Whether you call it a working ranch, a dude ranch, or a guest ranch, a ranch vacation can mean great outdoor fun. There are a variety of ranch experiences, particularly across the Western U.S., ranging from rustic accommodations on working ranches to luxury stays with gourmet cuisine and spa treatments. You can get your fill of horseback riding, hiking, fishing, and relaxing in the outdoors. Each one offers special programs for the kids. Here are a few of our favorite Western ranch vacations.
Drowsy Water Ranch, Colorado
Drowsy Water Ranch (DrowsyWater.com) is an all-inclusive, family-friendly ranch sitting 8,200 feet above sea level in the Colorado Rockies. It is about two hours west of Denver in Granby. The ranch hosts guests from Memorial Day weekend through the first week of September for six nights/seven days in either a private cabin or a private room at the lodge. Drowsy Water is a favorite spot for family reunions and guests return year after year.
While at Drowsy Water Ranch, you'll share meals with other guests in the main lodge each day. There are two daily horseback rides, each optional but included in your stay. You start on day one with a short riding clinic and saddle fitting, and you'll keep the same saddle and horse throughout your visit.
In addition to horseback riding, other included events are yoga, bike rides, rafting on the nearby Colorado River, hayrides, and barn dances. Of course, if you prefer, you can relax on your porch, take a dip in the pool, or wander about the property.
Devil's Thumb Ranch Resort & Spa, Colorado
Situated a few miles up the road from Drowsy Water Ranch, Devil's Thumb Ranch Resort & Spa (DevilsThumbRanch.com) also offers unforgettable ranch vacations. While you'll find the same dramatic backdrop, the actual experiences are quite different.
While you can explore the working ranch on horseback and fly fishing and mountain biking in summer, you can also book this ranch vacation in the winter, where you can enjoy cross-country skiing. While this feels like the Old West, Devil's Thumb caters to your luxury demands.
You can book a spa treatment in the comfort of the spa, lounge by the heated pool and hot tub, chill by the fire pits, and relax in your luxurious room or cabin. One more experience you won't want to miss at Devil's Thumb is dinner at Ranch House Restaurant & Saloon. Open to guests and the public, this is an experience to remember. If the magnificent views from the dining room don't inspire you, the Mountain cuisine will. The chef uses full-blood Wagyu beef from the ranch's private herd to create some of the most amazing dishes.
Ranch guests can enjoy breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily at the more casual Heck's Tavern. A ranch vacation at Devil's Thumb is definitely one to remember.
Vee Bar Guest Ranch, Wyoming
Situated about 20 miles west of Laramie, Vee Bar Guest Ranch (VeeBar.com) is another all-inclusive working ranch. The Cole family owns the ranch and welcomes guests for either three or six nights from late May through mid-September. The all-inclusive stay features all meals and activities. You can book shorter B&B stays year-round that include breakfast and an optional dinner served buffet-style in the lodge.
Activities during your stay include horseback riding, fly fishing, hiking, and wagon rides. You can book a room in the Main Lodge, but many prefer the tranquil Riverside Suites. These cute and comfortable two-bedroom cabins have great front porches for watching the creek but are also close to the hot tub and the main lodge, where you can enjoy drinks at the bar or in front of the fireplace. You can choose one of the two- or three-bedroom cabins a bit farther from the lodge for larger groups.
Tanque Verde Ranch, Arizona
Tanque Verde Ranch (TanqueVerdeRanch.com) sits on the northeastern edge of Tucson, surrounded by the Rincon Mountains, Saguaro National Park, and Coronado National Forest. The working ranch began in 1868, and it has been welcoming visitors since 1928. Another all-inclusive ranch, this gives you an escape close to home. Rooms and casitas scattered across the property have an Old West vibe.
There are activities available all day, every day, for those who want to stay busy. Tanque Verde offers everything from guided yoga, pilates, and tennis to fishing, mountain biking, and archery. The breakfast horseback ride is a favorite, as is the Cowboy Cookout held in the Cottonwood Grove twice-weekly (also open to the public). Save time for a visit to The Dog House Saloon, where you can sip prickly pear margaritas or a local brew.