Do you ever wish that you could take your family back in time to a place with no technology and just spend it outdoors, marvelling in your surroundings? An authentic dude ranch vacation will reconnect you with your family, allowing you to live in the moment with them without worries of cooking or cleaning or arranging an itinerary.
A dude ranch family vacation 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.
Here are our choices for the best dude ranches for families in North America:
Three Bars Ranch – Cranbrook, BC
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 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 centre and gift shop.
Three Bars Ranch has one of the best riding programs in Canada and the quality and care of their horses is 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.
Siwash Lake Wilderness Resort – Bonaparte Plateau, BC
The list of awards and affiliations for Siwash Lake Wilderness Resort are 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 way of doing things. Guests with 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!
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 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.
Sundance Guest Ranch – Ashcroft, BC
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 8 and up are allowed to participate in the riding program and kids under 8 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!
- Sunny outdoor decks
- Free-play games room, authentic outdoor horseshoe set, walking and hiking trails, a billiards room and a movie lounge.
- Swimming Pool
- Kids games room
- On-Call massage therapist (costs 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.
Big Bar Guest Ranch, Clinton, BC
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 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 hour and 6 hour (with cowboy cookout) riding options. Trail rides are in small group led by one of their wranglers and there are many different trails to meet your expectations.
There is a mix of accommodation in 5 different cabins spread around the ranch or 9 hotel-style accommodations located in the heart of the ranch.
In the winter, you can enjoy two skating rinks, snow shoe 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
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.
Best Dude Ranches for Families in the United States
Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort – Solvang, CA
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, fishing on a 100-acre private lake, fitness centre and spa, children’s activities and barnyard activities.
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.
Rainbow Trout Ranch – Antonito, CO
Michele at EndlessFamilyTravels.com shares her suggestion for the best dude ranch 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 around 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 the 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 down time and plenty of fun. Rainbow Trout promises a family vacation like no other.
Western Pleasure Guest Ranch – Sandpoint, ID
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 centrepiece of the program.
The children’s program begins on Monday mornings and concludes on Thursday evening, complete with 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 horse.
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 down time.
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.
The Ranch at Rock Creek – Philipsburg, MT
Ellie from Ellie’s Travel Tips shares her suggestion for best dude ranch in North America, The Ranch at Rock Creek. Its owner Jim Maley promise 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 between 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, the 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!
Bar W Guest Ranch – Whitefish, MT
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
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. 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.The Resort at Paws Up
This is truly The Last Best Place.”
White Stallion Ranch – Tucson, AZ
The amenities offered and family discounts available at White Stallion Ranch are quite astounding. Kids under 5 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 centre, 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 a shooting range.
The value for the experience at White Stallion Ranch is one the main draws, while the possibilities are endless for your vacation here.
Whichever dude ranch you choose for your next family vacation, you will be treated to an experience like no other. All of the dude ranches for families 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!