People enjoy seeing cowboy life portrayed in movies and books, and many want a chance to get a real feel for our western heritage.
There is no better way than becoming an active participant at a ranch.
The primary focus during your cowboy adventure will involve horses in some way. You’ll learn to ride and feel comfortable atop your mount. Riding fence lines, trailing cattle, and going on overnight pack trips and scenic trail rides are just part of the total ranching adventure.
Forget the negative connotation about being a “dude” when you visit a dude ranch for a cowboy vacation. Simply defined, dude ranches are working cattle ranches, which invite “city slickers” to join them to learn what ranching is all about.
Guests can get involved in most aspects of the ranch, including riding, roping, branding and everyday chores (though some ranch activities may not be available for young children).
Upon arrival, guests are assigned a horse for the week. The horses are dude-proof, meaning they are mild-mannered, gentle, and accustomed to inexperienced riders.
Most dude ranches require a full-week minimum stay, typically at an all-inclusive price that includes lodging, meals and on-property recreation. Accommodations are generally in rustic cabins or cottages for families, and lodge rooms for singles and couples. Western cuisine is served buffet style at most dude ranches.
Here is a sampling of dude ranches around the Inland Northwest:
Flathead Lake Lodge
Big Fork, Mont.
Flathead Lake Lodge has been catering to vacationers seeking a real western experience since 1945. Its location on Flathead Lake also provides lots of water sports along with its normal ranch and horse programs of cookouts, trail rides and rodeos.
The ranch also has a heated pool, tennis courts, volleyball court and private beach.
The lodge’s family season is from mid-June to the first week of September. The package price is $1,456 for adults. Children rates are available. During the spring and fall, the lodge is available for private groups and conferences.
For reservations and information on Flathead Lake Lodge: (406) 837-4391.
For general tourism information for the area: Flathead Convention and Visitors Bureau, (800) 543-3105 or (406) 756-9091.
Hargrave Cattle & Guest Ranch
Thompson River Valley, Mont.
This working cattle ranch can accommodate up to 15 guests at a time. Its all-inclusive package is available from June through September for $980 a person a week. Customized packages are available during the off-season.
The ranch also offers a Bed & Breakfast-Plus plan in the fall, winter and spring. The package includes a normal bed and breakfast offering, plus lunch and dinner, for $120 a day, based on double occupancy.
For reservations and information on Hargrave Cattle & Guest Ranch: (406) 858-2284 or (800) 933-0696.
Twin Peaks Ranch
Twin Peaks Ranch has been serving city slickers since 1923. Since the ranch is located on the Salmon River, its activities include scenic floats and whitewater rafting. Guests also can participate in a short cattle drive.
Evenings find guests square- and line-dancing, listening to cowboy poets, enjoying sing-alongs and tapping their feet to the music of a western band.
The all-inclusive price for a week (Sunday to Sunday) is $1,400 for adults. Children rates are available.
For reservations and information on Twin Peaks Ranch: (800) 659-4899 or (208) 894-2290.
For general tourism information for the area: Salmon Chamber of Commerce, (208) 756-2100.
Ponderosa Guest Ranch
This working cattle ranch offers several Cowboy Packages, which include room, board and unlimited riding with the Ponderosa Buckaroo staff. Guests help move herds of up to 400 cows from pasture to pasture.
The ranch has only one week open for families with children under 18 (July 30 - August 6). The week-long Cowboy Package rate is $1,250 a person (18 and over) for single occupancy and $1,000 a person for double occupancy.
For reservations and information: (800) 331-1012 or (503) 542-2403.
For general tourism information for the area: Eastern Oregon Visitors Association, (800) 332-1843.
xxxx JUST FOR KIDS Flathead Lake Lodge has an active program for children. Wranglers will teach the young guests how to perform various rodeo-style events throughout the week. At the end of the week, a special rodeo is held where the children perform their skills with horses and cattle. Call (406) 837-4391.