Uncovering dude ranches in the wild west

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of August 20-26, 1998
Learn-to-sail vacations in the tropics
Hiking hut-to-hut in Colorado’s high country
Uncovering dude ranches in the wild west

Uncovering dude ranches in the wild west
Question: I’d like information on dude ranches in Wyoming, Montana, and Colorado. I understand there are waiting lists for the good ones, but we’re planning ahead.

Stephanie Curtis
Indianapolis, Indiana

The perfect trip for families with kids who aspire to become cowboys
Adventure Adviser: Since you have time on your side and can afford to be put on a waiting list, I’d opt for late July or early August when wildflowers of all shapes, colors, and sizes burst onto the high mountain passes, the days last forever, and the evening cools down just enough to ward off mosquitoes but not enough to make your lips turn blue. Here are a few top-notch family-oriented dude ranches in Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah.

Vista Verde Ranch outside of Steamboat Springs, Colorado offers the best of both worlds: guests have the opportunity to see the innards of a working ranch (there are resident pigs, lambs, chicken, and ducks), as well as take advantage of the unending list of vacation activities. Guests stay in rustic, yet luxurious, log cabins with a master suite, a second bedroom, and a loft. If you tire of rustic, the ranch has a professional chef and a spa outfitted with exercise machines and a sauna. Best of all, the ranch takes no more than five people of similar riding abilities on their slow, medium, or fast rides (you pick) that vary in length from one to six hours. For those days when you can’t fathom getting back up on the horse, the ranch offers rock climbing, mountain biking, swimming, hiking, hot-air balloon flights, and supervised kids activities. Rates are a little steep at $1,600 per adult and $1,100 per kid, but it just may be a vacation of a lifetime. Call 800-526-7433 for more details.

Double Diamond X Ranch outside of Cody, Wyoming is for families with kids who aspire to become cowboys. Here kids as young as three have ridden the ring, with one adult on each side and another holding the reins. Plus, counselors lead a full program for kids that includes at least one ride per day, and possibly a turn at strumming the guitar and learning a repertoire of cowboy songs. For an additional charge of approximately $150, kids can go on an overnight. Rates for one week in a cabin with two bedrooms, a bath, a roomy porch, and a log interior are approximately $1,500 per adult, $1,000 per child. Call 800-833-7262 for more details.

Visiting the Sweet Grass Ranch in Big Timber, Montana is like stepping onto the set of The Horse Whisperer. Having been in the same family for five generations, this ranch family knows their ABCs of horsing. Your kids will probably opt out of this opportunity, but it’s possible to spend a day working as an active ranch hand hauling salt blocks to the Angus in the high pastures, graining horses, slopping pigs, milking cows, and helping mend fences. With the premise behind this ranch being that the West isn’t for sissies, chances are you won’t find yourself being catered to. For accommodations with a private bathroom, weekly rates start at $800 for adults, $350 for kids six and under. Call 406-537-4477.

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