Playing Cowgirl in the Rocky Mountains

Two getaways perfect for the rancher at heart

I never thought I was a dude ranch kind of person until I went to one. It turns out I am most definitely a dude ranch girl. Who doesn’t enjoy lounging, riding horses and having someone cook for them? If I could live this life 24/7, I would.

As it turns out, my husband was a cowboy in a former life, so dude ranches are the perfect escape for us. In fact, it’s his favorite kind of vacation.

A dude ranch and a guest ranch are similar, and I tend to use them interchangeably. I’ve been told that a guest ranch often has other amenities that can include a pool and even tennis courts. But in general, they are very much alike.

Latigo Ranch

Photo by Heidi Kerr-Schlaefer.

We visited Latigo Ranch several years ago, and my husband has never stopped talking about this place. Located about 30-minutes from Kremmling, Colorado, the remoteness of the ranch is one of its draws. The scenery is breathtakingly spectacular and the views on Latigo’s trail rides simply can’t be beaten.

Photo courtesy of

We stayed in one of the cabins on the property above the main lodge. They have cabins for groups of all sizes and each has a cozy, ranch-house feel. Every day we walked through yellow and purple flowers to reach our front door and it was a lovely way to enter one’s home for the week.

Hummingbirds flit around the property and wildflowers grow everywhere. The year we visited, according to one of the ranch owners, columbines were having the best summer in 30 years.

Photo by Heidi Kerr-Schlaefer.

During the summer, guests of Latigo enjoy horseback riding, fly-fishing, pack trips, cattle work, shooting and swimming in the beautiful pool. If you’d like to spend an afternoon reading a good book in the sunshine, you can do that. Life has a way of slowing way down at Latigo.

December through March, the ranch becomes a winter wonderland and guests can cross-country ski, fat bike, soak in the hot tub and enjoy indoor games in the main lodge.

Vee Bar Guest Ranch

Vee Bar Ranch. Photo by Heidi Kerr-Schlaefer.

Located just west of Laramie, Wyoming, and on the road to the Snowy Range, Vee Bar Guest Ranch welcomes guests from around the world. It’s no wonder people come back year after year because once you’ve crossed the river and arrived on the property, all stresses melt away.

Photo by Heidi Kerr-Schlaefer.

There are only a few cabins, making a stay here an intimate experience. The cabins were built along the Little Laramie River, a popular waterway for fly-fishermen. As we parked beside our cabin last May, a fisherman was wading in the river directly in front of us. We learned later that he caught 25 fish in four hours and a Vee Bar staff member reported catching eight fish in one hour earlier that day.

Vee Bar, early spring view from the cabins. Photo by Heidi Kerr-Schlaefer.

Of course, fly-fishing is only one of the many activities available at this ranch. Others include horseback riding, hiking, camping in teepees, soaking in the hot tub and belling up to the bar at the ranch's John Wayne Saloon

Children are welcome at Vee Bar and yours may even ride with the owners’ daughter, a nine-year-old who has helped many other youngsters overcome their fear of being in the saddle. However, if you’d like to leave the kids at home, Vee Bar offers adults-only weeks that have been growing in popularity.  

Longmire moment in Wyoming at Vee Bar. Photo by Heidi Kerr-Schlaefer.

A dude ranch is an opportunity to experience the west in a comfortable, easy way. When it comes to the horses, you just show up and ride. When it comes to mealtime, you simply show up and eat. It’s a real chance to decompress from the craziness of modern-day life. Many ranches offer off-season specials and some offer weekend stays, making a ranch vacation accessible to everyone.

Categories: The Heidi Guide