Lodge at Sylvan Dale Ranch
most people think of guest or dude ranches, they
automatically think of the Old West ranches in the
Colorado has a little secret. Nestled in river
valleys, and on mountain meadows in the Rocky
Mountains, are some of the best and reasonably-priced
guest ranches in America. These ranches offer riding,
of course, but they also give visitors a chance to
engage in much more diverse outdoor activity,
including hiking, fishing, rafting down mountain
rivers, and visiting nearby national parks and
forests. And many offer all these activities, plus
food and accommodations for an all-inclusive
than 60 ranches are located in the most scenic areas
of the Rockies, offering exciting family vacations.
Having recently visited the Rockies, in the Fort
Collins and Estes
Park areas, (they're close together), I came away impressed
with the friendly ranches, and the wealth of
Park is the resort town adjacent to Rocky Mountain
National Park, Colorado's top tourist attraction. Fort
Collins lies just east of the Front Range of the
Rockies -- just 40-minutes' drive from the national
park, and an hour's drive north of Denver.
are just three of the dude and guest ranches ("dude"
is not a bad word in Colorado), and they provide a
wide range of vacation activities, as well as
accommodations ranging from rustic-but-comfortable to
deluxe, with everything in-between.
Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch
beside the Big Thompson River, in the foothills of the
Rockies near Loveland, and only a short drive from Boulder,
Sylvan Dale offers family vacations year-round, with
summer months devoted to seven-day, six-night Dude
Ranch Vacations, with planned activities for all
family members. The 1998 season begins June 21st, and
ends on August 29th, with the final week in August for
adults only. The trailriding package offerss daily
instruction and rides, an overnight pack trip,
breakfast ride, and a gymkhana at the end of the week.
Visitors also have the option of "ala-carte riding,
with ranch wranglers saddling the horses and guiding
the way on many miles of foothill trails.
is also a fine place for bird watching, swimming in
the heated pool, playing tennis, fishing in ponds,
lakes, and rivers, and taking hay rides. A new
whirlpool hot tub will be installed for May
other times of the year (including summer Saturday
nights), the ranch is open for its "Bunk" and
Breakfast program. Visitors stay in comfortable lodge
rooms and cabins, all with private baths.
Accommodations range from one- to three-bedroom units.
Hearty ranch breakfasts are served.
other option is to stay in the ranch's guest houses,
which are equipped with full kitchens. Breakfast is
not included in the guest house rates. These are large
units, holding from 8 to 12 guests.
ranch is situated in a scenic river valley, only ten
minutes from Loveland, and 15 minutes from Fort
Collins. Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park
are located 30 minutes to the west. It's an
exceptionally friendly place, with fine staff and a
large dining room overlooking the Big Thompson. The
ranch is a favorite location for weddings and other
ceremonial occasions, and has been operated by the
Jessup family since the ranch was opened to the public
in 1946. Susan Jessup is the current manager.
weekly rates per person are $1,063, or $838 without
the riding package. Children -- 1 to 4 years -- stay
for $481, and children 5 to 12 years stay for $669.
and Breakfast rates range from $75 for 2 in a lodge
room, to $185 for up to six people in a three-bedroom
loft unit. The Big Thompson Suite, in thenoriginal
lodge, runs $175 per night for up to four
more information, go to the Sylvan
Dale Home Page,
or call 970-667-3915
Aspen Lodge of Estes Park
seven miles from downtown Ested Park, on 80 acres, the
lodge provides incredible views of the Rocky Mountain
peaks, including Long's Peak which is the tallest
mountain in nearby Rocky
The lodge also leases a 3,000 acre ranch which borders
the park and Roosevelt National Forest. Riders are
given the opportunity to ride on more than 33,000
Park is located an hour's drive west from Fort
Collins, and 90 minutes from Denver via the Peak to Peak Byway Highway (State Route 72),
which connects Estes Park with Interstate 70 (near
Central City and Blackhawk).
lodge is the largest log building in Colorado, and
offers a superior level of accommodation. Cabins are
also available. The operation is open year round, with
winter activities including sleigh rides, snowshoeing,
cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, ice skating, and
hockey. Summer brings haywagon rides, a childrens
activity program, fishing, and hiking, as well as
riding and enjoying cowboy suppers. Evenings are taken
up with country and western dancing, square dancing,
and live entertainment. Meals range from traditional
western dishes to Continental cuisine. The lodge's
sports center provides facilities for tennis,
volleyball, horseshoes, and raquetball, plus a sauna,
weight room, ourtdoor hot tub, and an outdoor heated
swimming pool. Riding is available year-round.
hikes are offered, and mountain biking has become a
favorite summer activity. The lodge has a special
Christmas program, running from December 24 to 27. The
package includes a lodge room or one-room cabin, three
meals per night of lodging (including a Continental
bfeakfast, buffet and dinner on Christmas Day. A
sleigh ride or hayride is included per 2-night stay,
and stocking are hung on the fireplace mantle for
guests age 12 and under. The package is $185 per night
for two people, with children 4 and under staying
major attraction of Aspen Lodge is its close proximity
to the national park, and together they offer an
unforgettable experience. Rates vary, with riding
activity charged by the hour
more information, go to the Aspen
websiteor call 970-586-8133 or toll-free at 855-788-4568. The lodge is located at 6120
Wyomig's Gros Ventre River Ranch
What would you say to staying at a guest ranch where riding horses and fishing in two of the great rivers of the American West, The Gros Ventre and the Snake, could accompany side-trips to Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks, plus the activities of a working ranch with scavenger hunts and a recreation room for the kids, to river rafting. And the pleasures of downtown Jackson, Wyoming.
Then if the family is hungry at lunch-time, take a horeseback ride to a hamburger barbecue picnic. Made to order beakfasts are teh usual morning meal, and there's a buffet for those short of time.
The ranch is situated in the middle of beautiful Jackson Hole, the beautiful valley of the two rivers., with the stupendously wonderful Grand Teton mountains to the west. the Gros Ventre flows right through the guest ranch, and its a short drive to the other side of the Tetons to explore Henry's Fork and more fine fishing.
a long list of guest ranches in the state, contact
the Colorado Dude and Guest Ranch Association -- to
which these three ranches belong -- at P.O. Box D Shawnee, CO 80475, or call 866-942-3472, or visit
their Web site.
The Wyoming Tourism Office has a comprehensive website listing many places to vacation in the state, including Guest ranches. Go Here for information. As well, the office has another tourism site for kids. Go Here.