Saddling up and riding in the mountains in wild, big-sky country is one of the West’s iconic experiences. Historically ‘dude’ ranches were all about riding horses, and that’s still a big part of the appeal, but our top five Rocky Mountain ranches have a whole lot more to offer, find out more in our video below.
1. Smith Fork Ranch, Colorado
Nestled in the shadows of Sleeping Indian Mountain on the edge of Gunnison National Forest, Colorado’s Smith Fork Ranch has a dreamy location. With just 26 guests to 28 staff, it’s like staying in your own private rustic retreat. The location is far from the only charm, owners Marley and Linda have a superb eye for native and local crafts and as a result, it looks and feels like the old Wild West. It is evocative of an innocent age as children play out in the tepees, hang out on the lake pontoons and roast s’mores. If you can, book the River Cabin, a family home complete with hot-tub overlooking Smith Fork River. Avid fly-fisherman will delight in fishing the famed ‘Gunny’ River, while the shooting and archery is a blast. Food is garden-to-table and it boasts a stellar Wine Spectator cellar. Stay longer to explore the fertile North Fork Valley, home to superb Colorado Wineries where private tastings and tours can be arranged. For culture-vultures Aspen is only a scenic 2 hour drive away with its vibrant summer arts, culture and music events.
2. Ranch at Rock Creek, Montana
Ranch at Rock Creek is the pinnacle of ranch resorts, it’s posh mountain pampering for well-heeled cowboys. Set in 6,000 acres of pristine Montana wilderness, go to ride apache horses, fly-fish, shoot, bike and visit nearby ghost towns. Dine on supremely fresh food and drink whisky cocktails from the bar stools made from saddles in the Silver Dollar Bar. There are private, family-friendly log homes with well-stocked fridges or tented cabins for an all-American safari experience. Couples should chose Trapper Cabin with hot tub, fireplace and opt for a spa treatment made for two. To top it off, there is a heated outdoor pool, bowling alley and movie theater – all are included in your stay. Open all year round, it’s just as fun in the winter vacations with ice-skating, snowmobiling and cross-country heli-skiing.
3. Zapata Ranch, Colorado
For those wannabe cowboys, Zapata is a working cattle and bison ranch owned by the Colorado Nature Conservancy. Guests can integrate themselves into ranch life with bison and cattle drives and time their stay for unique experiences from horsemanship clinics to branding. It’s not all work and no play, there is an extensive nature program, excursions to sand-board giant dunes at nearby Great Sand Dunes National Park or rafting rapids on the Arkansas. The ranch serves its own grass-fed beef and bison, along with organic produce, all served up family-style with an appealing BYO drink policy. With only 30 guests staying at any one time, Zapata offers rustic elegance and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to stay on a working ranch. Due to the working nature of the ranch, it’s recommended for families with older children.
4. Brush Creek Ranch, Wyoming
Brush Creek Ranch offers the ultimate wild-west playground in Wyoming. Kick up your heels and trail ride, round up cattle, fly-fish, hunt or hike. Towering peaks, endless rolling sage brush, running creeks and meadows where bison and antelope roam is evocative of the vastness of African skies. With over 10,000 acres the ranch is pretty big, encompassing a paintball course, high-ropes and climbing, as well as a philanthropic arts and city kids project. The ranch has luxurious, authentic log-homes spread out over the ranch, complete with a fun off-road Polaris Ranger vehicle for getting around. There’s even the Magee homestead, a private collection of cabins for friends and family traveling together. For those who prefer to be closer to the all-important Saloon Bar, complete with pool tables and juke box, as well as the Outfitters Barn and Spa, opt for the Trailhead Lodge Rooms or exquisitely designed Cabin Suites. Expect creek-side cocktails, renowned country singers and summertime rodeos – yee-ha!
5. Siwash Lake Ranch, British Columbia
Siwash Lake Ranch is the wildcard. There’s a whole swathe of little-known rugged Canadian BC wilderness known as Cowboy Country, and it’s here you will find an exquisite, exclusive hideaway with a signature riding program of hands-on horsemanship. For beginners to experts, Siwash offers the best possible riding experience; with personal horses for the duration of the stay, private guides and the freedom to ride unescorted through flower-strewn meadows and mountain trails to spot black bear and deer. For non-riders there’s endless adventures; canoe and paddleboard on Siwash Lake, hike to nearby waterfalls, mountain bike, skeet shooting, wilderness survival and even water-skiing. Personalized one-on-one guides make it a great choice for those with young children too. Siwash is your home-away-from-home only ten times better, with cosy ranch house rooms or luxurious safari-style tents complete with heated floors, log-burning fireplaces and decks overlooking Siwash Lake. There is soul-pleasing morning yoga, massage and the freshest organic fare that rivals the finest city dining served up with the best local wines of the Okanagan Valley – and that is also well worth a visit.
To find out more on our Ranch Portfolio, give one of our North America Consultants a call on 020 8682 5030