Looking for a fun, unique family getaway? Try a dude ranch family vacation! Whether your children have never seen a horse or beg to go to the barn every day, taking a trip to a dude ranch will become one of your favorite and most cherished family memories.
Dude ranches are a great introduction to horses for kids of all ages. Most dude ranches are family-friendly, with experienced staff to teach your children to ride and safely interact with horses. Your kids will go from beginners to confident riders in no time. And if your kids already love horses, then a dude ranch family vacation is a dream come true.
From rustic to luxe, we’ve rounded up the top ten destinations for a dude ranch family vacation in the country. We’ve even put together a list of fun horse-themed items to pack. So get ready to saddle up and enjoy the ride!
Riding Corner’s Top Ten Dude Ranches
Located on 30,000 acres in beautiful Saratoga, Wyoming, Brush Creek Ranch is a perennial awards winner, including being named the #1 US Resort by Conde Nast Traveler. Of course there are stunning trail rides for riders of all ages and skill levels. There is also a large indoor riding arena, as well as chances to enjoy cattle drives and other specialized riding activities. After a long day of riding, you can enjoy dinner at one of the many excellent restaurants or relax in an outdoor yoga class. In addition, Brush Creek Ranch offers fly fishing, archery, hiking and many other family-friendly activities. You’ll love this amazing dude ranch family vacation!
The Alisal Guest Ranch is the quintessential California dude ranch. Not only does it boast 50 miles of scenic riding trails with 100 horses to choose from, but it has a spring-fed lake and two golf courses, as well. Both kids and adults can take riding and horsemanship lessons before they hit the trails from breakfast ’til sunset. Alisal is very family-oriented, with special activities for children ranging from family bingo nights, to guided nature walks, to supervised archery and air rifle lessons. And since Alisal Guest Ranch is located only minutes away from some of Santa Barbara’s best vineyards, Mom and Dad can even take advantage of the onsite childcare and sneak away for a quick wine-tasting. Alisal has it all.
Riding Corner Tip: Keep an eye out for bald eagles! Many guests report seeing these majestic birds around the lake.
Truly unique – Spring Creek Ranch is located on a wildlife sanctuary in the middle of the Teton Mountain Range. As a result, you’ll spot elk, mule deer and even moose! In the summer, Spring Creek offers a range of trail rides through the mountains. You should also check out the special dinner rides, the rodeo and the “Paddles & Saddles” package, which lets guests try both riding and white-water rafting. In the winter, guests enjoy festive sleigh rides, dog-sledding and all kinds of skiing. Wildlife safaris run year round.
Though this may sound rugged, you’ll find the accommodations quite luxurious. The ranch has a spa, an award-winning restaurant and gorgeous mountain villa lodging. No wonder Spring Creek Ranch was honored with the Conde Nast Traveler Gold List designation! Your whole family will find something to love here.
Located in Mancos, Colorado, Majestic Dude Ranch is definitely more of a “ranch” than a “resort.” If you’re looking to spend your days outside, charging from one activity to the next, book your vacation at Mancos. Many of these activities are horse-focused, with guests assigned to one horse to ride for their whole stay. There’s even an option for an all-day ride. Of course, there’s also fishing, mountain biking, rafting, hiking, archery, ATV riding… kids won’t have even a second to be bored!
Majestic Dude Ranch is family-friendly year-round, but summer is when the kids are really the focus. Some of the most fun and special children’s summer activities include panning for gold, playing laser tag in an Old West town and performing in a rodeo. Best of all, the staff is attentive to kids with any kind of special needs.
More intimate than other dude ranches, Red Reflet accommodates only 32 guests at a time. This limited size comes with many perks, including personalized attention from the staff, airport pickups, use of rental vehicles and private hot tubs. You can even step into the kitchen before dinner and help the chef prepare the food!
When it comes to riding, there’s a similarly hands-on approach. Red Reflet offers not only general riding lessons, but specialized lessons like roping and barrel racing. Red Reflet invites guests to ride with the ranch’s wranglers and help herd the cattle. A resident horse trainer oversees all programs and horses. On the off chance you need a break from riding, you can zip line, ATV, mountain bike or swim in the ranch’s “natural waterpark.”
Riding Corner Tip: Check out the family week specials, which offer 20% off children’s rates. A dude ranch family vacation will be even more fun for your kids when they get to make new friends.
Nestled in the beautiful Catskill Mountains of New York, Pinegrove Family Dude Ranch should be one of your top choices for an East Coast dude ranch family vacation. It’s family-owned with a cozy feel, but there are 126 guest rooms at the ranch with a whopping 600 acres of hills to explore. Here you’ll find options for your little ones – like pony rides and a fantastic Junior Wranglers program – as well as private lessons and advanced trail rides for older, more experienced riders.
Pinegrove Family Dude Ranch employs a Social Director to make sure every guest is having the time of their lives. Year round, your kids can enjoy swimming, rock climbing, paintballing and paddleboating. And the fun doesn’t stop at Pinegrove just because it’s snowing. The ranch remains open throughout the winter with once-in-a-lifetime activities like “winter wonderland” rides.
Looking for some Southern flair on your dude ranch family vacation? Look no further than Texas’ own Wildcatter Ranch and Resort. Wildcatter Ranch was honored by Southern Living as one of the South’s best inns. Though there’s plenty of adventure to be had on the 1500-acre ranch, Wildcatter Ranch has a laid-back feel, perfect for a more relaxed family trip.
Of course there’s riding – there are 25 miles of trails to explore, as well as private riding lessons. And there’s skeet shooting, canoeing and archery, not to mention wagon rides and fossil hunting. However, the ranch also encourages you to hang out in the infinity pool and hot tub, watch the sunset on rocking chairs on the porch and feed treats to the longhorns and horses. For maximum relaxation, parents can try a therapeutic massage at the onsite spa while the kids ride.
Malibu Dude Ranch bills itself as “the finest dude ranch east of the Mississippi” and we’re inclined to agree. The ranch is located in the Poconos, with a spacious 800 acres for guests to explore. Though it was founded in 1928, new owners purchased and renovated the ranch in 2010. Malibu Dude Ranch is old-fashioned and authentic, but certainly not without the little luxuries you seek on vacation. The lodgings are family-friendly, with cabins for 2-8 people and homesteads for larger families.
Lush, beautiful oak trees cover much of the grounds. It’s a treat to explore the ranch on horseback. Malibu Dude Ranch provides pony rides for children ages 3-7, so your whole family can enjoy riding. Malibu Dude Ranch also offers fishing, ice fishing, skeet shooting, rowboating and paddleboating. If you’re looking for adventure, you can arrange a variety of off-ranch excursions, like ziplining and kayaking.
Riding Corner Tip: Try to book your stay during one of Malibu Dude Ranch’s Championship Rodeos. Your family can check out rodeo events like barrel racing, bull riding and steer wrestling in a professional arena.
A family-friendly ranch, White Stallion Ranch is located in Tucson, Arizona. The ranch has been owned by the same family for over half a century and the welcoming touches are evident. You’ll find amenities like special family suites, a petting zoo, and healthy snacks available to guests all day long.
If your family wants to enjoy a variety of riding, White Stallion Ranch is paradise. The ranch offers fast and slow rides, mountain and trail rides, hay rides, riding lessons and team cattle penning. Adults can take a “wine and cheese” trail ride while their kids enjoy age-appropriate adventures on the ranch. There are numerous other kid-centric activities, from rock climbing, to tennis, to line dancing.
Riding Corner Tip: Kids under five stay for free at White Stallion Ranch.
In search of a legendary and historic dude ranch family vacation? Tombstone Monument Guest Ranch is the perfect destination for your family. The ranch, located just miles away from the actual downtown of Tombstone, is designed as an authentic 1880’s ranch and town. Tombstone Monument Guest Ranch offers a variety of horseback rides for kids and adults – scenic trail rides, lessons, fast rides, even sunset rides! Your kids can ride all day with qualified instructors.
Since Tombstone Monument Guest Ranch is steeped in history, you’ll find all sorts of unique activities. Eat a cowboy breakfast at the chuck wagon. Take a “history” ride to learn about the 1880’s, or see a demonstration of team penning on horseback. Another great option is to take “old fashioned” shooting lessons with era-appropriate guns. You can even join a poker game at night with “Wyatt Earp” as the dealer. Your family will talk about this vacation for decades to come!
Dude Ranch Family Vacation Packing Essentials
Here are a few items that you will want to pack that are specific to ranch vacations. As with most travel try to pack light but be sure to pack for a huge swing in temperature. The weather at many ranches is highly variable with cool mornings, hot days, and crisp evenings.
- Riding Boots
- Jeans 0r Breeches
- Riding Helmet (if the ranch does not provide one or you prefer to bring your own!)
- Cowboy Hat (optional)
- Riding Gloves (optional)
- And don’t forget the sunscreen!
Dress the Part
A great way to get excited for your dude ranch family vacation is to properly outfit your little cowboys and cowgirls. These clothes and accessories can be worn on the trip and then transitioned into your kids’ regular wardrobe. We especially love these adorable mittens!
Saddle up with Cute Accessories
Once you’ve packed your clothes, why not add a few horse-themed accessories? These accessories are great for older kids and adults who want to subtly signal their love of horses.
1. I Heart Horses Stainless Steel Water Bottle 2. Chevron Horse Phone Case 3. Horse Breath Lip Balm 4. Colorful Horse Tote Bag 5. Signare Weekend Overnight Bag in Horse Design 6. Horseshoe Key Chain 7. Live Love Ride Phone Case 8. Keep Calm and Ride Horses Luggage Tag
Heels down. Eyes up. Ride the corners.