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Colorado Dude Ranches let guests experience the old west

Spectacular scenery.
Spectacular scenery.

This is the first in a series on the guest ranches of Colorado.

Ever wanted to try your hand at cattle herding or feel what it’s like to ride the open range as the cowboys used to do in early Western movies? There are guest ranches all over Colorado that are still functioning as they have for decades and the owners are willing to share this western way of life.

Dude Ranch welcome
Dude Ranch welcome
Melanie Pahl

As families and couples alike search for less expensive destinations closer to home, a unique experience awaits you right in our own backyard. Imagine riding through the Colorado River on your way to an outdoor breakfast cook out complete with flapjacks and home fries? Each guest ranch has its own distinctive characteristics ranging from cattle drives to “gold medal” fishing, all within spectacular settings throughout the Rocky Mountains. Each day will hold a different adventure where you will be transported back to a simpler time when men were cowboys and women didn’t ride side-saddle!

Never ridden a horse before? Not to worry, each ranch has a variety of horses for all ability levels and everyone goes through a “training course”. This way each guest is matched with a horse appropriate for their skills and you can learn in a safe environment. On the opposite end, if you are an experienced horseperson you may be given the opportunity to help your horse stretch its legs! Once you are assigned a horse, it is yours for the week which allows an exceptional bond to be formed.

Many dude ranches also offer children’s programs, so the whole family can go on vacation together. Kids are divided into groups according to age and given ranch-style activities that will keep them busy, safe and entertained. Some ranches also offer “adults only” weeks where there are no children allowed and the atmosphere is a bit more serene.

Typically guest ranches offer weekly rates that include lodging, meals, activities and all facilities. Everything you need is on the property and you are encouraged to park your car and leave it for the week. Some dude ranches will put you up in large “bunkhouses” that have private rooms with a central sitting area for socializing. These are great for larger families or groups that want to vacation together. Others book you into private cabins where you are afforded some more privacy. Most properties have a combination of accommodations so each guest or group can tailor their needs for the week. Meals are usually served in a large open dining room within a main lodge. Here you can meet fellow guests, hear about the adventures of the day and enjoy a place to relax after your ride. All guests eat together and do most activities together so by the end of the week, you’ll have made some new friends.

To find out more about the dude ranches in Colorado, go to the Dude Rancher’s Association website and the Colorado Dude and Guest Ranch Association’s website.
 

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