When you think of the Old West, you think of cowboys. And in Colorado, the tradition of cowboys is still alive and strong! Why not plan your next vacation at a dude ranch and channel your inner Billy Crystal ala City Slickers? Here are some of our favorite ranches here in Colorado:
The Zapata Ranch in the San Luis Valley is a working ranch that shares it’s love for the land with it’s guests. Owned by the Nature Conservancy and bordering the Great Sand Dunes National Park, you will enjoy the unique experience of high desert grasslands, alpine forests, wetlands, sand dunes, creeks, and lush meadows as one of the most scenic and ecologically diverse landscapes in the United States. In addition to their nature vacations, check out Zapata’s special events featuring everything from authentic ranching to photography.
Badger Creek Ranch‘s intimate setting may be exactly what you’re looking for with only space for 6-8 guests at time. As a working cattle ranch where you can have the perfect blend of playing cowboy and enjoying vacation. The sweeping vistas and abundant wildlife are a photographer’s dream. The area is rich in history from the early Native Americans to the Spanish Conquistadors, so keep you eyes out for an arrow head laying in the grass. If you’re looking for a similar experience to City Slickers and want to bring in the cattle, this is your ideal place!
Chico Basin Ranch is a family-run, working cattle ranch on the high prairie 30 miles southeast of Colorado Springs. Far from a typical “dude” experience, vacations have an intimate atmosphere allowing guests to fully immerse themselves in a ranching lifestyle, living and working alongside the ranch crew. With only a handful of guests at a time—usually pairs, but never more than 6—guests are able to learn by becoming actively involved in the day’s work. And because the work is essential to the operation, guests feel a strong sense of contribution at the end of their stay.
North Fork Ranch is a little over an hour’s drive from Denver through breathtaking Park County. Besides being a ranch, they are also an Orvis Endorsed Fly Fishing Lodge. Your stay can be any length you desire, whether a few days or a whole week. North Fork has access to many great Colorado activities like fly fishing, horseback riding, whitewater rafting, alpine hikes, zip line tours and trap shooting. The entire Park County area is beautiful to explore as well. (Yes, the place Cartman made famous in the show.)
Latigo Ranch (near Kremmling) offers quiet seclusion and a chance to reconnect with your family and nature. The owners are such magnificent hosts that they have been voted best ranch vacation multiple times and it’s easy to see why. You will be transported back in time to a beautiful forest where you are given your own horse to ride for the week. So pack your jeans and boots and head to Latigo Ranch. Their Nordic Ranch in the winter is a beautiful experience as well. Check out their special weeks including their Cowgirls & Working Women of the West in June.
Elk Mountain Dude Ranch is Colorado’s highest guest ranch at 9600 feet elevation within the San Isabel National Forest and so remote that the only way to get there is via a 10 mile dirt road. Located near Buena Vista in Western Colorado, the ranch is only a two hour drive from Denver. Your one-week adventure encompasses the best of Colorado at very reasonable, all-inclusive vacation prices. Days are filled with horseback riding, white water rafting, hiking, riflery, fishing, mountain biking and other activities set against a backdrop of unending vistas. It’s the ultimate in traditional western vacations – perfect for families, couples, singles and small groups. Contact the Murphys and join them on their family ranch!
If you are looking for a luxury ranch experience, Vista Verde near Steamboat Springs is for you! Beautiful in every season, you can’t go wrong choosing Vista Verde. It’s everything you would expect in a luxury holiday – from breathtaking views, a culinary program designed to impress even the most experienced palates, romantic getaways and family vacations feature engaging kids programs that provide a safe and adventurous experience for your kids while you explore the mountains your own way. The Yampa Valley north of Steamboat is beautiful in summer and don’t miss the pro rodeo on Friday nights! I highly suggest getting in town on Friday afternoon to see the rodeo and spend Saturday either tubing on the Yampa River through town, escaping to the surrounding Routt National Forest for some fishing or hiking or taking a dip in the Strawberry Park Hot Springs.
No matter where you choose, a ranch vacation is sure to create memories that will last for a lifetime! Don’t forget that many of the ranches are open in Winter for snowshoeing, Nordic skiing and sleigh rides!