Hitch up the wagon and head to the Wild West with Katie McGonagle's ranch stay round-up
Do your clients dream of donning a Stetson and starring in their very own Western? Whether they’re kids who want to be Woody from Toy Story or dads keen to ride off into the sunset John Wayne-style, there’s a ranch stay to suit.
Working ranches are increasingly opening their doors to tourists seeking an authentic slice of American life, and offering a once-in-a-lifetime experience in return – everything from wrangling cattle, cookouts and singing songs by the campfire to horse riding through the most stunning scenery in the States.
There’s a huge range so it’s crucial to match clients to the right ranch – some focus on families or are happy to take complete beginners, while others only accept adults or experienced riders.
TWICE THE FUN
Twin-centre breaks are perfect if clients want a taste of the Wild West within a wider itinerary.
The most popular packages pair up a ranch with a city break – Las Vegas, Phoenix, Salt Lake City and Dallas are all within easy reach of cowboy country – or include it in a fly-drive.
Hayes & Jarvis suggests combining Mayan Dude Ranch near Bandera, Texas, with a few nights in Austin or even adding San Antonio for a triple-centre holiday (from £1,329 including flights and car hire). The ranch, also featured by Funway Holidays and Gold Medal, has dozens of picturesque trails with views over the valleys below.
James White, USA & Canada product executive for Hayes & Jarvis, says: “The appeal of a real working ranch means clients get to meet cowboys, go on horse riding trails, see chuck wagons and rodeos. One of the big attractions is the evening cookout round the campfire complete with songs and traditional stories.”
For a combination of cowboys and card games, Western & Oriental suggests pairing an Arizona ranch adventure with a few nights in the entertainment capital of the world, Las Vegas. But if clients can only fit in a flying ranch visit, recommend Attraction World’s short visits to Bar 10 Ranch on the edge of the Grand Canyon (from £209 for a day or £319 overnight).
Book committed cowboys and cowgirls in for a longer stay and they’ll be yeehawing like the locals in no time. North America Travel Service recommends the rugged terrain and scenic trails of Montana, Wyoming and Colorado for experienced riders seeking a challenge. Product and marketing manager Karen Farrar stayed at the luxurious Ranch at Rock Creek in Montana last year.
She says: “Without a doubt, it’s the best ranch I’ve ever experienced. The facilities and activity options are exceptional, from fly-fishing the stocked ponds, archery in the woodland and trying three kinds of shooting – clay, rifle and shotgun – to fine dining by a log fire and riding picture-postcard terrain with the ranchers who work the land.”
On selected weeks, Silver Spur Ranch in Idaho invites guests to take part in the Medicine Lodge horse drive – a fast-paced 20-mile-a-day ride across desert and canyon country, camping under the stars. It’s tough going, so Western & Oriental recommends this only for experienced riders, but when it comes to unforgettable adventures, it’s hard to beat.
For family fun, USAirtours suggests White Stallion Ranch and Tanque Verde, both near Tucson, Arizona. White Stallion features horse riding, hiking, tennis, basketball, swimming and a petting zoo, while Tanque Verde has riding lessons, mountain biking, supervised kids’ programmes and fishing.
FOLLOW THE TRAIL
Escorted tours offer a taste of life on the ranch without committing guests to a lengthy stay. Grand American Adventures’ Western Ranch & Yellowstone tour includes six days in and around the ranch with an overnight pack trip and, on certain dates, a chance to see a rodeo (eight days, from £1,799). Alternatively, Intrepid Travel’s 10-day Texas Ranger tour includes a two-night stay at a Texan ranch that is perfect for novice riders.
For overnight visits, families can try the Cowboy Country Family Adventure from Vacations to America, which has a night in The Ranch at Ucross, Wyoming, or The Adventure Company’s Cowboys & Indians Discovery featuring a night in Mountain Ranch in Utah.
If they don’t fancy staying the night, Explore’s Into the Wild West itinerary spends an afternoon at Boulder Cowboy Lodge, where guests can try horse riding, fly-fishing and hiking, and takes in the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley and Las Vegas (£2,282 per adult, £2,042 per child).
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