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Friday, August 12, 2011

Family-Friendly Dude Ranches

One of my online groups was talking about great family dude ranches, so I thought I'd include a list here of recommendations. Many dude ranches have spas, golf and other activities. Think about what you want in a vacation, and what will please everyone in your group when looking into them. Also look at the kids' programming - do they take the kids all day? Can the kids eat with the group, if you want to have a romantic dinner? Is the fee all-inclusive or a la carte?

Greenhorse Guest Ranch - This Quincy, CA ranch was recommended as a very friendly dude ranch experience, which included riding, campfires, BBQ dinners under the stars, Western dance lessons, fishing in a stocked trout pond, and comfortable accommodations.

Alisal - this Solvang, CA ranch was recommended, and is has a golf course as well. Several recommended it as a great place for multi-age families (or reunions) to go, since there's something for everyone.

Highland Ranch - this Northern California ranch offers boating, fishing, yoga, mountain biking, tennis and spa facilities. Lots of kids' activities too.

Drakesbad Guest Ranch - this Lassen, CA ranch offers swimming, fishing, horseback riding, hiking, campfires and more. And there's plenty to do in the surrounding area (Lassen Volcanic National Park).

Raskin Ranch - this Walker's Basin, CA is family-run, and is said to have a lot for the kids to do, with hay rides, BBQ, biking, swimming, fishing, sports and rec rooms.

Tanque Verde - this Tucson dude ranch is fabulous for the family. My daughter and I spend some time there -  she now loves horseback riding, in spite of her nerves before we went. Read a review of Tanque Verde dude ranch here. One mom said they have a fantastic kids' wrangler program, horseback rides for every level, hoedowns, cookouts, hiking, swimming and fishing.

Rancho de los Caballeros - I wrote about this Wickenberg, AZ dude ranch for Shape Magazine. They have kids' camp, which includes riding and nature programs.

White Stallion - this Tucson, AZ ranch came recommended by a mom who had a great trip there this year.

Lost Valley Ranch - 90 minutes outside of Denver, this ranch impressed one mom who took her sons this summer. She loved the staff and all the kids' activities.

One person recommended the Idaho Rocky Mountain Ranch. Read about it here.

Eaton's Ranch - this Wolf, WY ranch is family-owned and has been around for 125 years. The person recommending it has been three times and said her kids (who weren't riders before) are now able to ride anywhere on the ranch. She said they get repeat visitors frequently, because it's a safe, casual, fun place.

McGinnis Meadows Cattle and Guest Ranch -  The person who recommended this Libby, MT ranch has been three times with her four sons, and says she's not naturally a cowgirl. She loved the staff and said the place was peaceful, with lodging reminiscent of Ralph Lauren.

Covered Wagon Ranch - this Gallatin Gateway, MT ranch was described as small, rustic and lovely by the mom who went there recently.

Our friends at Travel Savvy Mom reviewed six other dude ranches (including the one I wrote about Tanque Verde) - check them out here.

Sunset Magazine has articles about dude ranches.

The Dude Ranch Association has extensive listings as well.


  1. Sorry to see that you did not include in your list of family friendly dude ranches. This is the only place in California that the kids can be kept engaged in an amazingly diverse mix of trail rides, arena events, white water rafting, kayaking, shooting sports, fishing, and more. And it is ALL included in the base price. The reviews are remarkable as well. Doug

  2. I could have used this post a few weeks ago! My neighbor was asking about California dude ranches for his sons (they're in elementary school). Too bad I couldn't point him to this: It's a really useful post.

  3. Thanks for the comments, Doug and Jennifer. Doug - glad you added one in. The list here is by no means exhaustive and really benefits by others' experiences. Jennifer - keep this in mind next time someone asks!