While it would make a fantastic vacation for just dudes looking for the perfect guys’ trip, in reality, a dude ranch is just a cattle range, typically in the western US, that’s been converted to a vacation resort (or is still a working ranch) with a ton of cool cowboy-style stays. The word “dude” had a different slang meaning in the early 1900s, and it was how cowboys and cattle ranchers referred to big-shot city slickers back in the day.
Initially a free place for city dwellers to escape the hustle and bustle, dude ranches are a full-blown lodging business today, with many of them offering all-inclusive stays. There’s even an official Dude Ranch Association that was formed in 1926 and still exists today. There are plenty of guest ranch, or dude ranch stays located in the warmer parts of the country, making right now a fantastic time to plan a road trip or book a flight for winter and spring.
Just what does a day at a dude ranch look like? You might wake up to a hot, home-cooked (or gourmet) breakfast, enjoy the scenery with some horseback riding, or get a massage at the ranch’s spa. Nighttime will give way to some epic stargazing before you doze off in your rustic accommodations, many of which feature wood-burning fireplaces.
Whether you’re looking for more of a modest, no-frills guest ranch or one with the finest amenities possible, These ranch-style stays are one of the most versatile digital detox vacations for couples, families, or friends in 2023. Get a taste of that famous Western hospitality with our top picks below.
For a modern take on the old west, check out Alisal Ranch, located in Santa Barbara Wine Country. Whether it’s a family trip or you’re spending a weekend off-grid with that special someone, the Alisal Ranch has tons of activities like golfing, water sports, pickleball, and horseback riding, not to mention the 120 vineyards in the surrounding Santa Ynez Valley. With sanctuary-like rooms, an epic Western BBQ night, and unforgettable moments like riding through groves of oaks to a pancake breakfast, this is the best way to get some R&R.
Rancho de la Osa
A historic ranch sitting on seemingly endless vistas of high desert grassland in Arizona, the Rancho de la Osa guest ranch is home to famous trails, Native American ruins, and 120,000 acres of Buenos Aires Wildlife Refuge that are perfect for off-roading or horseback riding. With a total of 19 luxurious adobe guest rooms featuring vintage, Southwestern, and Mexican touches and a cozy fireplace, this destination is the ultimate romantic getaway but also makes a great bros-only trip.
Lone Mountain Ranch
A fantastic visit for anyone looking to cross Yellowstone off their bucket list, this Montana dude ranch lies just 18 miles beyond the park’s northwest border and offers unique activities like Nordic skiing, fishing trout streams, and dogsledding. You might see elk, bison, moose, bears, and wolves as you hike the pristine 53 acres of Lone Mountain Ranch, which is open in summer and winter. Finish off a day of spectacular sightseeing with an elegant, fire-lit meal in their restaurant, Horn & Cantle. Cabins might look quaint on the outside, but with details like wood-burning fireplaces, king-sized beds, and clawfoot tubs, the inside is filled with rustic luxury, making this one of the best winter dude ranch vacation ideas for 2023.
C-Lazy-U Dude Ranch
Located in the heart of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, this all-inclusive luxury dude ranch has stone fireplaces and classic Southwestern decor, allowing guests to choose between individual rooms or fully private cabins. Operating since 1919, C U Lazy has multiple horseback riding programs and activities catered towards the winter time for all-season entertainment. Traveling with someone slightly less adventurous? They can kick back at the Lazy You Spa, which even has massage tents suspended over the river with glass floors. Their curated gourmet meals are equally jaw-dropping. No matter what time of year you go, there’s something for everyone at this dude ranch.
White Stallion Dude Ranch
This family-run ranch has earned tons of awards over the past decade, blending fine amenities with that classic dude ranch hospitality. If you don’t want a luxury resort vibe and prefer something a little more low-key with home-cooked American comfort food, White Stallion is the perfect way to soak in that landscape of rugged mountains and remote desert land. With activities like shooting, rock climbing, hiking, and fat-tire bikes to tire you out during the day, you can even partake in cattle penning at this picturesque ranch.
Vista Verde Dude Ranch
This is one of the best dude ranches that blends swoon-worthy luxury with the Old West for an all-inclusive vacation that lets you kick back without worrying about an itinerary. Often used as a horseback riding vacation spot, this summer and winter destination has luxe log cabins featuring private hot tubs, Italian linens, spa robes, and plenty of Western flair. The culinary program is also a must-try for foodies and wine lovers, using delectable goods from local growers and ranchers. There’s even a weekly cooking class and wine tasting.
Brush Creek Ranch
One of the only dude ranch options with a private ski mountain for use between January and March, this secluded location in Saratoga, Wyoming, features 30,000 acres of starlit night sky that you don’t want to miss out on. Whether you want a world-class facial or a rural horseback riding experience, there’s plenty to experience within the gigantic scenic footprint of Bush Creek Ranch. It’s also one of the most spacious dude ranches in the Western US, with more activities than you can count, including spirit tastings at an on-site distillery. Although it’s the best winter dude ranch vacation idea in Wyoming, the wildflowers are quite a sight in warmer months since most of the property left in its natural state.
Kay El Bar Ranch
Homesteaded in 1909, this is considered one of the best winter dude ranches in Arizona, letting you explore all the beauty of the surrounding Sonoran Desert. Open year-round, it’s a charming and authentic destination for anyone who prefers a less fancy alternative to a resort-style stay. Instead, it’s a true homage to the cowboy culture of the area. If you’re looking for warm, sunny weather, all kinds of terrain, and scenery that are pretty enough to make you cry, Kay El Bar is a true throwback to the dude ranch era. Soak it all in on horseback or a fat-tire electric bike.