6 Ranch Getaways for a Real Western Vacation

Dude ranching may not seem like a modern laidback getaway, but ranch vacations are experiencing a renaissance among travelers looking for something different yet domestic.

The ranching experience can vary from a quasi-spa experience to working on an actual working ranch, so be sure to read the description of your destination before committing to a stay.

However, if the idea of a getaway way out west sounds good to you, consider the following:

Table stakes for most guest ranches is trail rides and friendly folks. The 320 earns a seat at the table on that basis, but it has a couple of tricks up its sleeve.

First, the ranch is located on a branch of the Gallatin River that’s renowned for fly fishing, so it’s an exceptionally good destination for anglers. In addition, it takes a little more of a crafty angle, offering soap-making and wreath-making workshops.

And finally, it’s located near Yellowstone National Park, so the views are different – even more rugged and spectacular – and the air seems just a little sharper.

Working ranch? Not so much. But a great place to stay? Absolutely.

With a passel of awards in its poke (#1 resort in the U.S. and top family-friendly resort from Travel + Leisure, plus the #1 resort in the West and #5 resort in the world from Conde Nast Traveler), you’d expect Brush Creek to cleave toward luxury, and you’d be right.

Not one but three Wyoming properties make up Brush Creek, and that allows for a customized western vacation experience that can range from the very active to the very much chill-at-the-spa. However, at the heart of your customized western vacation experience is a working ranch that raises the Waygu beef the resort serves and strives to be a good steward of the land and water.

If this sounds special… well, that’s because it is.

If you’re looking to get dirty on your ranch vacation and really live the cowboy life, this is the place to go. Cherry Creek is a true working dude ranch in the sense that the dudes get to help with the work (if they so choose).

Options for guests include being a hand on an actual cattle drive, being a cowboy for a day, learning roping and riding skills, and working a roundup.

Other activities include fishing, hiking, shooting, trail rides, and UTV rides through the rugged landscape that borders the Tonto National Forest.

Of all the ranch destinations out west, this is the one that really makes you want to cowboy up. Yee-hah, pardner!

The Rainbow Trout experience starts with the lodge. It’s massive – the second largest wooden lodge west of the Mississippi. Sixteen cabins on site echo the lodge theme and provides a cozy habitat for up to eight people.

The “Rainbow Trout” part of the name refers to the fantastic fly fishing on the Rio Grande, and the “ranch” part is really about horses. There are pastures and corrals to check out, and trail rides for days.

However, the vacation part of a stay at Rainbow Trout is all about peace and quiet amidst the woods and mountains. The 600-acre ranch is surrounded by national-forest land, so you can be assured of plenty of solitude, making it a great place to unplug and decompress.

Dude ranches aren’t just an American thing. Canada’s version offers many of the same amenities as stateside ranches – riding, fishing, hiking – in a setting every bit as gorgeous as any U.S.-based ranch.

Warm and intimate for guests, Three Bars offers private access to great fly fishing, excellent mountain biking, river rafting, archery, and 35,000 acres of beautiful forests and meadows.

As an 80-year-old working cattle ranch with more than 120 horses and 140 head of cattle, Three Bars sticks close to the land. And when the land in question is the Canadian Rockies, that makes the experience even more memorable.

As the name suggests, the White Stallion Ranch has a lot of equine activities, but it’s probably better to think of this one as a horse resort than a working ranch. It’s extremely family-friendly, though, with gentle ponies for short trail rides, easy hikes, and a petting zoo for the kids.

For the older and more adventuresome, there’s rock climbing, shooting, fat-tire bike excursions, and longer rides with more up-tempo horses.

Everyone can enjoy the great food and spa-like amenities White Stallion offers, making this a combination of the best of all-inclusive resorts and dude ranches in one friendly package.

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