Ranch Vacations: What Makes Them Special?

Published on Mon, 05/04/2015 - 12:41pm

“I bet I could live to 150 if only I can get outdoors again.”
— Geraldine Page as Carrie Watts in The Trip to Bountiful 

We all know what the character Carrie Watts meant, because at some point in life, all of us have connected to nature and in turn, connected to a deeper, infinite spirit. This kind of exaltation only happens when we are outdoors. It is no surprise that in our exponentially technologically advancing world, more and more people everywhere are yearning for “green” vacations, for experiential travel, locally sourced cuisine, off-the-grid experiences where they can not just adventure but learn about — and connect to — the world around them.

And of all the travel choices out there, there is only one type of vacation that goes unrivaled. A place where you can have it all: “green,” adventure, being one with nature, feeling unfettered, untamed, life-changing and more. It’s a ranch vacation.

For today’s traveler, a visit to a ranch becomes much more than an itinerary. It becomes a contribution to the well being of the land as much as it is to each individual’s well-being. The contemporary consumer knows that just as we are the food we eat, we are the land we live on and the air we breathe. These destinations not only satisfy a traveler’s urges for a sorely needed down-to-earth-connection, they get the opportunity to help maintain a culture and ecosystem vital to the nation’s native range lands.

If that sense of pride and deeper connection weren’t reason enough to high-tail it to the nearest ranch, take a look at the list of options these vacations offer: rich history, personalities, spas, locally sourced food and organic wine, culture, romance, family connections, whale watching, 600-year old fir trees, private beaches, remote picnics, wild mustangs, world class fly fishing in untouched and private waters, eco-tours, volunteerism, 5-star chefs, adventure, freedom, conservation, protected wildlife, art exhibits, writing workshops, white water rafting, luxury tent camping, cabins, luxury accommodations, hiking, moon light trail rides, wine tasting, ATV rides, yoga, star gazing, massage, canoing. The list goes on.

Just to show you how diverse ranch vacations can be, we’ve picked 10 exceptional U.S. ranches to highlight, each of them offering something unique for today’s vacationer.

See American Cattlemen's Digital Issue to see more photos of all these destinations. For more information on vacations visit www.DiscoverRanches.com and www.Top50Ranches.com. To see these ranches in action, watch them in the new series, “Discover Ranches” on YouTube. To book your ranch holiday call (406) 749-9131.

Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort, California
Located in central California’s wine valley, Alisal seamlessly blends the past with the present. There are a few historical structures on the property and it is still a working ranch, but it also boasts two private golf courses, a fitness center, tennis courts, pool, hot tub, and spa. Plenty of activities for all ages: The riding is good with some nice wide open trails, but small children are only led in the arena. Kids 7 and up can hit the trails. There’s fishing, archery, hiking with a naturalist, and plenty of private trails for mountain biking. Little ones will enjoy petting and feeding animals at the barn as well as the corn maze.
(805) 688-6411

Averill’s Flathead Lake Lodge, Montana
In addition to riding you’ll find water — lots of water — paddleboarding, kayaks, canoes, boat rides, and a diving platform. This is an amazing place to spend a week with family. Owner Doug Averill mingles with guests every day and takes great joy in providing fun surprises for the kids like rides on a fire truck, spontaneous outings for ice cream, rodeo games, and mouse races. The lodging is very traditional, nothing luxurious.
(406) 837-4391

Chico Basin, Colorado
Located on 87,000 acres near Colorado Springs, CO, Chico Basin Ranch is an 87,000 acre family-run working cattle ranch operating on the high prairie with sprawling ranges of short grass and sand sage — homes to diverse populations of wildlife. Guests are intimately involved in all ranch life to the extent that they desire, whether this be on horseback, fixing fences or putting feed out for the cattle. Making a contribution to the daily ranch activities gives guests their biggest thrill, so programs have been developed to include guests so that they are a part of the daily work’s success. There are ample opportunities to take time off for hiking, wildlife viewing, swimming or fishing in one of the ranch’s 5 lakes.
(719) 683-7960

Deep Canyon Guest Ranch, Montana
Imagine a charming, quaint B&B set on a ranch amidst the pines and that’s Deep Canyon. All meals are served in the main house where guests get to know the other guests and the owners. The ranch accommodates only a small number of guests at at a time so visitors are treated like family. Here, one can expect solitude, privacy, wildlife, freedom in horseback riding, and exclusive access to the Rocky Mountain Front.
(406) 466-2044

Devil’s Thumb Ranch Resort & Spa, Colorado
Only an hour and a half from Denver, CO, DTR is for the progressive adventure enthusiast. They offer mountain biking, stand up paddle boarding, yoga, hiking, a survival course that includes rappelling and river crossings, and five zip-line tours, among the usual offerings of horseback riding and archery. At the end of the day guests can relax in the spa replete with outdoor hot tub, pool, dry and steam sauna, plus an extensive list of services. Chef Evan Treadwell uses only local ingredients or ingredients grown on the ranch, and their bar boasts some of the most innovative cocktails west of the Mississippi.
(970) 726-5632

The Hideout Lodge & Guest Ranch, Wyoming
The Hideout is a serious equestrian’s dream with its variety of topography and freedom. They have excellent wranglers and a top-notch horsemanship program — so if a guest is not a totally proficient rider, this is the place to learn. Vacationers can even participate in a cattle drive. The food is top quality and the chef makes a point to accommodate dietary requests. The cabins are spacious and well-appointed, most with beautiful views of the dramatic Wyoming landscape. Not for younger kids, however; children must be over 8.
(800) 354-8637

The Lodge & Spa at Brush Creek Ranch, Wyoming
Wide open spaces, private cabins, and your own four-wheeled vehicle to get around the ranch, are just a few of the perks guests will get here. Sitting on 30,000 private and expansive acres, the ranch is hundreds of miles away from the nearest airport, but it’s this disconnection from everyday life that will allow guests to reconnect with family, friends, and nature. Activities are endless and include sunrise yoga on a platform overlooking mountains and valleys, hiking riverside or through forest, horseback riding, and fly fishing on 20 miles of private waters. Luxurious accommodations feature Western decor and include lodge rooms, cabin suites and cabin residences. A well-appointed spa rounds out the experience at this iconic, authentic dude ranch that was recently named the No. 1 Resort in the U.S. by Conde Nast Traveler in its 2014 Readers’ Choice Awards. 
(307) 327-5284

The Ranch at Rock Creek, Montana
Perhaps no other place encapsulates the charm and culture of Montana better with its spirited decor, lively personnel, and its variety of outdoor activities. Expect fly-fishing in complete solitude, horseback riding in wide-open spaces — or nestled in the woods — a 3-D archery course and your choice of shooting ranges: sporting clays, pistol, rifle, and trap and skeet. Each guest is provided their own bicycle, and they also have a ropes course that is not for the faint of heart, as well as a private movie theatre and spa. Throughout the year, a kids club keeps the young ones active — ages 4 to 12. There is always something delicious to eat thanks to chef Josh Drage who uses local and seasonal ingredients. Absolute luxury with service and attention to detail you won’t find anywhere else. This is a trip of a lifetime.
(877) 786-1545

Red Horse Mountain Ranch, Idaho
During the summer, this is a great family vacation in a gorgeous setting — 300,000 acres — in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho. (In the off-season you can expect themed stays such as Women Only, Mother-Daughter/Father-Son Stays, Romantic Getaways, etc.) The wranglers here specialize in showing kids a good time. Red Horse Mountain is the only ranch that takes kids at 3 years old out for real horseback riding — not led in an arena. There’s a pottery barn on premises, mountain biking, hiking, kayaking, and a challenge course for kids and adults alike. One of their coolest features is the mega-zip: 1,100 feet long and a 100 foot drop into water.
(208) 689-9680

Rowse’s 1+1 Ranch, Nebraska
Do you want to spend a day moving cattle, doctoring injured or sick animals, or mending fences? While it might not sound like a relaxing vacation to most American Cattlemen readers (too close to home?) you’d be surprised how life-changing for some folks a real working ranch can be. In fact, Rowse’s boasts an impressive amount of repeat guests, which says a lot about their ability to provide visitors with an unforgettable time. Owners Jerry and Tammy welcome guests like family into their home.
(308) 346-5530