Just thinking about my little dudes riding through the wild west on horses makes me smile. No cell phones, iPads, or TV. Just the Great Outdoors before them and me by their side. Where can I live out my country-western fantasies? Check out these great family dude ranches for the quintessential experience of the American frontier.
The secluded Encampement, in Wyoming, is one of the largest dude ranches in the country with more than 100,000 acres of hills and woods to explore. You're not required to ride with a wrangler (but you should know the ropes before venturing out on your own). For those who prefer to stay out of the saddle, there's golf, tennis, hiking, and great food from a Cordon Bleu-trained chef.
Surrounded by the Sonoran Desert, Tanque Verde Ranch, in Tucson, offers three 90-minute rides daily through the countryside and a group arena lesson to hone your skills. When you're not riding, "roughing it" here means kicking back by the pool, feasting on hearty Southwestern dishes, or curling up with a good book on your private patio.
Clear Creek Guest Ranch is a family-run property hidden in the Smoky mountains, North Carolina. The appeal is its intimacy: you'll never have more than 7 people on riding expeditions. Other diversions include trout fishing, steak cookouts, rodeos, and guided trips to the nearby gem mine.
You'll never run out of things to do at HF Bar ranch, in the Bighorn mountains of Wyoming. Riding, fly-fishing, clay shooting, hayrides, cookouts, massages for mom—the activities are endless. Bonus: the Kids Club House, where your little ones will spend hours hiking, making crafts, visiting animals, and boating while you get the day to yourself.
Related: America's Best Dude Ranches
Clara Sedlak is a mom of two and a senior editor at Travel + Leisure.