The Old West
Relaxing in front of a roaring campfire after a long day
in the saddle, listening to an old cowhand coax a tune from
his battered harmonica is the kind of experience most people
only find while watching their favorite western movie. In
the Real America, fact is truer than fiction! Nowhere in the
world is there a greater concentration of guest ranches, dude
ranches, lodges, outfitters and cattle drives than what you
can find in this region.
On a true western holiday, you can choose to ride a trail
through breathtaking mountain scenery or help real cowboys
move cattle to better pasture. The one thing to remember when
planning to take a ranch holiday is that no two ranches are
alike. Each offers a unique experience, from gourmet meals
to good old down-home cookin’. So what’s the difference between
a dude ranch and a guest ranch? What can an outfitter offer
that a ranch may not? These questions and many more will be
Dude Ranches, Working Ranches and Lodges
Dude and Guest Ranches are located throughout the region
and offer a surprising variety of stays. Many require a minimum
stay of three days to a week, and most include all meals and
There are generally three classifications of ranches—ranch
resorts, dude ranches and working ranches. Ranch resorts offer
swimming pools, tennis courts, gourmet food and luxury accommodations,
as well as traditional horseback riding, hiking and ranch
activities. Dude ranches usually accept guests for a minimum
of a week, typically Sunday to Sunday. Activities vary, but
most dude ranches offer a wide variety of outdoor activites
including riding, fishing, trail rides, cookouts and freshly
prepared food. Working ranches allow guests to take part in
the daily workload associated with a ranch.
Scenery can be as diverse as the ranches themselves. Some
ranches are located in mountainous areas, with spectacular
views and an abundance of wildlife. Ranches located in the
plains and grasslands also sport abundant wildlife, and views
of the vast, open prairie are truly magnificent.
Another uniquely western experience can be had when you stay
in one of the region’s many lodges. Most lodges are located
in or near national forests, and they offer relaxed accommodations
ranging from comfortable and homey to luxurious. Most require
a minimum stay and are all-inclusive. The vast majority offer
horseback riding, hiking, back-packing and fishing opportunities.
Many ranches and lodges book through tour operators in Europe.
You can book directly through these operators, or you can
contact specific ranches and lodges directly via phone and
fax. Listings for individual guest ranches and lodges are
located in the directory of this guide. Regardless of the
type of western holiday you choose, be assured it will be
an experience you will cherish for a lifetime.
Outfitters, Cattle Drives & Wagon Trains
One of the truly unique experiences offered in the Rocky
Mountain region is being able to jump in and take part in
exciting activities like cattle drives and wagon trains. A
real western cattle drive allows you to ride the trails with
experienced cowboys, moving the herd and chasing down strays,
and sleeping out under the stars. The day’s activities are
sure to build up an appetite, so meals are hearty on the trail.
Big breakfasts and western-style dinners, which often include
the huge steaks so popular with cowboys, are a specialty!
Joining a wagon train gives you the chance to experience
what the pioneers’ lives were like on the old emigrant trail
system. Guests ride with professional guides in authentic
Conestoga wagons. Meals are served fireside, and unlike the
meager fare the emigrants had, guests may have to loosen their
belts to make room for hearty helpings of local beef, beans
and homemade cobbler.
Another great western opportunity is to saddle up and head
into the pristine wilderness with a licensed outfitter. Outfitters
will take you and your companions miles into the back country
where you can look for elk, moose, deer and bear and experience
some of the best trout fishing anywhere! When you are through
exploring for the day, you will return to camp to enjoy a
fine meal prepared by the outfitter. After dinner, everyone
will settle into their sleeping bags for a restful night’s
Outfitters can also take you on guided hunts for big game
animals and gamebirds during their respective seasons. With
their unique knowledge of the land, a professional outfitter
can greatly increase your chances of having a successful hunt.
Refer to the companies listed in the directory or contact
your nearest RMI office to get more information on these one-of-a-kind