10 Best Family Dude Ranch Vacations

Dude Ranches for Families

Family Dude Ranch Vacations

I’ve long wanted to take my kids to a dude ranch. I even brought it up a month after I started Kidventurous as one of 5 Places I Can’t Wait to Visit with My Kids. Yet, four years later, I still have not enjoyed a family dude ranch vacation with my kids.

So, in an effort to get one step closer to planning a dude ranch vacation (maybe for 2016), I reached out to The Dude Ranchers’ Association, as well as my fellow family travel bloggers, for advice and suggestions. Take a look at the 10 best dude ranches for families.

1. Elk Mountain Ranch (Buena Vista, CO)
Located in the Rockies, Elk Mountain Ranch offers loads for families from daily trail rides and cookouts to fishing trips and even a kids’ rodeo at the end of the week. You’ll be outside plenty at this dude ranch, even camping out overnight, and be ready for a good square dance mid-week. For more on what to expect at Elk Mountain Ranch, check out Pure Wander.

elk mountain ranch

2. Mayan Dude Ranch (Bandera, TX)
Unplug at the Mayan Dude Ranch and enjoy activities that don’t involve electronics, like line dancing, shuffleboard, and horseback riding. A typical day at the ranch starts with a Cowboy Breakfast cookout and ends with a Texas-sized steak. In between, you’ll have plenty of time for pony rides, country music, even a Cowboy Olympics. For more, check out R We There Yet Mom or Solo Mom Takes Flight.

mayan dude ranch

3. Malibu Dude Ranch (Milford, PA)
For an east coast-style dude ranch adventure, head to Malibu Dude Ranch in the Poconos. Enjoy horseback riding, rodeos, skeet shooting, even cattle drives. In the winter, come for guided snowmobile tours. Bonfires are a weekly favorite as guests kick back, toast marshmallows and trade stories before heading back to the ranch on a hayride. For more, read up at Trekaroo.

malibu dude ranch

4. Averill’s Flathead Lake Lodge (Bigfork, MT)
Bring the kids to Averill’s Flathead Lake Lodge, a dude ranch in Montana, for daily trail rides, a family rodeo, even a Junior Wrangler Program, which enables children to learn the basics of horse care. There’s also plenty to do on Flathead Lake, like sailing, kayaks, and stand-up paddleboards. As a bonus, Glacier National Park is less than one hour from the ranch. For more, check out The Vacation Gals. 

flathead lake lodge

5. Triangle X Ranch (Moose, WY)
Another great ranch that offers easy access to a national park is Triangle X Ranch. Even better, the ranch is a short drive into two parks: Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. Summer at the ranch requires a seven-night stay, but you’ll need all seven for all the cookouts, hiking, scenic float trips and horseback riding at the ranch. For more on what to expect at the ranch, visit Pit Stops for Kids.

triangle x ranch

6. C Lazy U Ranch (Granby, CO)
There’s almost too much to do at C Lazy U Ranch regardless of whether you visit in the summer or winter. Look for fly fishing and luxury camping in the summer, sleigh rides and sledding in the winter. Horseback riding, as well as the spa and yoga, are available year-round. The weekly “Shodeo” is a must as guests show off their newly-acquired horseback skills. For more, check out Suitcases & Sippy Cups.

c lazy u ranch

7. The Hideout Lodge & Guest Ranch (Shell, WY)
Horse lovers will find plenty of equestrian activities at The Hideout ranging from trail riding across spectacular lands to cattle work and cattle drives to riding lessons for all levels. Beyond horses, look for photo workshops, dino digs, canoeing and even rodeos that take place daily from June through August. For more on what to expect at The Hideout, visit The Three Under. 

the hideout lodge

8. Tanque Verde Ranch (Tucson, AZ)
Kids love Tanque Verde Ranch because there’s just so much to do for Buckaroos (ages 4-6), Wranglers (ages 7-9) and Outlaws (ages 10-12). The Daily Kids Club is fantastic. Little ones can learn to ride while moms and dads can enjoy hiking in Saguaro National Park, mountain biking, or even a deep tissue massage at the on-site spa. For more on Tanque Verde Ranch, visit TusconTopia.

tanque verde ranch

9. Circle Z Ranch (Patagonia, AZ)
At Circle Z Ranch, children spend their days learning to ride with experienced wranglers while taking breaks to chase after cows and play horse games. Meanwhile, nature walks, astronomy nights, twice-weekly cookout rides and evenings spent toasting smores round out an unforgettable week at Circle Z. As the ranch says, “there is never nothing to do at the Circle Z” and I think you’ll find that’s true.

circle z ranch

10. Rocking Horse Ranch (Highland, NY)
Regardless of your skill level, you’ll find horseback rides for you at Rocking Horse Ranch. Children under age seven can even enjoy pony rides. The ranch even offers barn tours and horseshoeing demonstrations. Beyond horses, the ranch boasts an indoor water park, scavenger hunts, nature walks, live entertainment and even a spa when you need to take time out to relax and recharge.

rocking horse ranch

For those looking to explore dude ranches in Canada, there are a lot of great choices in British Columbia, like Three Bars Ranch and Echo Valley Ranch & Spa. Take a look at Pint Sized Pilot for more great picks up north.

Have you gone on a family dude ranch vacation? I’d love to hear about your experience.

Photo Credit (top): Patrick