10 Family-friendly U.S. Ranches to Experience the Great Outdoors

All the best guest ranches in America for true immersion into authentic yet luxurious cowboy life.

We independently research, test, review, and recommend the best products—learn more about our process. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.

Dining at The Resort at Paws Up
Photo:

The Resort at Paws Up

There’s no question that the uber-popular series Yellowstone is sparking major travel inspiration for family dude ranch vacations. And while true cowboys are riding around on horseback in snow, rain, and sun, the best season to plan your own wild adventure is spring since no matter the setting, the weather has a good chance of being beautiful — summer, too. 

This all-American agrotourism experience full of spectacular landscapes, trail rides, and mouthwatering Western-style cuisine is best enjoyed over a week with kids, adults, and grandparents alike. But even a long weekend provides plenty of opportunities to make once-in-a-lifetime memories while connecting with nature. Note that most are all-inclusive and many charge a 20% ranch fee covering gratuities. So pack your hat and boots because they’re practically required. Out of some 100 properties across North America, here are the 10 best dude ranches for families to visit. 

Best Ranches for Families

Editor’s Pick: The Lodge at Blue Sky, Auberge Resorts Collection

Exterior of The Lodge at Blue Sky, Auberge Resorts Collection

The Lodge at Blue Sky, Auberge Resorts Collection

Why We Chose It

Though ultra-luxurious, this 3,500-acre private ranch in the Wasatch Mountain Range near Park City, Utah, engages and educates guests of all ages in authentic cowboy culture and skills. 

Key Specs 

  • Free Wi-Fi: Yes 
  • Resort Fee: No 
  • Room Rate: $$$$

Notable Amenities 

Berry-picking for kids at 1.5-acre organic farm, complimentary yoga and meditation classes, distillery tours, on-property hiking trails and wildlife, loaner vehicles available and complimentary Park City shuttle 

Hotel Description 

This intimate 46-room and -suite retreat has all the hallmarks of a luxury resort. You’ll find excellent culinary offerings, beautiful architecture, impeccable service, and a heavenly spa. It doubles as a working cattle ranch — a particularly dreamy one at that. Immersive experiences for guests pull the curtain back and show the inner workings of that operation, such as The Cowboy Way, which involves practicing the basics of natural horsemanship and cattle moving with wranglers, checking fences, moving cows, and more. Opened in 2019, The Lodge at Blue Sky is the only North American ranch with its own full-time veterinarian, who works at Saving Gracie Equine Healing Foundation; guests can spend a full day learning about and helping a single horse in need. Even kids get in on the fun, feeding animals at Gracie’s Farm, trying their hand at roping a dummy cow, and saddling up a horse. 

Alisal Ranch

Horse back riding on Alisal Ranch

Alisal Ranch

Why We Chose It

On 10,500 acres of Santa Barbara wine country sits Alisal Ranch, a storied, all-inclusive ranch known for its traditional Santa Maria barbecue and Western-themed activities.

Key Specs 

  • Free Wi-Fi: Yes 
  • Resort Fee: Yes 
  • Room Rate: $$$$

Notable Amenities 

Wood-burning fireplaces, visiting guest chefs, game room, barnyard animals 

Hotel Description 

Opened in 1946, this ranch is as authentic as it gets, attracting families for decades to its charming houses, cottages, and suites, redesigned by designer Nathan Turner and Taylor House Interiors. There’s plenty of riding to be done across the bucolic property atop 100 gorgeous horses, but for a change of scenery, there are also two 18-hole golf courses plus tennis courts, cycling, lake kayaking, and a spa. Kids can go on lead around horseback rides. A favorite activity is the trail ride to Adobe for an old-school breakfast in the most picturesque setting, though barbecues at the Rodeo come in a close second. 

C Lazy U Ranch

Evening campfire at C Lazy U guest ranch

C Lazy U

Why We Chose It

C Lazy U Ranch is two hours northwest of Denver, hidden in the wilds of Granby, Colorado, and offers a genuine dude ranch experience year-round. 

Key Specs

  • Free Wi-Fi: Yes 
  • Resort Fee: Yes 
  • Room Rate: $$$

Notable Amenities 

Morning fireside cowboy coffee, five-star wine cellar, Horsemanship Clinic, over-river massage tents with glass floors    

Hotel Description 

Warm, welcoming staff; cozy, rustic cabins; and an all-inclusive schedule of activities make this a beloved historic dude ranch that speaks to the whole family. Riding is the main event, but there’s something for every ability and comfort level on horseback (plus wranglers are amazing with kids) — and the environment is constantly shifting with the seasons, so guests could be trotting through wildflowers or galloping in fresh snow. The ranch has operated since 1919 and beautifully blends modern sensibilities with tradition in its activity offerings — see hatchet throwing, hikes to yoga, and beehive tours. By night, sleepy kids mean a Champagne-fueled moonlit Cowboy Soak in a copper tub with views of the Continental Divide. 

The Ranch at Rock Creek

Ranch at Rock Creek, Philipsburg, Montana

The Ranch at Rock Creek

Why We Chose It


Gigantic and gorgeous, The Ranch at Rock Creek outside Philipsburg, Montana, stuns guests with not only natural beauty but diverse and bounteous cuisine. 

Key Specs 

  • Free Wi-Fi: Yes 
  • Resort Fee: Yes 
  • Room Rate: $$$$

Notable Amenities 

Outdoor wooden soaking tubs in some accommodations, nightly turndown gift, daily social hour, dedicated Ranch Ambassador concierge  

Hotel Description 

This all-inclusive ranch measures its land not in acres but in miles. Space isn’t the only prolific aspect of The Ranch at Rock Creek, which is set on 10 square miles of pure natural beauty, with a stable of shiny-coated horses and a barn for dances and dinners. It’s all about fun, whether that means cross-country skiing to creek-side yoga, riding horses to shoot skeet, or taking casting or naturalist lessons. Sustainably minded, with menus that celebrate Montana’s seasonal ingredients, the meals at this Relais & Chateaux resort are as much an adventure as the excursions on horseback and range wildly from fine dining to al fresco Dutch oven cooking. There’s no such thing as boredom on this ranch — you only need to look to the Silver Dollar Saloon with its bowling lanes and karaoke for proof. 

NewTree Ranch

NewTree Ranch

NewTree Ranch

Why We Chose It

For private family escapes in nature with a sustainable eco-luxe bent, there’s nothing else like Sonoma’s NewTree Ranch. 

Key Specs 

  • Free Wi-Fi: Yes 
  • Resort Fee: No 
  • Room Rate: $$$$

Notable Amenities 

Biodynamic garden, art sessions, gardening lessons, and flower arranging, Wim Hof mindfulness experience

Hotel Description 

In the Dry Creek Valley of Sonoma amid world-class wine vineyards is this pastoral ranch of a new wave-y sort — a plant-based one. There are still horses to ride across the 120-acre private estate with just one four-bedroom estate with a heated outdoor pool and glamping tent and an off-the-grid two-bedroom barn-slash-treehouse for guest accommodations. Nigerian dwarf goats, Scottish highlander cows, and chickens round out the farm menagerie. Families are welcome to interact with the animals. Other activities at NewTree Ranch include reforestation-minded tree plantings, paddleboarding, nature walks, family yoga, seed-to-table cooking classes, and pizza-making using ingredients from the property’s biodynamic farm. 

The JL Bar Ranch, Resort & Spa

Exterior of JL Bar Ranch
JL Bar Ranch

Why We Chose It

This 13,000-acre ranch in Texas Hill Country is the place to play cowboy or cowgirl in plush confines with opportunities to hunt and shoot skeet. 

Key Specs 

  • Free Wi-Fi: Yes 
  • Resort Fee: Yes 
  • Room Rate: $$$

Notable Amenities 

Fire pits, lawn games, walk-in humidor, horseback psychology   

Hotel Description 

Horses aren’t the only thing to ride in Texas Hill Country, where The JL Bar Ranch’s multiple stages and airport hangar draw major musicians for concerts. There are trails to bike and also golf carts for getting around between wine tastings, archery, and clay and skeet shooting experiences. There’s no mistaking where you are in the rustic yet richly decorated cabins and guest rooms — just 16 of each — nor during the sunset Cowboy Cookout experience, which starts with a horseback ride and involves cocktails, country music, and decadent steaks. 

Reid Creek Lodge at Wagonhound

Reid Creek Lodge in Wyoming, large lodge with luxury finishes

Reid Creek Lodge

Why We Chose It

Guests of Wyoming’s sprawling Reid Creek Lodge on 300,000 acres feel like ranch royalty thanks to a personal chef and curated activities.

Key Specs 

  • Free Wi-Fi: Yes 
  • Resort Fee: No 
  • Room Rate: $$$$

Notable Amenities 

Private guides, stargazing, wildlife viewing, overnight camping experience, e-mountain bikes

Hotel Description 

In summer 2022, Wagonhound Land & Livestock Co. opened its first seasonal guest lodge in central Wyoming’s Laramie Range. At 8,000 square feet, the timber-clad lodge with knobby wood columns features seven bedrooms that can sleep a single group of up to 22 guests at a time. Think the Dutton homestead from the Paramount series Yellowstone. There’s a private chef to cook up whatever your heart desires and private guides who build out bespoke itineraries, which incorporate horseback riding (of course), but also fishing, skeet shooting, archery, and stargazing. Guests also have access to e-mountain bikes and stand up paddle boards to explore the property’s alpine lakes. 

Montage Big Sky

The lobby bar at Montage Big Sky

Montage Big Sky

Why We Chose It

Montana’s Big Sky Country is on full display at this tony resort with three world-class fly-fishing rivers crowned by the Spanish Peaks mountain range.

Key Specs 

  • Free Wi-Fi: Yes 
  • Resort Fee: Yes 
  • Room Rate: $$$$

Notable Amenities 

Rental concierge service, indoor spa pool, bowling, complimentary raclette, and s’mores at the fire pit 

Hotel Description 

Every season of the year is stunning at Montage Big Sky, which opened in December 2021 in time to show off its ski-in/ski-out perks for skiers and boarders. The luxury resort of 100 modern Alpine-inspired rooms and suites, plus 39 residences, leans into an elegant ranch and is only an hour from Yellowstone National Park. The on-site outfitter Compass Sports can organize horseback trail rides up into the mountains and across fields for a variety of ages and experience levels, not to mention e-bike trips, UTV four-wheeling adventures, and archery sessions. Amenities for kids are thoughtful and cute, such as stuffed animals and in-room scavenger hunts. Sumptuous experiences balance out the more rugged ones — think indulgent treatments in the 10,000-square-foot spa that speak to the season and complimentary gooey raclette and s’mores at the fire pit every evening.  

The Resort at Paws Up

Dining at The Resort at Paws Up

The Resort at Paws Up

Why We Chose It

Spanning 37,000 acres of a working Montana cattle ranch, The Resort at Paws Up is both incredibly luxurious and incredibly realistic, with private cattle drives and horseback riding lessons. 

Key Specs 

  • Free Wi-Fi: Yes 
  • Resort Fee: Yes 
  • Room Rate: $$$$

Notable Amenities 

Glamping tents, ghost tour, rodeo dinners, large home rentals for families have private hot tubs

Hotel Description 

The Resort at Paws Up is almost like its own national park, complete with 10 miles of the Blackfoot River and spectacular stargazing. It’s pristine, pure, and ready to be explored by curious young minds and experienced travelers alike. Spring is the best time to visit for the opportunity to book a private cattle drive for the whole family, though riding horses on more than 100 miles of trails (also for ATV adventures, mountain biking, and hiking) happens year-round. The resort was early in the glamping scene, with heavenly beds in safari-style tents. The ranch’s luxe accommodations also include one-to-three-bedroom homes with stone fireplaces, heated bathroom floors, and a personal Lexus to drive around the property. One thing is guaranteed: Guests will return home with a new skill, thanks to guided fly-fishing exploits, wrangling, wilderness workshops, and cooking demos.  

Three Bars Guest Ranch

Three Bars Guest Ranch Family Horseback Riding

Three Bars Ranch

Why We Chose It

Home to more than 120 horses and 140 head of cattle, British Columbia’s Three Bars Guest Ranch is the only approved Canadian member of the North American Dude Ranchers Association. 

Key Specs 

  • Free Wi-Fi: Yes 
  • Resort Fee: No 
  • Room Rate: $$

Notable Amenities 

Cabin upgrade available to modern “Black Series” with private deck and hot tub, indoor heated pool, mapped hiking trails, evening entertainment 

Hotel Description 

Family-owned and all-inclusive, Three Bars Guest Ranch is one of those rare properties with a solid five-star rating. It’s something of an outdoors adventure mecca tucked away in the Canadian Rockies offering future cowboys and cowgirls unlimited guided horseback riding twice a day (tailored to each rider’s ability level and comfort), Monday through Friday. The sense of hospitality and home is evident from the start thanks to three friendly generations of the Beckley family who staff — and live on — the peaceful ranch. They frequently interact with their guests for the most authentic experience. Days are spent in nature, with shooting sports, river rafting, e-bike tours, and fly-fishing available depending on the season. Wildlife is bountiful around the ranch, too. Evenings conclude with nutritious, hearty wrangler food; live music, and drinks in the saloon. 

Final Verdict 

The Lodge at Blue Sky epitomizes the fantasy that is a family dude ranch vacation in the modern age. Though it’s only been open since 2019, it’s our Editor’s Pick for best ranch for its perfect blending of luxurious amenities and world-class accommodations, and bona fide wrangling and intimate horseback cowboy experiences. When it comes to genuine all-hands-on-deck experiences for families, Three Bars Guest Ranch and C Lazy U Ranch are excellent choices. For ultra luxury in idyllic natural environments, there are options like Montage Blue Sky and The Ranch at Rock Creek. Large families will feel like the Duttons at vast, totally private ranches like Reid Creek Lodge, stocked with all the desired amenities and animals. 

Know Before You Go 

  • Depending on the time of year and location of your dude ranch, the weather varies wildly. Pack layers, especially plaid and denim or chambray ones, and don’t forget a wide-brimmed hat plus sturdy boots for every member of the family.  
  • Dude ranches aren’t only about riding horses and roping cattle. It can feel a bit like summer camp with plentiful options for activities both outdoors and in. There is usually an on-site spa for massages and other pampering treatments, too, so it can be as relaxing or active as you want to make it. 
  • Read more about guest ranches and the kinds of perspective-shifting experiences and remote natural beauty they offer before heading out on your trip. And remember, you don’t have to have any prior experience on a horse to get everything out of a ranch — there are patient experts at all of them ready to teach you the ropes. 

How We Chose These Hotels 

We evaluated more than three dozen dude ranches and guest ranches around North America before settling on the 13 best. Among the factors we considered when selecting these pastoral properties were horseback riding instruction and facilities, amenities, location, programming, reputation, and quality of service. We took into consideration dining options, the quality and look of accommodations, and additional offerings such as spa treatments and other activities beyond cowboy-related ones. To formulate this list, we drew on personal experience, reviewed whether the properties have received accolades, and read countless independent guest reviews. 

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles