Riding the range and driving cattle was a lifelong dream for Texan raised Candid TravelingMom. Dreams change over time, and as a mom with 4 kids (ages 6 to 14), she’s still looking for the cowboy experience, but one that’s more vacation than work in her dude ranch experience. Here are the best dude ranches for families covering kids of all ages.
As a kid growing up in Texas, I was no stranger to the outdoors. From pitching a tent in the back yard with my bestie to camping and hiking with the Girl Scouts, my childhood memories include a lot of sleeping bags, fire pits, and flashlights.
As a mom, I’ve gotten used to air conditioning, spas, and room service. My kids are following suit.
That is to say: we haven’t been too outdoorsy. Like many families in this day and age, we’re spending a little too much time on our screens and not enough time looking around for our next outdoor adventure.
But I’ve always dreamed of being a cowgirl, riding and roping and all that comes with it! There’s no reason that dream can’t come true at 43, right? Right!
Currently, I’m boot deep in researching the Dude Ranch Association (DRA) options for families.
Best Dude Ranches for Families
I’m drawn to the idea of a dude ranch because I love what they offer for families like mine, which is, well- everything!
The DRA ranches offer all inclusive experiences for any kind of traveler.
While there are “working” dude ranches where you are an active helper (up early, saddled and fed to drive cattle kind of thing), most dude ranches offer you the chance to vacation your way.
The primary focus at a dude ranch is on outdoor activities, and there are many to choose from: hiking, horseback riding, archery, fishing, zip lining, white water rafting just to name a few.
I’m one of those moms who believe in exposing kids to a taste of everything we can while they are still young enough to do what I say. Who knows what will ignite a spark of imagination or lead them to a career path someday?
Here are the best dude ranches for families by age.
Dude Ranch Vacation with Toddlers
The best dude ranches for families will include the whole family in activities, and that means your toddlers! Yes, take them- you won’t regret it if you find a dude ranch with activities tailored for your little guys and gals.
Toddlers and very young children are often too young to ride horses, but that doesn’t mean they need to be left at home.
1. Tanque Verde Ranch in Tucson
The Tanque Verde Ranch in Tucson offers a full slate of fun tailored to the wee cowpokes. If you have a youngun’, this is the place for your dude ranch vacation with toddlers. Starting at age 4, kids can join the Buckaroo’s program which includes pony rides, guided fishing, Zorb balls, arts and crafts, hikes, and much more.
2. Colorado’s C Lazy U ranch
The C Lazy U Ranch offers similar programs for the youngest of children.
Kids under 3 need to be accompanied by a nanny (and the C Lazy U does offer special pricing for this!) to join in the fun, and they have a full kids program for 3-5 year-olds. Toddlers can pan for gold, join the sing-alongs, and climb onto a hayride.
A dude ranch vacation with toddlers can require a little more planning, but it’s so worth it when you see their little cowboy booted bodies wriggle with excitement as they discover new things.
Dude Ranch Vacation with Kids
I feel like the sweet spot for a dude ranch vacation with kids is when they are 6-10. Kids this age have amazing imaginations and a willingness to try new things, both of which would make a dude ranch vacation for families incredibly entertaining.
3. Rawah Ranch in Colorado
Research TravelingMom Allison visited the Rawah Ranch in Colorado with her boys, ages 6 and 8. From check-in, the Rawah catered to kids. You can opt in to have a nighttime activity box sent to your room which includes games and activities- and cowboy hats to use during your stay!
4. Red Horse Moutain Ranch, Idaho
Looking for fantastic activities for children in this age range? All kids visiting Red Horse Mountain Ranch are assigned a horse and saddle on day one, just like mom and dad.
In addition to horseback riding, the kid’s program here offers the chance for kids to hang out with others their own age supervised by counselors. S’mores and songs by the campfire can make lifelong friends out of strangers in no time flat!
Dude Ranch Vacation with Teens and Tweens
This age is when things really get fun. I think that statement goes beyond dude ranch vacations with teens and tweens, to be honest (but that’s a post for another day!).
The full slate of activities on a ranch is wide open for this age group.
While kids this age may be resistant to spending time together with their parents (groan), I’m confident that their minds will be changed once they discover this is not a normal vacation!
We’re talking archery, fishing, target shooting, hatchet throwing, zip lining, and white water rafting. Scavenger hunts, tracking/scat identifying (you know kids love this stuff!) and geo-tracking can keep your teens entertained all week.
5. Goosewing Ranch, Wyoming
If you always wanted to see the beauty of Wyoming, check out Goosewing Ranch with your teens and tweens. With its close proximity to Jackson Hole, Grand Teton, and Yellowstone National Parks, you know it’s going to be a gorgeous location!
Kids will love the opportunity to roam the ranch without their parents and find their brand of adventure. Goosewing offers the ultimate vacation for kids: adventurous or artistic, active or athletic there’s something for every teen at Goosewing.
Winter Dude Ranch Vacation With Teens and Tweens
While most dude ranches are open spring through fall, don’t forget to check out the activities for teens and tweens at a winter dude ranch.
6. Colorado’s Latigo Ranch
Latigo Ranch in Colorado is open year round and that means there are even more activities to experience with your teens and tweens!
Experience winter activities like cross country skiing, snowshoeing, bonfires, and riding fat bikes. With over 50 KM of cross country trails and 200 inches of snowfall a year, this is a winter dude ranch paradise for all ages.
Your teens will vote you the coolest parents ever for this vacation!
Dude ranches are outdoorsy fun for all ages. From toddlers to teens, your family vacation is just around the proverbial river bend.
Dude Ranch Association approved properties are located in most western states and Canada.
Go West, young fam!