I have harboured a secret desire to vacation at a dude ranch since I first watched the movie City Slickers more than 20 years ago but I have yet to follow through on it. One of the reasons is that I wouldn't know where to begin searching for a guest ranch that would suit my family. Fortunately, I have recently learned about the Spur Alliance, an association of the best dude ranches in North America, which strives to help vacationers find the ranch of their dreams.
Will a Guest Ranch Vacation Work For Your Family?
Guest ranch vacations are becoming increasingly popular for family vacations and the primary reason is that the best guest ranches are so much more than a place to go horseback riding for a few days. This is of particular importance to multigenerational groups who typically have quite a wide range of interests that need to be accommodated.
Ranches offer a variety of types of accommodations from rooms in lodges to cabins with multiple bedrooms and resort amenities often include swimming pools, spas, fitness facilities and upscale dining. So even those whose vacation style leans more toward 5 star hotel stays than roughing it in the great outdoors can find a guest ranch that meets their requirements.
Families also love the all-inclusive nature of a ranch stay because it is so much easier to plan and budget for the vacation knowing that there won't be a lot of out-of-pocket expenses over the course of the week. Three meals a day is included in the price of the stay as is horseback riding and a wide variety of ranch activities and entertainment both during the day and the evening. Some of the ranches include kids and teens programs in the price of the stay as well. Generally there are only a few activities that aren't included such as spa treatments at the ranches which offer these.
Horseback riding and cattle drives are no longer the only activities available. Many guest ranches now offer a multi-sport vacation with activities for all ages and interests. In addition to world class horse programs for all skill levels, cattle drives and pack trips, the available activities at today's dude ranches include rafting, fly fishing, hiking, mountain biking, skeet shooting, tennis, archery, hayrides and more.
There are many activities that families can participate in together but ranches also offer kids riding and activity programs which allow the adults to participate in another activity knowing that their children are supervised and having a great time with other kids. Evening programs with games, movies, dancing, cookouts, and campfires with marshmallow roasting and sing-alongs are also offered at many ranches.
Choosing a Guest Ranch
Now that you have decided that your family would love a guest ranch vacation, how do you choose the best one? Selecting the right guest ranch can be daunting when faced with an overwhelming number of choices. This is where the Spur Alliance comes in. The alliance was formed with the goal of offering an easy way to compare member ranches and select the ranch that best meets the vacationer's needs. The alliance's website provides overviews and photos of 10 of the best ranches in North America as well as a questionnaire which will help in finding the right blend of amenities, activities and price.
The questionnaire that the Spur Alliance uses on their website will narrow the choices and facilitate selection of the guest ranch that is right for your family. The criteria used includes general information such as the price range, location and availability of kids programs. There's also an option for prospective guests to rate the importance of several specific activities including fly fishing, lake fishing, watersports, cattle work, rafting, pack trips, shooting and whether or not there is a pool or a spa on the property.
Spur Alliance Members
All guest ranches that are members of the Spur Alliance are family-owned and operated and were selected not only for their overall quality but also for excellence in a specific niche. Each of the ranches has been in continual operation for a minimum of 20 years, is a member of the Dude Ranchers Association, and is active in the state association. The ranches are located in several western U.S. states and well as British Columbia, Canada and each offers a unique ranch experience. The variety among the member ranches in terms of location and available activities means that prospective vacationers are sure to find the ranch that is just right for them.
The ranches which are members of the Spur Alliance are:
- Flathead Lake Lodge, Bigfork, MT
- Hunewill Guest Ranch, Bridgeport, CA
- Lost Valley Ranch, Sedalia, CO
- Paradise Guest Ranch, Buffalo, WY
- Rainbow Trout Ranch, Antonito, CO
- The Hideout, Shell, WY
- Tanque Verde Ranch, Tucson, AZ
- Three Bars Ranch, Cranbrook, BC, Canada
- Triangle X, Jackson Hole, WY
- White Stallion Ranch, Tucson, AZ
If you are considering a guest ranch vacation then the best place to start the planning process is on the Spur Alliance website. Read the overviews, browse the photos for inspiration, complete the questionnaire and you will be one step closer to booking a vacation at the dude ranch that will meet all of your needs and provide the family vacation that you have been dreaming of.
Thank you to Spur Alliance for sponsoring this post. More information about the alliance and its member ranches can be found on their website or on their Facebook page. Individual Spur Alliance member ranches can be contacted via the website to answer any questions and any questions about ranch vacations can also be addressed to firstname.lastname@example.org All photos courtesy of Spur Alliance.