Dude ranch vacations vary from state to state. However, dude ranches in California are filled with incredible mountain ranges, expansive redwood forests, and perfect weather year-round.
Not only do dude ranches combine western fun and charm, but they also give families the chance to unwind with good food surrounded by nothing but nature and many animals.
One of the most incredible ways to explore and enjoy the outdoors is by staying at a dude ranch.
If this is the first time, you’re hearing the word dude ranch, although an unlikely pairing of words, dude ranches have been a part of American vacations as far back as the nineteenth century.
Some of these ranches have been in business for decades, so you can be sure you’re getting unrivaled service for your buck and great care.
Here are six dude ranches in California that will be part of your wild west adventures for years to come.
Greenhorn Creek Guest Ranch
Greenhorn Creek Guest Ranch is located in Northern Californias Lost Sierras and provides a memorable ranch experience for the whole family.
If you are looking for a slower-paced vacation, hiking your days away on the ranch’s 600 acres, or packing your days with as many activities as possible, the Greenhorn staff will ensure you feel relaxed and at home.
Whether a first-time rider (lessons are available in the arena) or a seasoned rider, you can be sure of good fun with all the proper safety procedures.
In addition to the incredible riding on the ranch, you can also expect skeet shooting, whiskey tastings, electric mountain biking, archery, and yoga.
Kids participate in horse rides, leather working, panning for gold, and horseshoe painting. For accommodations, guests can choose the 12-room lodge, a restored airstream camper, or cozy cabins.
Address: 2116 Greenhorn Ranch Rd, Quincy, CA 95971, United States
Phone: +1 (530) 283-0930
A 30-minute drive from Santa Barbara, Alisal Ranch is a bucket list destination. Alisal ranch combines history with authenticity with a deep ranching history that dates back to 1843, making it the perfect getaway.
Large towering sycamore trees line the ranch’s entryway, making way to the thousands of acres filled with rolling hills and rugged trails perfect for horseback riding.
The scenic backdrop of the Santa Ynez Valley adds to the allure of the ranch. In addition, the herd of horses and staff makes Alisal a gem.
You can experience summer on horseback, fall on one of six full-sized tennis courts, and winter by the fire.
The ranch is open throughout the year, so you don’t have to wait for summer to enjoy all the amenities available.
Accommodations at Alisal Ranch vary from adjoining studios and suites perfect for families to guest rooms, suites, and cottages that sleep five.
All the rooms come with comfortable linens, coffee makers, and refrigerators.
Some of the activities available on the ranch include; fishing, boating, kayaking on Alisals ‘ acre spring-fed lake, archery and air rifle, bird watching, tennis, cycling, wrangler skills workshops, and many others.
- Riders must weigh less than 240 lbs, and advanced riders must weigh less than 210 lbs.
- Minors are required to wear helmets.
Address:1054 Alisal Rd, Solvang, CA 93463, United States
Phone: (800) 425-4725
Hiking, creekside barbeques, massages, and family dance nights are some ways you can spend your weekend or week-long stays at the Hunewill Ranch.
With a modern twist on the typical dude ranch vacation, Hunewill Ranch provides regular activities.
Horseback riding through some of the most beautiful alpine meadows, cattle work, trout fishing in the Hunewill Pond, and mountain biking with the Sierra Nevada mountains peaking through.
Hunewill Ranch also provides adults-only weeks, where cowgirls and cowboys move cattle and ride to their heart’s desire during the one-week, five-day, or four-day stay.
- Deposits are 60%-75% of your stay
- The minimum riding age is six years old
- Childcare or babysitting is included in the child rate
Address: Bridgeport, CA 93517
A working cattle ranch, the Ranking Ranch understands that family is at the heart of everything, and a little time in nature does wonders for the soul.
Whether horseback riding, exploring the acres of land or taking a day hike up into the mountains, you can be sure that everyone in your group, including the buckaroos who have numerous games in the recreational room, is having fun.
The Ranking Ranch provides that and so much more. Accommodations vary from standard rooms to deluxe rooms and can accommodate 30-50 guests.
Whether you decide to have a slow-paced vacation, sitting on the porch enjoying the fresh home-cooked meals, or exploring the ranch, the staff makes sure you leave satisfied, relaxed, and happy.
- Horseback riding is done twice daily, except for Sundays, when it’s only once in the morning.
- Riding is available to guests aged six and over. However, kids are limited to trotting only.
- The weight limit is 250 lbs.
Address: 23500 Walker Basin Rd, Caliente, CA 93518, United States
Circle Bar B Guest Ranch and Stables
Circle Bar B Guest Ranch is the perfect destination for the ideal off-grid vacation.
Located 2 hours from Los Angeles and 25 minutes from Santa Barabara, if you’ve ever wanted to ride your horse through the Santa Ynez mountains, meandering through the fern-lined canyons, CircleBar B Ranch makes all of that possible.
In addition, the rustic yet modern lodgings will have you feeling at home.
Address: 1800 Refugio Road Goleta, CA 93117
Marble Mountain Ranch
A family-owned and operated dude ranch, Marble Mountain Ranch combines legendary hospitality with a great list of activities.
From horseback riding on their 10,000 acres to fly fishing and white water rafting on the Klamath River, disconnecting from technology becomes more effortless.
Lodging varies across the board. Depending on the size of your group, you have a choice of either two-bedroom cottages, one-bedroom cottages, or three-bedroom cottages.
Other activities on the ranch include; ATV riding, kayaking, and paintballing.
Address: 92520 Hwy 96 Somes Bar, CA 95568
Phone: 1 800 552 6284
What Should I bring On My California Dude Ranch Vacation?
It might be tempting to carry only light clothes when deciding what to bring, assuming that these ranches don’t experience colder months.
While that might be true for some areas like Los Angeles, it’s the opposite for these dude ranches.
Here is a simple pack list to act as your guide.
You are not allowed to wear lace-up boots, military boots, or any other type. While your regular’ boots are a statement piece, horseback riding is a sport, and you need to have the correct gear to protect your feet and avoid injury.
Make sure to break them in a couple of days or weeks before your vacation.
Long Pants Or Western Jeans
Some western-style denim jeans have a seam on the outside, making them more comfortable for riding, and reducing chafing.
Wrangler jeans also have the perfect fit that lets them go over your boots, protecting them from dirt and scratches.
A Moisture-wicking Base Layer
This layer is a substantial base, especially for those cold fall and winter times. Some ranches offer after-hours parties for socializing.
Not only is a cowboy hat stylish but practical. It protects you from sun rays, and those weirdly situated tree branches won’t snag on your hair during looping sessions.
Long, Breathable Socks
Need we say more? Not only will your toes thank you in the long run, but you’ll also enjoy your ride more.
A Water Repellant Windbreaker And Light Rain Jacket
If your riding times coincide with some light rain showers, you won’t be soaked and freezing.
What Should I Know Before Heading Out On My Dude Ranch Vacation?
- Get travel insurance. While it might be a little costly to get it initially, you are sure of not losing your money if you don’t show up at the ranch. However, some ranches have a 50% refund policy if you cancel before 30 days; others don’t.
- Get in touch with the ranch beforehand, which helps clarify any questions regarding the cost of a stay, offered activities, some scraped off during fall and winter, and any allergens and food restrictions.
- Check if the ranch provides children’s programs, babysitting, or childcare services if you’re traveling with your young buckaroos. An extensive children’s program allows your children to indulge in their cowboy or girl dreams while maintaining a fair amount of family bonding time.
We hope that this list helped you in your search. Dude, ranches have come a long way, from being rustic accommodations where dudes and city slickers could enjoy nature.
A get away from the pollution to be safe havens that provide massages and water activities perfect for the whole family. Don’t forget to have a good time and tip your wrangler if they made your ride special.