Contrary to popular belief, dude ranch vacations aren’t synonymous with roughing it. Luxury family dude ranches cater for guests who want the best of both worlds, blending a classic, down-to-earth ranch atmosphere with well-outfitted accommodations, fine dining and a thoughtfully curated slate of activities for all ages. And the best luxury family dude ranch vacations are a perfect match for kids, and heartily welcome them!
Here are our top 8 dude ranches for families to consider for your next luxury ranch getaway:
Intrigued by the idea of camping’s sophisticated cousin, glamping? You’d be hard-pressed to find a better place for it than The Resort at Paws Up. Tucked away in a secluded setting just west of Greenough, Montana, Paws Up offers spacious tents with sumptuous beds, ensuite bathrooms, daily housekeeping and personal butler service. Two-, three- and four-bedroom luxury homes are available for those who prefer solid walls, cozy fireplaces and full kitchens. These plentiful options are just part of what makes Paws Up one of the best family ranch resorts in the world.
At mealtimes, the chef serves up gourmet fare created with locally sourced ingredients — not a hobo pack or camp stove in sight. In addition to riding, activities include a sporting clays course, fly fishing, golf at a nearby course, croquet, bocce and more. The Kids Corps of Discovery program keeps tots through teens busy and happy, with activities that range from archery to acrobatics lessons.
Service is a standout at this Steamboat Springs-area ranch. The Vista Verde staff makes guests feel like VIPs, and will happily satisfy requests large and small. Accommodations include three lodge rooms and 10 private cabins, all uniquely decorated with either one, two or three bedrooms. Each cabin has a wood-burning stove and a private hot tub as well.
Vista Verde’s riding program is well thought out and carefully coordinated to ensure that guests always feel comfortable, yet stimulated by learning new skills and techniques. Daily kids’ rides get younger ones familiar with the trails, and kids also learn how to groom and care for their horses. Teens get more intensive instruction. In addition to other outdoor activities, guests can take a photography lesson with a local pro, indulge in a massage or take one of the weekly cooking classes.
Lost Creek Ranch is every bit as stunning as its Grand Tetons backdrop. Its 10 cabins, which feature outdoor porches, have either a two-bedroom or one-bedroom layout, making them easy to configure for families of various sizes. Nearby Jackson Hole provides endless recreation opportunities for kids, from hiking and hot-air ballooning to float trips down the river. The dedicated children’s riding program is geared toward ages 6 and up, but parents can lead younger kids on a horse, and nanny service is available as well.
Parents will enjoy the resort’s stellar golf and spa facilities. Meals at Lost Creek are served family-style in a casually elegant environment. Little ones can partake of a menu all their own, geared toward young palates, in the kids’ program areas.
Nearly a century old, Mountain Sky — in southwest Montana, just a stone’s throw from Yellowstone National Park — rolls out the welcome mat for families in a variety of ways. Lodging here ranges from rustic to refined, with many of the original cabins carefully renovated to preserve their charm yet add the creature comforts that discerning families expect. Some cabins offer stone fireplaces, while others have breathtaking views.
Dinner at Mountain Sky is an event, beginning with drinks and nibbles in the ranch saloon and progressing to a sit-down, three- to five-course gourmet meal. Activities are diverse, ranging from yoga and massages to sunrise hiking and Yellowstone excursions. In addition to riding instruction for kids, Mountain Sky offers a standout kids’ program broken out by age. Younger kids might enjoy hayrides, scavenger hunts and more, while older ones can participate in offsite rock-climbing and more.
For families looking for scenery that combines lake and mountains, look no further than this wonderful property, just 45 minutes from Glacier National Park. While the horseback riding program is excellent, our clients love the variety that this waterfront setting provides. Guests can participate in everything from sailing to canoeing, but the highlight is often the water skiing and boarding offered every afternoon.
Evening entertainment, excursions for rafting or fly fishing, mountain hikes and biking, yoga classes, etc. round out the full compliment of offerings here. And when you just want to chill, the heated lakeside pool is a favorite spot.
Accommodations are well-appointed cabins. Meals can be taken communally or privately, and families love the mix of socializing with more intimate bonding time with their children. Socializing is never forced here, yet the hospitality created by the owners creates an atmosphere of togetherness.
Get the scoop on why we love ranches for families with kids of all ages >
Ever since the early 20th century, the Alisal has been a magnet for sophisticated, savvy dudes (ranch-speak for guests). Is it the gorgeous Santa Ynez Valley setting that keeps them coming back, or the creative take on California cuisine? The top-notch riding instruction, or the heavenly treatments at the Alisal Spa? Whatever the reason, it’s clear that luxury-seeking families have found plenty to love here.
From Studio Guestrooms to One-bedroom Suites, the accommodations are comfortably outfitted, if not particularly stylish. In addition to trotting and trail rides, kids will love spending time in the barnyard, where they can interact with farm animals; biking through the valley; and birdwatching on Alisal Lake. Older kids can try their hand at air rifle shooting or stand-up paddle boards. Seasonal activities, such as movie nights, storytellers and a ropes course, add to the family-friendly fun. And for parents who want to squeeze in a round of golf, there are two courses onsite.
When it comes to accommodations, guests at The Ranch at Rock Creek are spoiled for choice. There are the typical cabins and lodge rooms, but also luxury homes, glamping cabins and a remodeled 19th-century barn that can be configured as a three-bedroom family unit. The decor in each is top-of-the-line, with niceties such as copper soaking tubs, expansive gourmet kitchens and Oriental rugs. Unlike most ranches, which serve meals family-style in a communal space, The Ranch at Rock Creek offers four distinct dining venues, from the cozy Granite Lodge dining room to the alfresco Blue Canteen.
The Old West is alive and well here — activities include old-fashioned stagecoach rides and rodeos, plus more modern pursuits such as a ropes course and geocaching. The Little Grizzlies kids’ club, for ages 4 to 12, is shaped around outdoor education; themes range from Rivers & Ponds to Cowboys & Horses. Meanwhile, parents can savor a treatment at the Granite Spa or simply relax at the pond-side Bikini Beach.
This 19th-century working cattle ranch, hidden away in a remote corner of Wyoming, is a true destination. Luxury is on full display in the lodge rooms, cabin suites, and cabin residences, which include overscale chandeliers, sophisticated artwork and fine trappings. During their stay at The Lodge & Spa at Brush Creek Ranch, families also can book an overnight glamping adventure in the ranch’s yurt — this secluded setting is home to private archery lessons, fishing, wildlife viewing and more.
The Lil’ Wranglers program, for ages 4 to 8, blends horseback time with tried-and-true kids’ activities such as arts and crafts, capture the flag and fort building. While riding instruction and options here are excellent, this is a particularly good property for non-riders, as it has a true resort atmosphere with a spa, gaming venue, hunting, water activities and more. The four dining venues range from an elegant restaurant to an open-air campfire setting.
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Editor’s Note: Photos courtesy of the ranch properties pictured.
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