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Ranch holidays

Zapata Ranch

Colorado, United States

Located in Colorado's San Luis Valley, Zapata Ranch is a historic bison and cattle ranch. For guests that want to live the cowboy dream and experience and learn about the day to day working of a ranch, Zapata offers a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

At a Glance

  • Ride amongst the 2,000 head bison herd through stunning meadows and grasslands

  • Enjoy freedom to improve your riding - no nose-to-tail trail rides

  • Serves its own grass-fed beef and bison along with organic local produce

  • Offers exceptional value for a fully customized and inclusive experience

  • Operates for guests March to end of October

Adventure, Riding, Fishing

Insider's View

Explore like a true cowboy or girl on Zapata's annual 5-night pack trip out from the Great Sand Dunes National Park. Take in wildlife, beautiful lakes, mountain vistas and fresh alpine air for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Maudie Tomlinson

Insider's View

Nothing gets closer to the Wild West than rounding up bison on horseback at Zapata!

Camilla Swift

Insider's View

Load up your saddle bags and ride out for a full day into the wild bison pasture or onto the sand dunes, stopping for lunch under the shade of a tree.

Camilla Swift

Call us on 858 523 9000 to start planning your vacation to Zapata Ranch or take a look at our itineraries to The Rockies


Zapata Ranch is a historic 103,000-acre ranch owned by The Nature Conservancy creating a unique environment where guests can really live the cowboy dream. With an emphasis on ranching, conservation, nature and education, Zapata Ranch offers a unique once in a lifetime experience where you're visiting alone or with a family. With only thirty guests at the ranch at anytime, every guest experiences a customized stay.

Zapata Ranch offers guests the opportunity to become involved in daily ranch life. Whether you want to help move cattle from one pasture to the next, participate in a traditional branding, rise with the sun for a ride through the Great Sand Dunes National Park, fly fish on pristine rivers, summit one of the six bordering 14,000-ft peaks or white water raft down the Arkansas River, the staff at Zapata will make it happen. The ranch and surrounding valley is a real wildlife mecca and home to thousands of elk, bison, wild horses, deer, coyotes and birds that can be viewed from horseback or jeeps with naturalist guides.

Each day is different and one or two days during the week will be spent exploring the Great Sand Dunes National Park by horse back and other fun locations on the ranch and in the surrounding valley depending on the time of year. The ranch also offers specialist weeks throughout the year that include Cattle Branding, Horsemanship Clinics, Calving Week and Painting Workshops.


Nestled in extensive and peaceful grounds, the ranch offers three main lodgings: The Lodge, Bunk House and Stewart House. All cabins are chinked log buildings, some dating back to the 1800s, that have been lovingly designed in keeping with their rustic surroundings, but in a contemporary style to offer a relaxing and comfortable environment to unwind after a day on the ranch. All rooms are equipped with either two double beds or a single king, and private bathrooms. For families, rooms can be arranged next door, or cabin buyouts are available.


Children must be 8 years and older to ride out. Under 8 years can ride in the corral and experience riding in a safe environment. As beginners, children often learn so much quicker than the parents providing a real confidence boost! The ranch do not supply helmets, so we recommend parents take helmets with them for younger children. While there is no children's club, if parents need to escape for massage for example, the ranch will ensure the children are well looked after and entertained.


Zapata Ranch serves its own grass-fed beef and bison, along with local produce, served in a family-style dining room. Zapata was chosen as one of four Ranch vacations for food lovers by Gourmet Live.

The ranch serves complimentary alcohol with appetizers but otherwise offers a BYO alcohol policy - there is no corkage fee and the staff will attend to requests.


Guests can really experience the day-to-day life on a real, working ranch and each experience is entirely customisable depending on your riding experience and interests. There is no shortage of first-hand ranch experiences - Riding is dictated by the daily bison and cattle operations and guests can expect to take part in everything from herding and moving bison and cattle, to checking water, maintaining fence lines and anything that might be going on that week with the ranch operation.

During your stay, you can do as much or as little as you like, it's not all work and no play! Ride through the Great Sand Dunes National Park and relax with a picnic lunch; photograph the sunrise over one of our lakes; go on an interpretive walk to learn about bison as a conservation species; hike to a high mountain lake and fish for the afternoon; go on a birding trip through the ranch and San Luis Valley; sand board down the dunes for an ultimate thrill ride; white water raft trip down the Arkansas river or fly fish Gold Medal Waters on some of the nation's best rivers.

Location & Directions

Colorado, United States

Zapata is located on the eastern wall of the San Luis Valley of Colorado.

When to go

The ranch is located at 7,950 feet above sea level, with high desert grasslands, alpine forests, wetlands, sand dunes, creeks and lush meadows that offer of the most scenic and ecologically diverse landscapes in the United States. Spring is a beautiful time to go with lush green meadows, wild flowers blooming and baby bison being born. July and August are typically the busiest months, with big blue skies and sublime summer weather. Throughout the Zapata run excellent horsemanship weeks; photo safaris with photographer Steve Weaver to get up close to wildlife as well as Branding and Calving experiences. The ranch is open from March 1 to October 31. Check-in is on Sundays or Thursdays, Sunday arrivals are recommended as there is no riding on a Sunday to allow horses and staff a well earned rest day.

Best time to Visit

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Call us on 858 523 9000 to start planning your vacation to Zapata Ranch or take a look at our itineraries to The Rockies

Ranch holidays

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