The Western adventures of famous figures, like Theodore Roosevelt, were made available to paying guests from cities of the East, called “dudes” in the West. Imagine yourself taking the best vacation of your life at a Dude Ranch – aka “Club Med – Old West Style” – or by joining a fast-paced horse drive or cattle drive aka “City Slickers”! Maybe a pack trip is more to your liking, spending your day in the saddle and your evening in camp grabbing a meal from the chuckwagon and listening to cowboy tales spun around the campfire? In any case, the cool, fresh mountain air, the open spaces, the feel of a steady horse beneath you as you top the next rise……unforgettable time shared with family and friends.
Our staff has visited many guest ranches in person, and we are ready to share our knowledge to create your perfect ranch vacation!
Let us help you customize the perfect Ranch Vacation!
How do you choose the ranch to match your dreams?
Riding should be your first consideration – choose the riding environment that appeals to you; open meadows, prairies, mountain trails or Southwestern desert. The location of the ranch determines the terrain. Then, choose the type of riding you’d like – working livestock, cattle drives, pack trips, team penning and arena games or daily trail rides. All ranches fall into one of the following categories – which will help you make the best choice:
WORKING DUDE RANCH: These are working cattle or sheep operations. Your horseback riding adventures will be determined by the ranch’s livestock and the work related to them. Be prepared to experience these activities firsthand.
DUDE RANCH: Horseback riding is central to these ranches. The cowboy in you will experience Western riding and a variety of outdoor activities.
RESORT DUDE RANCH: Horseback riding is featured, and these ranches offer an array of diverse activities and onsite facilities. These are apt to be the larger ranches.
Your next consideration should be the time of year – typically, the ranches in the northern states (and cooler climates) are the busiest in the summer months, while the southern ranches offer warm weather riding in the winter months. The number of guests that a ranch can host will also be something to think about – a stay at a ranch with only eight guests is a dramatically different experience than choosing a ranch that serves eighty or one hundred guests. The difference is most noticeable in the dining and social experiences. Your accommodations are also an important consideration – ranch atmospheres range from rustic to luxurious, and everything in between. Ranches are always extremely clean and comfortable, but if you need hair dryers, TV’s, Jacuzzi tubs, a daily massage and wireless Internet to make your dream vacation, just choose your ranch accordingly!
Travel Your Backyard will help you find the perfect ranch for you!
Things you need to know
Please keep in mind that the daily program depends on the work that has to be done (this varies by the season). It can easily happen that you crawl out of your bed or sleeping bag and are enjoying your first cowboy coffee before the sun is up. Then you help until the work is done. It might as well happen that you do not return to the camp before late afternoon. Please do not expect organized entertainment while sitting around the campfire. But there is still enough time to listen to the cowboys telling their stories or singing western ballads. A stay at a working ranch is not a resort stay – but it will be a special experience you will remember forever.
This type of ranch concentrates more on entertainment, relaxation, and variety BUT despite that you should not forget that you are the guest of a family. Instead of a stay at the Hilton Hotel expect the cordial hospitality of the” Old West.” Guest Ranch Resorts offer a diverse activity program and often there will be a hot tub or a pool at your disposal.
Whether staying at a ranch or participating in a “Special Adventure” like a horse drive, please keep in mind that accommodations are different than at a hotel – and that is exactly what makes this type of vacation so charming! Rooms are almost never uniform, and all room furnishings are different. Rooms, sometimes with bathroom, sometimes without (often you are the guest of a family and you are sharing bathrooms), room size and location all depend on the size of the group you are traveling with and on the time of your booking. Sometimes you will even be sleeping under canvas. Taking a vacation like this requires flexibility and one should keep in mind that the activities and the experience itself are the main things that matter – not the accommodation itself.
Most ranches have no objections to you relaxing with a glass of beer or wine in the evening (keep in mind that glass bottles are often not allowed). However, you should wait until the activities of the day are over. Alcohol and horses are not good combination, and you need a sober mind when riding a horse or dealing with animals in general. Every now and then they prefer you drinking your wine or beer in your room (especially in the presence of kids). Ask for their regulations when you are travelling. However, it is not allowed to bring your own alcohol when you have the possibility to buy alcohol on site (regulated by law). Most ranch descriptions will also give additional information on specific ranch policies.
We have tried to compile a general pack list. Of course, these are simply suggestions, the final decision is yours and depends on your personal needs. You should always pack long pants to do horseback riding (the best would be jeans with side seam) and sturdy shoes or boots with heels (requirement to do horseback riding). Leather gloves (for horseback riding), long sleeved shirts (sun protection), T-shirts, shorts, a sweatshirt or a warm jacket for cooler evenings, swimwear, sneakers or light walking boots, a (cowboy) hat or baseball cap as sun protection, sunscreen, lip balm, sunglasses, rain jacket. Where appropriate, you may also bring a sleeping bag and some towels. Personal hygiene products should be packed similarly to any other vacation. You may also think about bringing a flashlight and extra batteries. Remember to bring medication such as headache tablets and prescriptions. Due to the fact that you often will be far away from the next store, we advise to bring a little first-aid equipment.
Many ranches are in very warm areas or high elevation; dehydration is something to think about! To avoid dehydration (which you might not even notice) please get used to drinking 6-8 glasses of water daily. Drinking water is the best dehydration fighter, as all other beverages are only thirst quenchers. That’s why you should always have enough water with you even when you’re just going for a short walk. Dehydration often results in a headache, nausea and dizziness. You do not need to buy an expensive water bottle. Any water bottle will do, and water from the tap is safe to drink (you will be advised by the ranch if that’s not the case!)
Please keep in mind that smoking is often restricted at ranches. Ask for the smoking regulations at the beginning of your stay. In general, it is not allowed to smoke in the rooms or the building itself as well as during horseback riding or other activities. The reason for these strict regulations is that you are in the Western USA where long and dry summers without rain cause a serious fire hazard. Just one moment of forgetfulness can result in the destruction of a landscape. That is why you should always ask for an ashtray and never just randomly throw your cigarette away on the ground.
Whether you’re at a restaurant, on a cruise ship, or visiting a guest ranch, knowing just how to tip can make you look like a sophisticated world traveler…or a rube just off the boat. First, policies vary depending on the ranch, make sure to check under “included/included” concerning your ranch of choice. Often, if gratuity is mandatory it’s already included in the rate. On top of that, if you feel as though someone has gone above and beyond, then be sure to thank them personally and give them a little something extra. In some cases, ranches discourage additional “tipping” so feel free to check with the ranch about their tipping policies. Most people don’t want to keep a running tally of every delicious trail lunch, oiled saddle, or campfire dinner and so they tip a 15-20% lump sum at the end of their stay to ensure that everyone gets some recognition and the ranch then divvies it up among the staff. Some of these ranches divide the tip pool among the staff on a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly basis, or the ranches may hold the tip pool to be divided among the staff that complete their contracts at the end of a season.
Legal disclaimer: Before participating in activities like horseback riding, mountain biking, rafting etc. all participants must sign a disclaimer of liability on site for the operating supplier/ranch. Due to that please provide you own accident/health insurance just in case something happens.