Family Dude Ranches ideal for all generations! Whether you want to do things together or leave your children to do their own thing.
Here at Top50 we know that everyone wants something different from their ranching experience, which is why we’re here to help and offer the best advice whatever your needs. For families, a ranching holiday can be overlooked because there may be a perception that ranches don’t cater well for children, but that’s simply not the case. Many ranches encourage activities that parents and children can do together, whereas others put on children’s activities separately, allowing mum and dad a well-deserved break from parenting responsibilities. Whatever your wishes, consider a ranching holiday for all the family next year. Here are some of the options on offer.
Be together as a family
• Zapata in Colorado, USA, is a working ranch that’s owned by the Nature Conservancy and boasts some of the most scenic and diverse landscape in America. Children over the age of eight are welcome and are encouraged to take part in all the daily operations, while children aged seven and under can do led rides or ride in the corral.
• Snowy River, New South Wales, Australia, specialises in leading 2-5 day treks across the snowy river countryside and encourages children over the age of 10 to join in. There is plenty of room for children to run, ride bikes and explore, all in a safe environment, and on clear nights, you can take a walk in search of possums and owls.
• Lazy El, Montana, USA, is a great escape whether you want action and adventure or majestic solitude. Known to offer an all-inclusive family vacation, this dude ranch welcomes children aged five and over and beginner riders are encouraged, too. Easy scenic rides and games in the arena are all offered to help young ones build up their confidence in the saddle.
• Free Rein, British Columbia, Canada, is located in a secluded wilderness and is surrounded by stunning forestry. Children over the age of seven are encouraged to take part in all the equestrian activities providing they are competent enough. For those who aren’t up to the more adventurous rides, lessons in the arena can be arranged.
• Estancia Ranquilco, Neuquen, Argentina, is a 100,000 acre ranch located at the foothills of the Andes. Many children over the age of four have learnt to ride here on the ranch’s gentle and safe horses, and there are various other activities for children to take part in, such as egg collecting, milking, lassoing, fly fishing and sleeping under the stars.
• Chico Basin, Colorado, USA, offers an authentic, hands on experience with stunning, unobstructed views of the Rocky Mountains. Children under five can stay for free, while children aged 6-12 receive a 20 per cent discount. If you have children over the age of eight, they are welcome to ride and take part in all the daily activities.
• Burnt Well Guest Ranch, New Mexico, USA, is a small family owned and operated ranch set in a sunny climate. The ranch highly encourages all the family to come along and spend time together and children over the age of three can ride out on the lead rein, too. What’s more, often there’s a lamb or calf around that needs bottle feeding, which children love.
• Bonanza Creek, Montana, USA, is perfect for families who want to spend long hours in the saddle and enjoy spectacular views. Children aged eight and over are encouraged to join in with the rides, although they must have riding experience.
• Los Banos Ranch, Arizona, USA, is located in a safe and secure area offering 30,000 acres of back country riding. Children aged eight and over are welcome to join in with all the activities, which include some of the best horse riding in the world, hiking and box canyon adventures.
Leave your children having fun while you join the adults
• Alisal Ranch, California, USA, has been a popular hideaway for families, couples and groups since 1946. Children aged three and over are welcome, and in the capable hands of Dawn (known as D), activities such as grooming, steer head roping lessons, chicken feeding, riding, arts and crafts can be arranged. Who knows what the day will bring!
• Averill’s Flathead Lake Lodge, Montana, USA, offers unlimited horse and water sports and is situated 20 miles south of the Glacier National Park. The lodge runs a unique children’s programme where activities such as kids’ rodeos, sleeping in a tepee, water activities, trail rides and much more take place.
• Bar W Guest Ranch, Montana, USA. Heavily timbered mountains, open prairies, clear running rivers and streams all adds to the beautiful setting at Bar W. Children aged seven and over are welcome to join in with the trail rides, but learning to ride and look after a pony courses are available there, too.
• Brush Creek Ranch, Wyoming, USA, promises the adventure of a lifetime with its endless activities, luxurious accommodation and outstanding meals. Children age six and above are welcome, and riding and non-riding activities such as trail riding, gymkhanas, rodeos, scavenger hunts, volley ball and badminton can be arranged.
• C Lazy U Ranch, Colorado, USA, is famous for its rich history, rustic elegance, legendary cuisine and five spur service. It’s ideal for children age three and over who will be safely entertained while adults do their own thing. Children’s activities include trail rides and riding in the arena, swimming, tennis, archery, rowing and overnight camping, although there is much more on offer, too.
• Clayoquot Wilderness Resort, British Columbia, Canada, offers a tented safari experience, which children love. Horseback riding across rainforests, river valleys and mountain trails are some of the highlights, although plenty of non-riding activities are on offer, too. For children aged six or over, riding and non-riding activities can be arranged, and non-riding activities include kayaking, zip wiring, whale watching and rock-climbing.
• Echo Valley Ranch and Spa, British Columbia, Canada, promises action and adventure or the chance to put your feet up and unwind. The centre welcomes children at Easter and Christmas and during its special family weeks (see website for next year’s dates). A whole range of riding and non-riding activities are put on, including fishing, falcon flying, indoor games, tending to the farm animals and sing-a-long barbeques.
• Elk Mountain, Colorado, USA, is situated high and remote in the San Isobel National Forest. It promises spectacular scenery, a variety of activities and a superb menu. Describing itself as a very family-orientated ranch, Elk Mountain welcomes children aged three and above and runs special kids’ programs for 3-7 year olds. The programs have themed days, such as cowboy or Indian day, where children get the chance to participate in activities to match the theme of the day.
• Latigo, Colorado, USA. This hands on dude ranch prides itself on the quality of its horses and incredible staff. Offering action and adventure as well as peace and quiet, guests often go back, particularly families. Children aged three and over are welcome, and at the age of six, they can ride twice a day just like the adults! Of course, there are plenty more children’s activities on offer, such as tomahawk throwing, archery, golf and overnight trips.
• Lazy L&B, Wyoming, USA, sits in a lush green cottonwood river bottom and offers 80,000 acres of high, spectacular riding country. Children aged five or over can have their own horse for the week where they will ride in similar age groups and experience different adventures each day under the wing of the expert wranglers. There are plenty of non-horsey activities for children, too, and they can even visit the really cool children’s tree house!
• Lone Mountain Guest Ranch, Montana, USA. Summer time is family time at Lone Mountain, with adults participating in activities such as riding, hiking, canoeing, mountain biking and fly fishing, while children get the chance to take part in the Outdoor Youth Adventures Program. Activities in the program are designed to suit the interests and ability of each child and include riding, camping, pizza parties, confidence building courses and wall climbing, to name a few.
• Majestic Dude Ranch, Colorado, USA. Get in touch with nature in the heart of the Mesa Verde Country and come home with memories which will last a lifetime. You can choose to be with your children or leave them in the capable hands of the centre’s highly-trained counsellors, where they will get the chance to participate in the various kids and teens programs on offer. Activities include riding, hay rides, gold panning, campouts and scavenger hunts, although plenty more is also on offer.
• North Fork Ranch, Colorado, USA, offers a dude ranch experience you’ll never forget. Enjoy horseback riding or hiking in the beautiful Colorado back country, or white water rafting, campfire sing-alongs and square dancing. Children aged six and over are welcome and will get the chance to help wranglers in the corral, target and skeet shoot or swim in the heated pool.
• Ranch at Rock Creek, Montana, USA. Unlimited outdoor activities are available here and there’s a spa on site to help you unwind after a hard day in the saddle. Children aged six or above can pretend to be cowboys or learn to be outdoor explorers, while children under the age of six may ride in the corral with a wrangler leading them.
• Rankin Ranch, California, USA. Set in the heart of the Tehachapi Mountains, Rankin is one of the largest and oldest family owned ranches in California, and promises history, great horses and Western hospitality. Children aged 4-11 can take part in the specially devised programs under the expert care of the centre’s staff, where they can expect to enjoy arts and crafts, visits to the farm, riding based activities and games.
• Red Horse Mountain Ranch, Idaho, USA. Renowned for its guided adventures that reawaken the spirit, there is so much to do at Red Horse Mountain, which is set in the heart of the Rocky Mountains. Riding programs are available for children aged 3-11 and safety is the centre’s priority. The children do everything the adults do on horseback, only at a kid’s pace.
• Siwash Lake Ranch, British Columbia, Canada, is an exclusive, intimate hideaway where horses, nature and luxury entwine in the wilds. The centre runs a unique riding program for adults called Synergy with Horses, while children aged 4-12 can enjoy being free range to play on the ranch, where they can get involved in all the activities under the watchful eye of Siwash’s experienced counsellors.
• Sugar and Spice, Texas, USA, is devoted exclusively to mothers and daughters during the summer months, allowing them to bond and build up an even better relationship. The centre also specialises in children’s programs with goal setting and confidence building being something Sugar and Spice highly encourages.
• Sweet Grass Ranch, Montana, USA. Spectacular scenery, warm hospitality and an authentic Western way of life all await you at Sweet Grass. With exceptional riding opportunities across mountains, rolling meadows and plains, you won’t be disappointed. While the centre runs weeks for adults only, at other times children are encouraged and activities can be arranged for different age groups and abilities.
• The Resort at Paws Up, Montana, USA, offers the chance to participate in real Montana dude ranch activities, such as trail riding chuck wagons and cattle drives. While riding can be arranged for children aged four and over, there is also a rather different experience for kids. Known as the Paws Up Kids Corps of Discovery, children can expect a ride to a ghost town, fun in the sun and, of course, all the wonderful ranching activities.
• Three Bars Ranch, British Columbia, Canada specializes in beginner riding opportunities, family experiences and multi-sport activities set in the Rocky Mountains. There’s a supervised program for children six or over, with a variety of activities, such as catching frogs, toasting marshmallows over an open fire and horse riding.
• Vista Verde, Colorado, USA, offers a variety of summer activities and works on a ‘you tell us what you want to do’ basis. There’s an active programme for children aged six and over with daily and evening activities that was designed by a mum who knows what children love to do.
• White Stallion Ranch, Arizona, USA, is tucked away in 3,000 acres of lush desert and invites you to experience life at a real working ranch with all the comforts of a fine resort. If experience allows, children aged eight or over are welcome to join in with the fast rides, and those five or over can enjoy slower trail rides.
To learn more about these highlighted family dude ranches visit www.top50ranches.com to find out more about your dream family ranch holiday.