It's like Disney World for cowboys.
Mill Creek Ranch at Old Cow Town in Colorado is one of the state's best hidden gems — the ideal, all-inclusive Colorado vacation idea for your next family vacation.
Located about 15 minutes west of the tiny town of Saguache, Colorado, Mill Creek Ranch is not somewhere you stumble upon by accident. It's tucked far into the mountains, off a winding dirt road, a Wild West oasis built against the side of the mountains in a private valley.
The ranch is in San Luis Valley, in southern Colorado, a four-hour drive from Denver. This makes is an ideal day trip for Colorado residents or a fun road trip from the city for travelers who want to immerse themselves in the Colorado wilderness and ranch lifestyle — but without sacrificing luxury and comfort.
San Luis Valley is one of the most interesting regions in Colorado. It's home to the Great Sand Dunes National Park (including the nation's tallest sand dune, yes, right in Colorado), as well as an alligator ranch, UFO watchtower, historical steam trains, hot springs and great hiking trails. All of these offerings are a short drive from Mill Creek Ranch, making it a perfect home base for an adventurous getaway.
Here are some more reasons why Mill Creek Ranch at Old Cow Town is worth the drive from Denver for your next all-inclusive Colorado summer vacation.
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Escape in Nature
Imagine you're a cowboy. You're riding along on your horse, across the valley, and you see some buildings in the distance: an old cow town tucked against the hillside.
That's how it feels to come across Mill Creek Ranch.
The ranch is completely isolated in nature, surrounded on all sides by open space as far as you can see. Take out the on-site horses for lengthy, quiet trail rides or go hiking on the countless trails around the ranch. There are plenty of ways to immerse yourself in Colorado's outdoor serenity.
At night, you have never heard such stillness. The stars seem brighter when there's no city glare.
There aren't many places in Colorado where you can get on a horse and ride off as far as you want into the national forest. That's just a regular day at Mill Creek Ranch.
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Live Colorado's History
San Luis Valley is the oldest region in Colorado. This is where the original settlers settled. You can feel that history and energy on Old Cow Town. It feels authentically old and is stocked with historic goodies that lend credibility.
The museum is stocked with tons of old cars, antiques and horse-drawn vehicles. See a unique horse-drawn hearse and a fairytale-style coach. You can also see the chariot that appeared in the movie "Ben Hur."
Throughout the property, you will find antique farm equipment. Out by the horse stables, notice three small, wooden shacks. They were the original buildings from this land. Today, you can't go inside (although there are plans to restore them), but you can marvel at how they have lasted so long in the valley's harsh winter conditions.
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New Ownership, New Emphasis
Mill Creek was closed down for a while but reopened in 2016 under new ownership and with fresh energy.
The ranch continues with many of its longstanding offerings, such as live music in the dance hall, all-inclusive meals in the saloon, guided horseback riding and a long list of activities.
We're talking mini golf, a hot tub, roping, team penning, minor barrel racing, archery, skeet shooting, white water rafting, climbing, ziplining, hayrides, karaoke, dancing, volleyball, a petting zoo, softball, educational presentations, Western movies with popcorn, sunset horse rides, picnics and day trips to the Great Sand Dunes.
The resort includes all of that for guests, but the new owners made some changes to make the resort feel more family-friendly. For example, alcohol is not served as part of the all-inclusive offerings (although guests can bring their own booze). The "saloon" is now a "steakhouse," and the "social club" (that's the beautiful yellow guest mansion) was renamed the Stagecoach Inn.
Looking for something more luxurious? Ask about the several large cabins for people looking for an even higher-end mountain experience.
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All-Inclusive With a Western Flair
Although Mill Creek Ranch is deeply connected with nature, it doesn't sacrifice any comforts.
The 12 guest rooms in the main inn are rustically decorated but include private bathrooms and mini fridges stocked with cold water.
The food is expertly prepared and served family-style in a large dining hall, complete with a funky player piano that fills the room with ragtime music.
Also on site: a general store (with gifts, as well as essentials), a charming blue chapel (with a functioning bell tower, if you want to plan a wedding or just say a prayer) and a small creek that cuts through the property. An ancient horse trail also slices through Old Cow Town. You can take your horse along the path and imagine what life would have been like at the turn of the century.
It's the luxury and convenience that makes Mill Creek Ranch a popular wedding destination, too. The dance hall, with its stage, seats 200.
If you're looking for something different, the ranch has space for 12 RVs on the edge of the property.