Essential Guide to the Best Dude Ranch Vacations in North America

Do you ever wish that you could take your family back in time to a place with no technology and just spend it outdoors, marveling at your surroundings? Authentic dude ranch vacations will reconnect you with your family, allowing you to live in the moment with them without worries about cooking or cleaning, or arranging an itinerary.

A family vacation on a dude ranch is truly a magical adventure, one that you must experience first-hand to understand why millions of families around the world rave about them. Ranch life is beautiful and majestic and the landscape will take your breath away.

Tanque Verde Ranch – Tuscon, AZ

pool in the arizona desert for dude ranch vacations
Image Credit: Tanque Verde Ranch.

Established in 1868, Tanque Verde Ranch is an iconic property with a deep-rooted history in Tucson – so much so that for its 150th anniversary in 2018, Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild proclaimed March to be Tanque Verde Ranch Month.

Tucson is only 3.5 hours from Flagstaff, 1.5 hours from Phoenix, and 4.5 hours from Lake Havasu. Enjoy the desert sun poolside with mountain ridge views, or relax with a cocktail in the whirlpool.

The main attraction at this ultimate dude ranch is the 100+ horses available for various lessons and rides from sunup to sundown through miles of exciting trails, winding their way through the desert and mountain scenery. However, if your main focus is relaxation, simply head to the spa and relax the day away.

Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort – Solvang, CA

ranch sign
Photo by Alisal Ranch

Any time of year is perfect to visit The Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort. With a temperate climate year-round, it is located in the beautiful Santa Ynez Valley and renowned Santa Barbara County wine country. The Alisal is a working cattle ranch as well as a full-service resort and is privately owned and operated since 1946.

This one-of-a-kind resort blends the best of nature with exceptional golf and offers horseback riding, tennis, and fishing on a 100-acre private lake, fitness center, spa, children’s activities, and barnyard activities. Dude ranch vacations at this resort offer endless choices to keep you as busy as you wish to be.

Dining at Alisal Ranch is taken to a whole new level. Breakfast and Dinner are served at the Oval Lawn Tent and Creekside, lunch and drinks are served at The Chuckwagon Grill & Waggin’ Tongue Bar, drinks are served in the Oak Room, breakfast, lunch, and dinner are served at the River Grill, and the Ranch Grill.

If you are a foodie family or just enjoy having options, Alisal Guest Ranch would be an ideal choice.

Three Bars Ranch – Cranbrook, BC

the best dude ranch vacation in canada
Image Credit: Savoteur

Three Bars Guest Ranch is owned and operated by the Beckley Family and they truly wish for each and every guest to experience and enjoy life on their ranch. The main lodge overlooks the valley and you can see the Canadian Rocky Mountains and the Purcell Mountain range surrounding the ranch.

The ranch sits on more than 35,000 acres of diverse terrain which means that guests won’t have to do the same trail twice unless they wish to. Situated in between St Mary’s River and Perry Creek, guests can enjoy gorgeous horseback rides along the river or afternoons white water rafting.

Beautiful log construction makes up the main lodge and guest cabins and there are plenty of amenities to keep guests busy. Heated indoor swimming pool, outdoor hot tub, tennis court, recreation room, fitness center, and gift shop.

Three Bars Ranch has one of the best riding programs in Canada and the quality and care of their horses are evident every day on the ranch. Guests as young as six years old are allowed to take part in the trail rides and the wranglers are some of the best in the business.

Experience an authentic Canadian dude ranch at Three Bars Guest Ranch and don’t be surprised if you leave a little teary-eyed because your experience there was one of a kind.

Read all about our experiences at Three Bars Guest Ranch here.

Western Pleasure Guest Ranch – Sandpoint, ID

cozy ranch room
Image Credit: Western Pleasure Guest Ranch

Western Pleasure Guest Ranch has one of the best children’s programs available at a dude ranch. It is a mix of educational and fun, with hands-on experience being the centerpiece of the program.

The children’s program begins on Monday mornings and concludes on Thursday evenings, complete with a horse show, trophy, and ribbons. Each day builds on what they learned the day before, and it is truly a fantastic way for kids to unplug and bond with their horses.

The accommodations and amenities on the ranch are stunning and authentic western ranch style. There is an outdoor hot tub, recreation room lodge loft, and great room for guests to relax and enjoy during their downtime.

The family-owned guest ranch has been living on the property since 1940 and the ranch is truly a family-run affair. Some of the evening activities include a horse-drawn wagon ride, cowboy cookout, archery, scavenger hunt, hiking, fishing and so much more.

If you are looking for an authentic and immersive children’s program during your stay, Western Pleasure is a perfect choice for dude ranch vacations.

Siwash Lake Wilderness Resort – Bonaparte Plateau, BC

glamping tent
Image Credit: Siwash Wilderness Resort

The list of awards and affiliations for Siwash Lake Wilderness Resort is endless. National Geographic lists it as one of their Unique Lodges of the World and it was featured in Forbes in 2017. Sadly in the summer of 2017, a massive forest fire known as the Elephant Hill Wildfire swept through the area and destroyed parts of the resort, taking it out of business for the remainder of 2017 and 2018.

As the scenery and landscape have transformed quite dramatically, fire ecology is interwoven throughout their programs to showcase the daunting power and endless beauty of Mother Nature.

The horseback riding program at Siwash Lake Wilderness Resort is incredibly thorough and offers guests a full introduction to their horses and their way of doing things. Guests start with a full morning private orientation and then, in the afternoon, will practice their western riding skills in the indoor arena. For the remainder of their stay, guided trail rides are offered twice daily.

There are many different activities at the ranch, including speed boat, kayak, mountain bike, or river raft, Swimming, Lazy Tube Floats & Classic River Fly Fishing — there’s something for everyone!

The accommodations available are truly unforgettable. Guests have the option of staying in a pioneer-style glamping tent, a spacious room at the main ranch house, or the family-sized authentic Caribou Suite in the hand-hewn log barn.

This ultra-private hideaway in Siwash Lake offers you and your loved ones the opportunity to reconnect amid 10,000 acres of raw wilderness.

Bar W Guest Ranch – Whitefish, MT

running horses
Photo by Bar W Guest Ranch

The Bar W Guest Ranch is one of the few dude ranches where every age is welcome. They offer a children’s program for kids under 3 called their “Small Fries.” There is the “Cowpoke” program for kids aged 4-6 and the “Junior Wranglers” for kids aged 7-11.

The Bar W is a dream location to go horseback riding. The mountainous wilderness surrounding the ranch, the peaks of the Stryker Range, and the open meadows of Swisher Lake offer guests some breathtaking trail rides.

Even though The Bar W is located just 3.5 miles from Whitefish, guests will feel like they are a million miles away from civilization. You truly get the “Montana Experience” here at The Bar W.

The Bar W also offers many specialty weeks, including an adults-only week, a western cattle drive, a photography package, and a week devoted entirely to cowgirls of all ages.

For accommodations, guests have the choice of staying in the 6200 square foot main lodge, Amish-designed Cabin Suites, or their glamping tents located next to the pasture. Whichever you choose, you will be staying in true western comfort.

The Resort at Paws Up – Greenough, MT

glamping tents
Photo by Resort at Paws Up

It’s amazing how 37,000 acres at The Resort at Paws Up in Montana can actually bring your family closer together. This resort is almost too extraordinary for words and offers one of the best dude ranch vacations for your family. Take a look at this video showcasing a family vacation at Paws Up through the eyes of a child.

At the crossroads of incomparable luxury and unspoiled wilderness lies The Resort at Paws Up. This Montana Luxury Resort is situated in some of the most breathtaking country in the world.
This is truly The Last Best Place.”

The Resort at Paws Up

White Stallion Ranch – Tucson, AZ

arizona desert
Image Credit: White Stallion Ranch

The amenities offered and family discounts available at White Stallion Ranch are quite astounding. Kids under five years of age stay free, which is very rare for a dude ranch to offer. The 43 guest rooms located throughout the ranch are spacious and charming, with their own private patio.

Some of the amenities available for guests include a sparkling heated pool, hot tub, spa services, sports courts for tennis, basketball, volleyball, and badminton, fitness center, movie theatre, petting zoo, recreation room, gift shop, and bar.

The horseback riding options are also endless at White Stallion Ranch. Guests can enjoy half-day and full-day rides, cattle sorting, wine & cheese rides, beer & Cheetos rides, mountain rides, and hay rides.

The activities are a highlight at White Stallion Ranch, where you can watch an authentic rodeo, learn line dancing, or be treated to a wild west show of trick roping. Other activities include hiking, biking, archery, rock climbing, and shooting range.

The value of the experience at White Stallion Ranch is one of the main draws, while the possibilities are endless for your dude ranch vacation here.

Rainbow Trout Ranch – Antonito, CO

man on horse at dude ranch
Image Credit: Endless Family Travels

Michele at Endless Family Travels shares her suggestion for the best dude ranch vacations in North America, The Rainbow Trout Ranch. It is an all-inclusive dude ranch experience in Colorado.  Set in the mountains not too far from the New Mexico border, this 5-star ranch is a once-in-a-lifetime family getaway.  Owned by Doug and Linda Van Berkum, Rainbow Trout Ranch offers a full-service ranch experience with horse riding, fishing, hiking, and white-water rafting.  Not to mention a kids club and entertainment every night.

The main lodge serves as a central meeting place, dining area, reception, and shop.  Accommodations are beautiful log cabins set along the valley.  While the setting is rustic, the rooms, dining, and customer service are all 5-star.  The meals are hearty and delicious, and each evening there is a different theme and kind of entertainment.  From line dancing to hayrides, cowboy barbecue to a full Thanksgiving dinner – every night was better than the last.

Dude ranches are perfect to help educate your children on how to care for and work with animals.  At Rainbow Trout, there are kids’ clubs during the day that offer entertainment and learning experiences based on ranch life.  The Buckaroos for children ages 3-5, the Cowpoke group for kids ages 6-11, and Teenagers aged 12 and up.  

Horse-riding and hacks up into the hills are a big part of life on Rainbow Trout Ranch.  You will learn how to saddle a horse, how to ride, and then adventure out on the trails for an all-day ride.  And don’t worry, there are plenty of cowboy boots to borrow at the ranch – so there’s no need to purchase any special equipment.  For avid fishing enthusiasts, the river running through the ranch offers spectacular fly-fishing opportunities.

The Rainbow Trout Dude Ranch in Colorado will impress you with the balance of amenities and luxury and the homeliness, calm, and nature.  The opportunities to learn and gain ranch skills are balanced with lots of downtime and plenty of fun.  Rainbow Trout promises a family vacation like no other.

Ranchos de los Caballeros – Wickenburg, AZ

ranchos de los caballeros best dude ranches for families
Image Credit: Savoteur

Ranchos de los Caballeros is best known for its luxury guest ranch experience. Every family member will find something to do at this ranch with horseback riding, a golf course, and a full-service spa. Its beautiful accommodations, amazing amenities, and professional staff make it one of the best dude ranches for families. Cowboy dinners under the stars are served outside on their covered veranda, where guests gather to relax after a day of activities.

Their 18-hole golf course is not only challenging but also a very scenic experience. The full-service spa offers a relaxing alternative after a day on the ranch, and the swimming pool is a popular spot for kids and parents alike.

This ranch is conveniently located near historic Wickenburg, but with all that this guest ranch offers, you may not want to leave the ranch!

Whether you want to take your vacation to the next level or just add a little bit of extra fun to your Arizona escape, this all-inclusive dude ranch experience is a great way to experience the best of Arizona. Located just an hour’s drive from Phoenix, this dude ranch is easily accessible for families.

The Ranch at Rock Creek – Philipsburg, MT

cabin at best dude ranch in north america
Photo by Ellie’s Travel Tips

Ellie from Ellie’s Travel Tips shares her suggestion for the best dude ranch in North America, The Ranch at Rock Creek. Its owner Jim Maley promises guests once-in-a-lifetime adventures in a scenic valley year-round. Through balancing the authentic 19th-century lifestyle with luxurious all-inclusive amenities, this ranch in Montana has earned a spot on the “World’s First Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Guest Ranch.”

The ranch, nestled along a blue-ribbon trout stream, offers guests a unique fly fishing experience during their stay. Horseback riding is also popular on the property as guests enjoy spectacular views of the awe-inspiring Montana landscape. Later, guests can head over to the ranches shooting sports complex featuring trap, skeet, and various pistol and rifle ranges. For more adventurous guests, hit the trails through cross-country mountain biking, hiking, and geotagging activities.

Some of the notable amenities of the Ranch at Rock Creek are reserved access to the fitness center, hot tub, and pool. The all-inclusive fare also includes evening entertainment like shuffleboard, billiards, karaoke, board games, bowling, and more. The accommodation amenities include daily housekeeping services, custom duvet covers, bathrobes and slippers, wireless internet, televisions, and air conditioning.

Guests can start their day off with breakfast in the Buckle Barn, where they will enjoy a hearty breakfast like farm-fresh scrambled eggs or lemon ricotta blueberry pancakes. After tackling the morning activities, guests will return to the Buckle Barn to refuel with a Montana Wagyu burger, Copper City chop sandwich, or a light salad. The dinners at the ranch change daily, varying between barbeque, tex-mex, and other cuisines, offering delicious meals to complete the culinary experience.

When booking a stay at The Ranch at Rock Creek, guests have the option of staying at the Granite Lodge, the Historic Barn, a glamping cabin, or a luxury home. While the Granite Lodge offers nine ranch accommodations boasting ultimate authenticity and luxury, the Historic Barn aims to provide a more rustic experience.

With a minimal environmental impact, the glamping cabins uphold the luxury standard set on the property. Finally, luxury homes vary from two-story log homes to cozy single-bed cabins. These homes are the most private accommodation option for those looking to enjoy an intimate stay.

You can catch Ellie on Instagram, where she shares more travel tips!

Sundance Guest Ranch – Ashcroft, BC

horse looking at valley
Photo by Sundance Guest Ranch

Sundance Guest Ranch is located just four hours from Vancouver and is in one of the warmest, sunniest areas of Canada, with sweeping panoramic views of the Thompson River Valley.

Kids ages eight and up are allowed to participate in the riding program, and kids under eight can enjoy a parent-led pony ride in the arena. Riders are broken up into Levels from 1 to 3 and include walking-only all the way up to trotting and loping.

When you’re not out riding, enjoy the many activities the ranch has to offer!

  1. Sunny outdoor decks
  2. Free-play games room, authentic outdoor horseshoe set, walking and hiking trails, a billiards room, and a movie lounge.
  3. Swimming Pool
  4. Kids games room
  5. On-Call massage therapist (cost not included) 

Sundance is almost as famous for the food as it is for the horses! The main dining room overlooks the pastures where the horses graze. It is quite a sight to watch over 100 horses being let out to pasture while you enjoy a glass of wine. There is also an adults-only lounge where parents can get a break from their kids and relax in front of the huge stone fireplace.

Kay El Bar Guest Ranch – Wickenburg, AZ

Image Credit: Kay El Bar Ranch.

Imagine hearing horses galloping in the corral and a gentle breeze rustling through your hair while you look out over an expansive plain in the Arizona sunshine. You have just been welcomed to Kay El Bar, a historic guest ranch in Arizona’s Wild West, where they offer all-inclusive vacation packages, riding through miles of fields and across mountain ridges.

The ranch offers an authentic experience for those seeking a true cowboy vacation with its strong Western flavor. Val Kilmer’s family formerly owned this now-famous ranch from 1967 to 1971 before being sold to new owners.

The Kay El Bar Guest Ranch is one of the oldest in the state of Arizona, built in the early 1900s and listed on both the Arizona and National Registers of Historic Places. It opened full-time as a guest ranch in 1926. Arizona offers fabulous winter weather, and the ranch’s intimate size (about 25 guests max) makes for a welcoming and relaxing vacation experience. 

Kay El Bar is a great destination for horseback riding because of its lovely climate, varied terrain, and gorgeous scenery. The horses are impeccably trained, and the head wrangler, Biscuit, will keep you entertained throughout the trail ride. Kids as young as five can take part in the riding program at Kay El Bar Ranch.

The majority of the accommodations are located in the Lodge, which all have private bathrooms and come in varying bedroom configurations. These rooms have a rustic theme with western artwork and Monterey furniture. The swimming pool and hot tub are located next to the Lodge for relaxing those muscles after a long day on the trails.

Big Bar Guest Ranch, Clinton, BC

working dude ranch
Photo by Big Bar Guest Ranch

If you want to get away from it all and unwind, Big Bar Guest Ranch is the ideal location. The private lake at Big Bar Guest Ranch is one of the main draws for families. Kids of all ages will love exploring by canoe or meandering down to check out the clan of beavers who have set up residence.

Use of the lake and boats are part of the all-inclusive package, and whether you are an avid fisherman or just love the competitive spirit of trying to catch the biggest fish, you will love spending your days soaking up the rays on the lake.

The horseback riding program offers 1-hour, 2.5 hours, and 6-hour (with cowboy cookout) riding options. Trail rides are in small groups led by one of their wranglers, and there are many different trails to meet your expectations.

There is a mix of accommodations in 5 different cabins spread around the ranch or nine hotel-style accommodations located in the heart of the ranch.

In the winter, you can enjoy two skating rinks, snowshoes and cross-country skiing trails, and Ice fishing holes. Sit by an outdoor fire in the afternoons with Hot Cocoa and s’mores, or enjoy a game of pool by the indoor fire in the old Log Home.

Free Rein Guest Ranch – Bridge Lake, BC

ranch house
Image Credit: Free Rein Guest Ranch

Free Rein Guest Ranch can accommodate up to 12 guests, which allows for an intimate experience during your stay. The horseback riding program is one of the most flexible programs available, allowing you to decide how you wish to spend your days.

You are welcome to venture out for all-day rides with lunch packed in your saddlebag. You can hang back at the ranch and take part in riding lessons if you choose. And kids have the option, depending on their ability level to ride with their parents or to be taught in the safety of the arena or out on the trails, supervised by wranglers.

Other activities on the ranch include mountain biking, hiking, canoeing, kayaking, swimming in the lake, relaxing in the sauna, and wildlife viewing.

If you are looking for a smaller, more intimate ranch experience, Free Rein Guest Ranch would be the ideal spot for you.

Whichever resorts you choose for your dude ranch vacations, you will be treated to an experience like no other. All of the dude ranches on this list will ensure that you make lasting memories. But just remember, once you experience your first dude ranch vacation, you will be hooked!

This post can also be viewed on Google web stories as The Best Dude Ranches in North America.

Travel Writer at Savoteur | + posts

Casandra Karpiak is a travel writer and owner of Savoteur. A Toronto native with Danish roots currently residing in British Columbia, her travel writing has been seen on The Associated Press wire, MSN, FOX, CBS, NBC, Entrepreneur, 24/7 Wall St, Times Daily, and many more. When she’s not traveling, she can be found at hockey arenas all over BC cheering on her two young sons.