A Dude Ranch Vacation In The West

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of  a dude ranch? Horses? Cows? Dust?

Today’s dude ranches are more than just a place to ride horses; they are vacation destinations offering everything from spa treatments to shooting lessons. There are hundreds of dude ranches in the Mountain West, each with their own distinct ambiance.


Last summer, Ryan and I got to experience Latigo Ranch, 30 minutes outside of Kremmling in Grand County, Colorado. Set high on a remote mountain top, the ranch provides awe-inspiring views, especially on trail rides.

We visited just a few weeks after they opened for the summer season and were part of a small group: two families from the East Coast, a mother and daughter from Texas, and a couple from England.

I was apprehensive about staying at a dude ranch. I like to ride, but I’m not very good at it. And while I am a people person, I didn’t relish the idea of eating meals with perfect strangers. Thankfully, after just one meal, those “strangers” I had worried about were friends. And I even got comfortable riding thanks to patient wranglers and great instruction.

A stay at Latigo comes with sunrise-to-sunset pampering. A beautiful breakfast spread was waiting for us in the dining room every morning, and our horses were saddled and ready for us to simply hop on when we arrived at the barn for a scheduled ride.

Lunch was always fresh and delicious, and dinner was always scrumptious. One afternoon we lazed in the Latigo pool, enjoying the sunshine, the view of the horses in the nearby field, and the hummingbirds buzzing overhead.

The best part of Latigo is the pure, unadulterated beauty of the ranch. I think anyone who has visited will tell you there’s a sort of undefinable magic in the air there.

In the summer, guests will see a wide variety of wildflowers on the property. Last season there were columbines everywhere, and one of the owners of Latigo said that in his 30 years on the ranch he’d never seen a columbine season like it.

While riding is a favorite activity at Latigo, the area is wonderful for hiking. Guests can also fish, bike, soak in the hot tub, read in the library, or play pool in the rec room.

If you’re considering a dude-ranch stay, it’s important to do your research. Accommodations run the gamut from charming, rustic cabins to high-end luxury lodges. Food offerings can be down-home or gourmet. Some ranches are off the grid, while others are just a short drive from civilization. There are ranches with spa facilities and even onsite hot springs. Others concentrate on fishing or shooting. Decide on what’s right for your family and you’ll surely find it.

There are several good online dude ranch resources including the Colorado Dude & Guest Ranch Association and Guest Ranches of North America.

Categories: The Heidi Guide