Dude ranch vacation of the month: Siwash Lake Ranch

Published by Jody on July 13 2012 03:02 in Canada | Cowboy Culture | Dude Ranches | Historical Ranches | Pack trips | Ranch Owners | Relaxation Ranches
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Dude ranch vacation of the month for July 2012 is the wonderful Siwash Lake Ranch in British Columbia, Canada. Why? Because this stunning Canada guest ranch is all about freedom.

The word 'Siwash' actually comes from Chinook Jargon, a bridge language used on the frontier between native, French and English pioneers during the gold rush era. To 'siwash' means to travel quickly, deftly and lightly, using natural shelters or sleeping in the open - just as the First Nations people would have done.

This theme of freedom and a closeness with nature translates throughout the whole of Siwash Lake's dude ranch vacation experiences. Ranch owners Allyson and Roy welcome guests to their ranch, which they strive to maintain "in complete harmony with the surrounding wilderness and to promote stewardship of the land, freedom of spirit, and an appreciation for family and the finer things in life".

On your first day at Siwash Lake, Allyson will spend a whole day with you, introducing you to the guest ranch's beautiful land. A professional horse woman and an avid naturalist, Allyson has a university degree in outdoor education and is the daughter of a mountaineer - so she knows her stuff! And there are so many ways that she and Roy will help you appreciate the freedom of the dude ranch. Whether you want to embark on a wilderness survival adventure, go mountain biking to discover hidden corners of the ranch, go bird watching or fishing (Roy's speciality!), or simply set out on foot with a map and a good sense of direction, you'll feel a true release from the stresses and strains of everyday life. 

Why not take a 4x4 trip to see waterfalls? Or go back to nature and take to the lake, with river floating and a whole host of water sports on the calm waters of Siwash Lake.

But, of course, true freedom is best experienced on horseback. And this is where Siwash Lake steps it up a notch. After being matched with the perfect horse to suit your ability, you're free to groom, saddle and ride your own personal horse daily as often as you wish. Nose-to-tail riding this is NOT! Whether you're after a guided trail ride with an experienced wrangler to learn more about the land, or you prefer to head out on your own to explore the 80,000 acre Canada guest ranch as you please (offered to riders with proven ability), you have the freedom to choose. Ride Siwash Lake's pristine rangeland as you learn about local history, culture, terrain, flora and fauna. From beginner through advanced levels, Siwash lake will give you freedom on horseback as you've never experienced it before.

Says Top50 Editor Mel Rutherford: "We have chosen Siwash Lake this month, as a celebration of freedom. It's pretty timely, what with both the Fourth of July and Canada Day celebrations, each of which represent freedom and celebrate their respective countries' heritage. We also chose it as a celebration of the land - with the recent wildfires that have hit many parts of the USA, we are so much more thankful for the freedom we are given to ride over such beautiful, natural country, which will hopefully remain just as unspoilt in years to come. Dude ranch vacations at Siwash Lake are a true representation of freedom."

For more information on Siwash Lake Ranch, visit Top50Ranches.com




Top50 Road Trip - Brush Creek Ranch

Published by Jody on June 29 2012 09:38 in Dude Ranches | Food & Wine | Horse & Rider Magazine | New Ranches | Relaxation Ranches
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Touring the States is all part of the job for the Top50 Ranches team, as Jody Dahl reveals in her series of blogs for the UK's Horse&Rider Magazine. First stop, Brush Creek Ranch, a luxury Wyoming dude ranch...

Horse riding holidays can be expensive, so when you’re spending you’re hard-earned money on a horseback riding holiday you want to know that your chosen destination gives you exactly what it promises on the tin – or on Top50Ranches.com at least!

Part of showcasing the best horseback riding holidays in the world means ensuring travellers get the ranch experience we promise them on Top50Ranches.com. While it’s very easy for a ranch to tell us they’re giving all their guests great horseback riding holidays, the only way to ensure that is to experience it for ourselves. And so this summer we’re embarking on our annual tour of the ranches, and checking out new ones to see if they make the Top50 grade!

First on our road trip was Brush Creek Ranch in Wyoming. As we’re based in Montana this meant just a short hop across the border – well, at 500 miles it was more than a hop, but compared to the rest of our route the first leg was easy! After a long day on the road with my husband (and Top50 photographer extraordinaire) Toby, we pull into the ranch – and immediately feel right at home. Brush Creek Ranch is one of our luxury dude ranches, so we had high expectations of this one. We weren’t disappointed. Ultimate luxury from start to finish this might be, but it’s a world away from a ‘clinical’ five-star resort. Every guest is made to feel like the ranch is their house and home, thanks to personal touches like complimentary slippers for each guest to slip on when entering the main lodge. Toby and I took no time in sounding out the large indoor fireplace with its huge comfy couches – the perfect way to relax after our long drive.

When it comes to dining at Brush Creek, boy are you in for a treat. Now, I’m not really a fan of lamb but when it was served up to me at dinner that night I became a convert. It was dang good! And instead of being handed a wine list, we were escorted down to the wine cellar where we could pluck out any bottle of our choice. With some $200 on offer and all included in the base price, this takes guest satisfaction to a new level. Sipping on fine wine and tucking into wonderful food, we truly believed we’d died and gone to heaven as we watched the horses munching away in the pasture outside through the dining area’s huge windows, which offer panoramic views of the vast Wyoming dude ranch.

Great horseback riding
Next day it was all about the action. Being an Orvis-endorsed fly-fishing lodge, Brush Creek offers great fishing for avid anglers - but we were all about the horseback riding. Arriving at the barn we found all the horses to be in great condition and of the highest quality. And it was like sitting back in one of those comfy armchairs in the lodge when we climbed into our saddles. All of Brush Creek’s tack is chosen for comfort and quality, and is clearly well cared-for by the attentive and highly-trained wranglers.

While chatting with our guide out on one of the beautiful trails covering thousands of acres of ranch land, we learned how each wrangler is trained to provide horseback riding for all levels, from beginner to advanced. Really avid riders can take part in private ‘clinics’ with the dude ranch’s lead horse trainer. Back at the ranch I was asked if I wanted to try one of Brush Creek’s trained cutting horses – and with cutting being one of my favourite western horseback activities, I jumped at the chance. As I’d previously only cut cattle on one our home-bred and trained saddle horses, riding a finely-tuned cutting horse in the huge outdoor arena felt incredible, and something I’d definitely recommend for serious riders. Toby certainly had his eye on at least one of their cutting horses! I knew we should’ve brought the trailer…

After a wonderful horseback riding experience we checked out the full-service spa complete with fitness room, sauna and steam room. The rest of our tour took us to see the climbing wall, a very comprehensive shooting range and a huge paintball course. And that was just outdoors! Heading inside to the indoor gym we found great basketball facilities and even indoor simulated golf. I had a hard time trying to convince Toby that a career change from cowboy to pro golfer was not a good idea. I think Tiger Woods can rest easy... .

Jody's Top 5 favourite things about horseback riding holidays at Brush Creek Ranch:

  • Although everything is high-end and no expense has been spared, the ranch maintains a homely feel with great hospitality and warm service
  • Incredible facilities for ranch weddings and corporate retreats – including a separate ‘ranch within a ranch’ so guests can stay separate from the main dude ranch guests. They’ll even bring the horses to you!
  • Everything is included in one price – even those $200 bottles of wine! So no need to bring or buy snacks, alcohol, drinks or anything else during your stay.
  • The ranch owner has great connections and brings in bands such as Marshal Tucker, for private concerts held solely for the guests staying at the time.
  • Incredible horses and riding program for ALL levels – from absolute beginners to challenging riding for experienced and advanced riders.

For more information on Brush Creek Ranch, visit Top50ranches.com

Women's Dude Ranch Vacations – Top50 offers what women want!

Published by Jody on May 29 2012 09:28 in Canada | Dude Ranches | Food & Wine | Girlfriends Getaways | Mexico | Montana | Ranch Specials | Relaxation Ranches | Rodeos | Therapeutic | Yoga Ranches
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Women-only ranch vacations at dude ranches promise a whole lotta fun – cowgirl style! We’ve come up with all of our ranches’ women-only weeks for 2012-13, so you can find the girls’ vacation to suit you. Whether you’re looking to get pampered on a luxury dude ranch vacation, or “cowgirl up” on a working ranch vacation, we’ve got something for every gal!

Triple Creek Ranch - Klicks For Chicks
Several times this year, the Montana guest ranch is hosting a 100 kilometer (62 mile) horseback ride for women only. Saddle up with the girls and horseback ride into deep canyons, over mountain passes, alongside crystal-clear lakes and through stunning meadows, as you discover the 'last frontier' of the Rocky Mountain west. Each evening you’ll return to the ranch where cocktails, where gourmet food and luxury cabins await. Next morning, mount up and venture out for another day on the Big Sky frontier! An adventurous girls’ vacation for women who love trail riding (and the odd cocktail).

Bar W Guest Ranch - Cowgirl Up
For several weeks this year, the Montana guest ranch is offering 6 night, 5 day girls’ vacations. The all-inclusive packages invite women to “Cowgirl Up” with friends, sisters, daughters, moms or simply on their own, as the girls take over the ranch! The girls’ vacations promise to refuel your spirit and delight your body. Explore nearly one million acres of trails, saddle up for a horsemanship clinic in the arena, and ride to your heart’s delight with one of the Montana guest ranch’s expert wranglers. Novice and experienced women riders alike will can work cattle in the arena, with team sorting and penning lessons. You can even try barrel racing and roping!

Nicely saddle sore, hop off your horse and kick off those cowgirl boots for a honey-and-hot-cream rock foot massage, followed by a couple hours of luxury pampering. By evening, enjoy Vintners presentations and cocktail receptions before tucking into real Montana. After a quick two-step or soak in the hot tub under the stars, retire to a soft bed and prepare to do it all again tomorrow. This girls' vacation is perfect for groups of cowgirls with varying riding abilities.

C Lazy U Ranch - Julie Goodnight Horse & Yoga Clinic for Women
This fall, the luxury Colorado dude ranch, along with renowned horsewoman Julie Goodnight, is hosting the ultimate girls’ vacation – a women-only riding and yoga retreat. With discounted rates on the luxury dude ranch’s quality accommodations, you’ll feel truly spoilt on this all-inclusive package, which includes all programming, horseback riding and yoga. Bring your own horse or use one of C Lazy U’s trusty steeds, as you take part in horsemanship clinic sessions that promise to be as fun as they are productive. Julie will ensure you’re having a good time, working at your own pace, staying safe and learning a lot, while giving more confidence with horses. It’s about you, your horse and progressing together while having a great time with other girls in an incredible setting. A great girls’ vacation for the keen horsewoman!

Echo Valley Ranch and Spa - Girlfriends Getaway Package
If you always wanted to be a cross between Calamity Jane and Holly Golightly when you grew up, this is the girls’ vacation for you! Realise your dreams of riding the range and throwing a lasso, and then treat yourself to a little luxury at the end of the day, at this luxury Canada dude ranch and spa. Sure to set your spurs jingling and your spirits soaring, the all-inclusive girls’ vacation will open your eyes to the magic of ranch life. Start with early-morning Thai yoga classes, before saddling up for all-day trail rides complete with gourmet picnic lunches, all rounded off with an Asian or European spa treatment at the end of the day. The icing on the cake? Relax with your girls and watch the sun go down. A girls’ vacation with the perfect balance between horseback riding and pampering!

Los Banos Ranch - Semana de las Vaqueras, “Cowgirls Week”
From October 14-20 this year, head south for a Mexico horseback riding holiday with the girls! Spend seven days with your fellow Vaqueras as you ride to all corners of the Rancho – from short trail rides to longer backcountry horse treks, this is western horseback riding at its best. Prepare to be challenged, awed, thrilled and entertained as you ride through the most beautiful country you have ever seen on this girls’ vacation. Embrace cowgirl camaraderie as you negotiate ravines, hills, mesas, canyons and the high sierra on horseback, and get the adrenaline pumping as you tackle steep declines and climb vertical sierras. This girls’ vacation offers women a horseback riding experience in its truest, most free form. One for the experienced cowgirls out there!

White Stallion Ranch - Cactus Cowgirls
Looking further ahead to 2013? Check out this Arizona dude ranch, which offers authentic western girls’ vacations with a luxury edge. White Stallion Ranch is offering three weekly packages dedicated solely to cowgirls next year. First up is Cactus Cowgirls Ride Again in January 2013, a week of fun, pampering and basking in the warm Arizona sunshine, which you can make as horsey or horse-less as you please. This all-inclusive pampering girls’ vacation will get you a Margarita welcome party, massage, trail rides, horseback riding lesson each day, guided hikes, yoga, country-and-western dance lessons, and more!

Or head to the Arizona dude ranch in February 2013, for Cactus Cowgirls at Rodeo Time. The girls’ vacation takes place in Tuscon’s rodeo week, so you and your fellow cowgirls will take a trip to the finals performance at the nearby Tucson de la Fiesta Rodeo. Earn your rodeo stripes with riding each day including barrel racing lessons and team penning, then relax in the saddle on a breakfast ride and a wine-and-cheese ride.

Delay your girls’ vacation until April 2013 and you’ll get to see White Stallion Ranch at its best, when the cactus is in full bloom. Ultimate Wild West Cactus Cowgirls is an all-inclusive women-only dude ranch vacation package that guranatees lots of trail rides, horseback riding lessons, team penning in the area and more. Out of the saddle, you and your girls’ can let your hair down with a Tequila tasting party and – once firmly sober! – a target shooting with a gun safety class.

For more information on prices and to book any of these western girls' vacations, visit Top50Ranches.com

 By Jody Dahl

White Stallion Ranch is Top50's newest luxury dude ranch

Published by Jody on April 24 2012 11:06 in Children's Programs | Dude Ranches | Food & Wine | New Ranches | Ranch Owners | Relaxation Ranches | Rodeos | Shopping | Therapeutic | United States
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White Stallion Ranch, a luxury dude ranch and working cattle ranch in Arizona, USA, is the latest ranch to gain the Top50 accolade. One thing that really stood out for us was not just the ranch's convenient location just 35 minutes from Tuscon International Airport, but the fact that as soon as you step cowboy boot-clad foot inside the Arizona ranch, you could be a hundred miles from the 'outside world'. One reason is that White Stallion Ranch sits right alongside Saguaro National Park, with access to mile upon mile of cactus-adorned desert plains and mountain wilderness. What's more, the luxury dude ranch is nestled into the west side of the Saguaro studded mountains, where only on reaching the very top is the nearest town in sight.

Don't be fooled by the ranch's high guest capacity of 70 and luxury, resort-style facilities and amenities. This family-owned and operated 3,000-acre ranch is steeped in history, and is still a working cattle ranch alongside providing luxury and family dude ranch vacations. Brothers Russell and Michael True took over the guest ranch from their parents, who bought White Stallion in 1965, and go out of their way to get to know each and every guest taking dude ranch vacations at the ranch. This is the kind of place where people treat you like one of the family - so no wonder the Trues are renowned for their high-quality service and first-rate hospitality.

At White Stallion Ranch, it's all about the horse riding. This is the perfect family ranch vacation for parents with children able to ride, as kids aged 5 and above are, if able, welcome to join in the beautiful, scenic trail rides on the diverse riding program. Children aged 8 and above can - again, if able - even join the faster, more adventurous rides, complete with loping and trickier terrain. And if you want to ride without the kids, you must go on the adults-only "Cheese and Wine Ride" - a slower, relaxing ride to one of the ranch's most beautiful areas where you'll enjoy wine, cheese and other treats. With 140 horses, the Arizona dude ranch runs one of the largest horse herds in the state and so can match each guest with more than one perfect horse. Whether you're a complete beginner or an advanced rider looking to tackle some 'real' riding, there is a horse and a trail ride for you.

Running 100 head of cattle across the ranch, White Stallion runs a hugely popular team penning program - an arena based riding activity where guests can learn the art of this tricky rodeo sport. And because you'll no doubt be hooked on rodeo by the end of the week, you'll love the weekly ranch rodeo featuring local cowboys and ranch wranglers demonstrating how the pros do it.

Not interested in riding? The guest ranch's wonderful location offers wonderful guided and unguided hiking opportunities, both through White Stallion Ranch and in the adjacent Saguaro National Park. There are also plenty of off-ranch activities to enjoy should you wish to head further afield - all made easy with the option of hiring a car direct from the ranch.

Aside from comfortable lodging and tasty meals, the luxury dude ranch boasts a heated pool with a large redwood hot tub; a fitness room with an exercise room, sauna and massage therapy; a lighted tennis court and sports court; a recreation room with a 27-seater movie theater, lots of fun games; a children’s playground and a petting zoo. Come evening, retire to the beautiful bar and hop up on one of the western-saddle bar stools for a drink with other guests - you don't have to be a rider to get in these saddles! And forget having to trek to town for souvenirs, as the ranch has its own gift shop where you can buy riding gear, gifts, travel items and lots more.

Whether you're travelling alone, with family and friends, with your partner or as part of a corporate retreat, White Stallion Ranch will give you a dude ranch vacation experience you will never forget - and want to return to year after year.

For more information on dude ranch vacations at White Stallion Ranch, visit their ranch profile at Top50Ranches.com

Dude ranch vacation of the month: Rancho de los Caballeros

Published by Jody on April 16 2012 10:11 in Cowboy Culture | Dude Ranches | Relaxation Ranches
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Dude ranch vacations don't get more unique than Rancho de los Caballeros, which is why the Arizona dude ranch has been chosen as Top50's April 2012 Ranch of the Month.

Each month we scour our selection of dude ranches and picks out one that we feel surpasses our standards of excellence - and, most importantly, offers something unique. That could be anything from ultra-luxurious facilities, to those personal touches that really make a ranch vacation, to fast-and-furious cattle drives that'll be etched in your memory forever.

Top50 has chosen Arizona dude ranch Rancho de los Caballeros as April 2012 Ranch of the Month 

On paper, Rancho de los Caballeros might look like your typical large-scale dude ranch resort, with its high guest capacity, full-service spa and stunning golf club. But although the ranch offers full resort amenities and privacy, it all comes with the charm and intimacy of a much smaller family ranch operation - this is the kind of place where everyone knows your name and remembers your favorite horse, and where the staff start to feel like family! The 20,000-acre luxury dude ranch is also steeped in history: opened to the public by the Gant family in 1948, the ranch strives to honor the grand tradition of the Spanish caballeros who explored and settled the Southwest. This rich history has made Rancho de los Caballeros what it is today, and the charm and service remain the same as it was back in the '40s.

Rancho de los Caballeros became involved in cattle ranching in 1953 as a steer operation, later developing into a cow-calf operation with the purchase of 100 cattle from the Tohono O’odham Indian Reservation. Although the ranch is no longer a working operation, cows still offer guests the chance to work on their cowboy skills with team penning activities in the arena.

A fine example of true luxury, the dude ranch's location in the vast a beautiful Sonora desert seal it as one of the best dude ranch vacations in the USA, and its warm, personal service makes dude ranch vacations at this Arizona guest ranch that extra bit special. Close your eyes and you might believe you're in a small, cozy B&B! Because this dude ranch has soul - this is what makes it unique and this is what makes it Top50's dude ranch of the month.

If you're after great weather then this is the ranch for you - open between October and May, the Arizona guest ranch makes the most of its warm climate for out-of-season dude ranch vacations. For incredible horseback riding country, a great place for kids and non-riders to enjoy a ranch vacation and all the luxury offered by a spa, then Rancho de los Caballeros is ready to give you a dude ranch vacation you'll never forget.

For more information and to book a western ranch vacation at Rancho de los Caballeros, visit Top50Ranches.com

Is there a ranch that stands out for you? Tell us why and we'll consider for upcoming Ranches of the Month!

About the author

Welcome to Top50's Ranch blog -The best way to stay current on the best ranch getaways, network with friends, and share stories about your ranch experiences.

Since this blog is largely driven by guest and ranch input and experiences, please contact us with your videos, photos, and stories about your ranch experience or for any story ideas you may have! 

Continue to check back regularly as ranches keep us updated about happenings & special offers throughout the year. 


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