Horseback Riding
Photo: @ivanatilosanec/Twenty20

The 11 Best Dude Ranches for Families in the U.S. and Canada

Decades ago, people fled cities for fresh air and ‘Wild West’ experiences when they needed to refresh the soul. And well, history tends to repeat itself. 

Many families are seeking socially distanced trips due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and one of the best ways to get off the grid is with a dude ranch vacation. Breathe in the fresh air, relax on the deck of your private cabin, or the watch the sunsets on horseback at these dude ranches across the U.S. and Canada.

Why You Should Take a Dude Ranch Vacation Now

Ease Transportation Fears

Many guest ranches are within driving distance of your home base, while some require flights. Drive-to markets are thriving in these uncertain times, and heritage ranches within a few hours of metropolitan areas that have been sleeper favorites are now on the radar for family vacations.

Guarantee Social Distancing

Families choose dude ranch vacations for the space! Many dude and guest ranches are situated on immense pieces of land. From thousands of acres of ranch land to adjoining national forests and open space, you might ride for hours and never see another person, just wildlife. 

11 Best Dude Ranches for Families in 2021

1. Rainbow Trout Ranch – Antonito, Colorado

Rainbow Trout Ranch outside of Antonito, Colorado, is one of the most remote dude ranches in the region. There are 16 log cabins onsite, all of which have fireplaces and can sleep anywhere from one to eight people. Nestled on 600 acres and surrounded by national forest, the ranch has one of the most spectacular wooden lodges in the world; it’s the second largest wooden lodge built West of the Mississippi. Sit on the monstrous wrap-around deck and chat with hummingbirds and wildlife that pass by. The deck offers vistas of the horse pastures and corrals and the only sounds are from wind blowing through the pines. Seclusion and sanctuary await those who choose this ranch for their family vacation.

2. The Hideout Lodge & Guest Ranch – Shell, Wyoming

The Hideout Lodge & Guest Ranch, east of Cody, Wyoming, and Yellowstone National Park, is limited to approximately 25 riders weekly. With so few guests, the ranch’s 130 horses and wildlife outnumber vacationers! You and your family will truly be unplugged and relaxed from the isolated tranquility. The ranch is adjacent to 650,000 acres of tremendous diversity—scenery and altitudes ranging from 4,200 to 13,100 feet—and you will seldom see the same trail twice, or another person. 

3. Three Bars Ranch – British Columbia, Canada

Canada’s leading dude and guest ranch is intimate, yet still sizeable enough to meet people throughout a weeklong stay. Three Bars Ranch, located just south of Banff, Canada, in The Valley of 1000 Peaks, is limited to 50 guests at a time. It offers a world-class horse program, in-house rafting trips, natural stone fly fishing, hiking, biking, skeet shooting, and evening programming. There’s an outdoor heated pool, hot tub, tennis court, gym, and petting zoo, too.

4. Bar W Guest Ranch – Whitefish, Montana

Bar W Guest Ranch is one of a handful of year-round dude ranches near Glacier National Park, Montana. The ranch only allows 35 guests at a time, encouraging your whole family to explore the 3,000 acres of ranch property by foot, water and horse. The endless list of fresh-air activities—swimming, mountain biking, archery, shooting sports, river rafting, rock climbing, cattle work, bird watching—will have everyone asleep by sunset in cabin suites, glamping tents, the Gate House or Main Lodge.

5. Western Pleasure Guest Ranch – Sandpoint, Idaho

Western Pleasure Ranch is a year-round, family owned and operated dude ranch in Idaho, with a guest capacity of 20. Ever dreamed of renting out an entire ranch with just three or four families? This is the place to do it! It’s perfect for the family reunion. During autumn, winter and spring, the ranch operates as a B&B, an ideal space to get away from crowds and enjoy some quality time with the kids. There are trail rides available year-round, or you can opt to walk or hike in nearby Glacier National Park. Late-season snow makes for sunny days of snow shoeing, cross-country skiing or bird watching in solitude. 

6. Triangle X Ranch – Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Triangle X Ranch in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, is a five-generation guest ranch, and the legacy prevails. Saddle your horse, as they have for decades, and ride into Grand Teton National Park, Bridger Teton National Forest and Bridger Teton National Wilderness. This equates to millions of acres in the most remote riding country in the nation. From the middle of May through October, the Turner family will introduce you to iconic ‘Wide Open Wyoming.’

7. Paradise Guest Ranch – Buffalo, Wyoming

Paradise Guest Ranch has been in operation for 100 years. May through October, the ranch can accommodate 70 guests (there are some adults-only weeks) for a plethora of outdoor adventures including fly-fishing, hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, archery, and outdoor evening programs under the Rocky Mountain stars. When finally exhausted, climb into a comfy bed in your rustically elegant log cabin with one, two, three or four bedrooms.

8. Flathead Lake Lodge – Bigfork, Montana

Flathead Lake Lodge is owned and operated by a third-generation family in Bigfork, Montana. The resort’s location on the shores of Flathead Lake is some of the most spectacular landscape in America. The lodge and accommodations are strikingly similar to yesteryear with the nuances and needs of today’s society. The Averill family welcomes you to their family, and together, you’ll experience some of the most magnificent aspects of Montana.  

9. Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort – Solvang, CA

Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort is a luxurious dude ranch set on 10,000 acres in Santa Barbara’s Wine Country. Children especially love the ‘Lil Riders’ trail riding program and the barnyard, where they can help staff collect eggs each morning. Other activities include hiking, bicycling, arts and crafts, golf, and an onsite spa. Want to learn how to barbecue like a pro? Don’t miss BBQ Bootcamp, one of Alisal Guest Ranch’s signature experiences for guests. Families stay in studios (for up to three guests) and suites (up to five people).

10. C Lazy U Ranch – Granby, CO

If you’ve ever considered a dude ranch vacation, chances are you’ve heard of C Lazy U Ranch. Located in Granby, Colorado (close to Rocky Mountain National Park), this all-inclusive guest ranch has something for the whole family, from classic ranch activities such as trail rides to surprising activities that include a ropes course and ziplining. The resort offers seasonal children’s programs for ages 3 to 17, and is especially ideal for a family reunion.

11. Tanque Verde Ranch – Tucson, AZ

Did you know there’s a dude ranch in Tucson, Arizona? Named Tanque Verde Ranch, this guest ranch offers countless activities for children, including horseback riding, arts and crafts, swimming, and nature programs. Children are separated by age group in the Daily Kids Program, which is covered in all-inclusive rates, and there’s also a Summer Overnight Camp and kids’ camp, the latter of which is offered year-round. Parents will enjoy hiking, mountain biking, Mountain Adventure Rides and the spa. Be sure to take advantage of a Breakfast Ride and a Cowboy Cookout, two unique dining experiences the whole family will love.

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Julie Bielenberg
Julie Bielenberg is an award-winning journalist and photographer based in Colorado. She is a national leader in agritourism and publishes more than 50 editorial assignments annually for over a dozen outlets.