Rustic Pleasures Guest Ranches Forgo Many Modern Conveniences, But Visitors Usually Don’t Have Time To Miss Them
The cabin was simple and dark, like many old log cabins. The water heater was broken, the bathroom’s wood floor sagged in a few spots.
It didn’t matter. Hidden Valley Guest Ranch was still so enjoyable that my family would have been happy sleeping in a bomb shelter.
“I don’t want to go home. I want to stay here,” wailed our daughter as we packed up after a weekend at the ranch, 90 miles east of Seattle near Cle Elum, Wash.
With horses to ride, trails to walk or mountain-bike, a small outdoor pool to splash in, plus a hot tub and sport court, it’s no wonder kids don’t want to leave. Adults may feel the same way.
The Coe family has run the ranch, 750 acres of rolling range land and forested hillsides in the Wenatchee Mountain foothills, since 1968 (although it’s been run as a guest ranch since 1947, making it one of Washington’s oldest).
Hidden Valley can accommodate 35 guests in its 14 units - from separate cabins to rooms in multiplex cabins - which cluster on a narrow ridge overlooking pastures and the meandering Swauk Creek.
In the pine-paneled dining room in the main ranch house, guests share long, varnished tables while Bruce Coe and his staff rustle up plate-sized omlettes for breakfast, piles of ribs and roast chicken for dinner.
Coe’s brother, Matt, runs the riding stable; their spouses and young children help out and play around the ranch, including a horse-loving toddler who stomps through the corral in pint-size cowboy boots.
For riders, there are two trail rides scheduled each day, each lasting 1-1/2 hours. Longer rides can be arranged in advance, and sometimes there are sunset rides.
Many of Hidden Valley’s 30 horses are gentle enough for beginners and children (minimum age 6). Riders amble through the open forest of this dry side of the Cascades and through pastures dotted with wildflowers on the 2,500-foot-elevation ranch.
There are no telephones or TVs to break the peace in Hidden Valley’s cabins, some of them one-room cabins (including ours, Corral, built in about 1910) while others are more modern and bigger.
Don’t expect luxury in any of them; Hidden Valley is not an upscale place. And be prepared for thin walls in units that share a building.
But most guests spend little time in the cabins. They’re out riding, or relaxing in the recreation lounge, a bookshelf-lined room by the pool with sofas, a piano and pingpong table.
Kids chase the ranch’s chickens as they scratch across the lawn; grown-ups sip a drink on their cabins’ porches (bring your own; the ranch has no liquor license) and watch the shadows lengthen as the day winds down.
In winter, Hidden Valley is blanketed in snow. The recreation then switches to cross-country skiing and snowmobiling, making it a rustic hideaway for all seasons.
If you go
To get to Hidden Valley Ranch from Spokane, take I-90 west to Cle Elum; leave the freeway at exit 85 and follow State Route 970 northeast (toward Blewett Pass). At milepost 8, turn onto Hidden Valley Road and follow it three miles to the ranch.
There’s a two-night minimum on weekends in the summer season. With meals included, the rate is $190 per adult for the two-night stay; $100 for children ages 6-12, $50 for children 3-5, under 3 are free. (One-night stays are costly at $99 per adult, and give no time to unwind.) Like most guest ranches, prices are reduced for longer stays. All prices are reduced in October.
Horse riding is extra and costs $32.50 per 1-hour trail ride. Riding is also open to non-guests.
More more information, write Hidden Valley Guest Ranch, 3942 Hidden Valley Road, Cle Elum, Wash. 98922, or call (800) 526-9269.