Are you thinking about a dude ranch vacation with your family? To be honest, before we went on our first dude ranch vacation several years ago, the thought never crossed my mind. I had no idea what a dude ranch was but I didn’t think it was for me or my family. I imagined it was a bunch of cowboys roughing it in the wilderness eating hotdogs and beans around a campfire – too many old Western movies, I guess.
I wasn’t sure if a dude ranch vacation would be good for my family. We love the outdoors but our horseback riding was limited. My husband and I went just once before during our Jamaica honeymoon and my kids rode a couple ponies at birthday parties.
Several years ago, I was approached by the Dude Rancher’s Association to run a travel piece on Dude Ranches for Families. All that came to mind was roughing it in a cabin in the middle or nowhere, eating who-knows-what cooked over a campfire.
I had the opportunity to interview Colleen Hodson, the Executive Director of the Dude Ranchers’ Association Colleen to learn all about dude ranches.
Colleen assured me that dude ranch vacation are fantastic for families, with or without horseback riding experience. She assured me that dude ranches are more than just horseback riding! She explained to me how families that take a dude ranch vacation once, normally become repeat customers for years, and generations.
With two Dude Ranch vacations under my family’s belt, I can attest that she is 100% right. Once you visit a dude ranch, you and your family will want to be repeat customers for life.
We chatted with guests at Rankin Ranch in California and Stagecoach Trails in Arizona about their experience with the ranches. Generations of families go to their dude ranch year after year with found memories of their childhood at the ranch and now they bring their own children to the ranch. Time and again, people talked about how they look forward to their annual visit and sometimes plan their trip to be the same time as other guests that they have become friends with over the years.
Colleen went on to explain how disconnected families arrive at dude ranches and how their mindsets change once there. Often kids (and sometimes adults) grumble about the lack of internet and television connections at dude ranches (although many have a business center).
On our first dude ranch experience at Stagecoach Trails in Arizona, we honestly didn’t realize there wasn’t a tv until the second day! We didn’t miss it at all – nor did we miss checking our email, finishing up a thing or two for work, instagram, facebook, etc. We were so busy having fun together that the lack of tv and internet was the furthest thing from our minds. It may take a day or so for electronically-inclined folks to detox but after that, you’ll feel so refreshed.
During our stay last summer at Rankin Ranch in California last summer, we met a couple that visits annually. The man said that the main reason he chooses Rankin Ranch every year over other vacation spots is because he can 100% disconnect at Rankin Ranch. Even if he wanted to, he can’t disconnect at other vacation spots because his employer and employees knew that they could still send a quick email or text. At Rankin Ranch, work knew that he was unreachable and he LOVES that. Of course, there is an office phone so you can 100% be reached in case of an emergency.
The one thing that I took away from my interview with Colleen and my experience with dude ranches so far is how that quickly life changes as everyone starts having fun and bonding as a family during a dude ranch vacation. She referenced many instances in which teenagers are the ones that ask to stay longer at the ranch and to come back again! They love nature, riding horses, the atmosphere, and don’t miss electronics and technology by the end of vacation.
I can attest to that as well. My kids have 100% agreed that going to both dude ranches while on our West Coast vacations was their favorite part of our trips. We traveled up and down the California coast, through Death Valley, spent time at the beach and tide pools, went to attractions like Sea World and Disneyland, and had amazing vacations.
With all of that competition, my kids LOVED the relaxed and friendly atmosphere of the dude ranches the best. They loved riding the horses through the deserts, up mountainsides and through streams (even with our limited experience).
They love feeding and playing with the other animals at the ranch like taking Peanut the miniature horse for a walk at Stagecoach Trails and feeding the animals at the petting zoo at Rankin Ranch.
They loved spending hours at the pool whether in 120° in the desert or in the lush mountainside of California.
My kids never want to leave our dude ranch vacations and neither do my husband and I.
I love all of the above that my kids love about dude ranch vacations. I love the memories we make as a family experiencing new things together, playing games and talking, and horse back riding while taking in amazing scenery.
I enjoy that my family has three home-cooked, authentic meals every day for my family.
I love the friendly hospitality of the ranchers and staff.
I like being disconnected and not feeling like I have to update my status on social media every hour or every day.
I love being in nature, experiencing ranch life instead of suburb Ohio life. It feels good to get away from it all and really enjoy the beauty of our country.
If you are thinking about a dude ranch vacation for your family, I suggest visiting the Dude Ranchers’ Association website. You can find a dude ranch that is perfect for your family based on the location you’d like to visit or by activity and amenity. There are dude ranches in Arizona, Arkansas, British Columbia, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oregon, South Dakota, Washington, and Wyoming.
Request a brochure or go ahead and book your stay at either Stagecoach Trails Guest Ranch in Arizona or Rankin Ranch Dude Ranch in California. My family guarantees that your family will love your dude ranch vacation at either of these dude ranches.