Affordable and inexpensive dude ranch vacations are, you might think, hard to come by. But you'd be wrong - even some of the Top50 Ranches in the world offer unbeatable value dude ranch vacations for travelers on a budget, or those who simply want to save money in the recession in every way they can with a cheap ranch holiday. And we don't blame you! So, want to know Top50's top 10 picks of the best budget and inexpensive ranch holidays? Read on...
1. Badger Creek Ranch is a working cattle and guest ranch located high in the spectacular Colorado Rocky Mountains, where traditional ranch life and western horseback adventures await. Head to this authentic Colorado guest ranch and expect to be an important part of Badger Creek’s cowboy crew, earning your cowboy stripes as you ride fences, and round up, doctor and sort cattle. With nightly rates* ranging from just $100 (non-rider) to $175 (all-inclusive) and with no minimum stay, this Colorado working ranch offers real value for money.
*7% tax not included
Badger Creek Ranch
2. Canada guest ranch Free Rein Ranch is located in secluded wilderness with thousands of acres to explore and days crammed with adventure to be had. You really do get “free rein" on your dude ranch vacation here, whether you choose to ride out on horseback, take riding lessons in the arena, try your hand at white-water rafting, archery, hiking and mountain biking, or simply bathe in secluded lakes. With all-inclusive prices* ranging from only $200 per night and a reduced rate for children, Free Rein Ranch offers great, inexpensive ranch vacations.
*12% HST applies to all charges
Free Rein Ranch
3. Rancho Los Banos in the safe and secure area of Sonora, Mexico, is a 30,000-acre eco-adventure and nature-travel guest ranch, a genuine Mexican working cattle ranch and wilderness preserve. Catering to a new generation of adventure travelers, Los Banos provides Mexico horse riding holidays like no other, offering world-class hiking, horseback riding and trail rides along with walking and trekking wilderness and box canyon adventures. And with prices from just $130 per night – inclusive of lodging, meals, activities and airport transfers from Douglas, Arizona – you won’t find better value from any other Mexico adventure vacation.
Rancho Los Banos
4. Rankin Ranch in California, USA, combines history, horses and western hospitality – with bargain rates to boot. Located in the beautiful little valley of Walker’s Basin deep in the heart of the Tehachapi Mountains, this working cattle and guest ranch is one of the oldest and largest family-owned ranches in California, and is the ideal choice for families looking for an authentic working ranch vacation on a budget. Flexibility makes this such a great value ranch, thanks to a ‘no minimum stay’ policy and tiered pricing – nightly rates start from just $165 for adults, $80 for non-riders and $80 for children. With meals, activities, lodging, riding* and taxes included, working ranch vacations at Rankin Ranch offer unbeatable value.
*Horse riding not included for non-rider rate
5. Rowse's 1+1 Ranch in Nebraska, USA, is another working ranch where you can ride the range and experience life as a real cowboy. Think wide open spaces, no crowds, traffic or hassles – and certainly no nose-to-tail trail riding. Expect to participate in all ranch activities, especially riding and cattle work – you’ll get involved in cattle drives, roundups, brandings, team-penning and roping. Included in the rates, which start from just $217 per night, are all meals, activities, riding, ranch shuttle, lodging and tax – incredible value considering the endless saddle time you get on a working ranch vacation at Rowse’s 1+1.
6. Sugar and Spice Ranch in Texas, USA, offers mother-daughter horseback vacations at bargain prices. Moms pay from just $100 per night (from $50 non-rider) and daughters just $50 per night for a summer dude ranch vacation devoted to bonding mothers and daughters through horses. Each gal will ‘own’ their own horse and get involved in feeding, grooming, tacking up, cleaning tack, bathing and, of course, riding. These bargain rates include all meals, riding*, activities, lodging, tax and evening entertainment, with round-trip shuttle to and from San Antonio airport available at just $100.
*Horse riding not included for non-rider rate
7. To get more for your money, head to Sweet Grass Ranch in Montana, USA, a family-owned and operated working cattle and guest ranch secluded in the Crazy Mountains. Riding opportunities here are above excellent – with thousands of acres of both mountain country and rolling meadows and plains to roam, you’ll enjoy an unstructured riding program tailored to your interests. From just $225 per night on the all-inclusive riding package, you can choose to go on all-day rides moving cattle or to Sweet Grass Ranch’s majestic alpine lakes, where you can be out riding from 6am to 7pm. Non-riding packages start from just $180 per night and include all activities - from hiking and fishing to golf and a host of indoor and outdoor games. Bring the kids too, for whom a reduced rate of just $160 applies – this includes horseback riding and all off-horse activities. Children will particularly love row-boating on the ponds, the ranch’s natural water slide, inner tubing the creek and evening campfires. Amazing value for all the family!
8. Texas Ranch Life in - you guessed it - Texas, USA, is an authentic working ranch where you can immerse yourself in western cowboy culture. Enjoy open-range horseback riding over the ranch’s 20 miles of rolling hills and vistas; and when you’re not horseback riding, try your hand at fishing, hunt for dove, quail, coyote and raccoon, or explore thousands of acres on trails by bike or ATV. Texas Ranch Life prides itself on a highly flexible rate policy, meaning you can tailor your ranch vacation according to your budget - there are opportunities to both save and splurge! Riding and non-riding activities are all charged separately, so you will only pay for what you use – so if riding or fishing are not your thing, you won’t pay for them. Nightly rates start as low as $140 and you can even bring your own horse – so why not rent a paddock and save money on hiring a ranch horse?
9. If it’s real value you’re after, head to the super-luxurious and family-friendly Averill's Flathead Lake Lodge in Montana, USA, on June 17-24, where you’ll save a whopping 25%! And this is not just any vacation – renowned guitarists Jody Fisher, Doug Smith and Andrew Leonard will give private performances during this Family Week at the Lodge, perfect for music lovers and budding song-writers. What’s more, all amenities, accommodations and meals are included in this special affordable ranch vacation package. Nightly rates start at just $257 for adults and $199 for children, meaning a family of four will save over $2,000 with this special offer! Great price, great dude ranch vacation – now that’s what we call value.
Averill's Flathead Lake Lodge
10. Last but by no means least, is Echo Valley Ranch and Spa. OK, so this might be more of a splurge than a save, but if it’s value you’re after… Consider the luxury dude ranch’s credentials and you certainly get what you pay for – none more so when you book their customizable packages, where you only pay for what you use. The luxury dude ranch’s special Ranch Package runs year-round and is inclusive of deluxe accommodations, gourmet family-style meals and use of all ranch facilities, while spa activities and eco-adventures are offered on an ‘a la carte’ basis. So whether you choose horseback riding, guided hiking, fly fishing or other eco-excursions, the Ranch Package gives you the opportunity to customize your perfect vacation by doing as much or as little as you want. This is a great option for families, as although adult prices start from $235 per night, kids go from as little as $40 per night, to really even out the spend. Perfect for families looking for luxury with flexible payment options.
Echo Valley Ranch & Spa
For more ranch vacations to suit every budget and even cheap ranch holidays, visit Top50Ranches.com
By Jody Dahl