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The Old West

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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 on!

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 activities.

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 activities 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. For ranches offering vacation packages, click here.

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 sleep.

Outfitters can also take you on guided hunts for big game animals and game birds 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 opportunities!