7 Dude Ranches Totally Worth Checking Out For Your Next Trip
In one of our previous articles entitled, “Socially Distanced Staycation Ideas for Next Boys Trip”, we mentioned hitting up a dude ranch as a great option. We figured if we had you daydreaming about saddling up your horse at the crack of dawn, galloping across wide open plains, rounding up wayward cattle, and enjoying fireside chats with your mates, we should tell you where in the world you could have that experience. Dude ranches or guest ranches, especially in the United States, have to undergo highly strict vetting processes to make the cut, so rest assured you will be getting a top notch experience. If this sounds like the perfect way to spend a week, start packing your bags, toss that old men's leather wallet into your back pocket, dust off your cowboy boots and saddle up for a stint at one of the world’s best Dude Ranches.
A Quick Tip Before You Book Your Trip
There are two ways to experience a guest ranch; you can go with an a la carte experience which means your accommodation, meals, trail rides and most other activities will be priced out separately. This is a good option for anyone who is price conscious or wants a barebones guest ranch experience. The second, more popular option is the all-inclusive experience. Much like an all-inclusive in Mexico or the Caribbean, you pay once and room, board, trail time and most other experiences on the ranch will be included. We say treat yourself and go with the full board option.
Another tip is to use an RFID wallet. This will protect you against electronic pickpocketing, which is common in touristy areas.
So where should you go?
Arizona may not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of cowboys and ranch country. It often gets associated with golf courses and desert scenes. But some of the most famous cowboy characters originated in Arizona; Billy the Kid, Wyatt Erb and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Arizona is teeming with western history, and boasts ghost towns, old gold mines, and one of the most iconic sites in American history, Skeleton Canyon where the fearless Geronimo of the Apache surrendered. Arizona guest ranches offer visitors unique geography, heart-thumping rides across vast grasslands, adventures through sandy canyons and of course, those famous red desert sunsets. With a frosty margarita in hand, and a hearty home-cooked dinner on the BBQ, this guest ranch location offers everything you could want.
British Columbia, Canada
From the unforgiving shores of the Pacific Ocean to the majestic Rocky Mountains, stretching further to the borders of Alaska, Washington State and the Yukon, British Columbia is home to some of the wildest and most dramatic mountain ranges on the continent. Your guest ranch experience will be nothing short of breathtaking with nature’s greatest amphitheatre off in the distance and lush grassy meadows below your steed’s feet. British Columbia’s interior is serious cattle country, and with some of the friendliest ranch hands on earth at the helm, you are spoiled for choice when it comes to choosing a dude ranch here.
Montana, the Big Sky State, home of Yellowstone and aptly dubbed the “Last Best Place”, this is the epicentre of North American dude ranch experiences. Here you’ll not only find a plethora of ranches to choose from, but you’ll notice that many of them specialize in iconic activities such as cattle driving and fly fishing. Here you might find yourself on a ride through the epic Rocky Mountains, or driving your herd across historic prairie landscapes where bison once roamed in the thousands. From high end glamping type guest ranch experiences to the more rustic, log cabin style experiences, Montana has a dude ranch experience for every budget and every travel style.
Montana may be the epicentre for dude ranches, but Wyoming is without a doubt the home of the American cowboy. Here in the High Plains, you’ll find very few people, vast, and wide open spaces dotted with ranches and cowboy. This is also the gateway to the iconic Yellowstone National Park, the very first national park founded in 1872 and home to some of the most unique geologic wonders in the world. Dude ranches here provide guests with everything from next level luxury to bare bones rustic. For gents looking to experience a high octane dude ranch stay, there are plenty of adventure based activities like river rafting, walking safaris, quadding and fly-fishing. Wyoming is for nature lovers, so if you’re looking to go easy on that ‘ol men's leather wallet, consider a more rustic experience, and when you’re not on trail rides, spend your days hiking the several hundred trails on offer in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park.
Once it's safe again, you may want to expand your guest ranch horizons and tick off one of those bucketlist item like living like a gaucho in foothills of the Andes mountains in Argentina. Ranches here are called estancias and are most often working ranches run by centuries-old family dynasties. Hailed as one of the world’s last frontiers, and largely untouched, these estancias provide an authentic and deeply cultural ranch experience. Carve out some extra time for this trip, because Argentina serves up rustic ranch experiences, dramatic landscapes, sumptuous cuisine, endless adventure-focused activities for those blokes who want to bond and inspire some epic travel tales to laugh about later.
Northern California, USA
Affectionately known as the ‘Golden State’, California has more diversity in 423,970 km than most nations on earth. From the gargantuan Redwood Forests in the far north, to the sandy sun kissed beaches of Los Angeles and San Diego, to the searing sands of Mojave Desert, traveller could spend a lifetime exploring this state and still not experience everything. California is also home to some of the world’s most luxurious guest ranches in the world with activities that include river rafting, fly fishing, panning for gold, mountain biking, rock climbing and so much more. Bring your mates to California and try your hand and some good old fashion cattle-round-ups, with a splash of Hollywood flair.
If it’s tranquility you’re seeking but still want to have an active guest ranch experience, consider Arkansas as a destination. You’ll find yourself on endless trail rides through beautiful rocky valleys, wading waist high into pristine rivers catching the big one, or hanging from dramatic cliffs on a day long climbing session. There is no shortage of things to do, but unlike other states, mechanized vehicles are not permitted within any Arkansas Wilderness Areas so it truly is a quiet, restorative place to enjoy ranch life.
These are just seven of the world’s best dude ranch destinations. When you sit down to plan out your ranch holiday, make note of the types of experiences you would like to have. Note how much time you’re hoping to spend in the saddle and determine whether or not you’re a novice, at an intermediate level or an expert. Your riding ability will affect the type of package you can book, and will also help ranch hands create the best experience for you. Again, don't forget your RFID wallet. It's just an extra layer of protection you just can't go wrong with.