Enjoy a Romantic Retreat at The Ranch at Rock Creek

September 28th, 2016 by Ashlie Dove

Autumn is just around the corner and you won’t want to miss out on The Ranch at Rock Creek’s “Montana Romance Retreat.” Located in Montana, a popular guest ranch destination, The Ranch at Rock Creek is the ideal dude ranch vacation choice for those looking for a western adventure situated in one of Montana’s most pristine valleys.

2016 ROMANTIC RETREAT | 3 NIGHTS

Book a three-night stay between September 6 and November 22 and receive $900 in additional value.

Escape to The Ranch to rouse your hearts and inspire your minds with curated couples adventures.* Enjoy outdoor activities, such as fly fishing, horseback riding or yoga, and take in spectacular panoramic views from private mountain summits. Your exceptional farm-to-table culinary experiences will be highlighted during a special gathering with a Ranch chef. Relax in rustic, yet elegant accommodations, complemented by the serenity of the Granite Spa and sublime Big Sky grandeur just outside your door.

Montana Guest Ranch

Special Inclusions:

  • A half-day, private guided fly fishing or horseback ride adventure with a gourmet picnic or a private 2-hour yoga session including refreshments
  • Choose either two (2) complimentary 60-minute Restorative Massages or two side-by-side 45-minute Homestead Sole Foot Treatments in the Granite Spa
  • Spend an hour with a Ranch Chef learning about locally sourced gourmet cuisine while you enjoy regional wine pairings, Montana craft beer pairings or tea time in a private setting
Montana Guest Ranch

Offer as seen on The Ranch at Rock Creek’s website. Be sure to ask the ranch for more details.

Book your romantic autumn vacation now and enjoy mountain luxury, western adventure, seasonal colours and local cuisine.

Happy Trails!

Why Dude Ranches are the Perfect Family Vacation Destination

September 10th, 2016 by Ashlie Dove

If you have a family you probably find yourself often searching for new vacation destinations suitable for every member in your family unit. On the one hand you want to be assured that where you choose to go is a safe environment for your little ones; but, you also want it to be fun for everyone in your group. And most likely you would like to enjoy some private time with your significant other, even if it’s just for a short period of time perhaps while sharing a relaxing spa treatment. Here’s an idea for your next family getaway: Book Your Next Vacation at a Dude Ranch. 

Echo Valley Ranch

Echo Valley Ranch

The majority of dude ranches are open during both the summer and winter months. You can choose between rustic accommodations and full-fledged luxury style ranch resorts that offer amenities similar to high end hotels with extras like spas and gourmet dining. Working ranches provide guests with the opportunity to immerse themselves in the cowboy way of life in every way allowing you to take part in cattle drives and other exciting day to day ranch activities. This type of vacation may be more suitable for families with older kids; whereas, other guest ranches often offer special kid-friendly programs that are ideal for every age group.

Here are seven reasons to make a reservation for you and your family at a nearby, or faraway, dude ranch.

Experience Ranch Life – If you or your young ones have always dreamed of experiencing the life of a cowboy or cowgirl, this is your chance. Pull on some cowboy boots and walk the walk if only for a short period. Nothing beats waking up to the sound of horses neighing in an open field or the smell of an all-American trail breakfast.

 

family ranch vacation

Disconnect In Order To Reconnect – We have never been more connected yet more disconnected than we are now. Although it may seem impossible to “unplug” for even just a short period of time from the myriad of electronic devices available to us nowadays it is possible. Many guest ranches although they offer Wi-Fi connectivity in specified areas it is also quite common to find that you simply can’t connect everywhere you go. Take advantage of these moments to look up from your device and engage in “real moments”.

Discover the Thrill of Horseback Riding – One of the main reasons people choose to visit a dude ranch is because they want to ride. There is nothing like the feeling of being atop a horse as you take in beautiful scenery all around you. The connection between horse and rider can’t be beat.   If you have never ridden before don’t worry most guest ranches provide lessons to help newbies feel comfortable in the saddle.

kids horseback riding

Stop and Smell the Roses – Guest ranches provide the opportunity to rediscover what nature has to offer. Towering mountains, arid deserts, rushing rivers, thick green forests and a sky full of impossibly bright twinkling stars to name a few are what one can expect. Regardless of where you choose to stay the natural beauty that surrounds you will leave you in awe.

Try Something New – Don’t strike dude ranches off your list of holiday destinations if horseback riding isn’t your thing. Many ranches provide a range of activities that will thrill you, relax you and keep everyone in your family excited. For instance, you can go fly fishing, take a guided tour, explore your surroundings through hiking trails, and even book a spa treatment. If you’re heading to a dude ranch during the winter, your list of activities can include skating on nearby lakes or skiing at a nearby resort.

Make New Friends – Most guest ranches do family-style dining which means you get the chance to meet new people at mealtimes. You will also get the opportunity to experience activities while part of a group and time spent around a campfire at night is always a wonderful way to swap stories with newfound friends. Children’s programs enable  kids to mix with other kids their age while giving adults some perhaps much needed adult-time.

Take a Break From Cooking – Enjoy home-cooked, hearty meals or gourmet ranch cuisine while staying at a guest ranch. Many ranches grow and raise a lot of their own food guaranteeing that only the freshest of ingredients are used in your meals. Some guest ranches even offer special wine-tasting weeks!

family ranch vacation

While each of these aspects make dude ranches great, nothing can compare to bringing the whole family together under one roof and at one table. You can’t put a price on that. So book your next vacation soon before another family takes your place. Search for a ranch using our FREE dude ranch search tool.

Welcome to Willow Ranch Valemount

August 31st, 2016 by Ashlie Dove

Super Natural British Columbia is home to many great guest ranches and Willow Ranch is one of them.  This newly built guest ranch features cozy cabins situated in the middle of the forest surrounded by views of the majestic Canadian Rocky Mountains. Located only 5 minutes from Highway 5 the ranch is conveniently close to the town of Valemount making it the ideal vacation choice for a one night stay while travelling around Canada or perhaps even longer for those looking to kick off their boots and relax a spell.

BC Guest Ranch

Willow Ranch

There are 4 modern cabins to choose from: Spring, Summer, Fall & Winter all of which feature a kitchen, dishwasher and microwave for your convenience. A separate bedroom has a comfortable king-size bed and there is a pull-out couch in the living room for additional guests as well as a bathroom. Since they are located on McLennan Forrest Road ATV’s and snowmobiles can easily access them as well. There is also direct access to walking and horseback riding trails.

There are endless horseback riding opportunities available as the ranch is surrounded by crown land (forest and mountains) and there truly is no better way to experience the Canadian mountains than from atop a horse. Guests can choose from several types of rides that can be tailored to fit their specific needs and for those who have never ridden before there are classes available too!

BC Guest Ranch

Willow Ranch

Explorer Ride

1.5 hour ride which has everything that a good trail ride needs. It goes through forest, climbs up the mountainside with some great views over the valley. A very nice ride for any level rider, as the route can be adjusted to meet particular rider’s needs and abilities.

Viewpoint Ride

A half day ride through the mountains with amazing views.

Pony Trail

For smaller kids there is a pony ride, a fun loop which takes about 30 minutes. The horses are held by qualified staff members to keep it safe and fun even for the littlest kids.

Pony Experience

For 1st time riders there is the pony experience where qualified wranglers take their time to teach a little bit about horses, grooming and tack and afterwards guests can go on a shirt ride.

 

Be sure to ask about Willow Ranch’s fantastic combo deals like their “one night & ride” for travellers just passing through which combines their Explorer Ride with a night stay in one of their cabins. Of course the ranch can also help you complete your Canadian horse holiday dream by filling up your days with riding, horse whispering demonstrations and workshops. Whatever your needs the staff at Willow Ranch are happy to customize your stay to suit your specific vacation needs. For those traveling with their own horses and looking for somewhere to stop for a night or two Willow Ranch has pens with shelter ready that are big enough to keep two horses.

BC Guest Ranch

Cabin in the winter

Next time you are travelling through Canada be sure to consider a stop at Willow Ranch Valemount!

Happy Trails!

Let RanchSeeker help you find your ideal guest ranch vacation!

If a Guest Ranch Vacation Isn’t on Your Bucket List It Should Be!

August 25th, 2016 by Ashlie Dove

The following article 1st appeared in Ranch & Reserve Magazine’s 9th issue

The Oxford Dictionary defines “bucket list” as follows:

Noun

Informal

A number of experiences or achievements that a person hopes to have or accomplish during their lifetime: making this trip is the first thing on my bucket list

Origin

Early 21st century: from the phrase, “kick the bucket ‘die’ ” popularized by the 2007 film “The Bucket List” starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman

Ever since “the Bucket List” hit movie theatres worldwide, a bucket list movement has been on the rise and continues to evolve among younger and older generations alike. Websites with titles like “10,000 Things To Do Before You Die”  and 100+ Creative Bucket List  Ideas You Should Add To Your List  are popular search engine phrases for those looking for inspiration and ideas to help create their own personal bucket list.

Nowadays, more and more people suffer from the never-ending pressure of their day-to-day responsibilities, commitments and overwhelming time constraints. Whether it’s a student working towards a degree, a hardworking employee with perhaps a family to raise or a simple case of trying to schedule a “date” with a significant other, life doesn’t leave much time to dare to dream and plan those things you would like to do before, yes….I’m going to say it…kick the bucket!

Health, monetary and career goals along with those endless to-do lists may already be a part of your daily routine, however, a bucket list allows you to delve deeper and ask yourself what do you really want to do, experience, see and learn in your lifetime? There is nothing too big, insignificant or random when making a bucket list.  In fact it can be an incredibly enlightening experience. From a very young age we are taught to consider others before ourselves and as we grow older this can often result in setting aside or putting off things that perhaps at one time were very important to us.

An encouraging and positive aspect of bucket lists is that they are fluid in nature. During a lifetime, priorities will change and things that at one time or another were at the top of the list, may not be so later on. My bucket list is a perpetual work in progress, a constant subtracting and adding of new experiences and goals that I would like to achieve, although there are many “givens” that consistently remain throughout this process. As I grow as a person and am exposed to all the wonderful choices that this wide world has to offer, I find that a bucket list enables me to approach life with an enthusiastic “joie de vivre” as I strive to live life to the fullest.

Everyone’s bucket list is unique. Perhaps it includes an extreme activity like sky diving, swimming with sharks, or bungee jumping. But a bucket list can also be about learning a new language, living abroad, swimming in the ocean for the first time, learning to ride a horse or visiting a country that appeals to your inner self.  The act of making a bucket list allows your imagination to roam freely as you identify and make accomplishing these goals an integral part of your life plan. As C.S. Lewis once said, “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.”

An endless…..literally endless list of possibilities exist out there, so when making up a bucket list perhaps a guest ranch vacation isn’t one that immediately comes to mind…..but oh how it should!  Guest ranches provide an unbeatable opportunity to engage in an array of exciting and challenging activities, quite often conveniently close to home or far away in colourful locales. Experience the thrill of trail rides among absolutely breathtaking scenery as you decompress, reconnect with nature and get in touch with your inner “cowboy or cowgirl.”  With so many excellent dude ranches to choose from, the following is a short list only to consider when planning your next bucket list guest ranch adventure.

Laramie River Ranch 

Experience the rugged Rocky Mountains at this Colorado guest ranch where horseback riding is the main focus and genuine western hospitality is par for the course. In addition guests can partake in exceptional fly fishing opportunities, naturalist led hikes and wildlife adventures. Live musical entertainment and square dancing at night will enhance your western experience. Accommodations include rooms in the lodge or cozy cabins depending on your particular needs.

Colorado Dude Ranch

Laramie River Dude Ranch

Crystal Waters Guest Ranch  

Located in Super Natural British Columbia’s Cariboo region this Canadian guest ranch specializes in horseback riding, ranching and fishing vacations but they also offer lots of other fun summer activities as well as winter packages. Home to caribou, black bears and countless species of birds means bringing a camera along is a must! Accommodations include western-style cabins situated on the shores of the pristine Crystal Water Lake which is surrounded by rolling meadows and deep forests.

BC Guest Ranch

Crystal Waters Guest Ranch

Red Horse Mountain Idaho 

This guest ranch is one of Idaho’s best kept secrets. Guests will experience first rate western hospitality, moments of relaxation as well as an extensive list of guided adventures to choose from. With several riding packages at your disposal or activities like mountain biking, 3D archery and kayaking to name a few everyone in your group is sure to be satisfied! Book either the Hilltop Vacation Home (ideal for large groups or families) or one of their cabins or suites.

Idaho Guest Ranch

Red Horse Mountain Ranch

Geronimo Trails Guest Ranch 

Open meadows, tall ponderosa forests and an abundance of wildlife awaits you at this New Mexico guest ranch. Horseback riders or hikers will marvel at the deep canyons and crystal clear streams that are all part of the Gila National Forest. While you explore the area you will have the opportunity to learn about the rich history associated with the region. Geronimo Trails Guest Ranch is a small ranch (only 4 cabins) so guests are guaranteed a truly personal atmosphere.

New Mexico Guest Ranch

Geronimo Trails Guest Ranch

The Hideout Lodge & Guest Ranch 

Wyoming is the perfect playground for those looking for an exceptional experience! With 650,000 acres to explore this upscale working cattle, riding, fly-fishing and adventure guest ranch is the ideal vacation choice. Trapshooting, archery, canoeing, kayaking, hiking, biking,4X4 tours as well as many other opportunities await the intrepid traveller. Be sure to book well in advance so that you don’t miss out since this guest ranch fills up quickly due to returning guests and word of mouth.

Wyoming Guest Ranch

The Hideout Lodge & Guest Ranch

Let RanchSeeker   help you find your ideal guest ranch bucket list destination!

Cowtown! Calgary’s Stampede City!

August 19th, 2016 by Ashlie Dove

The following article 1st  appeared in  Ranch & Reserve Magazine’s  8th issue.

Many years ago, as a young, British immigrant, I found myself at the Calgary Stampede…..one of the most famous and largest rodeos in the world. It totally blew me away!  I had never experienced or seen anything quite like it. An amazing kaleidoscope of events, from a foot stomping, mind boggling opening Parade of marching brass bands, flamboyant floats, honorary marshal, parade queen and princesses to heart-stopping feats as cowboys and cowgirls showed off their skills and competed for major prize money in the huge Stampede Grandstand arena. The rodeo events were an eye-popping spectacle of calf roping, steer wrestling, barrel racing and, most thrilling of all, bare-back riders exploding out of the gate astride big bucking bulls or broncos. Between various events, nimble rodeo clowns kept the stands laughing and rearing animals distracted, when a rider tumbled to the ground!  Every night, enthusiastic aficionados of chuck wagon racing filled the stands to hoot and holler and cheer on their favourite teams as wagons careened and thundered around the track.  After that heady rush of adrenaline, it was time for spectators to sit back and enjoy big-name entertainment at the evening concert, climaxed by a brilliant firework display at the evening’s close.

During the day and into the night, good-natured crowds jostled and pushed their way around the various venues, trying to take in as much as possible.  Vendors hawked their wares and sold everything from hot dogs and cotton candy to the latest kitchen gadgets. The constant hustle and bustle was an infectious mix of good times and fun-filled days that invoked a true carnival atmosphere.  Among the major attractions, was an authentic Indian Village recreated on the banks of the Elbow River, representing the six local tribes, replete with tipis, native art and tribal members resplendent in ceremonial dress and traditional attire.  Other big draws were the many agricultural exhibitions and magnificent prize livestock on show in the cattle sheds, polished and groomed by their proud owners, as visitors gingerly picked their way around bellowing animals and sawdust strewn floors!

Free pancake breakfasts, free barbecues and impromptu street parties were hosted at countless outdoor venues around town… western hospitality at its finest and a sure-fire Stampede staple.  Saloon-type restaurants did a roaring trade happily serving up large plates of steak and eggs to customers from early morning ‘til late at night. White Stetsons, cowboy boots and blue jeans were de rigueur as everyone got in on the act to celebrate Stampede week. Calgary residents and visitors alike lived and breathed in a bygone western era, which then, as now, remains the true essence of the Calgary Stampede.

But what exactly is the Calgary Stampede and how did it come to symbolize and define Calgary as Stampede City, hosting the largest, richest, most successful rodeo festival to date?

Calgary Stampede

Basically, the Stampede is a 10-day annual Rodeo, Exhibition and Agricultural fair held every July in Calgary, a prosperous modern city situated at the confluence of the Bow and Elbow rivers surrounded by foothills and prairies in the Province of Alberta, about 80km from the east range of the Canadian Rockies. The Stampede is run by a “not for profit organization that preserves and promotes western heritage and values.”  Thousands of volunteers help to make the annual Stampede possible, which bills itself as, “The Greatest Show on Earth!”  Only the present-day midway funfair is a for profit run business by an entirely separate entity.

But let’s go back to the very beginning when Calgary was truly deserving of its nickname Cowtown!   Like all great and enduring ventures, it has an uneven and colourful history dating from 1886 when the Calgary and District Agricultural Society put on its first fair and exhibition to encourage farmers to move west.  At that time, Calgary was a small town with most of the 2,000 population involved in farming, ranching and raising cattle.  The society’s fair enjoyed a modest profit and success which continued in one form or another until 1895 when poor weather, failed crops and declining attendance put an end to it.  However, in 1899, the Western Pacific Exhibition stepped in, took over the Victoria Park facility and resumed the fairs which began to grow annually. In 1910 the fair became known as the Calgary Industrial Exhibition.

The big break came in 1908, when the Canadian government chose Calgary to host the Dominion Exhibition and provided necessary funds. The city, seizing an opportunity to promote itself, invested a further $145,000 to build six new pavilions and despite a recession the Exhibition was a total success.

But the birth of the Stampede as we know it today, was the idea and brainchild of Guy Weadick, an American trick roper at the Dominion Exhibition, who later returned to Calgary and convinced four Calgary businessmen, Pat Burns, George Lane, A.J. McLean and A. E. Cross, forever immortalized in Calgarian folk-lore history as the Big Four, to back an authentic wild-west type Stampede.  The Big Four thought it would be a fitting, one-time only event to celebrate their lives as cattlemen, and so the first Stampede took place in 1912 as a joint venture with the Calgary Industrial Exhibition and was an instant success. It took another 7 years before Weadick managed to get the Big Four to sponsor another such event, which was the 1919 Victory Stampede to mark the end of W.W.1 and honour returning war veterans.   It too was an immediate rip-roaring success. However, it wasn’t until 1923 that the Calgary Industrial Exhibition, suffering losses and falling revenues, agreed to merge with Weadick’s Stampede group and form the “Calgary Exhibition and Stampede” which became a permanent fixture on the rodeo circuit.

Calgary Stampede

With the discovery of the Leduc 1 oil well in 1947, far-reaching changes took place in Calgary having an enormous impact on the city’s future and that of the Stampede. The former small cattle and farming community was transformed into the present-day oil and gas capital of Canada and financial hub of Alberta. As Calgary grew, so did the Stampede, attracting notables from afar, including the Queen and Prince Philip twice, Bing Crosby and Bob Hope as parade marshals and six Hollywood-made films featuring the Stampede……some using actual footage.  But by the 1950’s it was evident that further expansion was necessary to accommodate the increasing number of attendees and rodeo events to ensure the continuing success of the Stampede.

With this in mind, the organization embarked on an ambitious building program, which included a 7,500 seat Stampede Corral in 1950 followed by a race-track in 1954. The Big Four Building (named after its four benefactors) was completed in 1959, the city’s largest Exhibition Hall at the time.  In 1961, the OH Ranch, in Hanna, Alberta was established to raise and breed cattle, horses and bulls for the Stampede’s six rodeo disciplines using humane methods. By 1968, the Stampede had grown so rapidly that it was extended to its current 10 days. The Roundup Centre came next in 1979 and served as the new Exhibition Hall and finally in 1983 the Olympic Saddledome took its place as the Stampede’s newest and biggest venue. Owing to the improved and expanded facilities, attendance rose steadily until it finally plateaued at around 1.2 million with a one-time peak of 1.4 million in 2012 at the Stampede’s Centennial year celebrations.

In 2007, “Exhibition” was dropped and the event was called simply, The Calgary Stampede. At the same time, the Stampede organization finally acquired additional lands at Victoria Park, expanding the original site, now known as Stampede Park.  Long-term plans include it being a year-round destination for both locals and visitors.  The Stampede Park complex is located in S.E. downtown Calgary in the Beltline district, serviced by a rapid transit line and consists of the following facilities:  the Saddledome and Corral, the Big Four building, the BMO Centre and the Stampede Grandstand.

Calgary Stampede

In the years since my long-ago visit, many new attractions have been added to the Stampede, such as the ever- popular Midway,  an exciting Adventure Park , a Nashville North venue showcasing well-known country and western artists and the Transalta Grandstand, which features a troupe of talented young Canadian performers strutting their stuff in front of a packed house!

The horrendous 2013 floods, which decimated much of Calgary, threatened to cancel that year’s stampede, however, Stampede City literally pulled itself out of the mud and with the help of selfless volunteers the show went on… a testament to the indomitable spirit that has infused the Calgary Stampede since its inception. As a direct result of the floods, millions of dollars were raised from government and private donors for ongoing improvements to the Stampede facilities and future expansion projects.

In the summer of 2015, I had the opportunity to stay at a cattle farm 120km outside of Calgary and got to explore the neighbouring  high country and arid badlands, plus renew my acquaintance with Calgary’s downtown, now an imposing, sophisticated city of skyscrapers, condo towers and trendy restaurants. But at the heart of all this modernity, Cowtown is alive and well with a warm invitation to step back into the past and soak up the spirit of the old wild-west at the next Calgary Stampede!

Sheilan Dove/ June 29/2016