8 Top Dude Ranches for Kids this Summer
Gene Kilgore, the world’s leading expert on dude ranch vacations and the authority behind the popular site Top50Ranches.com, suggests eight child-friendly ranches that embrace family fun. These ranch vacations stand out for their focus on junior wrangler activities. Additional listings with programs for children can be found in the Best Ranches for Families guide.
Lazy L&B Ranch strikes a balance between the kids being independent and sharing a family experience. Kids Programs are grouped by age and ability for roping clinics, horseback rides and hikes. There are a couple of family rides, but otherwise kids and adults ride separately. One evening children eat with the wranglers and one night at a cookout by the river. A pool, treehouse and petting zoo are other enticements. The trail-riding program starts at age six. Those younger are well cared for and can also be ponied around the ranch. Family weeks in 2018 are from early June through 19 Aug.
The Lodge and Spa at Brush Creek Ranch invites parents to hand over their children to on-premise professional counselors and guides for morning horseback rides, wildlife viewing, archery, hiking and more. And the parents? They are enjoying the Trailhead Spa or perhaps working on advanced horsemanship skills. Children ages four to eight are welcome in the Lil Wrangler program. The ranch is open in 2018 from mid-May to Oct. 20.
C Lazy U Ranch has been running its Kids Program for over 50 years, drawing generations of repeat guests and families. Counselors supervise children on horseback rides, on a ropes course and zip lining, in paddle boats, in the pool and while fishing. Age groups are Cowpokes, three to five; and Mustangs, six to 12. In 2018 the Kids Program is available from mid-June to Aug. 19.
Elk Mountain Ranch engages two children’s counselors who supervise such activities as panning for gold, greeting animals in a petting zoo, caring for animals, hiking, crafts, fishing and visiting the hot springs. Along with Indian crafts there are hikes to a tepee and hunts for arrowheads. A visit culminates with a rodeo to showcase what’s been learned from horseback riding lessons in the arena. The Little Buckeroos’ age limit is seven; older children participate in regular ranch activities. The 2018 season begins in late May and continues through Sept. 16.
Western Pleasure Guest Ranch offers a Youth Horsemanship Program that is the ultimate ranch vacation for kids who love horses. They learn how to be responsible for their own horse and equipment, and about horse husbandry and care. Daily they engage in grooming, saddling, arena lessons, arena games, trail rides, cattle sorting and rides. A real horse show with ribbons and trophies concludes a visit. Ages eight to 18 may participate in the program that is available in 2018 from June to Aug. 31.
Bar W Guest Ranch hosts its Junior Wrangler Cowpoke Program that includes pony rides and meet-ups with goats, a rabbit, chickens and a cat. Children may help collect eggs, groom and feed animals, and clean pens. They learn how to groom, saddle and care for a horse, plus some rodeo routines: barrel racing, keyhole and pole bending and working the cattle. Ages seven to 11 are welcome in the program, children three and under can visit free. The program is open in 2018 from June to September.
The Ranch at Rock Creek engages guides trained in safe and natural play to supervise The Little Grizzlies Kids Club as children fly-fish, go on naturalist hikes, horseback ride and more. Twice-weekly there’s a Little Grizzlies Dinner in the Silver llar Saloon available for ages four to 12. The 2018 summer season begins in early June and runs through early September.
Rancho Las Cascadas offers horseback riding for children as they learn how to care for and even paint horses. Bonfires, pool activities, art classes, hiking and biking, outdoor games and activities amuse horsey and non-horsey children alike. One child age 14 or under can visit for free when sharing a room with a full-paying adult. Summer ranch vacations for kids in 2018 fall between June and August.
As the World’s authority on ranch vacations, Gene Kilgore also has an inside look at ranch kitchens. Please see this blog post for some favorite recipes gleaned from his ranching friends, https://www.top50ranches.com/blog/6-real-ranch-recipes-thatll-make-you-drool.
Lifetime member of the Dude Ranchers’ Association, Gene Kilgore is the best-selling author who recently released Gene Kilgore Ranch Vacations 2018, the 11th edition of the popular guide that describes over 100 ranches offering vacations in the US and abroad. It has become the leading resource for those looking for a romantic getaway, multi-generational and family vacation or beginner to advanced riding vacation. Kilgore is also the authority behind two dedicated websites, www.top50ranches.com and www.ranchweb.com which focus on what truly is one of America’s most iconic homegrown experiences – the dude ranch vacation.