Sometimes you want to get off the beaten track, and sometimes you want comfort. Sometimes you want an adventure to escape “real life”, and sometimes you want a little peace and quiet to relax. Well, on a dude ranch, you can have everything.  The noises of construction and sirens (and your boss) are left at home and replaced with the sounds of a gurgling stream, birds chirping, children laughing, and even silence.  If you have ever fantasized about leaving your daily commute behind and replacing it with horses on the trail, or natural experiences all around, then a trip to an authentic working dude ranch may be just what you’ve been looking for.

What a Dude Ranch is All About

Cattle Drive
This could be you – out in the open and away from everything.

The pace at all dude ranches can be as leisurely or as active as you would like it to be. While unlimited Horseback riding is a main focus of many ranches, the other activities travelers can experience are endless. Hiking in National Parks and forests, white water rafting, and world class fly fishing on private rivers are just a few of the adventurous and nature-oriented activities offered. Overnight hiking and camping trips, trap shooting, and golf are even available. Yes, golf! There really is something for everyone. It’s not just about one activity, but instead it’s about combining everything together into a series of exciting and relaxing experiences.

Comfortable Accommodations

Travelers often wonder if staying at a dude ranch is really just a camping trip filled with lots of hard work. Well, that’s not true at all. Imagine sitting in a big overstuffed chair with your favorite book by a crackling fire with a view out the big picture window that simply takes your breath away. No noisy streets, no high-rise buildings, just you, your book and the spectacular view. Dude Ranch accommodations will vary from ranch to ranch, but they are all comfortable and relaxing. From luxurious, to elegantly rustic and even cowboy chic, there is something for every individual preference.  Whether you are staying in your own private cabin or in a lodge room, rest assured you will be sleeping on super comfortable beds, in superbly kept rooms with all the amenities you will need, at a variety of budgets.

Ranch hotel room
Not too shabby!

Don’t Forget the Food!

Past guests have reported that dining at a dude ranch was one of the most memorable parts of their vacations. Whether it’s dining around a camp fire, under the stars, enjoying a pool side barbeque, or sitting at an elegant candlelit table, the food is simply amazing. The fare can range from home-style cooking to the finest western cuisine found anywhere, often prepared by Cordon Bleu Trained Chefs.  Ranches offer freshly baked pastries and breads, fresh fruits and vegetables (often grown right on the ranch property – local food!) and some of the most delectable desserts a traveler can ever imagine.  The dining experience of dude ranch guests is truly one of the highest priorities of the ranch owners.

Red Reflet Ranch, Wyoming
Red Reflet Ranch in Wyoming is one of many Dude Ranches with a beautiful setting and amazing views.

The Price of Taking it All In

Lots of people have a dream to get away to a ranch, but think it’s too expensive.  Many of these same people have a misconceived notion that a vacation where they pay for items a la carte will be more affordable.  Most Dude Ranches within the DRA (Dude Ranches Association) offer all inclusive packages that are not only affordable, but also cover all or most all of the activities, leaving out hidden or surprise costs often found on other tours or a La Carte trips. The rate at DRA ranches includes guest lodging, meals, horseback riding, and most of the other activities offered.

By comparing the costs of a Dude Ranch with a trip that a family of 4 might plan for themselves, we can see that the time spent at a dude ranch is quite affordable and convenient. Since a dude ranch already includes lodging, meals, horseback riding, river rafting, a rodeo, a trip through a nearby national park, and evening entertainment, the savings become quite clear when we look at the price of similar quality options purchased individually. On top of that, local transportation such as a rental car (and gas) is not necessary.  In total, a dude ranch can cost around $6,000 to $6,500, whereas the total of similar accommodations, meals, and activities in the area would cost upwards of $8,000 to $9,000 for a family of 4. Naturally, a couple traveling without children could visit a dude ranch for much less.

Horseback riding
A horseback ride through nearby parks is always on the agenda.

As it turns out, a dude ranch vacation can be a great deal, not to mention fun! Additionally there is so much more to a dude ranch than a hotel room with a bed and a restaurant in the lobby.  The priceless part of a dude ranch vacation is the personal interaction and sense of family felt and experienced at a ranch.  Many guests leave the ranch at the end of their stay having made lifelong friends with the owners, staff and even other guests.  Some guests even that they have met other families on a ranch vacation years ago and continue to see each other once a year on what has become an annual trip.  Dude ranches pride themselves in going the extra mile to make their guests feel special, which is why over 60% of all dude ranch guests are repeat customers.  If the ranches weren’t doing it right, the guests wouldn’t come back year after year, some for 2, 3, and even 4 generations. That’s a statistic that can’t be matched by most cruise lines or tour companies.

Woman with HorseHonestly, it surprised us how much there is to do at a Dude Ranch. It’s not just all “working with the cattle” or hiking through the mountains. There are luxurious lodges, activities for every generation, great food, and plenty of relaxation. Oh, and it’s also quite affordable.

For more information on Dude Ranches, including travel costs and logistics, visit the Dude Ranchers’ Association at DudeRanch.org.

Editor’s disclaimer: The Dude Rancher’s Association is an advertiser on Budget Your Trip. All opinions expressed in this article are our own.

Author: Bryan

Bryan has visited exactly one more country than his wife, and she won't let him forget it! Also an avid photographer, he enjoys entrenching himself within the local culture in order to learn more about the people of a place. He is the co-founder of Budget Your Trip, as well as a web and software developer with a passion for many other things. You can follow him on Twitter at @budgetyourtrip or on Instagram@budgetyourtrip.

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