5 Fantastic Luxury Dude Ranches

A fisherman on the Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort's private lake.
••• Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort

You have to wonder what a cowboy working on a cattle ranch back in the day would think of the term "luxury dude ranch." But luxury on the ranch is a definite trend today, and travelers can combine horseback riding and hiking with some serious pampering. Below are five suggestions that offer a dude ranch experience that's heavy on the creature comforts.

  • 01 of 05
    Horseback riders in front of the lake at Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort in the Santa Ynez Valley, California
    ••• Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort

    This historic Santa Ynez Valley guest ranch masters the upscale-rustic vibe. Spacious studios and one-bedroom suites are decked out with knotted wood furniture, Southwestern-print throw blankets, and wood-burning fireplaces—plus replete with creature comforts like memory foam beds and fluffy robes. But you’re really here to embrace your inner cowboy. Horseback ride through 10,000 acres of rolling hills and Oak groves; fine tune your archery skills near the resort’s private lake; or get a workout on guided mountain biking tours (through the end of October). Recover from all that exertion with a day in the on-site spa—deep tissue massages, facials, and scrubs are all on the menu—or simply lounge by the outdoor pool. Rates include breakfast and a nightly dinner (jackets required for men); alcoholic drinks and most activities cost extra.

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    A view from a cabin at Brush Creek Ranch in Saratoga, Wyoming.
    ••• Brush Creek Ranch

    Spend your days at this Saratoga, Wyoming, resort horseback riding, skeet-shooting, zip lining, and fly-fishing—all before digging into gourmet dinners, blissing out at the on-site spa, and snuggling into 400-thread-count sheets. The 30,000-acre property doesn't skimp when it comes to anything: Dining includes multi-course formal affairs in The Trailhead Lodge Great Room; rock climbing trails scale 5.1-grade natural cliffs; and the spa menu even has a "My First Massage" package for the youngest adventurers in the group. Pricing includes all food, drinks (including top-shelf spirits), and most activities; specialty adventures and spa treatments cost extra.  

  • 03 of 05
    Photo courtesy of Tanque Verde Ranch.
    ••• Photo courtesy of Tanque Verde Ranch.

    You could easily take a week to explore Tanque Verde Ranch and nearby Tuscon. Spend your days hiking and horseback riding through the desert landscape (the ranch borders Saguaro National Park), unwinding at the on-site spa, and feasting on upscale Southwestern fare (think prickly pear margaritas and game hen with chimichurri sauce). Or, play cowboy in old town Tuscon, the film site for countless westerns, including Winchester '73 with Jimmy Stewart and Rio Bravo  with John Wayne. All-inclusive packages include all meals, horseback riding and lessons, mountain biking, hiking, and a kids' club. 

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    Three horseback riders on a trail at Vista Verde Ranch in the fall.
    ••• Vista Verde Ranch

    Ski bunnies and hiking enthusiasts alike will find plenty to love at this 500-acre ranch. Spend winter getaways cross country skiing, snowshoeing in the back country, or schussing down black diamonds at Steamboat Springs Ski Resort (the ranch offers an excursion to the nearby mountain); spend the warmer months admiring the golden fall foliage, mountain biking throughout the property, or rounding up cattle in early September. Families can stay in the lodge or in luxury log cabins equipped with a wood-burning stove and hot tub.; dinner options include full-service fine dining as well as family-style meals. At Christmas, each family decorates their own tree in the lodge, and guests can take a horse drawn sleigh ride to go caroling. Note that Vista Verde has a capacity of about 45 guests.

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  • 05 of 05
    A colorful entrance to the lodge at Rancho de los Caballeros.
    ••• Rancho de los Caballeros

    Wickenburg, Arizona, is prime dude ranch territory, so it's no wonder this family-owned guest ranch has been welcoming visitors since the 1940s. The 20,000-acre ranch opened with luxe-for-the-era amenities like heated floors and a pearl-shaped pool. Nowadays, a golf course, fine dining, and a spa enhance the cowboy lifestyle—indulge in full-body scrubs, a top-100 golf course, and rack of lamb for dinner. Standard pricing includes meals but not horseback riding; most guests choose packages that include trail rides or other riding. The ranch has a complimentary kids program and a weekly cookout.