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Best of the West Dude Ranches Offering Top Notch Western Experiences

Horseback riding, cattle drives, fly fishing and wilderness adventures

Picture it ... the wide-open American plains, rustic ranches stretching for miles across the rolling foothills and plains. Open air in abundance, wildlife free and roaming, the rivers and streams natural and abundant. Historically, cowboys rode horseback to tend their herds and roam their sprawling ranches … the early romantic perspective of the western frontier freedom held sway in the eastern cities of the newly established United States of America. 

What the heck is a Dude Ranch?

exploring the western landscape at Triangle X Ranch (click any pic to enlarge)Back in the 1800’s, as the American western frontier was being established, to these westerners, a “dude” was a big-shot, city slicker. Early 19th century tourist interest in visiting a western ranch and exploring the “cowboy” lifestyle created the guest ranch or dude ranch opportunity. Once established and once visitors experienced a taste of the fresh-air frontier - fishing, hunting and horseback adventures of the wild west - these western plains ranches blossomed.

Outdoor activities abound here at Rainbow Trout  RanchFast-forward to the 1960’s where the term “dude” was made famous by the surfer culture as its euphemistic masculine reference. (“Dudette” was the feminine equivalent, but not very complimenting). What do you think of when you hear the term dude ranch?

Knowing this, I’d have to agree that dude ranch is a much better name than big-shot, city slicker ranch!

What’s not to love about a getaway at a dude ranch?

Consider the epicness of a luxurious ranch perched amid lush forests or rolling plains with scenery and outdoor adventure as far as the eye can see? Then dream of the fresh air, outdoor adventure awaiting as you:

  • the dude ranch ambiance at the White Stallion RanchExperience the wild west – it’s forests, rivers, plains and foothills
  • Luxuriate in a getaway of a lifetime at an authentic, quality, western ranch experience with all-inclusive luxury amenities
  • Enjoy abundant fresh-air, outdoor activities - horseback riding, cattle drives, overnight wilderness trips, hiking, fly fishing – while experiencing the western frontier.

GoGirlfriend’s Hot off the Press


A curated group of family owned and operated, multi-generational ranches, ‘best of the West’, promoting authentic adventure

Colleen Hodson, the host of bestduderanches.com is amply experienced to curate this listing of the “best of the best” dude ranches. Her amazing landscape views like at Hideout Lodge experience as Executive Director of the National Dude Ranchers Association for 19 years has afforded her the opportunity to visit and experience over 140 ranches offering a pretty unique insight to narrow the selection to choose eight of these as “best of the West” ranches.

experiencing the western naturalness at Three Bars Ranch All eight dude and luxury guest ranches have a combined total of 450 years of ranching expertise and are family operated. Daily activities at the ranches include a mix of horseback riding, wrangling, rodeos, fly- fishing, spas, hiking, cooking classes, horticulture, trap shooting, archery, boating and some offer winter snowshoeing, sleigh rides, overnight trips, sunrise campfires – among over 100 more options. All food and most activities are included at every ranch, taking the stress out of vacation planning.

So, where are these top 8 (now 10) dude ranches?

Located from Arizona to British Columbia, these “best of the best” dude ranches offer unique and diverse ranch experiences.

  • Tucson, Arizona - White Stallion Ranch ~ working cattle ranch adventures
  • Home on the range at Paradise Ranch, WyomingAntonito, ColoradoRainbow Trout Ranch ~ simple pleasures of ranch and water adventures
  • Sedalia, ColoradoLost Valley Ranch ~ Rocky Mountain ranch adventures
  • Buffalo, WyomingParadise Ranch ~ ranch experience in the foothills
  • Shell, Wyoming The Hideout Lodge ~ upscale authentic working cattle ranch
  • what possibly is not to love at Flathead Lake Lodge?Jackson Hole, WyomingTriangle X Ranch ~ ranch adventures in the shadow of the Grand Teton Range
  • Bigfork, MontanaFlathead Lake Lodge ~ unlimited horse and water adventures ranch
  • Whitefish, Montana - Bar W Guest Ranch ~  year-round dude ranch near Glacier National Park 
  • Sandpoint, Idaho - Western Pleasure Ranch ~ stunning views and fresh mountain air introducing you to the adventure and spirit of the West
  • Cranbrook, British Columbia, CanadaThree Bars Ranch ~ Canadian Rocky Mountain ranch adventures

All-in-all, bestduderanches.com is a great resource sussing out the top dude ranches across north America.

I’ve never ridden a horse, is a dude ranch for me?  

ranches cater to all skill levels like at Lost Valley RanchDude ranches are well-suited to families, couples and girlfriends looking for an experience in the wild west. No matter your experience with horses (novice or well-experienced), horse-back adventures are geared to the experience of the rider – so not to worry. And with the broad spectrum of activities offered, dude ranches mix and cater experiences to what the guests want to enjoy.

For women’s only, girlfriend getaways or couples-specific adults only adventures, we’ve loaded you up with some specific ranches to check out below.

Women’s Weeks in the wild west

Let your inner cowgirl out at White Stallion RanchWomen’s Weeks or Girls Getaway adventures allow your inner cowgirl to roam. Whether you’re an experienced rider or new to the western experience, these adventures will allow some girl time in a wild west setting.

Adults Only Dude Ranch experiences

Looking to escape the kids and have some solid adult time with your plus one. There’s a number of options that allow for a more relaxed, fresh air ranch experience without the kids. Here’s a few options courtesy of Colleen Hodson, to help you get on the trail:

I love that these dude ranches offer a different type of getaway experience. Take camping, but add the luxury of a western ranch experience complete with all the horseback and outdoor experiences you can imagine. Completely different from a city getaway, completely different from a Caribbean beach getaway or a cruise – this is a western immersive experience to show you the beauty and ruggedness of a grand swath of land spanning this country with a whole lot of fresh-air fun! Head on back to bestduderanches.com for more specific info.

Have you experienced a dude ranch? Roamed the mountain passes and valleys on horseback? Share with us your experience. We’d love to hear. Drop a comment below and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.


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