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

There's never been a better time for a dude ranch vacation.
Horseback riding at C Lazy U Ranch (Photo: C Lazy U Ranch)
Horseback riding at C Lazy U Ranch (Photo: C Lazy U Ranch)

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 still seeking to get off the grid with a dude ranch vacation. On these family vacations, you can breathe in the fresh air, relax on the deck of your private cabin, or the watch the sunsets on horseback at the best dude ranches across the U.S. and Canada.

Why You Should Take a Dude Ranch Vacation

You can find guest ranches perfect for a digital detox in every corner of the continent, which means there’s almost certainly one within driving distance of your home base. That extra bit of convenience (not to mention the built-in fun of a family road trip) makes dude ranches uniquely suited to family vacations.

Of course, families choose dude ranch vacations for the wide open space, too. 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. 

Best Dude Ranches for Families

From the Wild West to the Golden State, here are the best dude ranch vacation destinations for families across North America.

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1. Rainbow Trout Ranch

Antonito, Colorado

Rainbow Trout Ranch dude ranch
Colorado’s Rainbow Trout Ranch is one of the most remote dude ranches in the U.S. (Photo: Rainbow Trout Ranch)

Situated outside of Antonito in the Rocky Mountain state, Rainbow Trout Ranch is one of the most remote dude ranches in Colorado. There are 16 log cabins onsite, all of which have fireplaces and can sleep anywhere from one to eight people. And, nestled on 600 acres surrounded by national forest, the ranch has one of the most spectacular wooden lodges in the world, too—it’s the second largest wooden lodge built West of the Mississippi.

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The lodge’s enormous wraparound 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 and Guest Ranch

Shell, Wyoming

Hideout Lodge & Guest Ranch dude ranch
Horses outnumber guests at Wyoming’s Hideout Lodge and Guest Ranch (Photo: Hideout Lodge and Guest Ranch)

East of Cody and Yellowstone National Park, the Hideout Lodge and Guest Ranch limits guests to approximately 25 riders weekly. With so few guests, the ranch’s 130 horses and wildlife outnumber vacationers.

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Head here to truly unplug and relax: The ranch is adjacent to 650,000 acres of tremendous scenery, and altitudes on the terrain range from 4,200 to 13,100 feet. With so much space, you’ll seldom see the same trail (or people) twice. 

3. Three Bars Guest Ranch

Cranbrook, British Columbia, Canada

Three Bars Guest Ranch cabin interior; best dude ranches for families in the U.S. and Canada
The rustic Three Bars Ranch limits guests to no more than 50 at a time (Photo: Three Bars Guest Ranch)

The leading dude and guest ranch north of the border is intimate yet still sizable enough for you to meet new people throughout a weeklong stay. Located just south of Banff in Canada’s Valley of a Thousand Peaks, Three Bars Guest Ranch maintains its rustic vacation feel by limiting guests to no more than 50 at a time.

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Among other family-friendly activities, the dude ranch offers a world-class horse program, in-house rafting trips, natural stone fly fishing, hiking, biking, skeet shooting, and evening programming. There’s also an outdoor heated pool, hot tub, tennis court, gym, and petting zoo, too.

4. Bar W Guest Ranch

Whitefish, Montana

One of a handful of year-round dude ranches near Glacier National Park in Montana, Bar W Guest Ranch only allows 35 guests at a time, making it easy for your whole family to explore the 3,000 acres of ranch property by foot, water, and horse without running into any crowds.

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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

horses and riders in a field at dude ranch Western Pleasure Guest Ranch
You can rent the entire Western Pleasure Guest Ranch for a family reunion (Photo: Danielle Otis @danielles_lens)

Ever dreamed of renting out an entire dude ranch with just three or four other families? This is the place to do it. Western Pleasure Guest Ranch is a year-round, family-owned and operated dude ranch in Idaho with a guest capacity of 20. It’s perfect for the family reunion.

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In the fall, winter, and spring, the ranch operates as a B&B, making it an ideal space to get away from crowds and enjoy some quality time with the kids. There are trail rides available year-round. Late-season snow makes for sunny days of snow shoeing, cross-country skiing, or bird watching in solitude. 

6. Triangle X Ranch

Moose, Wyoming

Saddle your horse at Triangle X Ranch, a five-generation guest ranch located near Jackson Hole, where you can ride right into Grand Teton National Park, Bridger Teton National Forest, and Bridger Teton National Wilderness. The ranch is an authorized concessionaire of the National Park Service and an authorized permittee of the U.S. Forest Service, which equates to millions of acres of riding territory in one of the most remote areas in the nation.

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Accommodations at the dude ranch are simple (think rustic cabins) and house between one and four bedrooms. There are 20 guest cabins in total.

7. Paradise Guest Ranch

Buffalo, Wyoming

aerial view of Paradise Guest Ranch, one of the best dude ranches for families in the U.S.
Rustic-yet-elegant Paradise Guest Ranch can accommodate 70 guests (Photo: Canon Brownell)

May through October, the century-old Paradise Guest 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 stars.

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When finally exhausted, you can climb into a comfy bed in your rustically elegant log cabin with one, two, three, or four bedrooms.

8. Averill’s Flathead Lake Lodge

Bigfork, Montana

Flathead Lake Lodge
Ranch experiences include unlimited horse riding, water sports, and homemade meals (Photo: Flathead Lake Lodge)

Situated on the shores of Flathead Lake in Bigfork, Montana, Flathead Lake Lodge is home to some of the most spectacular landscape in America. Owned and operated by a third-generation family, the lodge evokes the spirit of yesteryear while offering all-inclusive family vacation experiences that include unlimited horse riding, water sports, and homemade meals. Adults-only stays and destination weddings are also available in the spring and fall.

9. Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort

Solvang, California

Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort
Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort is right in the heart of Santa Barbara’s Wine Country (Photo: Teal Thompsen)

Children especially love the “Lil Riders” trail riding program at Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort, a luxurious dude ranch set on 10,000 acres in Santa Barbara’s Wine Country. In the barnyard, kids can help staff collect eggs each morning. Other activities include hiking, bicycling, arts and crafts, golf, and an onsite spa.

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Want to learn how to barbecue like a pro? Don’t miss BBQ Bootcamp, one of Alisal Guest Ranch’s signature experiences. Families stay in studios (for up to three guests) and suites (up to five people).

10. C Lazy U Ranch

Granby, Colorado

C Lazy U Ranch's luxe cabins come with stone fireplaces and hand-crafted furniture (Photo: C Lazy U Ranch)
C Lazy U Ranch’s luxe cabins come with stone fireplaces and hand-crafted furniture (Photo: C Lazy U Ranch)

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.

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The resort offers seasonal children’s programs for ages three to 17, and is especially ideal for a family reunion.

11. Tanque Verde Ranch

Tucson, Arizona

Children riding horeseback through desert
Tanque Verde Ranch offers countless activities for children (Photo: Tanque Verde Ranch)

Located in Tucson, Arizona, Tanque Verde 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.

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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.