Dude ranches: How to holiday like a cowboy

Danielle Braff 9 May 2022

Pick your poison, and then ride off into the sunset on one of these dude ranch holiday spots. Here's how to holiday like a cowboy. 

Perhaps you’ve been nursing dreams of becoming a wilderness pioneer living in a frontier town. Or maybe you simply want to slap on a cowboy hat, hop on a horse and snap a few Instagram pics. Dude ranches are typically located in the western United States: Montana or Wyoming are popular spots, for example. They range from working ranches that allow guests to help with the chores, to big dude ranch resorts catering to vacationers who want a cowboy holiday experience.

a father and son sit on horseback in the sunset

Regardless, the dude ranches tend to be on the pricier side as far as holidays go, as horses are expensive to maintain, and they require plenty of land. Expect to pay at least a few hundred per day even for budget spots, but at least most of the dude ranches are all-inclusive. 

Best dude ranch for newbie cowboys: Three Bars Guest Ranch 

So you’re ready for a little cowboy action, but you don’t necessarily need to be riding and roping 24/7? Try Three Bars Guest Ranch in the Canadian Rockies, where you can ride, raft, take a hike and go swimming. You’ll stay in cabins, and even if you’ve never ridden a horse before, you’ll be welcome. 

Don’t feel like riding at all? There is no pressure here. Every guest’s stay is tailored to their comfort level, and it’s all-inclusive. 

Best dude ranch for bougie cowboys: The Resort at Paws Up

Stay in luxury cabins, treehouses or glamp here while you dine on food from celebrity chefs and you stay active by horseback riding, taking helicopter tours, hot air balloon rides, and even trying horse whispering

Children can try paintball, their own junior wrangler program, and go-karts. In the evenings, there’s plenty of assorted and rotating entertainment, from their chef series, which brings chefs from across the globe to their star series, which brings Grammy-nominated singers and songwriters to the ranch. 

Best dude ranch for the all-inclusive experience: Brush Creek Ranch

On this 30,000-acre ranch in Saratoga, Wyoming, you’ll be a cowboy on a working cattle ranch. Activities include horseback riding, yoga, cooking classes, archery, mountain biking, shooting, hiking, and fly fishing. There’s also a ropes course, a rock wall and a spa. 

Two activities are included each day, along with three full sit-down meals. Consider this more as an all-inclusive with western touches, as you can essentially make this ranch whatever you want it to be. 

Read more: Shrimp fishing by horseback

Best dude ranch for cowboys on a budget: Sundance Trail Ranch

Dude ranches aren’t known for being budget-friendly. Horses are expensive, after all. But this relatively small Colorado dude ranch is an all-inclusive serving family-style meals. You’ll stay in dude ranch suites, which all have private entrances and bathrooms—and they’re all pet friendly. 

In the summer, guests tend to stay for a week (starts at $2,100 for adults), while two-three days is the norm for other seasons. Activities range from horseback riding to rock climbing to shooting to square dancing or just singing around the campfire. 

Best dude ranch for couples: Triple Creek Ranch, Darby

Guests must be 16 or older at this all-inclusive ranch, and you’ll be staying in single cabins within the Bitterroot Mountain Range of the Montana Rockies. While there, you can ski, go horseback riding, pine for sapphires, go fishing, go to logging camp (learn how to build fires, throw hatchets, saw logs, and do archery). 

This is a place where you’ll truly unwind, as there’s no phone service (use their office if you have an emergency). 

Best dude ranch for an authentic dude ranch getaway: Rowse’s 1+1 Ranch

Get ready to be a real cowboy with real cowboy chores. At Rowse’s 1+1 Ranch in Burwell outside of Omaha, you’ll be staying and working on a 7,000-acre working ranch. As soon as you arrive, you’ll be assigned a horse.

Every day at this adult’s only ranch, you’ll go horseback riding, you’ll drive cattle, check the pastures, sort the livestock and drive the herd. There aren’t golf courses, spas, or other non-ranch amenities, and only five to 10 guests are invited each week.

Best dude ranch for families: Rocking Horse Ranch Resort

In addition to all the standard activities you’d expect from a dude ranch, Rocking Horse has an indoor waterpark, an outdoor pool, bungee jumping, a rock wall, laser tag, trivia games, mountain tubing and endless activities to keep kids from being bored. There’s even an unlimited snack court, because they seem to predict any child issue before it arises. 

This dude ranch is in Highland, New York, which is a few hours outside New York City. You’d stay in the main lodge or in an adjacent motel-style building with cowboy-themed bedding and homestyle included meals. 

Read more: A cowboy canyon ride in Arizona

Read more: Shrimp Fishing by Horseback

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