those places for Jewish cowboys,” said a friend. Well, Pine Grove does welcome Jewish cowboys — and Hispanic cowgirls — and many Asian and African American dudes in 10-gallon hats.
The thing most guests have in common, other than a love of John Wayne flicks, is kids in tow. It’s a very family-friendly place, where you select from a menu of hearty, if ordinary, entrees and children’s favorites during three common meal breaks.
Rooms are very simply furnished in an indestructible, no-frills way. The disco features a nightly Mock-tail Party for kids while their grownups pony up to one of the bars. All ages usually dine together and play together, with snow tubing and sledding dominating winter days, and baseball or fishing popular in summer.
Keeping Northeast Cowhands Busy
Horseback riding is limited, because you can only sign up in advance for one daily group lesson (every level meets for 30 minutes); there’s a ‘wait list’ for extra trail rides. Once or twice a day, private 15-minute beginner lessons are offered in the corral only, to the 4-8-year-olds.
Pine Grove’s comprehensive daycare allows parents and older siblings (they’re strict about 8 years+) to go out on trail rides. From age 6 weeks-18 months, infants are treated to one-on-one childcare in the Belle Starr Nursery (open daily from 9:45am-12:45pm and 1:45-4:45pm.) Children under 4 remain under the nursery’s watchful eye, with a 1:3 counselor ratio for toddlers, who can explore the property and dip in the outdoor wading pool in summer months.
In winter, the young’uns play indoors in the clean, carpeted and cheerful playroom, or try their hand at miniature golf, while children in the Li’l Maverick Daycamp (5-12 years) visit the grouchy donkey and frisky sheep in the petting zoo, or participate in scheduled games, visit the snack bar (burgers, fries, fruit, etc. available free from 10am-midnight), or enjoy a movie and other seasonal activities. The Ranch also offers a new Barn Brats program for experienced young riders.
Young and energetic full-time counselors are hand-picked and trained in Pediatric CPR by the resort; if there’s not a staff person available evenings for private babysitting in your room (for a fee), the front desk will call in a local babysitter for you.
Pine Grove Dude Ranch, Kerhonkson, NY (800/346-4626, 914/626-7345.) Rates: Family specials are offered year-round, including three meals a day, cocktails before dinner, and all activities, and run $109-145 per night per adult. Room and board rates for children differ with age.
Another popular family ‘ranch’ in the Northeast’s Catskills region include the Rocking Horse Ranch (800/647-2624) in Highlands, New York.
This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question, and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.