Welcome to Ranch Week on Ciao Bambino! It’s no secret that we’re huge fans of dude ranch vacations for families — they offer a totally unique experience you won’t get anywhere else. This week we’ll spotlight some of our favorite U.S. ranches with kids, luxury ranch experiences that deserve a spot on the bucket list, and more. First up: Utah’s Conestoga Ranch, an Old West glamping paradise with kids of all ages. Read on …
At Conestoga Ranch, near the shores of Bear Lake in northern Utah, I recently experienced an exciting trend in the world of outdoor recreation: glamping. This approach to the great outdoors combines camping with luxury comforts and amenities to create an unforgettable experience. The bottom line: Conestoga Ranch puts the vacation back in camping.
Family-Friendly Review and Highlights of Conestoga Ranch
Conestoga Ranch has two unique styles of accommodations: glamping tents and Conestoga wagons. The glamping tents come in two categories, Deluxe and Grand. Deluxe Tents sleep 2 to 4 guests and include furnishings and private campfires.
Most families will prefer the larger Grand Tents, with an ensuite bathroom, a king-size bed, and twin or bunk beds sleeping two, six, or eight guests. Grand Tents also include heaters, a mini-refrigerator, and a safe for valuables. Each tent has its own fire pit with a grill, a picnic table, and comfortable Adirondack chairs.
TIP: Looking to book a weekend stay at Conestoga Ranch? Be aware that Friday or Saturday nights require a two-night minimum.
Our group chose to stay in a Grand Tent. Upon arrival we were warmly greeted and checked in, and within minutes our luggage and cooler were unloaded from our car and taken to the tent via golf cart. The bellhop service was a nice plus, as the tent was uphill on a gravel path.
One look at our tent made clear that this wasn’t going to be like any other camping experience we’d ever had. It was fully furnished with a king-size bed plus four twins, a bureau, a wardrobe, a small fridge and more. The minimalist decor was a mix of rustic antiques and contemporary accessories.
After a delicious dinner at the Campfire Grill and s’mores at our private campfire, we happily snuggled under down comforters and woolen blankets — no sleeping bags on cold, hard ground for us! The custom-made tents are designed to keep guests warm and dry in bad weather, and the sound of the rain on the canvas is incredibly soothing. If it’s too hot or cold outdoors, the staff can supply electric fans, swamp coolers, and heaters.
The creature comfort most people miss when camping is indoor plumbing. Our tent had a charming three-piece bathroom, outfitted with a waterfall shower and cowboy-style horse-trough tub. The water was hot and plentiful.
As an alternative, kids will love sleeping in a replica of a Conestoga wagon, and parents will love the comfortable beds, electricity and WIFI. It’s an Old West experience with modern-day comforts. Family wagons sleep 6 or 8 with bunk beds.
Guests staying in the wagons or Deluxe Tents have access to the ranch bath house, which offers 15 private luxury bathrooms with showers.
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Conestoga Ranch guests don’t have to spend precious family time preparing meals unless they want to. The timber-framed, open-air Campfire Grill is an impressive gathering place. There’s no typical camping grub on the menu; try caramelized Brussels sprouts, pan-seared fresh salmon, or steak frites. The closest thing to a traditional campfire dish is the Wagyu beef burger.
Kids can belly up to the counter and watch their gourmet pizzas go into the wood-burning brick oven. There’s also a kids’ menu with the usual suspects for little ones who can’t be tempted by the pizzas. Live music on Friday nights adds to the fun. The Campfire Grill is open for lunch and dinner daily; breakfast is served Saturday and Sunday.
Those who’d rather cook a meal on their own, not involving hot dogs over a fire pit, can make use of the Rendezvous Dining Tent, which includes charcoal grills, picnic tables and a dishwashing station.
Amenities and Activities
Conestoga Ranch keeps kids entertained with a game tent and playground, and families can also enjoy the outdoor volleyball court and grassy sports field. Bikes and paddle boards are available to rent, and the front desk has a stash of toys and games. A small general store provides fixings for a campfire dinner or s’mores, plus other essentials. There’s also a very clean laundry room with coin-operated washers and dryers. Parents of infants can rent Pack ‘n’ Plays.
It’s a short ride to the town of Garden City and to Bear Lake. Check out Bear Trail, 4.5 miles of paved bike path along the lake. Little cowpokes might like to try mutton-bustin’ at the Bear Lake Rodeo, every Saturday night in July and August. Be sure to sample a famous Bear Lake raspberry shake — rumor has it that they taste best in August during Raspberry Days.
Conestoga Ranch is located in Garden City, Utah, near the Idaho border. There’s a nostalgic feel to this sleepy lakeside town, yet it comes to life each summer as outdoor enthusiasts flock to Bear Lake. Water sports and outdoor recreation reign supreme. Bear Lake is often referred to as “the Caribbean of the Rockies” for its turquoise waters. It’s a lovely two-hour drive north from Salt Lake City, or a nice side trip if you’re visiting Yellowstone National Park or Grand Teton National Park.
Want help booking a stay at Conestoga Ranch or planning a family ranch vacation?
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Families Should Know
No pets are allowed. For parents traveling with infants, Pack ‘n Plays are available to rent.
Editor’s Note: Conestoga Ranch provided a media package to facilitate our review of the property for families. As always, our opinions are our own. Photos by Denise Smith unless otherwise noted.