The 11 best dude ranches in the US for families, couples, seniors, and wranglers on a budget

If you buy through our links, we may earn money from affiliate partners. Learn more.

  • This summer, many vacationers will still be seeking wide-open spaces and outdoor activities.
  • A dude ranch is a western-style resort with horseback riding, fishing, campfires, BBQs, and more.
  • The best US dude ranches include options for families, couples, seniors, and those on a budget.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A dude ranch vacation is a low-tech, western-themed adventure that doesn’t sit on its high horse. Though some ranches are quite luxurious, with guests dressing for dinner and indulging in local wines. No matter your choice, most offer a downhome way to unplug and reconnect with nature. 

Though summer travel is picking up thanks to vaccine rollouts, travelers continue to lean towards more remote, domestic vacation choices that allow for plenty of time outdoors. Dude ranches are typically secluded, with wide-open spaces and plenty of fresh air, making them a popular and timely vacation option.

Popular Reviews

Though horseback riding is the main attraction at our favorite dude ranches, there are plenty of additional activities to keep non-equestrians busy from fishing to hiking to roasting marshmallows around the campfire.

We chose the best dude ranches in the US based on the following criteria:

  1. Wed looked for options to suit a wide range of adventurers. We’ve broken our list into categories, with options for travelers on a budget, as well as families, couples seeking a romantic getaway, and active seniors.
  2. Our top picks are based on our own travel experiences, as well as incorporating feedback from trusted review sites like Trip Advisor and Booking.com.
  3. Every dude ranch offers plenty of activities and outdoor fun to keep you busy, whether you want to head out on a trail ride or lounge poolside back at camp.
  4. We included a variety of locations across the US, but all offer wide-open spaces and stunning scenery.
  5. All the ranches have strict COVID-19 policies in place, which we’ve highlighted.

Browse all of the best dude ranches below, or jump to a specific category here:

  • Best budget dude ranches
  • Best dude ranches for families
  • Best dude ranches for couples
  • Best dude ranches for seniors
  • FAQs: Dude ranch vacations
  • More great outdoor vacation ideas

These are the best dude ranches in the US, sorted by category and price, from low to high.

320 Guest Ranch

Book 320 Guest Ranch

Location: Gallatin Gateway, Montana

Typical starting/peak prices: $145/$227

Includes: Breakfast

Pros: With the Gallatin River running through the property, the resort is a mecca for fly fishing. Though guest cabins have modern amenities, they manage to maintain the original homestead heritage. 

Cons: Though the quality of the food is high, some guests complain that menu prices reflect the big city rather than the Big Sky.

At 320 Guest Ranch, the bluebird skies, high mountain meadows, and ebb and flow of the river feel infinite. Once a historic homestead, the property has been transformed into a guest ranch that oozes low-key western hospitality.

The ranch offers a variety of accommodations, from intimate log cabins with homespun decor to elaborate mountain chalets with glass-enclosed living rooms providing spectacular views. Wood-burning stoves, fireplaces, and wrap-around porches grace many cabins. Every cabin is standalone and there’s no main lodge, making this an especially attractive choice for social distancing. 

The remote beauty of Big Sky country is easy to appreciate from the back of a horse. Expert wranglers maintain over 2,000 miles of trails and excel at helping riders find their hidden inner cowboy. Rides are as short as one hour and as long as a full day with lunch served lakeshore. 

A filling breakfast is including in the rate, and dinner at on-site McGill’s leans local, with just-caught trout and bison on the menu.

COVID-19 policies can be found here.

Tanque Verde Ranch

Book Tanque Verde Ranch

Location: Tucson, Arizona

Typical starting/peak prices: $170/$290

Includes: Options available for all-inclusive stays or a la carte for dining and activities  

Pros: Many guest rooms and casitas have panoramic views that exploit the desert location. The wranglers are very experienced. 

Cons: It’s very hot for much of the year so schedule your ride for early morning or late afternoon.

Located on 60,000 acres of starkly beautiful desert terrain with the Rincon Mountains as a backdrop, Tanque Verde Ranch has the authentic feel of an old-time cattle ranch. 

Guest rooms feature adobe walls and time-honored Southwestern accents such as beehive fireplaces. Private patios provide a peaceful place to listen to the morning birdsong. 

Mount your horse for the popular lunchtime ride to Cottonwood Grove and soak in the majesty of the desert horizon. Beginning riders may enjoy a leisurely walking ride while experienced riders walk, trot, and lope. Everyone enjoys a BBQ lunch before heading back to the corral. 

Additional horsemanship activities include team penning and lessons on equine behavior.

COVID-19 policies can be found here. 

Pine Ridge Dude Ranch

Book Pine Ridge Dude Ranch

Location: Kerhonkson, New York

Typical starting/peak prices: $209/$439

Includes: Breakfast-only or all-inclusive options available

Pros: With ponies, horses, and all activities included in the modest price, it’s a slice of the West without leaving the East.

Cons: If you’re looking for luxury, you’re in the wrong place.

The Catskill Mountains in New York State have long been a playground for urbanites seeking a rural escape. If you want to get in touch with your inner buckaroo without making a big dent in your wallet, Pine Ridge Dude Ranch is an affordable getaway located only 90 miles from Manhattan. 

No-frills guest rooms are uncluttered with cathedral ceilings, hardwood floors, and large screen LED TVs, and some have fireplaces and private patios. 

One horseback ride per stay is included in the rate, as are free daily pony rides for young children. The popular Barn Buddies program gives up-close access to the horses while teaching grooming and saddling skills, while tractor rides, a petting zoo, horseshoe pit, and s’mores by the campfire provide nostalgic fun. Additionally, take a swim in the pool, swing a tennis racquet, and play a round of mini-golf.  

Meals are laidback affairs, in tune with the casual feel of the ranch. The kitchen takes pride in utilizing produce sourced from nearby farms and hearty main courses are served with freshly baked bread and retro desserts like Jell-O and chocolate pudding. 

COVID-19 policies can be found here. 

White Stallion Ranch

Book White Stallion Ranch

Location: Tucson, Arizona

Typical starting/peak prices: $358/$468

Includes: Breakfast-only or all-inclusive rates are available

Pros: Excellent cuisine is a hallmark of the resort. While there is limited availability for a breakfast-only rate, most guests opt for the full American plan, with three daily meals and round-the-clock snacks included in the nightly rate.

Cons: Horses are the major attraction here, so non-riders might be happier at a ranch with a broader range of additional activities. 

This 3,000-acre Sonoran Desert oasis has been owned and operated by the same family for generations. They take pride in offering personalized service, a welcoming atmosphere, and excellent value.

Guest rooms have tiled floors, solid wood furniture, and private patios. Local artwork adds panache, and the sprawling five-bedroom hacienda is a good choice for large groups. 

The ranch owns one of the largest private herds of horses in Arizona and guests are paired with one horse for the duration of their stay. A variety of guided rides are scheduled, from fast-paced trots to gentle walks where riders and wranglers have time to appreciate the flora and fauna. Nightly entertainment includes moonlight bonfires, whip-cracking demos, and a cowboy chorus. 

COVID-19 policies can be found here.

Rocking Horse Ranch Resort

Book Rocking Horse Ranch

Location: Highland, New York

Typical starting/peak prices: $659/$999

Includes: All meals and activities

Pros: If you’re looking for family fun that is an easy drive from New York City, you’ve hit the jackpot. Extensive programming for children allows parents to enjoy some adults-only time. 

Cons: This rambunctious ranch is not the place to vacation if you’re seeking tranquility. Meals are filling but by no means gourmet. 

Located in the wooded foothills of the Shawangunk Mountains a few hours from New York City, Rocking Horse Ranch is tailor-made for families. 

Guest rooms are in either the Main Lodge or the adjacent motel-style Oklahoma Building. Rooms have faux-log furnishings, cowboy-themed bedding, Wi-Fi, and flat-screen cable TVs. Larger rooms with two queen beds and bunk beds sleep six people comfortably, and three homestyle meals per day and all snacks are included in the price. 

Over 100 horses call the ranch home and the extensive year-round riding program is at its core. The network of interlocking trails provides ample room to walk, trot, and canter and the wranglers offer rides to suit first-timers and seasoned regulars. 

The supervised children’s program is also top-notch. Infants and toddlers have their own age-appropriate nursery while their older siblings may attend day camp. Finally, a water park, nightly entertainment, and arcade ensure that kids are never bored.

COVID-19 policies can be found here.

C Lazy U Ranch

Book C Lazy U Ranch

Location: Granby, Colorado

Typical starting/peak prices: $790/$1,200

Includes: All meals and activities

Pros: A full-service spa is the place to pamper sore muscles after a day of riding. The comprehensive children’s program gives parents plenty of kid-free time to enjoy that massage.

Cons: You’ll need to change out of your riding clothes for the upscale dinner.

C Lazy U Ranch has been introducing families to the traditions of the American West for over 100 years. While not for those watching their wallets, the all-inclusive model and high-end accommodations and meals still mean it offers strong value for the price.

Locally-owned, this classic dude ranch sits on 8,500 pristine acres within an unspoiled landscape that supports a wealth of plant life and colorful wildflowers. As such, keep an eye out for animals like moose, black bears, elks, and eagles. 

While guests may encounter a few bumps on the riding trails, the upscale guest rooms and recently remodeled cabins are smoother sailing. Stone fireplaces, exposed beams, and reclaimed timber trim are characteristic complements to the Continental Divide surroundings, and all are equipped with refrigerators, heated bathroom floors, and Keurig coffee machines. Roomy cabins with bunk beds work especially well for families. 

Programming is anchored by extensive year-round horsemanship and horseback riding opportunities along with a patchwork of trails. However, if inclement weather hits, there’s also a heated indoor riding arena. 

Yoga, fly fishing, trap shooting, hatchet throwing, and a zip line course are popular pastimes in addition to equestrian sports, and in cold weather, snow tubing, ice skating on the pond, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing round out the offerings. Each winter morning, guests may join the wranglers on the feed wagon and watch the herd of horses eats their breakfast. 

You’ll build up an appetite in the mountain air and three full meals are included in the daily rate, which helps offset the higher price. Dinner is an elegant four-course experience with an award-winning wine program, led by an on-site sommelier.

COVID-19 policies can be found here.

4UR Ranch

Book 4UR Ranch

Location: Creede, Colorado

Typical starting/peak prices: $957/$1,112

Includes: All meals and activities

Pros: With three daily meals, early morning coffee served on the porch, and a bottomless cookie jar brimming with just-baked treats, there are ample opportunities to sample the delectable cuisine. The extensive kid’s menu should tempt even finicky eaters. 

Cons: 4UR Ranch is a digital detox with no cell phone service, no in-room telephones, and no televisions.

Nestled in a wisp of a valley in the San Juan Mountains, explore your inner cowboy and a taste of the Wild West along the banks of the Rio Grande River.

Guest rooms are divided between four cottages and rooms have sturdy wood paneling, simple Shaker-style furniture, and plush bathrobes. Porches present panoramic views from the perch of comfy rocking chairs.

Horseback riding and an extensive horsemanship program anchor the resort. Novices gain confidence in the arena before heading out onto the wilderness trails while more savvy riders can book an all-day ride through the Rio Grande Forest. Fly-fishing, hiking, a dip in the soothing natural hot springs, and evening campfires are also all on the daily schedule.

Additionally, a stellar children’s program includes riding, a weekly rodeo, hayrides, and lots of opportunities to play with the barn animals. 

COVID-19 policies can be found here.

Wildcatter Ranch

Book Wildcatter Ranch

Location: Graham, Texas

Typical starting/peak prices: $167/$293

Includes: Activities

Pros: The steakhouse serves some of the finest hand-cut beef in the Lone Star State. 

Cons: Cabins are grouped fairly tightly, so you may hear your neighbors. 

For a dude ranch vacation with ample charm, pack your Stetson hat and escape to Wildcatter Ranch Resort in North Texas Hill Country ranch, just 90 miles from Dallas.  

Cabin suites and main building hotel rooms utilize natural materials like wooden bed frames and stone fireplaces, and in spite of mounted taxidermy, the look is genuine gaucho over kitschy. High ceilings and porches with panoramic views accentuate the sense of space. 

With 25 miles of lightly-tread riding trails rambling across the ranch, couples may have a trail all to themselves. Learn additional cowboy skills such as ranch roping, or if you prefer to kick-back, enjoy the scenery on an escorted Jeep tour. The infinity-edge pool is the perfect place to watch the sunset while sipping a glass of local wine. 

COVID-19 policies can be found here.

Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort

Book Alisal Ranch

Location: Solvang, California

Typical starting/peak prices: $710/$900

Includes: Breakfast and dinner

Pros: The spring-fed lake is a scenic bonus for outdoor lovers. The property’s two 18-hole golf courses and six tennis courts offer a range of clinics and lessons and the top-notch spa is worth the splurge. 

Cons: Alisal Ranch is expensive and there are similar options available elsewhere for less. Also, there are no televisions or telephones in guest rooms.

Gracious Alisal Ranch is situated on 10,000 rugged acres in California’s Santa Ynez Valley, the heart of Santa Barbara County’s wine region. The ranch is surrounded by dozens of wineries, which is convenient for sampling top vintages once you’re out of the saddle. 

Rooms and suites feature cozy wood-burning fireplaces, plus tasteful accents like reclaimed barn wood paneling, and fine linens covering the pillow-soft beds.  

The extensive riding program is led by experienced wranglers and there are 50 miles of trails dipping through verdant glens, grass-covered hills, and riverbanks. Book the popular breakfast ride and you’ll start your day with an easy trail ride before indulging in a Chuckwagon breakfast served by a crackling campfire.

Room rates are for two and include breakfast and dinner daily, which adds value to the seemingly expensive rate. The evening meal is a traditional affair, with men asked to wear collared shirts and sport jackets.

COVID-19 policies can be found here.

Read our full review of Alisal Ranch here

Conestoga Ranch

Book Conestoga Ranch

Location: Garden City, Utah

Typical starting/peak prices: $132/$225

Includes: Accommodation only

Pros: The location feels miles away from the stress of modern life. Guests are saturated in serenity without lacking creature comforts.  

Cons: Conestoga Ranch is more an immersion into nature than it is a deep dive into cowboy culture.

This remote Utah ranch is a bucolic retreat on the shores of Bear Lake. Surrounded by rolling hills and mountain peaks, the area is home to numerous caves filled with otherworldly stalagmite formations. 

Guests sleep in glamping tents outfitted with electricity, luxurious bathrooms, claw foot soaking tubs with room for two, and cushy beds. Or, dive into the pioneer experience and stay in one of the Conestoga wagons, based on the authentic 19th-century design. 

Guided horseback rides showcase the area’s beauty and the wranglers are so genuinely friendly, you’ll feel like they’re your country cousins by the end of your stay. In summer, the sparkling waters of Bear Lake are a wonderland for fishing, kayaking, and swimming. If you prefer your fun on dry land, hiking, biking, and sunrise yoga are also enticing possibilities.

COVID-19 policies can be found here.

Westgate River Ranch Resort & Rodeo

Book Westgate River Ranch Resort & Rodeo

Location: Lake Wales, Florida

Typical starting/peak prices: $201/$238

Includes: Most activities

Pros: The standard trail ride lasts for 45 minutes, which is an excellent length for beginners and rusty riders. The wide variety of both accommodations and activities also makes it popular with multi-generational vacationers. 

Cons: The ranch feels somewhat corporate rather than authentically Western.

If you thought Florida was nothing but spring breakers, early-bird dinner specials, and a certain black-eared mouse, welcome to one of the state’s last wide-open tracks of wilderness. Westgate River Ranch Resort & Rodeo is located on 1,700 acres overlooking the Kissimmee River, and is one hour south of Orlando, making it an appealing add-on to a theme park vacation. 

The ranch offers a variety of comfortable accommodations including lodge rooms, cabins, glamping tents, and decked-out tipis. Each tipi provides luxurious linens, a fireplace, a cast iron soaking tub, and a private patio. 

Saddle up and go for a guided 45-minute trail ride or try not to get thrown from the mechanical bull. If horseback riding isn’t your thing, there’s also skeet shooting, tennis, fishing, swimming, line dancing, and archery. Our pick is the weekly Saturday rodeo, where experienced contestants fight to hold onto a wild bull. 

When you’re ready to dine, know that the menu leans towards meat and potatoes, with few options for vegetarians or those who favor clean eating. 

COVID-19 policies can be found here.

FAQs

What is a dude ranch?

A dude ranch is a Western-style resort typically featuring rustic-chic accommodations and a wide range of outdoor-centric activities, including horseback riding, fishing, hiking, roping, roasting marshmallows, chuckwagon dinners, and more. 

Dude ranches are often set on hundreds (or thousands!) of acres of land offering plenty of wide-open spaces and on-site trails, ponds, lakes, and more. Many dude ranches are all-inclusive resorts where all meals, drinks, and activities are included. However, other guest ranch stays have a la carte options. Some dude ranches require minimum stays of anywhere from two nights to a week, but others allow you to book just one night.

How much does a dude ranch vacation cost?

Dude ranch vacation costs can vary quite a bit. It depends heavily on the season (peak summer dates will be the most expensive), as well as whether it’s all-inclusive or not.

Though all-inclusive options can come with an initial sticker shock, it pays off to do the math on how much meals and activities will cost at other dude ranches since sometimes the all-inclusive route can actually come out cheaper in the end.

Dude ranches span a wide range and there are budget options available for under $200 per night all the way up to decadent luxury stays packed with amenities and perks that can start from over $1,000 per night. 

What do you do at a dude ranch?

Horseback riding is the main attraction at most dude ranches, but there are plenty of additional activities, including fishing, swimming, archery, and even lounging at on-site pools to keep non-equestrians busy.

Expect wholesome entertainment like toasting marshmallows under a starry sky, or listening to a chorus of cowboys singing country music hits by the campfire at night. Food options can also range from casual barbecues to gourmet meals depending on the ranch. 

Are ranch vacations safe?

The CDC has stated that travel within the US is safe for fully vaccinated travelers, and experts say hotels are safe with the proper precautions taken. 

Dude ranches also often present an even safer and more attractive vacation option right now since many offer standalone cabins and most ranches feature plenty of space for social distancing and focus on spending time outdoors. 

More great outdoor vacation ideas

  • Best hotels near national parks
  • The best US mountain resorts for all seasons
  • The best glamping destinations in the US
  • The best beach hotels in the US
  • The best campsites in the US

Sign up for Insider Reviews’ weekly newsletter for more buying advice and great deals.

You can purchase syndication rights to this story here.

Disclosure: This post is brought to you by the Insider Reviews team. We highlight products and services you might find interesting. If you buy them, we get a small share of the revenue from the sale from our commerce partners. We frequently receive products free of charge from manufacturers to test. This does not drive our decision as to whether or not a product is featured or recommended. We operate independently from our advertising sales team. We welcome your feedback. Email us at [email protected]

Source: Read Full Article