There are many child-friendly ranch vacations to choose from, but we’ve managed to narrow them down to the top four ultimate kids ranch vacations in the US!


It can be easy to feel spoilt for choice and even a little overwhelmed by all the family-friendly vacations available today. 

But you’ve come this far and are considering taking the kids on a dude ranch vacation – way to go! 

Dude ranch vacations are the perfect place to take your family, as they offer so many amazing activities and adventures specially designed for children (and it’s a chance for adults to take a break, too).

But which are the best dude ranches for families?’ you may ask...

Here are our top four ultimate ranch vacations for kids:


C Lazy U Ranch Kids Program

Ages: Three to 17

Why it’s one of the best dude ranches for families

Award-winning child-friendly ranch C Lazy U Ranch, Colorado has been running its kids program for over 50 years and it’s one of the major draws for families coming (and returning) to the ranch. 

Child-friendly vacations in the United States don't come much more established than this!

Both parents and kids have great separate experiences while being together at the same ranch. 

Parents love that their kids are safe and supervised, and – most of all – having fun. Kids love it because they feel independent and free, and feel like they are away at summer camp.

Adult on horse with children on horses behind

Family-friendly ranch activities

The ranch offers counselor supervision for kids activities and they'll be able to immerse in so many fun ranch adventures: horseback riding, the ropes course, zip-line, paddle boats, pool time, fishing, archery, arts and crafts, and much much more – who needs computer games! 

Parents, you'll also get to enjoy your ranch vacation: head to the spa, try yoga, golf, watersports… there’s so much to do, however you’ll still have plenty of chances to see the kids throughout the day, including pool time between 4 and 6pm.

Kids horse riding vacations

Horseback riding at C Lazy U Ranch is separate for adults and children. 

For the kids who want to horse ride, there are three different groups: 

  • 'Cowpokes' (ages three to five)
  • 'Mustangs' (ages 6-12)
  • Teens (ages 13-17)

This is popular with the older children as they can make – sometimes lifelong – friends with others of a similar age. 

Mealtimes at the ranch

Families will start each day together with breakfast and then meet up for lunch. Then, later on, adults and kids will have dinner separately, and afterwards join together for a fun-packed family evening activity with the counselors.

Ranchweb’s travel tip: All guests 17 and under are required to wear a riding helmet, which can be provided if you wish.

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Lost Valley Ranch Children’s Program

Ages: Three to 18

Why it’s one of the best dude ranches for families

Family ranch vacations to Lost Valley Ranch, Colorado are designed to create memories that will last a lifetime. 

From day one, the kids head off on adventures and the parents can rest easy knowing that their children are being safely supervised, exploring all the ranch has to offer.

From horseback rides, to tubing down the creek, to milkshakes and pool parties, kids have the chance to make new friends, conquer new adventures and become confident riders by the end of the week. 

Parents, you can sit back and relax, enjoying all the amenities on offer while watching the kids chase after adventures as only kids know how.

It’s definitely one of the best ranches for families!

Child on horse doing egg and spoon race

Family-friendly ranch activities

All-inclusive family vacations are the way forward, as they keep everything simple and everyone can have a go at everything!

  • Kids aged three to five:

There’s a specially-designed program for the younger kids who aren’t quite ready to be on horseback, so they will get just as much enjoyment and excitement. 

A kid supervisor will spend the week with your child, helping them participate in hiking, games, crafts, exploring and other fun activities. 

The program is available during the adults’ morning and afternoon horseback rides.

  • Kids aged six to eight:

Along with horseback riding, tubing down winding creeks and partying at the pool are just a few of the ranch vacation activities for kids in this age bracket that Lost Valley Ranch has on offer. 

  • Teens program for ages 13 to 18

This teen-friendly ranch vacation gives older kids the chance to have their own adventures in the Rockies. 

Horseback riding, bonfires, late night chats and ‘Capture the Flag’ are just a few of the activities designed to keep the teens happy!

Kids horse riding vacations

Apart from a family ride on Wednesday, kids ride separately from parents, allowing them to become confident and create lasting friendships with the other kids, supervisors and wranglers.

They’ll enjoy morning and afternoon rides through the breathtaking Rocky Mountains, with the exception of days when the adventures switch to the thrill of tubing down the creek, wrapped up with a pool party. 

At the end of the week, kids can show off their newly-honed cowgirl ‘n’ cowboy skills at the hotly-anticipated guest rodeo! 

Watch your little (and not-so-little) ones turn their hooves to the likes of barrel racing and other exciting events… they may even win an award...

Kids aged three to five can also enjoy the view from the back of a horse, as a gentle lead-around horse will be available in the corral, so you can take your child on a horseback ride with a lead rope at any time.

Mealtimes at the ranch

Everyone starts the day with breakfast together, then lunch and dinner depends on the day’s schedule. 

During the week, kids have their meals separately when everyone’s not eating outside together and with the exception of Tuesday night, teens join the adults in the dining room for lunches and dinners.

Ranchweb’s travel tip: Lost Valley Ranch does not provide riding helmets, so families need to bring their own.

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Elk Mountain Ranch Kids Program

Ages three and up

Why it’s one of the best dude ranches for families

Family ranch vacations in the U.S. don’t come much more dedicated than the Elk Mountain Ranch, Colorado kids program.

It’s a very family-oriented ranch, so perfect if you’re looking for child-friendly ranch vacations.

Girl in white hat smiling on horse

Family-friendly ranch activities

Kids aged eight and older, alongside horse riding the trails, can try shooting, rafting and the ropes course, too. 

Families have the option to do the activities together, however, if the kids ever want to stay back in the kids program, ride in the arena and do the specially-created kids program activities, they are always welcome to do so.

For kids aged seven and under, Elk Mountain’s ranch vacations for kids coincide with their regular program. 

Each day is themed and they offer activities that the children will safely enjoy, trying to keep family separation to a minimum. 

While the adults and older kids enjoy the thrills of rafting, the little ones can whizz down the water slide on a trip to the hot springs and pools.

Kids horse riding vacations

Kids aged eight and older can have the option of riding on the trail, and on Saturday, everyone gears up for the excitement of the kids rodeo.

Watch as your mini cowboys and cowgirls show off their new skills in the saddle, yeehaw!

Mealtimes at the ranch

At this family-friendly ranch, all meals are traditionally all served together, family style. 

Sometimes there are designated ‘kids tables’, but they are all in one dining room or picnic area, keeping the happy atmosphere alive. 

When adult adventures are taken al fresco, the ranch drives the kids out to the varied lunch sites and on Saturday night, everyone joins in the charming country candlelight dinner.

Ranchweb travel tip: For kids aged two and under, rates are $200 for the week, plus $18 per hour for extra child care.

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4UR Kids & Teens Program

Toddlers who are walking and out of diapers, to older teens

Why it’s one of the best dude ranches for families

4UR Ranch, Colorado has been welcoming families for over 140 years, and even today are welcoming the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of those young ones who first arrived so many years ago. 

With this history has come a wealth of experience in putting together the weekly children’s program, which is designed to provide kids with hours of fun, while encouraging new skills, self confidence and new friendships.

Child sitting on fence looking at horses

Family-friendly ranch activities

  • Toddlers to age four:

The ‘Midge Program’ is an active program available most mornings, two evenings and an afternoon during the week. 

This allows parents time to enjoy an adult horseback ride, fishing trip, or a quiet dinner, knowing that their little ones are having fun and being well cared for.

Midges have fun experiencing the wonder of the ranch, from meeting barn animals, to experiencing exciting nature hikes and pony rides.

  • Kids aged five to 12:

The ‘Wooly Buggers Kids Program’ is a supervised program with activities scheduled in the mornings from 9-12 and from 2-5 in the afternoon.

Another highlight of the program is the Wooly Bugger Fly Fishing School, taken by highly skilled 4UR Ranch fly fishing guides. 

Casting lessons take place on the center lawn, then the new young anglers head down to trout-filled Walton Pond to try their new skills.

Don’t be surprised if your kids get ‘hooked’ on fly fishing!

There’s also an archery course, hiking, fun in the pool, fort building, and on Monday and Wednesday evenings, the Wooly Buggers and Midges take a hayride down to the pasture for a campfire dinner, hotdogs, s’mores, 'Capture The Flag', and more.

  • Teens: 

Teens can take a break from the stress of schedules, school, homework, sports, or summer jobs and just relax – the ranch is theirs to explore. 

With access to ranch bikes, hiking trails, swimming, horseback riding, fishing, or a soak in hot springs, they’ll have the opportunity to experience the great outdoors, and recharge their minds and bodies. 

Whether they spend their time on a guided hike, learning about horses with the wranglers, or unwinding by the pool, their days will be filled with memorable adventures.

Kids horse riding vacations

There’s nothing like seeing your children saddle up on a horse and watch them gain confidence in the arena before heading out onto the trails. 

At 4UR Ranch, they’ll be expertly paired with a horse that they ride every day of the program. 

Experienced wranglers work hands-on with kids of all skill levels to advance their riding, whether they’re experienced riders, or have never been on a horse before.

For those kids wanting deeper knowledge and instruction, there’s a Junior Wrangler program, providing one-on-one time with wranglers. 

And all of their hard work pays off on Thursday mornings when the Kids Rodeo takes center stage in the arena, complete with barrel racing, 'Pull the Ribbon off the Goat's Tail', pie eating, Junior Wrangler graduation and even a few rodeo clowns!

Mealtimes

Mealtimes at 4UR Ranch take place at liberally scheduled times and your table is yours, for you and your family, for the entire week of your stay.

Kids may enjoy the full menu, but there’s also a specially-designed menu for them, with some tried and true favorites.

Ranchweb travel tip: The ranch boasts a well-stocked store, so if you forget something (even the toothpaste!) or you’d like some new gear, then know there’s the store on hand.

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Now you've found the perfect family-friendly ranch vacation, it's time to pack! Don't stress the small stuff, check out our ultimate ranch vacations packing list: what to pack for a ranch vacation: 9 absolute essentials 


Written and created by Kate Hammaren; luxury and adventure travel writer, editor and world traveler.

 

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