Selecting The

Perfect Ranch

Before you even find a ranch, you first you might ask, Why should I consider taking a Dude Ranch Vacation? What kind of people do these things? Well, those are darn good questions. Here are a few ideas for you to consider. If you like the great outdoors, nature, great people, a family atmosphere, hospitality second to none and all kinds of things to do like; horseback riding, hiking, fishing, wild life viewing, great food and on I could go — then you should take one of these life enhancing vacations.

The outside of a horse is good
for the inside of a man.

Next, over many years we have found that the kinds of people that take these vacations are folks who love the outdoors first and foremost. These are families with children of all ages, couples, single people, men, women and grandparents. Many like to take a Dude Ranch Vacation for family reunions and more recently for weddings. What ever reason you choose and who ever your are – we think this is the greatest vacation on earth. And once you have tried it — chances are you will be hooked for life. Certainly you will remember this for the rest of your life. And if I do say so, that is very very special.
Welcome to our Selecting A Ranch section. This is one of the most exciting parts on your way to discovering your very own Dude Ranch Vacation. Ranches today come in all shapes and sizes. You should know that the four main categories of ranches are:

Dude or Guest Ranch

These are ranches that offer horseback riding as the center piece of the guest stay. Most if not all of these ranches offer lots to do and for those who do not wish to ride — no problem. There can be hiking, fishing, nature viewing, river rafting, sight seeing or some choose just to read a favorite book and relax.

Working Ranches

These are primarily ranches that make their livings by raising livestock like cattle and offer a few guests to come and be a part of their ranch activities which vary depending on the season, climate and the way each ranch is run by its owners.

Resort Ranches

These are properties that offer resort amenities such as tennis, swimming pools, spa services, and some even have golf on property.

Luxury Ranches

These are properties that offer luxury amenities.

Ultra Ranches

Ultra Ranches bring together the finest; accommodations, cuisine, service and activities. They represent the best of the best and are on par with some of the finest hotels in the world.

How to Find a Ranch &
Your Own Home on the Range

When trying to find a ranch, the best thing to do first is decide where you would like to visit and ask yourself if you want want the mountains, the prairie or beautiful desert country. You need to also choose what time of year you wish to go — that will help you narrow your choices considerably. Most ranches in the American and Canadian West are open during the summer months. Most ranches in the South West and in South America are open during the Winter months. Once you have done this then you can begin to explore Ranchweb to its fullest and begin selecting a dude ranch for your vacation. Our Ranch Categories Directory will help you narrow down your choices depending on what particularly interests you. And our Reservations/Space Availability Finder will help you to find out who has space for the time you wish to travel.

Finally — after having a lot of fun exploring Ranchweb and all the wonderful ranches — if you still need a helping hand, please call us. We are always willing to help point you in the right direction or at least give you some ideas to help you make the right choices. Please feel free to call or email our office.

Questions To Ask

It is strongly recommended that individual properties are contacted directly to confirm information presented. Also, we recommend that you ask ranches for references, or visit TripAdvisor.com

Ranch Rates

  • What are your rates?
  • What is the tipping/gratuity policy? (Rates don’t always include gratuities or all activities.)
  • Are there special rates for families, children, seniors, or corporations?
  • Do you have a non-riding rate?
  • Are there off-season rates?
  • Is there a minimum length of stay?
  • Besides state and local taxes, what do your rates not include?

Vacationing with Children

  • Is this a child-oriented ranch?
  • Does the ranch have a children’s program? What does it include?
  • What age must children be to ride? (Today’s insurance regulations may not allow very young children to ride.)
  • Is child care provided, and to what extent?
  • What are the qualifications of the child care providers?
  • Are parents welcome in children’s activities?
  • Can children ride with parents?
  • Can parents ride with children?
  • Do children eat separately?
  • Can children eat together?

Horses and Riding

  • What kind of riding program does the ranch have?
  • What kind of rides are there — morning, afternoon, all-day, side-by-side, slow to fast?
  • Is it open-meadow riding, or mountain-trail riding?
  • How long are typical rides?
  • Are riding lessons available?
  • What style of horsemanship do you use or teach?
  • Is the program best suited to beginners, or are there opportunities for intermediate and advanced riders, too?
  • If I’m an intermediate or advanced rider, can I trot or lope?
  • Do the owners/managers take part in the riding program?
  • How many wranglers and guests go out on rides at a time?
  • Do I get the same horse all week?
  • Can I brush and saddle my own horse?
  • Are riding helmets required? Are they provided? Can I bring my own helmet?
  • Do I need my own cowboy boots, or is there a boot rental program?
  • Can I bring my own saddle?
  • Can I bring my own horse?
  • Are there non-riding days? Do I ride all days of the week?
  • Will I need to sign an assumption of risk or waiver form before riding?

Cattle Work

  • How many cattle do you run?
  • Do guests participate in all cattle activities?
  • Can guests brand with the cowboys?
  • Do you teach roping?
  • Do you teach cattle or team penning?

Miscellaneous

  • Is there a staff naturalist?
  • Are there enough activities at the ranch for non-riding or non-fishing members of a family?
  • Will the ranch cater to special diets? (Some have vegetarian, low-salt, and low-cholesterol menus.)
  • Will the ranch provide guest references?
  • Are there special clothing requirements? What should I wear on my ranch vacation?
  • Will the ranch provide a clothing/equipment list? (Usually standard procedure.)
  • What equipment does the ranch provide? (Fishing rods, tennis rackets, etc.)
  • Do I need a license to fish? Should I buy one before I arrive?
  • What will the weather be like?
  • Can we buy sundry items at the ranch? (Not all ranches have stores on the premises.)
  • Do you provide airport, train, or bus pickup? (Many ranches are happy to pick you up. There is often a nominal charge.)
  • Do you recommend rental cars? (In most cases, once you arrive, you’ll not want to leave the ranch. However, you may opt for flexibility and independence.)
  • Are laundry facilities available? (Many ranches have laundry facilities; some will even do your laundry.)
  • What is your liquor policy? (Many ranches ask that you bring your own wine or liquor. If desired, you can pick these up on your way, or the ranch will get them for you with advance notice. Some ranches offer wine and beer, and a number have fully licensed bars and extensive wine lists.)
  • Are any foreign languages spoken?
  • Are pets allowed?
  • What is the elevation of the ranch?
  • Are there wheelchair facilities?
  • What is your smoking policy?
  • Are there nonsmoking rooms?
  • Do you provide email access?
  • Do you allow cellular telephones?

Getting to Your Dude Ranch Vacation

Whatever method of transportation you choose, it’s a good idea to check with the ranch or lodge before you make travel plans. Your hosts will advise you about roads, major commercial airports, and private airstrips. They’ll also tell you whether they are able to pick you up.

What To Wear

Clothing is an essential part of the ranch vacation experience. It’s important to pack correctly and bring clothes that will enable you to enjoy your dude ranch or estancia experience — a pair of boots, several pairs of jeans, a good cowboy belt with a buckle, a cowboy hat, several shirts, and a warm jacket are about all you’ll really need.

Over the years, after hundreds of miles on horseback and thousands of miles in automobiles and airplanes, I know quality clothing is better than quantity. (Well, I guess that goes for most everything in life.)

Here are a few Gene Kilgore clothing tips; along with quality, think comfort:

  1. Invest in a good pair of boots. Make sure your boots are well-worn before you arrive — you don’t want blisters.
  2. Buy at least three pairs of extra long jeans and wash them at least four times, using softener. They’ll be much more comfortable and will have faded a bit.
  3. Take along a warm jacket, a sweater, and even a vest. Early mornings and evenings can be cool.
  4. Bring along a smile, and cast all your worries away.

Finally, when making your reservation, ask the ranch or lodge to send you a clothing list to help with your packing. The ranch or lodge you’ve selected will be more than happy to give you all the advice you require. And, one last thing: Don’t forget a flashlight, some lip protection, mosquito repellant, and sunblock.