Devil's Thumb Ranch typifies the best of western Colorado and Western culture, the way it was meant to be experienced by all ages. Located in the Colorado Rocky Mountains, the Ranch encompasses 4,000 acres at the foot of the Continental Divide.
Along the road there, craggy mountain ranges cast their shadows across canopies of quaking aspen that grow thick along the Colorado River. A haven of myth and beauty, the land reaches deep into America’s history, when buffalo roamed free and smoke signals were used to communicate.
Towering high above the Ranch is the visually awesome, 300-foot-high rocky outcropping called Devil’s Thumb, a perpetual reminder of peace and harmony. Legend has it that back in time, after the warring Ute and Arapahoe tribes settled their differences, they buried the Devil, but left his thumb exposed to signify that good conquers evil.
A Perfect Fit for Family Ranchers
Devil’s Thumb Ranch (970/726-5632), located at 3530 County Road 83 in Tabernash, Colorado, is a rustically upscale year-round resort and spa. Pure and simple, it’s a great place to reconnect with what life is really all about. During every season, the mountains and meadows offer ample choices for children, their parents, and their grandparents to explore the outdoors firsthand.
There are a variety of lodging options. Try staying at the ridge top in one of 16 deluxe, loft-like cabins. There are two-bedroom cabins that sleep six, or four-bedroom cabins that can accommodate 12. Each cabin is personally decorated and furnished by ranch owners Bob and Suzanne Fanch, and some are even dog-friendly.
The Lodge is designed in the architectural style known as “Parkitecture” and there are 53 single and multi-room suites, a pub/bistro, a three-story fireplace and an old-fashioned bowling alley.
Our roomy two-bedroom, two-bathroom luxury cabin was extremely comfortable. The sitting area, with handcrafted and antique furniture pieces, had a wood-burning fireplace and queen sleeper sofa. The bedrooms had feather beds with down comforters, and pillows in all shapes and sizes. If we chose to eat in, the kitchen area had a full stove, oven, dishwasher, microwave, fridge with freezer, kitchen table and chairs and there was an ample supply of assorted cookware, dishes and glassware. Other thoughtful touches included a free, stocked video library, and a variety of books and board games.
Dining Cowhand Style at Devil's Thumb Ranch
The Ranch House Restaurant & Saloon set in the Ranch’s original 1937 homestead looks out across stunning views of the land and Continental Divide. The chef oversees an artisan “from the earth and sea” menu. While the more adventurous foodies can get to savor the mountain dishes for a true Colorado experience that includes antelope satay, the more traditional can stick to something more familiar like beef tenderloin or Ranch trout.
The finale includes a medley of fine cheeses, a devilishly rich chocolate pound cake served with mounds of whipped cream, and fresh fruit. The chef will be happy to suggest wine pairings for the various courses and menu selection for the adults. A children’s menu with all familiar choices is available for kids 12 and under.
Outdoor & Indoor Chores, Fun & More at the Ranch
Reclaiming a circa 1850’s barn from Indiana, the Broad Axe Barn serves as the frame for the ranch’s multi-use activities center, special event space and John L’s Wine Cellar and private dining room.
On the lower level, the Ranch Creek Spa specializes in providing luxury treatments with aromas that complement the wilderness. The cozy facilities offers seven treatment rooms and private relaxation areas, including a terrace with a hot tub, a sauna, steam room, and Jacuzzi. The carefully crafted menu of spa treatments, massages and facials is designed to restore and pamper. Signature therapies include the Ranch Creek hydrotherapy (full body scrub, mask, hot oil massage and Vichy shower massage); and the Rocky Mountain Rain Therapy, (where nine essential oils are dripped onto the spine and worked together to bring structural alignment and boost the immune system).
Rachel’s Indoor/Outdoor Pool located next to the Spa is the perfect place for the whole family to splash and swim. Right alongside the Spa is Zach’s Mercantile & Rental and Adventure Center, a retail shop and center offering an expansive menu of year-round recreation options. Expert instructors are available for all levels of winter ski and snowshoe programs; and in the summer fly fishing for ages 11 and older, river rafting and other guided events. Licenses and top-of-the-line equipment rentals are available for all sports.
Year-Round Ranching Activities for All
The Ranch’s Cabin Creek Stables provides a year-round equestrian adventure program for all ages and levels. Co-managed by the professional and personable team of Jill and Garth Eichler, the focus is on both horsemanship skills as well as the joys of trail riding. All rides include complimentary refreshments and a big helping of western fun and — depending on the season — a half or full-day Day On The Range is available. On this program, you can tour the Ranch’s 4,000 acres with an experienced guide or if you “wanna feel like a real cowboy,” a little cattle work can be added in the arena where ranch wranglers will show you the ropes.
Winter and Spring at the ranch:
From mid-November through mid-April, winter recreation activities on the ranch include cross-country skiing and snowshoeing on groomed trails, ice-skating on frozen lakes, one horse open sleighing, skijoring, swimming in the heated indoor/outdoor pool, and soaking in the outdoor hot tub. Nearby activities that are diverse enough to please everyone — beginners to experts — include downhill skiing and snowboarding at Winter Park, carving turns through Rocky Mountain powder and at Granby Ranch ski areas, snowmobiling, dog sledding, and hot air ballooning. All are part of the local winter scene; Devil’s Thumb Ranch even hosted the 2007 USA Triathalon Winter National Championship.
Summer at the Ranch:
From Memorial Day to mid-October, summer and fall recreation activities on the Ranch include family fly fishing, hiking, river rafting, kayaking, swimming in the indoor/outdoor pool, outdoor hot tub, nature walks and bird watching. Adults can try their hand at Hatha Yoga, Pilates, Nordic Walking classes or even a guided mountain bike tour. Nearby the whole family can ride a ski lift up a mountain and enjoy a gentle hike down a wildflower-strewn trail. Golf enthusiasts can enjoy one of the area’s three championship courses.
More to See & Do in the Area of Devil's Thumb
Rocky Mountain National Park (970/586-1206) is a vast outdoor geology museum that was declared a National Park in 1915. The whole family will thrill to the spectacular vistas of nature's handiwork that are readily accessible from your car and along more than 346 miles of trails. Be sure and stop at the Visitor Center for maps and detailed information, and kids ages 6 to 12 can ask a ranger for a free copy of the parks' Junior Ranger Log Book. When the activities are completed they will be rewarded with an official Junior Ranger badge. If you're looking for wildlife – from May through September, elk can be seen where meadow and forests meet, and Bighorn sheep roam around Sheep Lake. Moose frequent willow thickets along the Colorado River and mule deer can be found at lower elevations in open areas.
Winter Park, about 10 minutes from the ranch, sits among the pines tucked up against the Continental Divide. Downtown occupies the original site of Hideaway Park, where you can find shops, restaurants and entertainment, all year round. Great family dining is available at Hernando's (great pizza), The Shed (Mediterranean tapas and more eclectic menu items), Fontenots (good Cajun/Creole food), Rudi's Deli (great sandwichs) and Deno's Mountain Bistro (good food in a classic historic log cabin atmosphere).
The nearby slopes of Winter Park and Mary Jane ski areas have kept skiers and riders coming for primo Rocky Mountain powder and backcountry skiing for more than 60 years. During the summer, these same slopes and parks host several homegrown and world-class music festivals. Check out the early history of the area at the Cozens Ranch Museum, just on the edge of town.
Hot Sulphur Springs almost lost its raison d'etre when the springs fell into disrepair at the turn of the last century. Fortunately, in 1990, the mineral springs once used by the Ute Indians as a healing encounter were refurbished and reopened. Today the quirky town is booming with skiers from the surrounding resorts who come to relax their muscles in one of the 20 mineral indoor and outdoor hot pools. Take time to visit the Grand County Historical Museum with displays on local history as well as the original Grand County Courthouse, the 1896 County Jail, and an original 1913 ranger station.
If anyone in the family needs a little more activity, visit the nearby Arapahoe National Forest for an array of hiking, or enjoy the stretch through the town's Pioneer Park, that offers easy access to some of the finest fly-fishing in the state.
Grand Lake perched on the western edge of Rocky Mountain National Park is the largest natural lake in the state. The village of Grand Lake is a charming town with a beach, marina, hotels, shops and restaurants. The lake is popular with boaters, water skiers and anglers. Each summer the town hosts the Grand Lake Regatta and Lipton Races. In winter, local sports aficionados put away their boats and crank up their snowmobiles. Streets are left packed with snow to accommodate the hundreds of snowmobilers that converge on the town during the winter months.
Trip Planning Details for a Devil's Thumb Ranch Vacation
Most major airlines are serviced at Denver International Airport, but Frontier Airlines was our all-around airline of choice. While catering to the value-conscious traveler, arrivals and departures were on time, luggage was handled smoothly, and the personnel from gate agents to flight attendants were friendly and more then happy to please. Touting a “Whole Different Animal,” Frontier uses wildlife photography on the vertical stabilizers and winglets of the aircraft. Kids will love identifying the likes of Jack the Rabbit, Mel the Mule Deer and Earl the Walrus.
Once you arrive in Denver, the ranch is located approximately 65 miles West, and it’s best to allow about two hours' driving time with a good map. Take a break halfway with a stop at the Denver West Shopping Village Center at West Colfax Avenue and Marriott Boulevard in Golden, Colorado. Pick up some wholesome goodies at the Wild Oats Market, grab some healthy Japanese fast food at Tokyo Joes, or indulge in a special treat at Cold Stone Creamery. Across the way is the Colorado Mills Outlet where you’re sure to find anything you forgot and need.
Photos by Mel Greenberg
Dear Reader: This page may contain affiliate links which may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Our independent journalism is not influenced by any advertiser or commercial initiative unless it is clearly marked as sponsored content. As travel products change, please be sure to reconfirm all details and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.