Head ‘Em Up, Move ‘Em Out To The Ranch
Colorado, Montana and Wyoming aren’t the only places where one can play cowgirl or cowboy on a dude ranch.
The Pacific Northwest has dozens of guest ranches. There are simple places with small cabins, such as Hidden Valley Guest Ranch near Cle Elum, Wash., or Stehekin Valley Ranch near Chelan, Wash.
Or choose from resort-type ranches, such as the Hills Valley Guest Ranch at 100 Mile House in central British Columbia, which offers aerobic classes and a spa along with riding.
For something completely different, there are no-frills working ranches, such as the 9,000-acre Bar H Ranch in Soda Springs, Idaho, where guests can watch (and help) with branding, fence repair and putting up hay.
“Ranch Vacations” (by Gene Kilgore, John Muir Publications, $22.95) is the most comprehensive guidebook and reviews more than 200 North American guest ranches. It’s useful for comparison-shopping (although bear in mind that it’s upbeat about every ranch described), especially for guest ranches in Oregon, Idaho and British Columbia.
Reflecting Washington’s relative paucity of guest ranches, the book lists few in this state only Hidden Valley and the Flying L Ranch in Glenwood, Klickitat County (a bring-your-own horse place). For another perspective, the guidebook “Best Places to Stay in the Pacific Northwest” (by Marilyn McFarlane, Houghton Mifflin, $16.95) reviews a half-dozen Northwest guest ranches in its “children welcome” category.
Washington’s guest ranches are mostly small, simple and family-oriented. They include: Stehekin Valley Ranch, Lake Chelan, (509) 682-4677; Circle H Holiday Ranch, Thorp, (509) 964-2000; K Diamond K Guest Ranch, Republic, (509) 775-3536; and Bull Hill Ranch, Kettle Falls, (509) 732-4355.
Luxurious resorts, such as Sun Mountain in Winthrop, (800) 572-0493, offer trail rides. The Issaquah-based High Country Outfitters offers cattle drives and other rides, 425-392-0111.
The Washington State Outfitters and Guides Association lists some ranches but focuses on horse packers/ outfitters who lead day-long and overnight trail trips. Phone (425) 392-6107 to get a directory.
The Idaho tourism office can mail the Idaho Guest and Dude Ranch brochure which describes 15 of the state’s bigger ranches and has information on horsepackers and outfitters. Also ask for the Farm and Ranch Adventures brochure, which lists a dozen ranches, many of them family-run working ranches, and the state travel guide, which contains descriptions (and ads) of some Idaho guest ranches. Phone (800) 635-7820.
Phone the province’s tourism office at (800) 663-6000 to get the brochure Outdoor and Adventure Guest Ranches, which describes 14 major ones that belong to the B.C. Guest Ranchers’ Association.
More ranches are listed in the province’s accommodations guide, also available free through that number. However, ranches aren’t classified separately; they’re mixed in with other accommodations in the geographic listings. (Most British Columbia ranches are in the Cariboo and Rockies regions.)
Eastern Oregon has some vast ranches, including the remote, fly-in 120,000-acre Ponderosa Cattle Co. and Guest Ranch (which caters to adults, not kids) near Seneca. At the Rock Springs Guest Ranch near Bend, one of the state’s premier dude ranches, families are welcomed.
The Oregon Tourism Commission, (800) 547-7842, lists ranches in its free Where to Stay in Oregon Guide (but they’re not categorized separately). Kilgore’s Ranch Vacations guidebook is probably the easiest way to track down more ranches in Oregon (and Britich Columbia).