Never been on a dude ranch? You don’t know what you’re missing. It is a different kind of wonderful. In the heart of the Rocky Mountains, Grand County, Colorado is home to wide-open spaces, breathtaking scenery and authentic Old-West towns. The area features more than 600 miles of trails and four world-class dude ranches that are all-inclusive. You won’t need to rent a car either, since you’ll be on the property for the week. (Just take a shuttle transfer from the Denver airport.)
The resorts offer a range of outdoor activities including golf, boating, fishing, biking, hiking, and of course, the star of the show, horseback riding. Plus, special kid-friendly programs are available for the junior cowboys-in-training. Pack your favorite cooling layers and get ready to embark on your journey.
Here’s what each ranch has to offer:
Bar Lazy J Ranch
You may have gone horseback riding for an hour or two on previous vacations, but there’s nothing quite like spending a week atop these amazing creatures. At Bar Lazy J Ranch, the oldest continuously operating guest ranch in Colorado, you’ll experience a truly Western horseback riding experience as well as add-ons like trout fishing right on property. Nestled on the banks of the Colorado River, you can stay in a log cabin or at the main ranch house. The friendly and laid-back atmosphere makes it easy to try out a range of activities; in addition to the daily horseback riding, you can experience scenic alpine hikes, hit the mountain biking trails, or try your hand at the resort’s new 1,500-foot zip line. Make sure to pack a hat like the Wick-ed Cool Sun Hat to keep the sun off your face for long trail rides.
Family-run Latigo Ranch is secluded and intimate — the sound of traffic is miles away and the maximum number of guests is 35. It’s location, on a mountainside with views reaching 75 miles to the Continental Divide, can’t be beat. With over 200 miles of horseback riding trails throughout 40,000 acres of National Forest, you won’t have to see the same scenery twice. From overnight pack trips to archery lessons and western roping skills classes to snowshoeing in winter, Latigo offers plenty of activities to pass the week. Bring a long-sleeved shirt like the Diablo Chill — it’s breathable for day and can also keep away the chill and protect from bugs around the campfire.
C Lazy U Ranch
We may have written about this before, but it’s one of our favorites so we just can’t help ourselves. C Lazy U Ranch is known for its rustic elegance and “5-Spur Service,” both in the cabins and in its luxury spa. It’s the fancy side of an adventure dude ranch. If you want to rough it a bit, you can partake in the fully-equipped night of luxury camping. In addition to the daily trail rides, the ranch’s 8,500 acres of Colorado countryside are great for some world-class fly fishing on Willow Creek. The cattle push clinics will teach cowboys and cowgirls the tricks of the trade. There’s also tennis, white water rafting, and jeep tours. The kids program has special adventure games and horseback riding lessons, so kids get a piece of the action too.
Drowsy Water Ranch
Few family bonding experiences can match spending a week on a horse in the Old West (no previous experience required). For a truly kid-friendly experience, check out Drowsy Water. Nestled in its own private mountain valley, the 600-acre ranch focuses on activities for all ages. Families work with experienced wranglers starting with short practice rides and building up to full-day backcountry experiences. The ranch also offers hiking, archery, rafting, lassoing, trout fishing, square dancing, hayrides, cattle work, rodeos, and rafting trips.