Nothing says "America" - especially to the rest of the world - like authentic Western ranches. And there must be something to this. Because authentic Western ranches are not a thing of the past...they're still found all over the West. And they still offer one of the greatest - and most unusual - vacation experiences on Earth.
5. TRIPLE CREEK RANCH, DARBY, MONTANA - Big Sky Country never looks more beautiful than here, with this ranch's stunning combination of modern elegance and Old West tradition. Set in the breathtaking Bitterroot Mountain range, Triple Creek is one place where you really can have your cake - perhaps even bake your cake, in the cooking classes - and eat it, too. After a day of herding cattle on the range, you can sit down to a gourmet dinner with a fine wine. After a day of hiking, biking, or fishing, you can relax with a good book and a warm fire (or hot tub). And whether you stay in the log cabins or the ranch homes, you'll be surrounded by great Western art, a bunch of fascinating activities (both indoors and out), and the beauty of Nature's ultimate palette right outside your door.
4. DROWSY WATER RANCH, GRANBY, COLORADO - Nestled in its own private mountain valley, the 600-acre Drowsy Water Ranch has specialized in providing authentic Western vacations for over 70 years. Their approach is simple - an authentic Western experience based upon the simple pleasures and simple values of the West. Here, horseback riding, great food, and down-home entertainment are the main activities (although you may want to throw in some hiking or mountain-biking, as well...along with swimming, horseshoes, steak fries, trout fishing, square-dancing, zip-lining, hayrides, movies, pack trips, raft trips, and golf!). There are special programs, if you're interested, for both adults and kids. And, at the main lodge, the door is always open and the coffee's always hot.
3. WESTERN PLEASURE GUEST RANCH, SANDPOINT, IDAHO - When Riley Wood started this ranch in 1940, he probably had no idea that his granddaughter and her husband, Janice and Rollie Schoonover, would be owning it 75 years later. Or that their grandchildren would become the fifth generation of his family to grow up on the ranch. Situated outside one of America's most scenic small towns (Sandpoint), just 40 miles from the Canadian border, Western Pleasure is pure heaven. The intimate family-run touch is everywhere evident. It's also a working ranch, with a herd of cattle (and guests are welcome to participate!). There's a beautiful lodge with six guest rooms and a magnificent Great Room. Four authentic cabins were added last year. The home-cooked meals are great, and the family will often invite guests outside for a grilled dinner and some live music. And you're surrounded by the ethereal beauty of the Selkirk Mountains, with views stretching across into Montana.
2. OUR HERITAGE GUEST RANCH, CRAWFORD, NEBRASKA - Nestled in the foothills of the picturesque Pine Ridge of northwest Nebraska, in the scenic Oglala National Grasslands, this ranch is hip-deep in cowboy and Western culture and tradition. Here, you can accompany the cowboys (and cowgirls!) as they go about their daily chores. Or, you can ride your horse or four-wheeler, hike or bike the scenic hills and bluffs, hunt for treasure in the area's abundant fossil beds, fish, or gaze at the brilliant night skies. You can ride on a covered wagon, as the pioneers did when they passed on the nearby Oregon Trail (where you can actually see the ruts from their wagons!). You can choose from among several packages, including one called "The Lakota Package," which will immerse you into the life of Native Americans here. The only sound you'll ever hear is an occasional train in the distance. And the "Our Heritage" name is appropriate for this ranch...it's been in the same family since 1887!
And now, for my pick for the Top Western Ranch in America...
1. THE RANCH AT EMERALD VALLEY, THE BROADMOOR, COLORADO SPRINGS, COLORADO - This ain't like any ranch you've ever seen! Situated on a mountain above the legendary Broadmoor Hotel (and owned by it), is The Ranch at Emerald Valley. This intimate, all-inclusive ranch offers the concept of "Rustic Luxury," where guests can enjoy horseback riding and hiking, fly fishing, canoeing, mountain biking, archery, and swimming in the lake...as well as stunning art-filled cabins, gourmet meals, wine tastings, cooking demonstrations, and star-gazing at the most beautiful skies you've ever seen. Guests at Emerald Valley check-in at The Broadmoor, leave their car there, and are taken up to the Ranch by private limousine. Sleeping just 32 guests in ten cabins, The Ranch at Emerald Valley features a Lodge with dining room, bar, and wraparound deck, two lakeside hot tubs, and a fire pit for morning "Cowboy Coffee" and evening story-telling. Each cabin has a fireplace and private deck, and its own unique design. At this ranch, you can experience the Old West in a luxurious fashion that the pioneers never dreamed of!
Well, those are my Top 5 Western Ranches in America! How about you...do you have any personal favorites? We'd love to hear them on our Facebook page!