As ranch manager for Ranchlands, Kate Matheson wakes up every morning to a view of the majestic Sangre de Cristo peaks out one window and the Great Sand Dunes National Park out the other.
She considers herself one lucky woman.
“Contributing to and working as part of something much bigger than myself is rewarding,” Kate says. “It’s about the preservation and conservation of big landscapes and the Western lifestyle.”
Ranchlands is a conservation-focused ranch management company that also offers guest stays at the Zapata, where Kate lives, and the Chico Basin Ranch, which is 30 minutes south of Colorado Springs.
Ranchlands Stays is the hospitality program that includes special weeklong workshops and clinics at both properties. You'll find horse painting workshops with acclaimed artist Jill Soukup, and horsemanship clinics from famed cowboy Cam Schryver. There’s photography, hiking, birding and leather making.
And if you want your family to get their hands dirty on an old-school cowboy adventure, there’s a stay for that as well.
“A stay here is an incredible insight into these big landscapes. You get to feel, ride, hike, smell, touch, experience these very, very special places,” Kate says. “I think that’s the thing people walk away with is the privilege of being able to have done that.”
Most stays include tent camps complete with hot showers, beds, a cook and chef-prepared meals.
At the Zapata, where you can book a customized stay to include hunting, fishing, horseback rides, you’ll find the dark night skies that have been designated as an International Dark Sky Park, and catch a glimpse of the Ranchlands’ herd of 2,000 wild bison. “There’s also a really amazing ranch-to-table food program,” Kate says.
The Chico offers a more rustic experience, where you’ll find yourself part of the crew rounding up horses and working cattle, making your own breakfasts and sack lunches to eat on the trail, and joining the crew in their homes for dinner. “It’s the more working ranch experience,” Kate says.
A stay at one of the Ranchlands properties is an educational outdoor experience unlike any other.
“It really ticks all the boxes,” Kate says. “It’s about trying new things with your family and all of you learning at the same time. It’s an incredible bonding experience.”
Kate says one of the first things most guests notice is the quiet and dark, a reward for the hyper-connected modern American. Zapata and Chico offer great American landscapes — from the highest mountain peaks to the wide-open prairie plains — that are constantly evolving.
“It’s a living, breathing, moving, changing place.”
More About Ranchlands
Ranchlands is a conservation-focused ranch management company that runs full-scale cattle operations on five ranches in three states.
Ranchlands offers guest stays and special week-long workshops at the Zapata Ranch, a 103,000-acre ranch owned by The Nature Conservancy in the San Luis Valley; as well as the Chico Basin Ranch, an 87,000-acre ranch southeast of Colorado Springs owned by the Colorado State Land Board.
Ranchlands also hosts thousands of school children each year on field trips; the Ranchlands Annual Art Show at the Nature Conservancy in Denver; and a concert each summer on the Chico that draws about 450 people. The Ranchlands Mercantile offers made-on-site leather goods.