Red Horse Mountain Ranch’s most striking feature — and the only element that can rival the pristine beauty of the massive pine-forest property and its secluded mountain setting — is, hands down, the incredible staff. The welcoming tone is set at the top and carries throughout, down to the person.
Good-natured, kindhearted and just plain nice to be around, the ranch employees are mostly young and mostly from Idaho (though beyond as well), spending their summer doing something they genuinely like. This matters, because during a stay at the ranch, guests spend a good deal of quality time with staff, and the down-to-earth, jovial atmosphere they create completely makes the vacation. Red Horse Mountain Ranch would not be what it is without them.
The next most attractive feature is the quality, variety and volume of activities offered. My sister Jennie and I stayed at the ranch for three days, but in that short time we shot clay pigeons, fished for small-mouth bass on a nearby lake, went ziplining, took a horseback riding lesson, spent a warm afternoon kayaking, learned archery on a scenic course in the woods, went on a horseback trail ride in the mountains, and got massages. Each and every activity was enjoyable and well instructed.
There were many more daytime activities that we weren’t able to fit in: the challenge course, hiking, yoga, geocaching, fly fishing, golf, pottery, mountain biking and others. The ranch offers enough to make every member of the family happy.
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The ranch maintains an environment that’s safe for children to run around fairly independently, and a fantastic kids’ program that welcomes kids ages 3 through 11. Parents can choose to participate with or watch their children, or kids can have fun on their own while parents are otherwise engaged. Guests can bike, swim, kayak, scale the climbing wall and, of course, ride horses.
The staff specifically selects a horse for each child. The youngest kids (ages 3-6) are closely supervised in the valley, while older children (ages 6-11) can join a trail ride. Some rides are led to a meadow where the group eats lunch and plays games. (Children age 6 and younger may be led on these rides, depending on their ability.)
WIFI at the ranch is limited; it only works in a few places in the lodge for a small number of people at a time. There also are no TVs in the cabins, making a week at Red Horse the modern child’s definition of roughing it. This allows families to interact in different ways and gives them extra time to spend together, a great opportunity for family bonding.
All-Inclusive: Work- and Worry-Free
The rate for a week at the ranch is all-inclusive. Accommodations (from one-bedroom lodge suites to four-bedroom cabins), all food and most activities are included, as are beer, wine and a couple of specialty cocktails, served at a casual, inviting bar inside the lodge. One of the best parts of an all-inclusive vacation is that parents don’t have to worry about providing three meals a day for the family. No meal planning, no shopping, no cooking, no washing dishes and, even better, no nonstop restaurant meals. Guests can choose to eat as a family at small tables or join one of the long communal tables. Meals are served buffet-style; breakfast can be cooked to order.
The pastry chef goes above and beyond, offering delicious sweet treats in the lodge every afternoon, as well as baked goods at breakfast and for dessert at meals. These included to-die-for blackberry scones, Italian love cupcakes with ricotta filling, cinnamon muffins, pumpkin cake with five or six different elements, and delicious berry pie, among others. The kitchen can accommodate special dietary needs, including vegan, vegetarian and dairy- or gluten-free.
Another highlight of the week is the adults-only paired-course wine dinner. The week we were there, it included beet and fennel soup, halibut, and beef shoulder with a red wine, shiitake mushroom and gorgonzola reduction. Each course was paired with a thoughtfully chosen wine. The meal was delicious, interesting and festive, with the entire group of guests seated at a long, nicely decorated table in the lodge.
Evenings are social and fun, and the staff take turns leading the evening events. There was a bonfire one night with a local strumming the guitar and singing traditional songs; on another, we enjoyed music played by the fireplace in the lodge. During karaoke night in the saloon, one talented young woman on staff belted out a fiery rendition of “Bette Davis Eyes,” and kids and adults alike have fun taking turns with the mic.
On late Friday afternoons, the running of the herd takes place — the herd races up to the meadow where they’ll graze over the weekend. We were taken aback by the emotional impact of the 100-plus horses as they galloped past us, their raw power, grace and beauty on full display. It is an uplifting experience not to be missed.
Overall, for families looking for a safe place for their kids to run about, a place to bond as a family over common adventures, or a place for a special multigenerational trip or family reunion, Red Horse Mountain Ranch is a fantastic choice.
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Editor’s Note: Red Horse Mountain Ranch provided a media package for Ciao Bambino to review the property. As always, our opinions are our own. Photos by Katherine Shirer except where noted.