Don't be misled by the name of our #1 Colorado Luxury Dude Ranch pick: the beauty of the C Lazy U Ranch in Granby, CO is that your stay can be as relaxed--or as active--as you'd like!
Just look at C Lazy U’s history. The ranch’s trademark 5-SPUR SERVICE doesn’t just refer to its charming Western hospitality. It also means that C Lazy U is the only guest ranch in North America to receive the AAA Five Diamond and Mobil Five Star ratings for 25 consecutive years. The deal gets sweeter with 8,000 acres of land! You can try and explore on foot, but we suggest saddling up a horse from the C Lazy U’s stable and riding from valleys to mountain peaks with an experienced wrangler. Speaking of wranglers, your little lasso-toting lad or lassie will be thrilled by the Shodeo. After preparing all week, they – and the whole family – can show off their new horse handling skills and compete in horseback riding contests.
As the Momma or Poppa cowboy, you need a break from keeping your little bandits in line. While they enjoy Kid’s Program activities, slip away to Lazy U Spa for the Bonnie and Clyde couples massage.
Fishing in stocked pond or nearby river, basketball, volleyball, trap shooting, mountain biking, game room, ice skating pond, snow-tubing, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, spring-fed pool and hot tub, archery, yoga, luxury camping and more.
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Bring your big appetite to the family-style dinner table at C Lazy U Ranch. Swap stories and laughs while sipping a glass of wine and eating a rack of rosemary lamb.
When we first began our list of Top 10 Colorado Ranch Vacations we had visions of chap-wearing cowboys hooting from atop their horse and herding cows in a pasture. While you’ll still find some version of this along the way, our No. 2 ranch surprised us with its multiple Southwestern experiences.
Escape to the Rocky Mountains, horseback ride to your heart’s content, indulge in the expertly-crafted cuisine or build your own Colorado adventure at Smith Fork Ranch. You could attempt to experience every aspect of Smith Fork, but then you might not get the chance to sleep in one of the hand-built cabins originally built between 1890 and 1950. Dismiss those mental pictures of creaky wood and cobwebs. Smith Fork lodge rooms and cabins are rustic with their log walls and beamed ceilings, but they are also appointed with amenities such as gas stone fireplaces, easy chairs and Western artwork. When you’re not catching some shut-eye, take a morning hike through Gunnison National Forest, surround yourself with the scent of aspen, fir and spruce on an afternoon ride in the mountain valleys or spot a red-tailed hawk from your front porch while sipping a glass of premier vintner’s wine.
There’s plenty more to see and do at Smith Fork on your very own Colorado adventure. Fly fish for rainbow trout in the Smith Fork River, ride or hike to Needle Rock and through Black Canyon National Park or simply relax in the library or hot tub.
Celebrate another kind of experience at Smith Fork Ranch: your Colorado destination wedding! Comfortable accommodations, an abundance of activities, a beautiful Aspen landscape for your ceremony backdrop and a five-star catering team combine to make your special day perfect.
From Telluride, take Hwy. 145 out of Telluride and then turn right onto Hwy. 62 to Ridgway. Turn left onto Hwy. 550 to Montrose. Hwy. 550 becomes Hwy. 50. Continue to follow this into Delta. In Delta, turn right onto Hwy. 92 and proceed through Hotchkiss and southeast to Crawford. Turn left onto Dogwood Avenue and travel east for about 2.3 miles. Turn right onto Needle Rock Road. Drive east for another four miles, passing Needle Rock on the left and follow signs for Smith Fork Ranch.
Your friend from Steamboat Springs at our No. 3 ranch would like you to come for a visit. You say you don’t have a friend in Colorado, much less one that lives on a ranch? While you may not have grown up just down the street, Vista Verde prides itself on treating you and yours as friends.
You aren’t the type of friend that has to entertain themselves or make their bed every morning either. You are both the star and life-long friend on your Vista Verde vacation. With a one-to-one staff to guest ratio, attentive service is inevitable. Finding trails is easy with Vista Verde Ranch’s location in Hinman Park and the bordering Routt National Forest. With more than 80 horses at the ranch, experienced trainers will pair your personality with the best horse and together you can climb Wapiti Mountain to see the Continental Divide or find a watering hole at Pearl Lake or Elk River. If you’re looking for a different kind of horse riding, then warm up those vocal chords and learn how to round up cattle in the arena. Later on, trade those chaps for an apron and learn how to cook!
Your young cowboys and cowgirls will have a rip roarin’ time at Vista Verde Ranch with organized kid’s activities like hayrides, learning ropes, treasure hunts, boat races, teen-only movie nights and campouts, marshmallow roasting and more.
In the summer, enjoy kayaking, river rafting, rock climbing, mountain biking, hiking, fly fishing, horseback riding, hot air ballooning and golfing. In winter, you can still ride the horses, or you can take a sleigh ride. On your own two feet you can snowshoe, ski and sled.
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Though accommodations are rustically elegant, there is no question that the food is anything but luxury. Pile your plate high with hot artichoke dip, crab cakes and chocolate truffles.
Brilliant yellow-leaved trees foreground the rising summits of the snow-capped Continental Divide. You pull in the reins to stop a moment and soak it all in. The only noise you can hear is the drum of the horses’ hooves pawing at the meadow grass. It’s exactly as you imagined it would be, plus fish.
If that last part didn’t make sense, it soon will. Our No. 4 pick fulfills not only your dude ranch expectations, but your angler ambitions, as well. North Fork Ranch and Fishing Lodge is an Orvis-endorsed fly fishing lodge situated by the North Fork of the South Platte River. This means that professional guides help you lure in that legendary rainbow, brown, cutthroat or steelhead trout. And while you may not be sitting atop a saddle, you can still appreciate the clear water rushing past, the trees swaying in the breeze and the blue sky above it all. Thrill-seekers will get their fill of white water rafting through class III and IV rapids or taking aim with target and trap shooting. The excitement continues into the evening with square dances, hay rides, story time with Mountain Man and Will Dudley Western ballads.
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You’ll never go hungry at North Fork Ranch with champagne brunches, barbeques, steak cookouts, afternoon appetizers and candlelit farewell dinners.
For the kids and the kids at heart, North Fork Ranch has a petting zoo, pony rides, fishing in a one-acre trout pond, swing set, family trail rides, campouts in a tipi with the kids wrangler and whitewater rafting trips.
55395 Highway 285, Shawnee, CO 80475
When we first saw our No. 5 pick’s name we tried to think of a “tumbling” experience. Tumbling down stairs, rocks tumbling off a cliff, a pyramid of cheerleaders tumbling over. Though we couldn’t think of a positive one, we did find that we “tumbled” head over heels for Tumbling River Ranch.
Tucked away in a Rocky Mountain valley surrounded by Mts. Evans and Bierstadt and running alongside Geneva Creek, Tumbling River is the quintessential Colorado getaway. Family-owned and operated with around 12 families staying at the ranch at one time, this Grant haven is the ideal, intimate environment to bring the kids or just you and your other for quality bonding. Get off on the right hoof – err, foot – each morning with a different daily trail ride. Take a fast-paced gallop or leisurely trot through meadows, valleys and the breathtaking Pike National Forest. If you like having nothing between you and nature but air, polish up your horsemanship skills for an overnight pack trip! If you get a little saddle sore, take a dip in the outdoor heated pool, test your trigger finger trap shooting, or enjoy the crisp mountain night air at a campfire, hayride or outdoor games.
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Recreation room, volleyball, horseshoes, two hot tubs, massage service, a fireplace, a porch with a swing, a private bathroom and more.
Visit the ranch animals, including goats, sheep, ducks, geese and donkeys, hike up to the summit of Guanella Pass Road, fish in stocked ponds and along the river, take a vehicle tour of abandoned mines and ghost towns and sightsee in Breckenridge, Fairplay and Georgetown.
From Denver International Airport, merge onto I-70 West. Take Exit 260 onto I-470 South. Exit onto Highway 285 South and then turn north onto Grant, Colorado. Follow to the sign for Tumbling River Ranch.
You don’t need Dorothy to tell you that there’s no place like home. But you may need us to tell you that there’s no place like The Home Ranch. That’s right, our No. 6 Colorado ranch has dared to make you feel so at ease that you’ll swear that’s mom’s apple pie you smell.
Alright, maybe it’s more like the bread and pastries from chef Clyde Nelson’s kitchen that are made from scratch daily, but you won’t hear any complaints from us! In fact, meals at Home Ranch are the centerpiece the days revolve around. This is to say, skiing or riding expeditions are planned out over yogurt and fresh fruit, lunch is served poolside in the summer so as not to interrupt splashing and a four-course dinner is the reward for a day well spent in the Colorado evergreen and aspen forests. When you don’t find yourself seated at the majestic oak dining tables, we have no doubt that you will have already picked out a favorite horse from Home Ranch’s herd that has been 25 years in the making. To learn more about your new friend from nose to tail, take Home Ranch’s Horse Psychology.
In anticipation of your Colorado ranch adventure, check out Home Ranch’s Horse of the Month!
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Along with your stay in Home Ranch’s luxurious lodge rooms or cabins, you’ll enjoy guided nature hikes, fly fishing lessons, complimentary airport shuttle service, children’s and teen program, evening activities and, of course, horseback riding and horsemanship.
54880 Routt County Rd. 129, Clark, CO 80428
You usually leave talk of peace and goodwill towards all for the holidays, but our No. 7 Rocky Mountain ranch brings harmony and cheer to your Colorado family vacation. If you’re not convinced riding horses and sitting around a campfire will make you reach out to your neighbor, let us elaborate.
Peaceful Valley Ranch not only boasts a comforting name, it also offers families rustic-luxury cabins with spectacular views of the surrounding landscape and a myriad activities that won’t require a family vote and tantrums from the losing party. Couples won’t even have to compromise. As soon as they lay eyes on Mountain View, a one bedroom cabin sequestered by trees and its towering namesake, there will be unanimous agreement. When it comes time to plan the itinerary, fill it with native Colorado favorites like the climbing wall, panning for gold in the Ceran St. Vrain River and the ever popular BOM – breakfast on the mountain, that is! When the stars come out to play, so can you! Now, try and tell us you’re not glad about choosing Peaceful Valley when your kids are laughing during The Great Scott magic show or when you forget the beans at the Chili Cook-Off.
475 Peaceful Valley Rd., Lyons, CO 80540
For an entertaining Colorado history lesson, hop aboard the Switzerland Trail tour. This abandoned rail road running through the valley transported both goods and people from 1898 to 1917. Visit gold mining towns, picnic at Mt. Alto and take in the captivating scenery.
The story goes that Peaceful Valley was originally named Wildcat Gulch but was given its current name when John and Mildred Roberts arrived in 19907 and Mildred proclaimed, “Oh, what a peaceful valley!”
While our last Colorado ranch advocated peace in the valley, our No. 8 Western-style hideaway wants you to get lost – lost in the excitement of ranch living, that is! And we have to say, after a stack of flap jacks slathered in butter and a gooey cinnamon roll, we were ready to toss our map aside!
Lost Valley Ranch is the only Colorado dude ranch to receive the AAA Four-Diamond rating for 30 consecutive years. This means that Lost Valley’s brand of hospitality goes beyond pancakes and breakfast pastries. In fact, it follows you straight into your Lost Valley cabin with all the cowboy – we mean, creature comforts you need like wood-burning stone fireplaces, multiple bathrooms with Jacuzzi tubs and porches with lounge swings shaded by pine trees. When it comes time to hit the trails, you’re not on your own. Lost Valley wranglers know that every horse and every trail has its own personality. Therefore, you will be paired with a horse that meets your skill and comfort level and a trail that can go through wild flower meadows and across streams or up to alpine heights.
The care Lost Valley Ranch takes to give you an outstanding CO vacation follows through at meal-time, too. Bring your catch of the day and Marion’s Kitchen will cook it just the way you want!
Swim in the Olympic-sized swimming pool, watch the wranglers show their stuff at the rodeo, hike through part of the 40,000-acre Pike National Forest, tube down Goose Creek, fish for rainbow trout or relax in the hot tub.
29555 Goose Creek Rd., Sedalia, CO 80135
We know you’ve done it. You set your alarm hours before the sun comes up. Your poles and tackle box have spent the night in the car. Your clothes are at the ready on the floor for you to easily step into and then dash out the door. All for that one perfect spot.
While we don’t want to take away the thrill of being the first, we do want to point out that our No. 9 spot has a system that may allow you to hit snooze. After a hardy meal of smoked beef, the 4UR Ranch manager and fly fishing guide conducts an evening lottery. The winner chooses their station along Goose Creek and the second chooses theirs and so on down the line for the morning cast. In the afternoon, the order is reversed and every angler gets a prime spot on the renowned trout stream. If you’re more into riding boots than waders, 4UR Ranch also has all the gear to get you riding through Rocky Mountain territory in no time. If you’re not a rider, take some time to relish in regional specialties: onsite hot spring spas and the nearby Rio Grande Club golf course.
Kids will hardly realize you’re gone when they’re at the 4UR Kids Program. They’ll be making friendships while sack racing, bobbing for apples, horseback riding, painting, fishing, animal tracking and more.
Unwind in the game room or at the bar, mountain bike, hike, shoot trap and sporting clay and visit the nearby mining town of Creede.
From Southern Colorado, take Hwy. 285 for a scenic and unforgettable drive. Travel to South Fork and follow the signs to Creede, but don’t actually enter the town. The 4UR Ranch is on the left side of the road after Cottonwood Cove, 13 miles from South Fork and seven miles from Creede. If you fly into the Alamosa airport, 4UR Ranch can provide shuttle transportation.
If you’re considering something new and different for your next getaway, this is what you might hear from a typical travel agent: Take a Colorado ranch vacation! You’ll laugh! You’ll cry! You’ll come back again and again! At Rainbow Trout Ranch, this isn’t an advertising pitch – it’s the truth.
Rainbow Trout Ranch combines staff, facilities and a spectacular south-central Colorado location to become a place for classic family experiences. Remember when you rode a horse for the first time? Caught your first fish? That’s a big part of the fabric of Rainbow Trout Ranch, central to the organized optional programs for children and teens, the weekly whitewater rafting trips, the trapshooting, the fly fishing and a number of other ranch activities. There’s a historic lodge here – forty feet tall, with its own library and recreation room – where family-style chef-prepared meals are served. There’s a riding area where ranch rodeos are held. There’s a range of spacious and often wonderfully-appointed cabins, and a pool and outdoor hot tub. But again, the overriding draw at Rainbow Trout Ranch is watching your children grow in confidence and skill on your one-week getaway. And the crying? When you leave, of course!
Ride The Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad, America’s Longest and Highest Narrow Gauge, between Antonito, CO and Chama, NM, for 64 miles of Rocky Mountain scenery on an organized outing from Rainbow Trout Ranch.
The lodge at Rainbow Trout Ranch was built of Engelmann spruce in the mid-1920s, and was the largest lodge in Colorado at the time.
From Antonito, CO, go west on Colorado Hwy 17. The sign also says "to Chama and Cumbres Pass." Fox Creek and the Fox Creek Store is on your right about 10 miles from Antonito. At the "Platoro" sign on the right, near the community of Horca, turn right to Forest Service Road 250. The entrance to the ranch is 1.8 miles up the road on the right. Turn in at the stone pillars and follow the driveway up to the office.