Dude ranches offer guests—including city slickers—a vacation filled with rugged natural beauty, with a chance to experience the cowboy lifestyle.
Some feature luxurious creature comforts, including fine dining. Depending on their location, the ingredients come from gardens onsite or just down the road.
Below are a couple of guest ranches renowned for their ranch-to-table fare.
The Home Ranch
The Home Ranch, in the Elk River Valley outside Steamboat Springs, is a member of the Relais & Châteaux luxury hotels and restaurants collection.
“For a cook, this is paradise,” said executive chef Jonathon Gillespie. “Everything is right here, we know where everything is coming from.”
The ranch maintains an extensive garden and a 4,000-square-foot greenhouse. When Gillespie started working in the spring, he met with the master gardener, who asked him exactly what he needed and when he needed it.
The area is home to a community of tightknit ranchers; beef served at the Home Ranch is local and grass-fed.
“When you come here, you see the cattle in the pasture, and you know there’s no hormones, no GMOs. You know they’re not being fed garbage, they’re raised on grass, they’re not sent to a feedlot. They’re taken care of,” Gillespie said.
Berkshire pork and lamb are also raised locally, and the eggs come from the Home Ranch’s own chickens. “The sense of knowing where your food comes from is really important around here,” he said.
Gillespie’s work takes him outdoors sometimes. As guests ride out to a creek for fishing, he prepares to meet them there with a few pans to cook their catch, along with, for example, some potatoes, leeks, and mushrooms. “I’ll give them a hot lunch out there in the middle of nowhere,” he said.
Smith Fork Ranch
Colorado’s North Fork Valley is home to the West Elks American Viticultural Area, where some of North America’s highest-altitude vineyards are located, and where orchards of cherry, apple, peach, and apricot trees thrive. In the town of Crawford, you’ll find Smith Fork Ranch, an all-inclusive guest ranch. Fine linens, handmade soaps, and creekside massages make up for the rigors of horseback riding, fly fishing for trout, and shooting sporting clays.
The ranch organizes breakfast rides, with a hearty morning meal cooked over an open fire at a riverside camp, as well as “cocktail and cookout” rides.
Executive chef Marcus Parrott prepares dishes made with heirloom varietals from the ranch’s organic garden and ingredients from local purveyors. Wine lovers can get a taste of the area’s burgeoning wine scene at the ranch, although the selection of wines is extensive—with over 400 from around the world.