Dude Ranch Resorts in the U.S and Canada
By Candyce H. Stapen
Real cowboys ride in the rain. Thatís why on our very first dude ranch outing, we don slickers, ignore the rivulets dripping down our Stetsons and hang on to our horses as they happily trot along a forest trail. Mud-spattered britches as well as dust covered bandanas come with the territory.
But thatís part of the fun of playing wrangler. Whether you have never-ever put a foot in a stirrup or can lope like Annie Oakley, dude ranches are great adventure vacations. Through lessons and trail rides novices gain confidence and experts acquire finesse.
More and more dude ranches these days go beyond just horse rides and hard mattress bunks to offer resort-like accommodations and options. The saddle-sore as well as non-riders can soak in hot tubs, play tennis, fly-fish, hike, learn yoga and even work on their inner lives with a spiritualist. Here are some picks for good places.
Rock Springs Guest Ranch, Bend, Oregon
At Rock Springs Guest Ranch, nine miles northwest of Bend, OR, riders have access to 13,000 acres in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains adjacent to the Deschutes National Forest. In this classic cowboy country juniper trees lace the mountain foothills, wild rye dots the high desert, deer graze in the bush, and the distant ridge tops glisten with snow.
In summer the day-long kidsí program for ages 4 through 12 features riding, nature walks, swimming, story-telling, and crafts. Those under age six go on rope-led pony rides while older children have twice daily wrangler-led trail rides.
Non-riders fish at the ranch's ponds, play tennis, soak in the hot tub, hike, and white water raft on the nearby Deschutes River. In mid-July practice tennis during intensive instruction and in early June discover your spiritual self during a workshop.
Guests stay in comfortable pine cabins with private baths, and sundecks. With less than 50 guests, Rock Springs creates an easy-going friendliness both in and out of the saddle.
Echo Valley Ranch & Spa, near Clinton, British Columbia
At Echo Valley Ranch & Spa, the spa facilities are as important as the horses. More a retreat than a boisterous ranch, Echo Valley promotes well-being through riding as well as hiking, fishing, meditation, yoga and spa treatments.
Novices can opt for trail rides and experts can explore the surrounding valley and mountains on all-day outings. However, some guests never even go near a horse. They come for the Thai themed rituals such as massage, facials, herbal steams and other indulgences. The ranch also offers guided bird watching walks and gold panning lessons.
Echo Valley Ranch, rated 4 Ĺ (out of 5 ) stars by Canada Select, is a five-and-a-half hour drive north of Vancouver, or an hourís plane ride.
Vista Verde Ranch, Clark, CO.
Part of the luxury of a stay at Vista Verde Ranch comes from its exclusiveness. The ranch during summer family weeks accommodates about 40 people, including children, in nine cabins and 3 guest rooms. As a result, expect special attention and camaraderie with fellow riders.
In summer kids ages 6-11 as well as teens 12 and older enjoy separate riding programs as well as family rides. Teens also go rock climbing, tubing and hiking as can their parents. After a hard day in the saddle, soak sore muscles in your cabinís private hot tub.
In September and for some weeks in winter, the ranch becomes adults-only. Located in the Elk River Valley about 25-miles from Steamboat Springs, the ranch, ringed by high mountain peaks, is spectacular.