US President Theodore Roosevelt loved Wild West culture so much he bought two ranches and learned to ride, rope and hunt. But you don’t have to do any of those things to enjoy a ranch holiday in the USA. While the emphasis at many ranches is on riding, others focus on cuisine, or other special interest activities such as roping, fishing, mountain biking and even panning for sapphires. Some ranches are the height of luxury, while others provide a more rustic working ranch experience.
BEST RANCH FOR TEENS
Ranch at Rock Creek
covers nearly 7,000 acres at the base of Montana’s John Long Mountains. Accommodation is a mixture of 29 rooms in the Granite Lodge, glamping cabins and luxury log homes as well as a 19th-century barn, so there’s plenty of opportunity for teens to team up with guests of similar ages. There’s masses to do, from riding, shooting and fishing to mountain biking, hiking and wildlife viewing, plus snow sports in winter and a thrilling Ropes Course offering a ‘challenge by choice’ adventure that includes zip lines and rope bridges. And for screen-obsessed teens there’s geocaching using GPS devices to locate ‘hidden treasure’.
BEST RANCH FOR COUPLES
Tucked away in Montana’s Bitterroot Valley, Triple Creek Ranch
is for those looking for a luxurious Western adventure à deux, with gourmet cuisine, fine wines and five-star service complementing the trail riding and many other on and off-ranch activities. Alternatively, there’s tennis, archery or simply relaxing by the pool or over a signature Huckleberry Lemondrop cocktail in the Rooftop Bar before dinner. And don’t miss the chance to pan for sapphires: Montana is rich in these precious gemstones and Triple Creek Ranch supplies all the necessary tools and equipment to help you find them. It is one of the most addictive, absorbing experiences you’ll ever encounter! We particularly love the horses at Triple Creek and the opportunity to ride like a cowboy in the open country at next door CB Ranch. Experience the thrill of Team Penning and cattle round ups.
BEST RANCH FOR RIDING ADVENTURE
Most ranches offer trail riding, which is excellent for those with little or no previous experience, but proficient riders might prefer something a little more adventurous. Ranch at Rock Creek
offers experienced riders the chance to explore snow-capped peaks and rolling pine trails on longer, customised treks; you’ll also have the opportunity to trot and lope on flatter ground. At Zapata you can spend the day herding bison with the wranglers, stopping to fix the occasional fence! At Triple Creek Ranch good riders can spend a day in ‘cowboy school’ then join ranch hands in the annual Spring Branding, rounding up the cattle and calves so they can be vaccinated and branded. Why not follow Theodore Roosevelt’s lead and learn to rope? Best horse? That’s King at Triple Creek.
BEST RANCH FOR FISHING
If you haven’t fly-fished before, Triple Creek Ranch
, in Montana’s Bitterroot Valley, is an excellent place to start: the ranch runs casting clinics to teach you how to tie your fly and cast a line before setting you loose on one of the property’s trout ponds (chef will be happy to cook your catch for lunch or dinner). Those with experience can pick up a fishing licence and fish either under their own steam or with an experienced guide. At Smith Fork Ranch in Colorado, start off with lightning fast cutthroat trout before progressing to the mighty Gunnison River for a wading / walking / trout trip on these gold medal waters. Note that all fishing on the Bitterroot River is catch and release to protect and preserve the stream-bred trout.
BEST RANCH FOR FAMILY GATHERINGS
Paws Up Ranch
is a working ranch in the heart of the Montana wilderness, with 10 miles of its 37,000 acres running alongside the Blackfoot River. The Paws Up list of outdoor activities, from riding, shooting and fishing to boating, hiking, kayaking, golf and even paintballing, makes this the ultimate Wild West playground. However, the ‘build your own experience’ package means you can add activities on a day-by-day basis which makes Paws Up particularly good value for money. Choose from big timber log homes to luxury camping under canvas. For those in search of something special, try the private Island Lodge at Salmon Lake.
BEST RANCH FOR THE GREAT OUTDOORS
Straddling the unspoilt Smith Fork River Valley in Colorado’s Western Slope region, surrounded by mountains and rolling meadows, Smith Fork Ranch
has one of the most jaw-droppingly beautiful locations in the west. The area was once home to the Ute Indians and you can ride some of the trails the Ute traversed as they hunted more than 100 years ago. Smith Fork also has access to 1.7 million acres of the Gunnison National Forest and West Elk Wilderness areas so whatever you’re doing – riding, mountain biking, shooting fishing or – the landscape is always the star of the show. And few ranches offer such wonderful cuisine and selection of well-chosen wines. At Smith Fork, you get the whole shooting match: beautiful scenery, exciting activities and superb cuisine.
BEST DUDE RANCH
is a 103,000-acre bison and guest ranch that sits north east of Alamosa, bordering Great Sand Dunes National Park. At this luxury Colorado dude ranch, guests can help herd bison and cattle, keep an eye on the herd’s health, help to fix fences and work in the leather shop. Meals are eaten together ‘family style’ either outside or in the dining rooms and you can expect to sample some of the delicious ranch-raised beef. Activities like fly fishing, whitewater rafting on the Colorado River, rock climbing and paddle boarding can also be arranged. With approximately 1,800 free-roaming wild bison and 300 cattle, Zapata is a true working ranch and guests can be as involved in the daily ranch operations as they wish. The lodge is built on the original Zapata homestead dating back to the late 1800s and 15 rooms are split over three buildings connected by a lit walkway. Meals are served “family style” in either of two dining rooms or outside. Ride with bison or across the sand dunes before a relaxing massage or leather workshop to really feel part of the operation. Visitors can check-in on Thursdays and Sundays and it is our recommendation to arrive on a Sunday as no ranch activities take place on this day.
For more information on ranch holidays in the USA
, contact our specialist on +44 (0)1242 787800.