It’s no secret that Colorado is one of the best states in the country. Over the past few decades people have been flocking here to live, vacation, ski — you name it — due to the fact our state has a bit of everything, including urban oases, small town getaways, backcountry backpacking and craft brew havens. But the history of the Mile High State has always been rooted in the Gold Rush and the cattle ranches that sprouted as a result.
Though Colorado has become a bustling metropolis, there are still plenty of opportunities to experience those ranch roots. Dude ranch vacations immerse you and your family in western culture where you’ll ride horses, sing around campfires, rope a few calves, and more. Afterward, you’ll have memories that last a lifetime and a craving to get back.
Check out a few of our favorite guest ranches in the state and start planning your next getaway!
Photo courtesy of Sylvan Dale Ranch and Karen Burbank
Sylvan Dale Ranch has been family owned and operated for over 70 years in Loveland. Immersed in the natural splendor of Northern Colorado, you’ll get the chance to go horseback riding, participate in the challenge course, go fishing, play in game courts, take nature hikes, and more. Upon arrival, you’ll embark on a Welcome Wagon ride and you’ll get your own horse for the duration of your stay!
The team at Sylvan Dale offer dude ranch experiences in spring, summer and fall, but spots fill up fast. Check the schedule online for information on specific rates and dates.
Photo courtesy of Cherokee Park Ranch
During the late 1880s, Cherokee Park Ranch operated as a stagecoach stop between Fort Collins and Laramie, Wyoming. Today, the ranch has been updated for comfort and luxury while still maintaining its historic roots — including the old post office cabinet inside the lodge office, which is just as it looked in the 1890s.
During your stay on the ranch, you can ride horses, go fly fishing, raft down the Cache La Poudre River, practice team penning and roping, jump in the pool, relax around the firepit, and eat plenty of delicious cowboy-approved food. Check out the menus online and get excited for your date night dinner complete with wine, candles and childcare! Or, ride up to Prairie Divide in hay-filled trucks for the Sunset Hayride.
Photo courtesy of Sundance Trail Guest Ranch and Kylan Laws
Located in scenic Red Feather Lakes, Sundance Trail Guest Ranch is one of the smallest of Colorado’s dude ranches which means they offer a true mountain lodge, ranch experience you won’t find anywhere else. From May through mid-September, you can get the full ranch experience: horseback riding, shooting lessons, horseshoe tournaments, fishing, rock climbing, evening campfires, and plenty of cowboy poetry. Then, during fall, winter and spring, you can return for bed and breakfast season. Stay for one night or as long as you like to fish, golf, ride horses, participate in Murder Mystery night and explore Red Feather Lakes!
In the 1890s, the earliest guests of Lost Valley Ranch were picked up by owner, miner and rancher Jim Graham from the nearest train station, treated to breakfast at the kitchen table, then they set out to explore the grounds, go fishing and ride horses. Since being transformed into a family destination in 1961, the ranch has been winning awards, creating unforgettable memories, and entertaining guests amidst 26,000 acres of Pike National Forest.
While your family is relaxing and playing cowboy, you can embark on a guided horseback riding adventure, try your hand at archery, trap shooting and cattle penning, go river rafting, hiking, fly fishing and spin fishing, square dance at a cowboy cookout, and capture a family portrait with professional photography from photographer Jim Carlson.
Photo courtesy of The Home Ranch and Steve Glass
The Home Ranch is one of the few Colorado dude ranches to offer year-round experiences, and they’re the only guest ranch in the state to be affiliated with the luxury brand Relais & Chateaux. Each season transforms your vacation into a new experience. You’ll find family dude ranch activities during summer, an adults-only getaway in the late summer and fall, and one of Colorado’s best cross-country ski resorts and snow vacation destinations in the winter and spring.
The adult-only fall experiences include Hands-on Horse Week, Cattle Round Up Week, Harvest Weeks celebrating Colorado’s great craft breweries, distilleries, wineries and artisans, and two Women’s Yoga & Horses Weeks. In early October, this women’s retreat is perfect for a girls’ getaway and previous riding or yoga experience isn’t required!
C Lazy U is nestled on 8,500 acres of Colorado countryside in Granby. During a summer family getaway at the ranch, adults spend their time mountain biking, hiking, riding on ranger tours, and more while the Kids Program keeps children busy with games and horseback riding. The Kids Program culminates in the Shodeo, a final competition event that caps off an unforgettable summer vacation!
You can also spend the winter holidays with C Lazy U — including Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year. Seasonal activities include dog sledding, a twilight Snowcat tour, sleigh rides, the C Lazy U Luge, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling and more. One week here and you’ll want to reserve a getaway for every season! As a four-category winner in the 2016/2017 Signature Ranch Awards, you can’t go wrong with C Lazy U.
Photo courtesy of Latigo Ranch and Hannah George
Latigo Ranch in Kremmling offers 200 miles of horseback riding trails, 40,000 acres of National Forest, 75-mile views reaching to the Continental Divide and five-star dining, hospitality and fun! The all-inclusive experience includes a dining experience we’re already drooling over — house-smoked bacon, homemade granola and pizza, homemade sauces on bison burgers, and sustainably and locally sourced dinners.
Needless to say, you’ll have plenty of energy and sustenance to power through days of horseback riding, fly-fishing, mountain biking, hikes, shooting and rafting in the summer — and you’ll be doing it at one of Travel and Leisure’s Best Dude Ranches in America! During the winter months, hop on cross-country skis or a Fat Bike to explore 50 kilometers of private, groomed trails.
Photo courtesy of Vista Verde Guest Ranch
In terms of luxury dude ranch experiences, Vista Verde is a must. In the 2016/2017 awards, DudeRanch.com named them as one of the country’s Best Luxury Dude Ranches and ranked them in Best Dining, Best Dude Ranches for Kids & Teens, and Best Dude Ranch to Visit in Winter.
Whether you’re looking for a family vacation, a romantic getaway, a solo escape or even a photography workshop, there’s an option and a season for you at Vista Verde Guest Ranch. Set against Steamboat Springs’ jaw-dropping scenery, you can ride, fish, climb, hike, raft, paddleboard, experience a cooking class, or even practice yoga!
Photo courtesy of Bar Lazy J Guest Ranch
Near Rocky Mountain National Park, nestled along the banks of the Colorado River, you’ll find Bar Lazy J Guest Ranch. Since 1912, this family ranch has been creating unforgettable vacations for all ages. All-inclusive on-ranch activities include horseback rides, Gold Medal fly fishing, trap shooting, a Colorado River zip-line, guided hikes, mountain bikes, a heated pool and hot tub, a Kids’ Program, exciting evening entertainment, and more. Whether you want to relax, get your adrenaline pumping, or mix a little of both this summer, you’ll find an experience to suit you!
Photo courtesy of Black Mountain Ranch
Black Mountain Ranch Vacations are week long stays beginning on Sundays. During your week, you’ll have access to a fully licensed saloon, a shooting range, miles and miles of horseback riding trails on your own horse, whitewater rafting, and you can even help feed the baby goats! Among other classic ranch activities, you’ll eat meals around a campfire, sing songs with the cowboys and leave with memories to last a lifetime; check out a sample week and you won’t be able to resist! The ranch offers a free shuttle from the Eagle/Vail Airport and a paid shuttle from DIA as well.
Black Mountain Ranch has been creating experiences and entertaining guests since 1903; so needless to say, your family is in for a treat! Peruse their cabin lodging options, see the all-inclusive rates and make a reservation to get your ranch adventure started!
With the help of their three children, owners Megan and Scott Dugan have created a dude ranch experience at Tumbling River that reflects their passion for ranching, entertaining and Colorado’s breath-taking landscape.
Operating from mid-May through early winter, the ranch is a family destination for kids and adults of all ages! The resort specializes in week-long stays during the summer months and multi-night stays in the fall and spring — all including horseback riding, exceptional dining, classic mountain and ranch activities and programs designed for babies, school-aged kids and teenagers.
Photo courtesy of Colorado Cattle Company & Guest Ranch
In the 2016/2017 Signature Ranch Awards, Colorado Cattle Company ranked in Best Horseback Riding, Best Cattle Drives, Best Working Dude Ranches and Favorite Dude Ranch Hosts. Tom and Darcy Carr’s guest ranch is also a fully operational cattle company so they offer one of the most authentic and exciting experiences in the state. From timid beginners to fearless veterans, all guests are invited to hop on a horse and they’ll have you roping in no time.
You can find details on rates and lodging online. Or, check out special event offerings, including Cowboy Fitness Week and the off-season bed and breakfast program. While you’re packing for your adventure, keep in mind that Colorado Cattle Company has its own full-service bar and you’re not allowed to bring your own beverages.
If we missed your favorite dude ranch in Colorado, let us know in the comments below!