Guest ranches, also known as ‘dude ranches,’ have been a popular trend in American lodging since the end of WWI when the appearance of Western movies, and the romanticization of the cowboy life, instilled a sense of nostalgia of a bygone era in ranchers across the US. By opening their doors to the public, guest ranches allow guests to experience the Wild West, without the risk or harsh conditions. From hiking and white water rafting to spa treatments and yoga classes, guest ranches have branched out to include luxurious amenities and gourmet dining alongside the usual horseback riding and cattle drives. Whether it’s a vacation destination for the family or an escape from the hustle and bustle of the modern world you’re after, dust off your boots: here are the best guest ranches in the US.
Tanque Verde Ranch, unique to its rival guest ranches in the Rocky Mountains, is a desert mountain retreat with Southwestern flair, nestled between the Coronado National Forest and Rincon Mountains National Park. Set on a sprawling 60,000-acre Sonoran Desert landscape, Tanque Verde offers pristine desert views, nature walks, trail and sunset rides, photography hikes, fishing, tennis, and birding. Plus, guests can catch some R&R after a day of horseback riding at the ranch’s spa. Pro tip: head here during the spring or fall when the climate is much cooler.
Tanque Verde Ranch, 14301 E Speedway Blvd, Tucson, AZ, USA, +1 520 296 6275
Located in Montana‘s Paradise Valley, Mountain Sky Guest Ranch offers 8,000 acres of luxurious ranching. Here, horseback riding reigns supreme with 130 horses, trail rides, and lessons for all levels; and with its prime location near Yellowstone National Park, the views are paramount, with a surrounding wilderness of sage and pine trees, serene meadows, mountains, and alpine rivers. Mountain Sky, combining posh with the West, offers daily yoga classes, spa treatments, golf, and a heated pool alongside a range of outdoor activities, including rock climbing, hiking, fly-fishing, and skeet shooting. Plus, there’s a fitness center and gourmet eats with wine pairings.
Mountain Sky Guest Ranch, 480 NF-132, Emigrant, MT, USA, +1 406 333 4911
Vista Verde Ranch, set within the Rocky Mountains, is the go-to spot for those on an equestrian kick – here, take advantage of the many trail rides, cattle drives, and even take part in cow herding, a special event for guests; or, reserve an arena session, horseback training, or get involved with the horse program. This working hay and cattle ranch boasts cozy log cabins with private hot tubs, specialized workshops – like photography and kids programs – wine tasting, a spa, and cooking classes. Plus, Vista Verde sets the all-inclusive bar high, including a long list of outdoor activities year-round, from winter cross-country skiing to spring fly-fishing.
Situated on 300,000 acres near the shores of Lake Coeur d’Alene, Red Horse Mountain Ranch is Idaho’s peaceful mountain resort. Known for its all-inclusive ‘themed’ vacation packages (June through October), like singles’ week and wine tasting retreats, Red Horse makes for the perfect getaway for all kinds of groups – from families and couples to ‘ladies-only’ trips. Here, escape from the modern world with horseback riding, fishing, zip lining, yoga, and archery, or relish in the serenity of the surrounding Idaho wilderness with a campfire and glass of vino. Other perks include gourmet meals and private log cabins – some with covered porches – fit with Western-style décor.
Red Horse Mountain Ranch,11077 E Blue Lake Rd, Harrison, ID, USA, +1 208 689 9680
Say hello to America’s most highly regarded guest ranch, The Ranch at Rock Creek – a year-round resort where rustic meets elegance. The Ranch is the world’s first five-star guest ranch; once a working cattle ranch from the early 1900s, The Ranch has been restored and remodeled into the most luxurious of retreats (think pine furnishings, soft linens, stone fireplaces, and a 2,000-square-foot spa). Situated on over 6,500 acres of land in the heart of western Montana, The Ranch offers the usual activities, from trail rides and fly-fishing to mini cattle drives and stagecoach rides, but there’s also a range of other activities such as shooting, kayaking, and hiking. There’s also yoga and fitness classes, a pool and hot tub, and chef-prepared meals, and while guests can stay in the historic barn or Granite Lodge, reserve a ‘glamping’ cabin or tent – fit with a fireplace – for a true one-of-a-kind experience.
The Ranch at Rock Creek, 79 Carriage House Ln, Philipsburg, MT, USA, +1 877 786 1545
A Bar A Ranch is one of the oldest dude ranches in the US, serving guests since its opening in 1926. Set along the North Platte River in Wyoming‘s Medicine Bow Mountains, this 100,000-acre ranch mixes luxury with an authentic ranching experience. Featuring traditional activities like horseback riding, fly-fishing, and hiking, A Bar A Ranch also offers a nine-hole golf course, tennis, shooting and archery, tubing, a gourmet restaurant, and a heated pool. Private guided expeditions are also available, like cattle drives and bird hunting; accommodations feature three guest houses and 16 cabins surrounded by national forest and wilderness. Keep in mind, though, that this ranch emphasizes the outdoors and family time, so there are no TVs or phones in the rooms.
A Bar A Ranch, 820 A-Bar-A Rd, Encampment, WY, USA, +1 307 327 5454
Set on 37,000 acres of working cattle land in western Montana, The Resort at Paws Up is absolute bliss. Surrounded by the mountains once home to the Lewis & Clark expedition, The Resort is where luxury meets the Wild West. Choose from a private cabin, or opt for an air-conditioned tent fit with fancy amenities like fine linens, a copper tub, and butler service. Plus, there’s plenty of outdoor activities for keeping busy during the day – including horseback riding, hiking, shooting, hot air ballooning, cattle drives, and fishing – and spa treatments for catching some downtime in the evening. Other bonuses include fine dining and outdoor BBQs, yoga classes and a fitness center, and culinary events.
Considered one of the best resorts in the Pacific Northwest, Brasada Ranch elevates the typical ranch experience with an upscale retreat on 1,800 acres of land, fit with lodge suites, spa treatments, farm-to-table gourmet dining, and private cabins – some with an outdoor fire pit and hot tub. Don’t be fooled by this elegant resort, however; it has plenty of outdoor recreation for the restless, including rock climbing, rafting, hiking, golfing, cycling, fly-fishing, horseback riding, and winter skiing. For those of the equestrian type, there are private lessons and solo trail rides available. With its prime location in sunny central Oregon, Brasada Ranch makes for the perfect getaway year-round.
Brasada Ranch, 16986 SW Brasada Ranch Rd, Powell Butte, OR, USA, +1 541 526 3600