Throw away any preconceived notions you have about a guest (dude) ranch and say hello to unsurpassed luxury at the Lodge and Spa at Brush Creek Ranch in Saratoga, Wyoming.
There is something for everyone in your family on the ranch’s 15,000 acres, and whatever you choose to do from the many options available, it will be a first class experience and it won‘t cost you anything additional. The Lodge and Spa at Brush Creek Ranch is an all-inclusive luxury resort, I mean ranch, with virtually everything included in your upfront payment cost. That’s right, no extra charges, and no tipping allowed.
The idea of the family roughing it on a western ranch is as far removed as the time when wagons carried settlers West. Families get all of the traditional western activities, and some modern day ones as well while being pampered and fawned over by an incredibly responsive staff at this working cattle and agriculture ranch.
Brush Creek Ranch: Background
Brush Creek is located in southern Wyoming, far from the tourist hotbed of Jackson Hole. It is a four-hour drive from Denver or a 75-minute drive from Laramie's airport. Located adjacent to nearly one million acres of the government-owned land of the Medicine Bow National Forest, the locals call this part of Wyoming the “real” Wyoming, unspoiled and virtually uninhabited. This is a place where tourists are rare but moose, elk, deer, antelope, mountain lions and a variety of other animals are in abundance.
While the ranch, which sits at 7,500 feet above sea level, is centered around horseback riding, the uniqueness of Brush Creek hinges on the variety of activities available to guests. I have been to two other western dude ranches and neither offered such a wide selection of activities - especially appealing for guests who don‘t see themselves on a horse every day of a vacation stay.
Some of the 35 activities to choose from include: ATV tours of the ranch; an incredible firearms program including skeet shooting, handguns and rifles; paintball; a skills course/zip lining; fly fishing; and an archery program. No matter what you choose, there was no additional cost and everything needed was provided. The only activities on the entire ranch that did have an extra fee were hunting and spa services (with massages being administered in a full sized Teepee.)
Each day guests select a morning and afternoon activity. You sign up for what interests you, then Brush Creek makes it happen. The typical day begins with breakfast at 8 am, the morning activity from 9 to 11:15, lunch at noon, the afternoon activity from 1:30 to 3:30, cocktails at 5:30 and dinner at 7.
It is also not 'one size fits all' when it comes to skill level for activities. To give you an idea of the variety of options available for different skill levels, my daughter and I selected a 2-hour horse ride from among three options for one-morning activity. The other choices were a one-hour ride for beginners, the 2-hour intermediate ride or the 3-hour ride for hard core riders. (A fourth option, for the very experienced, was saddling up and actually working with ranch staff all day moving cows and horses from pasture to pasture.) Whichever ride you choose, no need to worry if you don’t have boots; Brush Creek has got loaners.
An activity that underscored the value of the all inclusive program was the firearms program. For someone who likes to shoot or even for the novice, this is a valuable benefit because of the high cost of ammunition. My daughter, who had never shot, was briefed and trained by an extremely patient and knowledgeable instructor. She and I were then able to shoot an unlimited number of rounds at skeet targets from a 20 gauge Beretta shotgun. We shot until our shoulders hurt. Surprisingly, shooting ended up coming in tied with horseback riding as my daughter’s favorite activity.
Fly fishing with a fly fishing guide in the Brush Creek, namesake of the ranch, was also on our agenda. Eight miles of the creek’s sparkling, pristine waters run through the ranch. Although my daughter is a veteran of deep sea fishing, she had always wanted to don the waders and saunter into a creek and catch a trout. She had never fly fished and I had only done it one time. We showed up at the ranch’s Outfitters Barn, the central meeting place, and Brush Creek took it from there - providing the waders, boots and top-of-the-line Orvis reels to land our trout.
The ‘Ranger tours’ were exhilarating and informative. Zipping around the ranch in an open air four-seat Polaris Ranger ATV, with top speeds of near 40 miles an hour, was quite a thrill. During our guided tour we saw hawks, antelope, deer, marmot, prairie dogs and rabbits as we traveled on dirt roads, paths and even took the Ranger off road to get a close up look at a number of the ranch’s buffaloes.
Finally, it doesn't always go, go, go at Brush Creek. Daily yoga is available every morning, taking place on a specially built platform that extends over a canyon to provide for spectacular views. A hot tub and sauna (as well as a state of the art workout facility) are also available to help you recover from your time in the saddle.
The food was another area that set the ranch apart from others: in one word, gourmet. One night it was lobster and filet, then elk tenderloin and finally quail - I think you get the picture. The meals were served in the three-story Trailhead Lodge, made of tremendous pine timbers with expansive windows providing dramatic views of the Snowy Range and Sierra Madre Mountains in the distance.
The breakfasts and lunches were also mouth-watering - chili shrimp omelets, smoothies, fresh fruit - as well as more traditional favorites such as scrambled eggs, fried chicken, and sandwiches with homemade cookies.
Regarding beverages, they too are included as part of the all-inclusive package. Whether it was soda, water, wine or mixed alcoholic drinks, there was no additional charge. Refrigerators in the dinning hall and in wooden coolers strategically placed around the ranch were stocked with ice cold drinks for the taking at any time they were desired. If the drinks in the coolers didn’t satisfy your thirst, adults could help themselves to some of the 800 bottles from the wine collection or they could belly up to the replica western saloon and order a glass of wine or their favorite mixed drink.
The saloon was open nightly from 5:30 to 7 pm and after dinner.
Unplug and Reconnect
For families, Brush Creek is perfect for reconnecting with teenagers who spend all their time connected to their phone. With virtually no cellular service because of its remote location, after the initial shock of being cut off from the outside world, teenagers will rediscover the lost art of conversation with parents as my 16-year old daughter did. It is also the type of place where you don’t have to worry about the safety of your family; most guests don’t even lock the doors to their rooms. Another reason guests can relax is that there are no crowds to fight.
Although the ranch is huge in size, the number of people staying on it is usually very small, from 4 to 50 on a typical night.
As for accommodations, guests can either choose from the lodge’s 13 western-themed rooms or private cabins located throughout the ranch. Again, another positive for guests with families is that rooms in the lodge do not have televisions or phones; to have fun kids must get out and explore. As the wranglers explained it, you are in Wyoming and you shouldn’t be spending too much time in your room. We didn’t!
For more information visit The Lodge and Spa at Brush Creek Ranch website.
As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with complimentary accommodation for the purpose of review. While it has not influenced this review, About.com believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, see our ethics policy.