Call it the Yellowstone effect. Travelers seem to be seeking out authentic experiences that offer a taste of what it’s like to be on Dutton Ranch in greater numbers than ever before. (Television appeal aside, it’s a nice change of pace from catching some rays on the beach, going skiing, renting a lake house, venturing to the city, or visiting a fairytale European castle.)
This increased interest in traveling to the American frontier actually closely aligns with what many parents and kids hope to do on a getaway. Access to endless natural beauty, outdoor adventure (horseback riding, hiking, archery, and more), chuckwagon breakfasts, BBQs, and even “little rancher” kids clubs make dude ranches one of the best family vacations. Ready for some Western fun? Check out the list below!
1. C Lazy U Ranch, Colorado
Situated in the Rocky Mountains, C Lazy U Ranch is an all-inclusive, four-season dude ranch that’s particularly well-suited for families (yes, even city slickers). The action-packed activity schedule ranges from horseback riding and fly fishing to beehive tours and cattle pushing. Meanwhile, the excellent kids and teens program supplies age-appropriate recreation supervised by trained counselors. Of course, budding cowboys and cowgirls (and their parents) are free to explore at their leisure and kick back in the cozy cabins too. It’s a longstanding tradition that everyone comes together at the end of the day to swap stories around the campfire.
2. Alisal Ranch, California
Just outside the Danish village of Solvang sits a 10,000-acre working cattle ranch that’s all-American. Alisal Ranch exudes Western charm and delivers tons to do for guests of all ages—from horseback riding and guided mountain e-bike tours to archery and stargazing. At the same time, it’s very much a luxury resort, which means swish accommodations and upscale amenities such as tennis courts, a pool, a spa, two golf courses, and wine tasting. The most special moments? Seeing your LOs interact with their surroundings in meaningful ways, whether that’s gathering eggs at the barnyard or running around on a scavenger hunt.
3. The Ranch at Rock Creek, Montana
Proof that a dude ranch vacation doesn’t have to be all rustic, The Ranch at Rock Creek takes a decidedly luxurious approach to grange life without sacrificing the true spirit of a Wild West vacation. During the morning and afternoon sessions at the Flint’s Forest Rangers Kids Club, children get to view wildlife, learn about cowboy history, mine for sapphires, discover aquatic life, play lawn games, ride ponies, and go geocaching. That gives parents plenty of time to relax at the spa or take a fly fishing lesson. Traveling with babies or tots? The property provides car seats, highchairs, cribs, pack ‘n plays with sheets, and babysitting services.
4. Rainbow Trout Ranch, Colorado
Rainbow Trout Ranch transports guests back to a simpler time when cell phones and social media didn’t exist. It’s a great place to take the whole gang for some screen-free fun. Even tech-obsessed teens will stop scrolling when given the opportunity to saddle up for horseback riding or fishing in the Conejos River. Supervised activities for younger kiddos—or as they’re called on the ranch, buckaroos and cowpokes—include hayrides, singalongs, hot dog roastings, and swinging ropes. You’re all destined to leave with cherished memories that will last a lifetime as well as adorable family photos of y’all donning cowboy hats.
5. The Red Rock Ranch, Wyoming
With horseback riding, fly fishing clinics, cookouts, square dancing, a superb kids program, and a saloon for parents, it’s easy to see why families flock to The Red Rock Ranch, a cell service-free zone in Bridger-Teton National Forest near Jackson Hole. Young dudes can look forward to hitting the trails with the head wrangler as well as learning about brushing, saddling, and bridling. Smaller buckaroos aren’t left out either, thanks to leadline rides in the barn area. Most guests book the six-night all-inclusive package (perfect if the kiddos have a week off from school), which covers activities, meals, and snoozing in log cabins.
6. Greenhorn Ranch, California
The pioneering spirit of the Wild West is still very much alive at Greenhorn Ranch. Families have been coming to this property in Northern California’s Lost Sierras for the last 60 years to commune with nature, experience authentic Western hospitality, and play cowboy for a few days. It has all the traditional ranch stuff you’d expect—horseback riding, fishing, line dancing, and skeet shooting—plus a handful of activities specifically geared towards kids like leather working, gold panning, and horseshoe painting. There are also more contemporary leisure pursuits such as yoga, golf, and whiskey tastings for parents.
7. Reid Creek Lodge, Wyoming
An authentic working ranch set on 300,000 acres in Wyoming, Reid Creek Lodge differs from other properties in that it’s a private retreat for one group only. The main lodge has ample communal spaces and seven bedrooms that sleep 22 people—so it’s a great option for multigenerational families. It also comes with a personal chef and guides who will gladly create custom itineraries. Think horseback riding, fishing, stargazing, skeet shooting, wildlife viewing, hiking, archery, e-mountain biking, and overnight camping. Keep in mind that Reid Creek Lodge is only open in the summer. Maybe it’s time to start planning a family reunion for next year.
8. Tanque Verde Ranch, Arizona
Nestled on 60,000 acres of cacti-studded Tucson desert, Tanque Verde Ranch serves up an authentic dude ranch experience that’s great for families looking to immerse themselves in the spirit of the American West, go on rugged adventures, and snap some souvenir photos with a beautiful backdrop. Keen to keep active kiddos busy from sunrise to sunset? You’ve come to the right place. Enroll ‘em in trail rides, horse grooming, dodgeball, horseshoe painting, crafts, nature walks, and guided fishing. The cowboy cookouts on Wednesdays and Saturdays invite guests to chow down on ranch cooking and sing along to live music.
9. Vee Bar Guest Ranch, Wyoming
Vee Bar Guest Ranch deserves a tip of the (cowboy) hat for its family-friendly atmosphere and offerings. In fact, this year-round retreat is so confident in its ability to educate, entertain, and exhaust kiddos, it guarantees your offspring will be wiped out by the end of the day. Given that horseback riding, fishing, and saloon games are all up for grabs, we don’t see any reason why that wouldn’t be the case. Kids aged six and older can mosey along the trails, while younger children do lead-around rides by the barn. The fun continues into the evenings with campfire games, live music, and s’mores roasting. Private cabins await when it’s time to hit the hay.
10. Wildcatter Ranch, Texas
Located just 90 minutes from Dallas-Forth Worth International Airport—though it feels like a world away from the big city—in the heart of Texas Hill Country, Wildcatter Ranch mixes rugged adventure, comfortable accommodations (the spacious cabin suites are especially great for families), and resort amenities like a pool to cool off on hot Texas days. In addition to trotting around miles of horseback riding trails, guests can learn to care for these majestic creatures, go feed the animals, or try their hand at tomahawk throwing, ranch roping, and archery guided by local cowboys. What little kiddo wouldn’t love a pony ride?