Best Dude Ranch Vacation for Families in the Western US

For the past 20 years, media mogul Ted Turner has quietly been buying up property across America. In fact, today he is the second biggest private land owner in the United States.  Why is he dong this?


In fact, his personal mission is to “save everything.” And with his amassed fortune, he’s in a very good position to do it.

In the 1990’s, he purchased a massive ranch on the border of southern Colorado and northern New Mexico called Vermejo Park Ranch. The land was overgrazed by thousands of cattle, the wildlife was mismanaged and populations of native species such as Buffalo and Elk were hurting. After removing the cattle, allowing the land to recover, and spending about 20 years studying resident wildlife and tweaking populations so everything is back in balance – this ranch has opened as the region’s newest luxury dude ranch.

Just an easy 4-hour drive from Denver, Vermejo Park Ranch is a perfect family getaway and definitely a best dude ranch vacation for families in the Western US. Here’s why.

The Guides are the Real Deal

When driving to the ranch, you can’t help but notice you are in cowboy country. Horse trailers, cattle guards, and country music are everywhere. Vermejo Park Ranch guides are all from the local area, know the terrain well and are passionate about this part of the country.

Our lovely guide Courtney, an accomplished rodeo barrel rider, spends her days riding horses with guests and returns home in the evening to help on her family’s cattle ranch. We were all impressed when she told us she went home one night and helped deliver three baby cows!

Aside from all around great guiding, every single guide we worked with was engaging, helpful and super knowledgable, we had some really interesting conversations about the challenges these ranches face, conservation success stories and what it’s like to live in this part of the world.

Ideal Family Accommodations

The main buildings at Vermejo Park Ranch, including Casa Grande, Casa Minor, and a few other 4-bedroom homes, were all build in the early 1900’s. Thanks to the wealth of the original owners and a dry, healthy climate, the home and many of the antiques on property have been extremely well preserved.

Casa Grande, an impressive, ornate home, recently underwent a massive, multi-million dollar renovation. Lighting was converted from gas to electric, furniture was restored, bathrooms modernized yet everything remains painstakingly true to the original design of the home.

Staying in Casa Grande is really fun for families with older children, not only because it’s like stepping back in time, but there is a large pool room, kitchen stocked with drinks and snacks, and plenty of rooms for your larger family group.

There is also a 4-bedroom home that was recently renovated to the same standards and is perfect for family groups. Here you’ll have lovely accommodations and privacy, while still only a few steps from the main lodge.

All Inclusive

Vermejo Park Ranch is one of the best family dude ranch vacations in the Western US because once you arrive, everything (except alcohol) is included. From a wide range of activities to all meals, you don’t have to worry about anything during your stay.

Ahead of arrival, I work together with the team at Vermejo to help my clients plan their stay, looking at which activities are of interest and planing a perfect itinerary together. Then, upon arrival the guides sit down with families to go through the itinerary and make any necessary changes based on weather and what’s generally happening around the ranch.

Because this is an all inclusive experience, it’s easy for the Vermejo Park Ranch team to be flexible and accommodating. The weather turned cold and snowy one morning so a mountain bike ride was cut a bit short.

We returned to the lodge to find a lovely indoor s’more station set up next to a roaring fire alongside a big collection of games. We happily warmed up before setting out for geocaching. Time got away from this as we explored the ranch and we missed lunch. No problem! Bag lunches were prepared for us and waiting by the fire when we returned.

Thinking about a dude ranch experience for your family? Please contact me today to learn more and get started customizing your family’s trip!