Dude ranch vacation ideas for families

Suzi Milovanovic has been a mother of all kinds: stay at home mom, work from home mom, and go-the-office working mom. She blends all these perspectives in her contributions to various local and national print and online publications, tel...

Giddy up, family!

Round up those city slicker kids and head on out for a dude ranch family vacation that captures the spirit of the Wild West. From horseback riding and hands-on ranch experiences to hiking and spas, dude ranches offer activities that are sure to please every member of even the most urban family.

Family at dude ranch

For a family vacation experience that's out of the ordinary, check out these five amazing dude ranch destinations.

Rancho de los Caballeros

Wickenburg, Arizona

Since 1947, Rancho de los Caballeros has been giving families a taste of the cowboy life about 50 miles outside of Phoenix, in the heart of the Old Southwest. The ranch's Caballeros Kids program is for guests aged 5-12 where counselors entertain the young'ns with rides in the corral, swimming, tennis, hiking, scavenger hunts or crafts. After a fun-filled morning, it's family time with horseback riding, jeep tours, mountain biking, trap and skeet shooting, or just a dip in the pool. Need some time alone? Not a problem since the counselors are back again for nightly activities that include marshmallow roasts around a campfire and maybe a line dance or two. The best part about the Caballeros Kids program is that it's absolutely free.

Alisal Guest Ranch

Solvang, California

Just 40 minutes north of Santa Barbara, this exclusive California dude ranch offers some of the most beautiful and scenic trails of the Santa Ynez Valley. Summer is a great time to visit this historic destination with extensive kids programs that include the Kiddie Koral for children ages 3 to 6, the MAC club for 11 and 12 year olds, and Teen Time for ages 13 through 17. Adults can book a tee time on one of the ranch's two secluded golf courses, or a day at the spa to relax and pamper. While this dude ranch family vacation is a bit on the pricier side, the scenery and service are well worth the investment.

Triple J Wilderness Ranch

Augusta, Montana

Get to Great Falls, Montana, and you're about 80 miles from a unique and memorable family vacation in Big Sky country. This Montana dude ranch emphasizes horseback riding and offers something for every riding level, from novice to the serious equestrian. Kids love the programs designed for them, maybe because each child has their own horse for a week to learn horsemanship skills alongside a Kids Wrangler. In addition to riding, Triple J offers fishing and hiking, as well as other activities like s'mores roasts, spending the night in an Indian teepee, skipping rocks and nature studies. With so many things to keep your little wranglers busy, this dude ranch family vacation is sure to be a hit!

Lost Valley Ranch

Sedalia, Colorado

This premier Colorado family dude ranch has received AAA's four diamond rating for 30 consecutive years and is well known for its spectacular programs for children and teens. Enthusiastic counselors provide close supervision while the kids get fitted for their own saddle, groom their own horse and chase ranch critters that might be hanging around. "Big Bob" (the ranch's version of Mr. Rogers) meets the kids and teens can enjoy river tubing, barrel racing, calf roping and evening dances. Spend a fun night with the family "as it used to be" enjoying campfires, square dancing and hayrides.

Westgate River Ranch

River Ranch, Florida

A family dude ranch of the West, but in the East! The Westgate River Ranch touts itself as the world's largest dude ranch and invites the family to experience "Old Florida" when the state was home to cowboys and cattle ranchers. Family recreational activities include favorites like horseback riding, hayrides, trap and skeet shooting, as well as swamp buggy rides and cookouts. Experience the action of the rodeo Saturday nights at the ranch's 1200 seat rodeo stadium. Dine at the Saloon or find a snack at the ranch's General Store. Find down-home family fun in Florida while enjoying the scenery around the Kissimmee River.

Whether you enjoy the rustic charm an old-fashioned dude ranch provides, or prefer the more luxurious route where the ranch is complete with a spa, a family dude ranch vacation is sure to please even the pickiest of cowgirls and cowboys!

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