Did you ever dream of living on a ranch, riding a horse along a scenic mountain trail, and enjoying a campfire under a starry sky? Then a guest ranch vacation may be right for you. Colorado’s C Lazy U Ranch is an all-inclusive destination that has a lot to offer families. Here’s what the kids program entails, and what to bring vs. what you can borrow at the ranch. Take a peek at the lodge style cabins, get an overview of activities offered, and find out what you need to know before you go.
Imagine a place where you could experience a highly alluring, entirely different lifestyle than your own for a week. How does setting out on horseback, exploring a mountain range, taking photos of magnificent scenery, and breathing in fresh alpine air sound to you? You could then return to a full service luxury ranch for a gourmet dinner. Perhaps head to a rootin’ tootin’ fun barn dance in the evening with your family, complete with a live cowboy band and some line dancing.
You’ve just had a glimpse into a stay at Colorado’s C Lazy U Ranch!
If you’ve ever been curious about a family vacation at a guest ranch, you should definitely take a look at C Lazy U. My family and I recently enjoyed a short visit in early September, and were happy to see the breathtaking Aspen trees had already started turning a vibrant gold. Colorado Fall colors are legendary, and we saw firsthand they lived up to the hype!
Located in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, the 8,500 acre C Lazy U Ranch is nestled in a prime location, surrounded with forested trails just waiting to be explored. Whether you mosey out for a hike, ride a mountain bike, or take a horseback ride with a personal wrangler guide, everything you need will be provided for you.
Their helpful online packing list includes reminders to bring items such as jeans, a rain jacket, and pull-on riding boots. A rack of loaner cowboy boots is also on hand. Helmets are required for any kids riding horse, and are available to borrow.
So what can you expect during a visit to C Lazy U Ranch?
Horse Lover’s Paradise
Let’s start with those fantastic horses, because they are truly the highlight. The C Lazy U Ranch herd includes around 200 horses, with a carefully selected mix of steeds to use for all levels of riding experience. Older horses are generally milder, and are reserved for children ages 6 and up. Options for younger ones include riding Katie the pony, or Petey the cart donkey (and beloved ranch mascot).
Hands down the coolest aspect of our stay was riding the same horse throughout the duration. For a life-long horse lover like me, this is the closest thing I’ve ever felt to owning my own horse. Once you have a few rides under your belt, you truly form a bond and start to know what to expect from your horse’s quirks and personality. You may even receive a recognition nuzzle on your approach. It’s wonderful feeling!
The bad news is, you and your kids will quite likely get attached to your horses. And it’s very sad to leave them. This likely explains why over half of the families staying at the ranch were repeat visitors. They simply return annually to visit “their” horse.
Guided rides are offered each morning and afternoon, and groups are broken up into fairly small groups. I loved the personalized touch of being able to have a wrangler take just my family of 4 out on a customized ride, or joining a few other adults for a faster ride. Trails depart from the ranch in literally every direction, so terrain options are diverse. Every experience is unique, with scenic overlooks, reservoir lakes, and even moose just waiting to be discovered.
Comfortable Western Cabins
C Lazy U Ranch has a nice variety of cabins available, with good selections for every family size. We stayed in half of the Rainbow duplex cabin, which slept 4 comfortably. Your front door opens to a studio style room, which includes a king-sized bed, wood burning fireplace, Keurig coffee maker with nice assortment of pods, and a mini fridge. Two twin beds and a nice sized closet are found in the separate bedroom with a door.
The bathroom works well for families, with a separate toilet and shower area. A copper sink and heated slate tile floors add a luxury touch, and L’OCCINTARE French toiletries in (my favorite!) verbena scent are provided.
Doors are not locked at C Lazy U, so a room safe is provided. It’s all part of the laid back environment that we quickly grew accustomed to. You are just visiting friends on a Colorado ranch!
Evening Family Entertainment
This is a no screens vacation. That’s right, you won’t find a TV in your cabin. As much as I love the outdoors and getting my family out in nature, I’ll admit the “no screen” thing gave me pause. How would it go? Would we get bored at night?
No, you will not get bored at C Lazy U Ranch. At any point. Ever.
By the time dinners have concluded (sometimes the kids eat separately, and then run around outside burning off energy), it’s typically 8:30 p.m. or even later. And each evening there is family entertainment scheduled for the guests.
On our first night, this included line dancing in the hay barn to a live country band. Kids also played limbo, ping pong, or a corn hole bean-toss game. A bar was available in the corner, with free soda or liquor available for purchase. We were so exhausted by this point in the day, we honestly didn’t stay very long.
Don’t forget to check out that starry sky as you head back to your cabin at night. So far from any city lights, this is one of the most breathtaking celestial displays you’ll ever see. We could even spot the lighter, sparkling streak of the Milky Way.
On quieter evenings, family entertainment may be game night. Our second night we joined the group for some fireside Bingo in the main lodge. Some choice prizes from the gift shop were displayed on the coffee table for any winners, adding an exciting incentive. My daughter won one round, and was thrilled to walk away with a plush horse pillow.
Meet at the Patio House
In warm months, outdoor buffet style lunches are served at the Patio House. Picnic tables are provided, or you can chose to enjoy your food poolside. The hot tub and pool are not huge, but were never crowded. Plenty of seating is available, and the nearby playground and grassy area for kids to be rambunctious is a big hit.
On a couple of occasions during our stay, they opened up a poolside ice cream bar. Being an all-inclusive resort means all orders and toppings are on the house, so it was easy to get a little crazy with this!
Don’t miss checking out the downstairs of the Patio House, which houses a Western themed game room. There’s no charge to use the pool table, air hockey, and ping pong table. This area can provide a fun diversion for rainy times, or just between your other scheduled activities.
Spa and Activities Galore
Your best bet on arrival is to swing by the “OC” (Outfitter’s Cabin, attached to the Patio House) and line up some activities during your stay. There are so many options, and some you’ll need to reserve ahead of time. One thing we loved about C Lazy U Ranch is the laid-back atmosphere, and excellent service. They will make sure you get to do everything you’d like to do!
Getting your name on the list for the morning and/or afternoon horse rides will give them an idea of a headcount and which horses will be needed.
When my family tried our hand at archery, a wrangler walked us out to the course and spent over an hour with us. He patiently gave us guidance, and taught us some safety tips. It was a really fun experience, and my kids didn’t want to leave.
Other activities are available for an extra charge, such as trap shooting, a high ropes course, zip line, guided fly fishing, and a creek-side full service spa.
Know Before You Go – Kids Program
During the summer months, a separate schedule of activities is maintained for children. This means their day will be occupied with horseback rides and activities apart from the adults. It provides an opportunity for them to play with kids their age, while parent have a chance to relax and enjoy their own preference of activities.
Care for some stream-side spa time, mom? Yes, please!
We caught the very last day of the Kids Program, so were able to experience a half day apart from our kids under this arrangement. Because it was my 6 year old son’s first time on a horse, it was a little nerve wracking to watch him head off on a trail ride without me. They divided kids up roughly by age for the trail ride groups, so his counselor (or “wrangler”) was leading around four little tykes. After they headed out, my husband and I went over to the other barn where adult horse rides departed.
I loved my first ride of our stay, and worried only slightly about how my youngest was doing. How would we find him afterwards? After a nearly 2 hour ride, we arrived back at the ranch and rode past the swimming pool and playground area. Lots of kids. My son wasn’t one of them.
As soon as we dismounted at the barn, my husband rushed off back into the trees near the cabins. He said he had spotted our son behind a tree. Sure enough, we found him there alone. Hiding behind a tree. And soaking wet from the neck down! He was looking for us, and didn’t know what cabin we were staying in.
I’ll admit I was pretty upset. When we located his counselor and inquired what had happened, she didn’t know. She apologized and explained that after the trail ride, she had told him to go to the patio house to play. Well, there are numerous buildings, and we had arrived at C Lazy U Ranch only 2-3 hours prior. So I can see where the confusion came in.
We later pieced together stories from other guests, who witnessed my son in the hot tub fully clothed (and with his leather cowboy boots on). At least it wasn’t in the 9 foot deep end of the pool, as there is no lifeguard on duty.
TravelingMom Tip: Be aware that the atmosphere here is very laid back. Many guests are repeat visitors, and feel comfortable allowing their kids to roam about the ranch with little-to-no supervision. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s just something that’s good to know ahead of time.
If this concerns you, or you want closer supervision of your younger child, you may wish to specifically request a staff person to keep your child in sight at all times until you return. I believe had I done this, they would have watched my son more closely.
Or you may decide to consider a visit to C Lazy U Ranch when your children are a bit older. And can be better trusted around hot tubs. In their cowboy boots. Ay-yi-yi that son of mine!
Dining at the Main Lodge
Every morning and again for dinner your family will head to the lovely main lodge for some top notch dining. We loved the upstairs restaurant, with gigantic windows that displayed the beauty of the ranch. Long tables mean family style seating, and enjoyable chats with fellow ranch guests.
In the morning, hot and cold breakfast buffet items are offered. A menu is also provided to custom order something if you prefer. I discovered they were happy to pour me a coffee to take along with me, after we were done eating.
Dinners are a slightly more formal affair, with two entrees prepared each evening. The chef will appear before serving, to give you a description of the upcoming meal. Shelby, the C Lazy U Ranch Sommelier carefully selects wine pairings to accompany the menu. She takes a few minutes to describe them briefly to assist in your choice.
If your visit happens during the Kids Program season, adults enjoy a peaceful dining experience without the children. I wasn’t sure how I felt about this, and didn’t allow myself to relax and fully enjoy the meal. However, once we had finished and went to join them, they were having so much fun with the ranch counselors and other kids, they barely even noticed us.
Kids dinner is served a little earlier than the adults, at 6:00 p.m. Note that although ranch schedules tend to be a little lax, this one apparently isn’t. Get your kids there on time for full access to the food spread for the evening. We arrived at 6:25 p.m., and there was nothing left of the kids dinner. They offered to make a grilled cheese sandwich, which my son accepted. My daughter settled for a plate of mixed vegetables, which was the only thing leftover. I found this disappointing, but it didn’t seem to faze my kids too much.
TravelingMom Tip: Bring snacks to have on hand in your cabin. No food is served or available between lunch and dinner. That’s a bit of a long stretch, especially if you’ve been playing hard and dinner isn’t served until 7:00 p.m.
Luxury Ranch Experience and Top Notch Service
Never having been to a Guest Ranch, my family wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I can assure you that this is an immersive, highly enjoyable experience for all. C Lazy U Ranch is large enough to having a plethora of activity options for you at any given time, yet small and intimate enough to truly feel like you are visiting a ranch. Staff were friendly, upbeat, helpful, and knew us by name.
Colorado offers some of the most breathtaking mountain terrain in the country, and a stay at C Lazy U Ranch is an ideal way to fully experience this in a Western-style luxury vacation. Come live the ranch life for a week!