The sandy soil and grazing cattle are the perfect backdrop for making stories to retell for generations. But with wide open spaces calling your name daily, how can you be sure to cherish each moment? Here are some tips for crafting an unforgettable family ranch getaway.

Pick Comfortable Yet Unique Outfits 

Cowboy Hat

A ranch outing isn’t complete without a cowboy hat. You can consider a fashionable Larry Mahan straw hat for a little extra flair. It can keep you comfortable during sunny days and cool evenings. 

According to Starr Western Wear, to find the right size, use a soft measuring tape. Wrap it comfortably around your head, placing it across your forehead above your eyebrows and ears to note the circumference in centimeters or inches

While most ranches do not provide riding helmets, feel free to bring your own if you prefer added protection. Be sure to pick a hat with an adjustable chin strap to keep it securely on your head. 

Cowboy Boots

For horseback riding, good cowboy boots with a heel are essential. Most dude ranches use a Western riding style, so cowboy boots are recommended even if you normally ride English. However, some travelers may feel comfortable riding in English riding gear too. When choosing boots, try on several styles to find the right fit. 

Long-Sleeved Shirts

For sun and branch protection on trail rides, long-sleeved shirts are advisable. Layers are good – start with a t-shirt under a hiking or western shirt. Temperatures can vary on mountain rides, so dress for the conditions.


A warm fleece or lightweight vest provides versatility for changing temperatures. Vests can also hold small essentials like chapstick and tissues during rides. Some ranches offer side bags, but personal vests are always accessible.

Riding Jeans

Purpose-designed riding jeans are ideal, as they have reinforced seams and a bootcut leg. Look for ones with the seams on the outside to prevent chafing. If jeans aren’t your style, seamless leggings provide a comfortable alternative.

Warm Clothes and Pajamas

Colder mountain nights mean layers, and cozy PJs are key. Sweatshirts, jackets, and warm sleepwear ensure comfort from the campfire or wood stove.


Comfortable sneakers and hiking boots allow boots to rest between activities. Flip flops are handy for warm days relaxing on a ranch.

Shorts and Swimsuit

Warmer days mean shorts and, if available, a swimsuit for pools or lakes. Luxury ranches may offer spa services too.

Barn Dance Attire

Save an outfit like a western dress, jean skirt, or fringe vest for the capstone barn dance. Target has affordable western-style options.

Know About The Costs and Plan Accordingly

Room rates typically range from $400 to over $1,000 per person, depending on the ranch and season. These all-inclusive rates cover three meals per day in addition to many activities. 

Meals and unlimited activities like horseback riding, fly fishing, mountain biking, and more are included to justify the rates. However, dude ranch prices are often comparable to or lower than other vacation types. Additional fees at places like beach resorts or cruise ships are taken into account. Children usually receive a discounted rate at dude ranches.

It’s also common for ranches to add a 15% service charge to the final bill, along with applicable state and local taxes. A deposit of approximately 35% is typically required at booking with credit cards, which are widely accepted, sometimes with an added convenience fee.

Guests are advised to contact each ranch directly for complete details on rates, policies, and activities included, as packages can vary between properties. Advanced reservations are also recommended, especially for peak season.

Assessing Your Family’s Needs to Select the Right Ranch Type

Here are a few factors to consider in determining which type of dude ranch would be the best fit for your family:

  • Age of Children: Working ranches may be too physically demanding if you have young kids. Guest ranches offer a good balance of activities.
  • Riding Experience: If your family ranges from beginners to experts, a guest or resort ranch with options for all skill levels would work best. Working ranches require stronger riding abilities.
  • Desired Level of Amenities: If comfort is a higher priority, a resort ranch with more accommodation types and amenities like a pool/spa would suit best. Working ranches have more rustic facilities.
  • Activity Preferences: Do you want to focus solely on horseback riding or enjoy other options too? Resort/guest ranches typically have more diverse recreation.
  • Budget: As explained earlier, working ranches tend to be more affordable, while resorts naturally cost more. Compare rates and inclusions.

The Rising Demand for Adventurous Outings Such as Dude Ranch Vacation

A recent survey found that many Americans are interested in outdoor adventures rather than traditional vacations this year. The Forbes Advisor survey showed that 24% of people planned to take an outdoor trip in 2022. This compares to 20% aiming for a resort vacation and 17% for a city vacation.

Adventurous outings, such as dude ranch vacations, are gaining popularity as they offer a unique blend of excitement, relaxation, and a break from routine. Dude ranches provide an immersive experience into the cowboy lifestyle, complete with horseback riding, cattle drives, and other ranch activities. This type of vacation appeals to those looking to disconnect from their hectic lives and reconnect with nature.

The appeal of outdoor adventures is multifaceted. They offer physical challenges, opportunities for personal growth, and a chance to explore scenic landscapes. Additionally, the pandemic has played a role in this shift, as many people now prefer open spaces and activities that allow for social distancing.

Top Dude Ranch Getaways for 2024

According to US News, some of the top dude ranches providing this experience include:

  • Alisal Ranch, situated on over 10,000 acres in Solvang, California, is surrounded by mountains. Along with horseback riding and programs, they offer fishing, games, special events, and stargazing.
  • Colorado’s C Lazy U Ranch, a luxury resort with over 8,500 acres, horseback riding, fly fishing, hiking, and winter sports across seasons.
  • White Stallion Ranch in Tucson, Arizona, is a working cattle ranch also used for western films with options for riding, archery, climbing, and more.
  • The Hideout Lodge & Guest Ranch in Wyoming boasts scenic trails on 650,000 acres and focuses on horses, cattle work, and outdoor adventures.
  • Idaho’s Western Pleasure Guest Ranch has programs for all ages centered around ranching skills and riding through varied landscapes and seasons.
  • Montana’s Bar W Guest Ranch offers riding, cattle experiences, and activities like archery near Glacier National Park.
  • Drowsy Water Ranch in Colorado has multi-generational family ranching for over 90 years with riding, hiking, fishing and western entertainment.


1. What’s the distinction between a dude ranch and a guest ranch?

A: A dude ranch typically offers rustic accommodations like cozy lodges or cabins, providing an authentic ranch experience. In contrast, guest ranches are more upscale, offering luxurious amenities while capturing the ranch atmosphere. Guests at guest ranches can simply relax in their accommodations or participate in various ranch activities.

2. How long is an ideal stay at a dude ranch?

A: The duration of a dude ranch vacation can vary from a long weekend getaway to an extended stay, depending on your preferences. However, many families opt for a week-long, 7-day dude ranch vacation to immerse themselves in the ranch lifestyle and experience fully.

3. Why are they called “dude ranches”?

A: The term “dude” originated as a nickname used by cowboy ranch hands to refer to wealthy, city-dwelling visitors from the East Coast. As these urban “dudes” discovered the appeal of vacationing at working ranches in the American West, ranch owners began catering to and accommodating them, eventually establishing dedicated “dude ranches” that offered a ranch experience for paying guests.

In the end, spending time with family and making memories are part of life’s essence. A dude ranch getaway offers this ideal setting. Horseback rides, campfire evenings, and ranch activities teach new skills. Bond with stories and traditions, cherish lifelong memories in wide-open spaces, and enjoy western hospitality.