For any kid that ever dreamed of being a cowboy or cowgirl, a dude ranch vacation is the perfect place to try on your spurs and see what your little cowpokes are made of.
Some dude ranches can be a working ranch, rounding up cattle by horseback during the day and sitting ‘round a campfire at night. However, many dude ranches cater to families with a resort atmosphere focusing more on outdoor summer activities such as canoeing, swimming, fishing, hiking and of course horseback riding and a campfire round up each evening. A dude ranch vacation is ideal for families looking for an all-inclusive vacation as most include three square meals a day plus your activities.
Resort4Kids picked our 7 Top Dude Ranches to take the kids.
Where: Greenbough, Montana
Open: Year-Round, Tents available May to early October
Why it’s great: Paws Up is an all-inclusive resort that has a number of options. Combine a resort, a ranch and even an American “safari” vacation plus a full selection of outdoor activities and you have the Resort at Paws Up. What makes Paws Up fun is the oversized tent accommodations or “glamping” in the wilderness, along with wagon rides, cattle drives and wilderness workshops for kids.
Ideal for: Families with kids who want an outdoor experience without sacrificing luxury, kids programs for ages 5-12
Where: Granby, Colorado
Open: June to Mid-September
Why it’s great: Family owned and operated, Drowsy Water has won a number of awards making it a top all-inclusive resort in the world. Drowsy Water is also one of the few that have programs for ages 5 and under, allowing parents and older children to participate in ranch activities.
Ideal for: Families with infants and older.
Where: Dubois, Wyoming
Why it’s great: Triangle C Dude Ranch is great for the entire family and offers horseback trips to Yellowstone and Teton National Park. There’s also hayrides, square dancing, archery, knife throwing and even sleeping out in a tipi.
Ideal for: All ages, the ranch has children’s programs from 2-19
Where: Steamboat Springs, Colorado
Open: June through September, December through March
Why it’s great: Vista Verde Guest Ranch is a stunning luxury resort where you can still learn how to herd cattle, learn about horses and participate in a rodeo. In the evenings you can relax in your private villa.
Ideal for: Families who like a mix of togetherness and adult & kid only time.
Where: Granby, Colorado
Why it’s great: Think summer camp meets Dude Ranch with an all-inclusive package that meets the entire families need. With a fully supervised children’s program and plenty for mom and dad to do on their own, C Lazy U, open year-round is another balanced ranch of adventure and family time.
Ideal for: Kids ages 3+
Where: McCoy, Colorado
Open: June to September
Why it’s great: Black Mountain Ranch is a smaller capacity ranch offering a longhorn cattle and overnight pack trips. Their 40 person capacity means lots of individual attention. There’s also rafting, trap shooting and fishing available.
Ideal for: Families with older children and teens.
Where: Lake George, Colorado
Open: June through August
Why it’s great: Combine an exciting adventure with a Dude Ranch vacation. Tarryall offers rock climbing, fly-fishing and white water rafting excursions in addition to the typical dude ranch experience. Tarryall does have programs for the youngsters, but we think older children and teens will get the most out of the ranch.
Ideal for: 6 and up
Many ranches are open in the winter too. Consider the perfect winter-y scene of sleigh rides, cross-country skiing and tubing down a snowy hill. Then kick back next to a crackling fire with hot cocoa and fresh baked food. Rates and crowds are often lower in the winter season as well.
Not seeing the perfect ranch here? Check out the Dude Rancher’s association and search by area, amenity or kids program.
Have you done a dude ranch with your kids?
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.