Dude ranches are popular vacation spots known for one-of-a-kind and authentic western adventures. When choosing a ranch destination, travelers often set their sights towards the Northern Rockies. This is perhaps mostly because of the desirable summer climes, but what is a wannabe cowpoke to do when they feel a yearning for the saddle come winter? For those in the know, the answer is simple, head to the desert and stay at one of the great dude ranches of the Southwest.
These somewhat lesser known ranches not only offer an oasis from the cold, and many of the same amenities and activities as their northern cousins, but they will also immerse you in a quintessentially western environment with unique traditions unto itself. Log cabins become adobe casitas and views of lodgepole pines turn into vistas filled with saguaro and prickly pear. The cocktails are more tequila than whiskey, and the menu is a little spicier, with both upscale options and tried and true local recipes right off the chuckwagon. Out on the trail, one will spy deer and coyotes, but don’t expect to find moose or grizzly. This country is more suited for the Mexican Lobo, jaguar, and Gila monster. Siestas are an incredibly relaxing part of the day and the perfect break between desert excursions best taken at dusk and dawn.
Famously, there are a handful of operators that once ran dude ranches north and south. In these work-intensive endeavors, the entire crew, chef, and horse herd too, would close shop at the end of one season and open for business again at the start of the next. As you would imagine there were more than a few guests that wouldn’t miss their annual visit at either location. Oh, the stories these folks and ranch hands could tell…
The culture, history, and excitement that dude ranches bring to the world are like no other. If you are a fan and haven’t yet experienced the ranches of the southwest, don’t waste another minute, make your plans pronto.