Dude Ranch Vacation Adventures

We long for memories that will last a lifetime, so why take a dull vacation?  Most of us recall a vacation which left us feeling somewhat disappointed.  We pack our bags and leave with high expectations, only to find hotels that don’t resemble the pretty photos in the brochure.  In our case, the brochure failed to mention the room’s small size, the creaky floors, and leaky sink.  We dropped our bags in the teeny-tiny room and headed off to the fairgrounds.  Both the weather and the fair were dreary.  We drove through town and everything was closed but McDonalds.  We ordered takeout and watched television in our cramped quarters, with the annoying reverberation of the dripping faucet in the background.   The rest of our holiday in the ghost-like town was a blur.  Why spend your time and money doing something boring?  Instead, throw caution to the wind and take an exciting vacation.  A trip to a dude ranch may be just the thing.

Dude ranches offer excitement and fun for all ages.  Harkening back to the Old West, they provide the opportunity to mentally and physically associate with nature.  At some ranches guests can live like cowboys, but don’t be fooled into thinking that all dude ranches are the same.  In fact, many ranches offer comfort and luxuries galore, a far cry from rising at the crack of dawn to rope cattle.  Some ranches are rustic while others offer resort like experiences, so it’s important to decide what type of atmosphere is right for you.   With amenities such as swimming pools, spas, and fine dining, dude ranches are rising in popularity all across North America.  Many are located in beautiful mountain settings and provide outdoor entertainment such as golf, swimming, fishing, and horseback riding.  Evening activities can include rustic cook-outs and campfires to elegant dining with evening musical entertainment.  Several offer guests a tranquil environment and boast of rooms with no modern day distractions like televisions or telephones.  Not only do ranches vary in accommodations and amenities, they vary in price with some being all inclusive.  In many states, dude ranches join associations designed to establish high standards in the industry and to ensure vacationers are met with proper western hospitality.

The word “dude” referred to travelers, tourists, and visitors from the east.  Dude ranching evolved in the mid 1800’s originating in the Rocky Mountain region for hunting and the southern plains for cattle ranching.  In the Rocky Mountains, local settlers acted as guides and men began to travel for pleasure to hunt in the great outdoors.  Many slept under the stars and enjoyed experiencing the rustic lifestyle of the west.   In contrast, Buffalo Bill Cody once led a group of hunters from New York who brought French chefs and waiters along.  They dined in formal wear and used fine linens, china, and silver. Travelers increased as the railroad expanded and camps became permanent bases for expeditions.  The formation of Yellowstone National Park spiked further interest in the western experience.  In the Southern Plains, the cattle industry spread due to the post civil war cattle boom and industrialization.  Life on the plains was difficult.  Lonely ranchers welcomed visitors to the isolating plains and abundant wildlife attracted sportsmen.  Ranchers provided hospitality, a horse, and hunting grounds, in exchange for the company and prized game offered by the sportsmen.  In the mid 1800’s, cattle ranches increased in number due to population growth on the east coast.  Coupled by the rising demand for beef and expansion of the railroad, cattle ranches gained further appeal to sportsmen.  Harsh winters caused ranchers to begin to charge for their hospitality.  Government and railroad advertising of National Park expansion and the western experience increased the popularity of dude ranches.  The development of the automobile caused Americans to explore travel within the United States, thus dude ranches became an accessible, affordable vacation.

Now a popular tourist industry, dude ranches offer guests a unique, unforgettable vacation in a scenic setting.  Most are open year round and take pride in outstanding services and accommodations.  In many cases, guest ranches are operated at the homes of the owners where visitors are treated like friends of the family.  Generally located in remote areas, dude ranches offer a great escape from typical urban and suburban living.  Whether you choose to sleep under the stars or slumber in a beautifully appointed guest room, it can be a vacation tailored to meet personal specifications.   There are opportunities to sight-see, relax, explore nature, and partake in stimulating outdoor activities.  Delight in a formal or informal atmosphere, up-to-date or rustic setting, relaxed or active ambiance, guaranteed to be a one of a kind experience you’ll never forget.  Don’t waste your time and hard earned money on a lackluster vacation.  Take an American adventure.  Let the beautiful land and sky create a majestic backdrop for your memories.  Capture the spirit of the old frontier, rich in history, legends and lore.  Saddle up and let your Wild West experience begin today!

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Donna Read
9 years ago

Why not try Greenhorn Creek Guest Ranch located in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range near Quincy, CA? This beautiful ranch offers something for everyone. You can even tailor your vacation to suit you and your family’s needs! Go ahead, look it up and see for yourself!

9 years ago

Look: I look at it this way, After I Retired—What difference does it make where one goes!! its like ”Going on Vacation–From a Vacation”!! So let it all hang out enjoy–We paid our Deus! Just Do It !!!

9 years ago

Our family spent 3 memorable Augusts in the 1970’s at White Grass Ranch in Moose, WY. It is now in Grand Teton National Park. I can personally recommend 3 dude ranches in WY: R Lazy S near Teton Village, Gros Ventre River Ranch near Kelly, WY and T+ (T Cross) Ranch in Dubois, WY. There is a dude ranch directory. Eaton’s Ranch in Wolf, WY was one of the first in the state.

9 years ago

How about searching for dude ranches on the web. Come on, we don’t have to be spoon fed everything because we are over 50 or 60. If you are reading this, you are capable of a simple search – dude ranches in the United States. Try it.
If you had listed several, then someone (an aarper, perhaps??) would have accused you of favoritism…..go figure.
Members, keep you mind alert…do a little finger work.

9 years ago

I can’t believe the number of lazy wimps who complained about not having a list, pictures, etc. You have an entire internet at your fingers and you’re too lazy to use it. Thanks to those who did the work for the lazies…

9 years ago

Loved the article and I found two websites that are great resources for choosing a Dude Ranch. and

9 years ago

After reading more of the comments I thought that I would offer some recommendations. The Dixie Dude is rustic, the Running R offers a cattle drive, the Silver Spur is very nice and fun and the Mayan is most popular. It’s western, very guest oriented and has been run by the same family since it originated over 50 years ago. These are the ones that I recommend. All but the Running R offer 3 full meals a day. The Mayan is the closest to town. I hope this helps. Oh, Bandera is 50 miles northwest of San Antonio. The population is 957.

9 years ago

Check out Bandera, Texas, Cowboy Capital of the World. It’s nothing but guest ranches. And, the town is fun, too.

9 years ago

This is article is merely a marketing presentation. As far as it goes it is good. It should include a selection of links to a samplimg of quality Dude Ranches in a various parts of the country and email addresses for the readers to find out more info.

9 years ago

Good article and I agree that you can search the web and come up with scores of dude ranches in any area, but it would be too broad. I’d like to see references to dude ranches that are friends to AMAC, maybe as a separate link on the web site rather than embedded in an article.

Eugene Kenney
9 years ago

I grew up playing cowboys and indians. Now how about a real cowboy experience. Give us that list of Dude Ranches?

9 years ago

SCROOGLE the search term! Do NOT GOOGLE! SCROOGLE is a search engine that does NOT collect demographic data to sell to advertisers! Let’s cut spam!

Others are Duck Duck Go; Dogpile. OK, use google this one, last time, to find these search engines that are safe!

9 years ago

I know personally 2 Dude Ranches outside of Cody Wy. The first is the 7D Ranch in Sunlight Basin and the second is Rimrock Ranch on the Northfork. Both offer remarkable vacations.

9 years ago

Great article. You should contact several of the Dude Ranches and sell advertisements. There seems to be a huge demand from members for the information..
Personally, I have had all the experience I need on ranches having grown up on one. Too many broken bones, rattlesnakes, stubborn cows and bad weather for me. I would like to take my grandson on a Dude vacation. Trust me, it’s an experience you will never forget.

9 years ago


9 years ago

The reason everyone is asking for a list of recommended ranches, is because, as the article says in the beginning: “the brochure failed to mention the room’s small size, the creaky floors, and leaky sink, yada, yada, yada”. We’ve all had at least one vacation that wasn’t what we thought it would be. False advertising isn’t illegal anymore, they just call it exageration advertising. We were hoping that the AMAC folks might be presenting this article to provide guidance to a Dude Ranch that wasn’t a dissapointment, if not a complete fraud. If you trust a Google search to provide factual, unbiased recommendations… you’re in for a severe disappointment.

9 years ago


Lou Meuche
9 years ago

My husband and I had one of the most memorable trips of our lifetime – and we have traveled all over the world – at a wonderful dude/working ranch. It is The Hideout in Shell, Wyoming. Try it. I guarantee you will love it!

Woody Williams
9 years ago

I too would like to try this vacation, so I did a search on “dude ranch vacations” and here’s just one of the lists I found.
If this doesn’t work, I guess you’ll have to copy and paste it into your addy bar or do a search yourself.

9 years ago

I think a dude ranch vacation would be great. If anyone has recommendation on the rustic side, please leave your comment

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