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Kids, horses and wranglers are the heart and soul of family dude ranch vacations. “Take children to a beach and ask them 10 years later to name that beach and they will have forgotten. But take them on a family ranch vacation and they’ll remember the name of the ranch and the names of their horses for the rest of their lives,” says Top50 Ranches' Gene Kilgore, the world’s leading expert on dude ranch vacations

“A thread common to these ranches is the attention staff lavish on children exploring an exciting, new, wild world of ranch vacations,” he adds. Meanwhile their parents are unplugging, riding or maybe fly-fishing, reading a book or musing about becoming a family who lives year-round on a ranch. They’ve never seen their children this happy.

Panning for gold at Three Bars Cattle and Guest Ranch

“Following are ranches from the Rockies to California, where Mother Nature emboldens children to become next-generation environmentalists, explorers and adventurers,” he predicts.

In the Canadian Rockies, Three Bars Guest and Cattle Ranch (pictured above) kids ranch vacations allow children aged six and up to ride, shoot target practice with kid-size archery equipment, shoot clays with lightweight rifles, river raft, swim (supervised), mountain bike, fish, hunt for frogs, build forts and pan for British Columbia gold. Host Tyler Beckley notes, “The first day or so, most families tend to ride together. As children feel more secure on their ranch vacation for kids and after they’ve made friends, they’re off and running.” Evenings everyone eats together. Children under six can ride around the arena on horses led by wranglers and meet other animals in a petting zoo. Log cabins of up to three bedrooms accommodate 45 guests.

California’s Rankin Ranch has run cattle at the southern tip of the Sierra Nevada mountain range since 1863 and offers supervised ranch vacations for kids aged four to 11. Riding out at Rankin Ranch

The kids activities can combine hiking and swimming with ping pong, shuffleboard, archery, badminton, horseshoes… and the list goes on. Ages six and up enjoy twice-daily trail rides through areas where cattle are grazing. “In the evenings, youngsters feed chickens, pigs, sheep, goats, a miniature donkey and miniature horses. They get to brush the animals and collect eggs, too” says Amanda Rankin Barrett, Ranch Manager. More fun comes with hay wagon rides, square dancing and a childrens race on stick horses they’ve created and the adults bet on them with play money. Accommodations are for 45 in duplex cabins.


Wyoming’s Paradise Guest Ranch in the Big Horn Mountains has been a dude ranch since 1907.

Having FUN at Paradise Guest Ranch

“Our registered brand is 'FUN',” says Clay Miller, who is Managing Owner with his wife Leah. “We get a lot of extended families because the kids are totally taken care of. On our ranch vacations for kids, we really emphasize getting the children – even the teens – outdoors and becoming involved in activities that re-attach them to nature. One staff person is assigned to teens and three others to younger guests. Kids under the age of six can enjoy pony rides and older kids are on the horses. The ranch can also accommodate infants. “Sometimes parents may want to try out another ranch, but the kids insist on returning to Paradise”, says Clay. Accommodations for 70 are in newly-renovated log cabins with up to four bedrooms.

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Article prepared by Widness & Wiggins PR, edited by Kate Hammaren Managing Editor, Top50 Ranches

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