A Dude Ranch Vacation: The Perfect Trip for Parents with or without Kids

A Dude Ranch Vacation: The Perfect Trip for Parents with or without Kids

A dude ranch. Have you heard that term before? If you have, is it on your bucket list of vacations? Either way, go ahead and write “Vista Verde Ranch” on your vacation bucket list now. 

We have a long list of places we would love to visit, domestic and international, with the kids and without the kids. But honestly, a dude ranch was not even on my radar. Now, after spending 4 days and 3 nights at the all-inclusive Vista Verde Ranch outside Steamboat Springs, CO, it is on our “must go-back” list. They have an amazing winter experience and we heard so much about their summer experience!

What is a dude ranch vacation? A dude ranch is a term for a ranch geared for tourism. It’s considered agritourism. The activities offered vary depending on the season, as many of them are located out West and are impacted by snow. Given the nature of a dude ranch vacation, we felt 100% safe traveling and staying at Vista Verde during the pandemic. Colorado has strict guidelines to ensure its tourism industry operates in the safest way possible. 

The Vista Verde Ranch Experience Highlights

  • Great for a family vacation OR adults-only getaway: We traveled during the adults-only season in early January. It was nice to have that peace and quiet at every meal. However, we learned a lot about the family vacation aspects of the ranch and it is our goal to return with the kids once they reach the minimum age of 6. The well-established kids’ program allows families to participate together or do their own thing each day. Each activity is tailored to the age and experience of the guests. Mom and Dad can go on a long horseback ride, while the kids learn to ride and stay closer to the ranch for example. Internet and WiFi are extremely limited at the ranch. At first, it was a little weird to be disconnected, but really, it was harder for me to get connected back into technology after our getaway. 
  • Variety of activities to stay active OR relax: During the winter season, they offer a horsemanship clinic and trail ride, tubing, and back-country skiing every day, plus a few one-time a week experiences like wine-tasting, yoga, and ice-fishing. The personalized attention and lessons for each activity were amazing. It had been a few (okay, 15+ years) since I had put on snow skies, and never had I done back-country skiing, but the one-on-one guide and on-the-spot lesson made it an amazing experience (so much so, we did it two days in a row). A member of their amazing staff check-in with us at each meal to see how we were doing, ask if we had any questions, and went over the activity schedule with us. It is laid back and if you want to change your mind from a trail ride to hot-tub time (on your cabin deck), they are always accommodating. 
  • Easy to get to, despite the remote setting: The ranch confirms your travel arrangements about 2 weeks before you arrive. We flew into Yampa Valley Regional Airport (about 45 minutes from the ranch) and there was a Vista Verde Ranch representative waiting to pick us up. When we traveled in January, Southwest, United, American Airlines and JetBlue all had flights into Hayden. We opted for ATL – DEN – HDN itinerary. We left our house around 6:00 a.m. and were having lunch in Steamboat by 11:30 a.m. 
  • All-inclusive, luxury at its finest: There is something about arriving at your destination and knowing everything will be taken care of, no questions asked. This is exactly what our experience was at Vista Verde. Transportation to/from the airport, lodging, food (including wine and beer), and activities (lessons/guides and equipment) are included in their rates. Rates for the ranch depend on the number of nights, with a 3-nigh minimum in the winter. When I priced a similar vacation a la carte (plus adding the mental load of organizing it all), it is worth the price.

Let us know – have you been to a dude ranch? What is your favorite thing about a dude ranch vacation? If you haven’t been, what questions do you have?

A special thanks to Vista Verde for hosting us and partnering with us. Our opinions about the experience are 100% our own.