Looking for a unique family vacation? Round up the posse and mosey on out to one of Colorado’s dude ranches.

From luxury accommodations and 5-star dining to working ranches, native wildlife, and rustic settings, Colorado dude ranches can be as relaxing or as adventurous as you want. Saloons, cattle herding, and bison watching are just added benefits.

Obviously, we're still in a strange time at the moment, but it can't hurt to start planning, right?

Rainbow Trout Ranch

When you want fly-fishing with your horseback-riding, check into the Rainbow Trout Ranch. The 5-star family dude ranch is a former private fishing lodge. Located in southern Colorado, it’s set against the scenic backdrop of the San Juan Mountains and the Conejos River. Take in the waterfalls, crystal-clear lakes, and colorful cliffs of the Colorado backcountry as you enjoy ranch life. The owners are expert horse people and will pair you up with a horse of your level.  

The dude ranch features home-cooking, hayrides, teen programs, western movies, and BBQ cookouts. Choose from the magnificent spruce 1920s Grand Lodge and two- and three-bedroom dude ranch cabins among aspen and ponderosa pine trees. Other activities and attractions include whitewater rafting, trapshooting, swimming, America’s highest and longest narrow-gauge steam train, and hiking the Faith, Hope, and Charity peaks.

colorado dude ranches
Courtesy of Devil's Thumb Ranch (Facebook)

Devil’s Thumb Ranch Resort & Spa

Located in central Colorado in the mountains of Ranch Valley Creek, Devil’s Thumb Ranch Resort & Spa dates back to 1938. Depending on the season, you can go skiing, snowboarding, horseback riding, or fly fishing. Ranch activities include candlelight yoga, spa treatments, live music, and fire pit s’mores. There’s a movie theater, a petting zoo, and pony rides for the little cowpokes.

Spa, you say? Ranch Creek Spa is 18,000 square feet of ultra-pampering and relaxation. After a day of riding (or not), treat yourself to a hot stone massage, a rejuvenating facial, or an invigorating body scrub. Views of the Continental Divide are included at no cost.

Choose from a room in the Main Lodge, the High Lonesome Lodge, or a private cabin in the woods. Two on-site restaurants serve ranch-raised food, and there’s a coffee shop. A shuttle can take you to the Italian Volario’s in Winter Park.

High Lonesome Ranch

High Lonesome Ranch is found on the western slope of the Rocky Mountains. This working cattle ranch raises Angus grass-fed beef against a landscape of forests, grasslands, and creeks.

The ranch offers a host of horseback riding and equestrian activities like cattle drives, trail rides, and western obstacle courses. Horses are hand-picked to match your riding ability, whether you’re a beginner or an expert. So, no worries about being “out of your league” in riding skills. Out of the saddle, you can enjoy fly-fishing for trout, picnics, birdwatching, mountain biking, turkey hunting, big game hunting, and other shooting sports.

Laid-back western accommodations include private cabins, shared house suites, and safari-style tent camping. In the evening, gather ‘round the fire pit for s’mores and stories under starry skies.

colorado due ranches
Courtesy of Majestic Dude Ranch (Facebook)

Majestic Dude Ranch

Head to the southwest section of the state, between Durango and Cortez, to visit Majestic Dude Ranch. Here’s where you can really work on your equestrian skills. You’ll work up your riding skill level to half and full-day trail rides through beautiful western scenery. A highlight is an all-day ride and fishing trip to Bear Creek in the summer months. Along with horseback riding, there’s whitewater rafting on the Animas River, mountain biking, laser tag, archery, baseball, skeet shooting, and kids’ rodeos.

Rooms range from cabins and two-person suites with all-inclusive rates. There’s a full schedule of activities as well as amenities such as a sauna, hot tub, gym, game room, pool, and a saloon with local craft beer and wine. How much more western can you get than a saloon?

Medano-Zapata Ranch

For a taste of real ranch life, pay a visit to Medano-Zapata Ranch. You can help the ranch staff with the daily chores. When you’re not on the trail or perfecting your cattle herding skills, you can go whitewater rafting, rock climbing, fly-fishing, birdwatching, or hiking in the Sangre de Christo mountains.

This working cattle and bison ranch is located in southern Colorado, bordering Great Sand Dunes National Park, and has an extensive horse breeding and training program. Owned by the Nature Conservancy, the ranch puts a strong emphasis on conservation and ecological projects.  

Meals consist of fresh eggs and fruit for breakfast and ranch-raised bison meat, along with other local ingredients, for lunch and dinner. Lunch is often taken on the trail and dinner is in the lodge-style dining room. The 17-bedroom lodge, which dates to the 1800s, features southwestern décor and comfortable accommodations.

Have you been to any of Colorado’s dude ranches? Which one is your favorite? Let us know in the comments.