Dude Cowboy Q&A

If you thinking about going on a Dude Ranch, you might find some useful information here. Of course my information is biased as I have been only to the Elk Mountain Ranch. But I'm sure that many other Dude Ranches are similar and so the same rules will apply.

Riding experience?

Before I went to a dude ranch for the first time, I did not have any riding experience at all. So this was a point I was concerned about as well. However it turned out that you can manage without and if you trust your horse it will take you safely anywhere you want.

The horses at the ranch are very well kept and are very gently. Tom, the owner of the ranch picks the horses for each guest individually and matches them perfectly.

If someone told me before my first visit what kind of country I will be riding, I wouldn't have believed them. But after all most of the ranches lie in the Rocky Mountains and they did not get that name for nothing. So we rode up and down the hills, some of them quite steep. As I said before - You need to trust your horse and then you will be fine. After all, the horse does not like to stumble either.

Trail ride?

If you think that you will be able ride like John Wayne, or like the guys from the film "City Slickers" then you will probably be disappointed. Certainly you will have to check out each guest ranch individually as there might be differences.

In general the guest will ride in groups of around 4 people plus a wrangler. You will follow the trails in line. If the terrain allows and all guests feel comfortable, you will get a chance to trot and sometimes even canter. Sometimes you will have the chance to spread out and ride your own path next to each other.

At other times you will have the chance to do some bushwhacking and ride off trail cross the woods, which I like a lot. But as security is the top priority no cowboy stunts are allowed and in general you just leisurely ride across the country taking in the beauty.


Every time, before I head out to the ranch, I stop at Sheplers in Denver to get the appropriate clothes. For riding some relax cut jeans are just perfect and a cowboy hat is the best thing to protect you from sun and low hanging branches. Besides the fact that cowboy boots look just great, they were invented for riding horses.

And if you already have boots, the jeans and the hat, all that's missing is a good looking shirt. Make sure you bring some long sleeved shirts. Firstly it protects you from the sun and secondly it protects you from trees and bushes. Depending on the time of year and the elevation of your ranch it can get cold. So having a vest or jacket with you is just reasonable.

Of course you can ride with your baseball cap, your hiking trousers and wear a jogging top, but honestly - you'll be missing half the fun.




Riding all day?

If you think that on a Dude Ranch the only thing you can do is ride, then you are wrong. The guest ranches offer a variety of activities that you can choose from. Of course you can not choose from all the options at all times, but there are alternatives to riding.

So if your back or bud feels sore, you can go fishing, make a trip to Aspen or shot some clay pigeons. And if this is also nothing for you, there is always R&R which stands for rest and relax.

Also if you go on a trail ride, you won't be in the saddle 8 hours a day. On the longest rides I have taken, the ones with an overnight stay in the tent, I stayed in the saddle for about 6 hours. But normally the trail rides are around 2 hours in the morning and another two in the afternoon.


When you go riding you should be aware that you are sitting on the back of some big animal. So security is a big issue at Elk Mountain as it is probably on every other ranch. Some of the security measures seem to be overcareful at first, but are just common sense when you look at it.

For example no matter if you just want to take a swig from your bottle from the saddle bags, want to take pictures or take off your jacket, you will need to dismount every time. But remember, that if you do not pay attention to your horse and do something else you will put yourself in danger, and more important the other guests as well.

When your out on a ride there is always at least one wrangler with you. He knows the terrain and makes sure that all guests obey the security rules. Even though the wranglers are you guys and gals I have never seen any foolishness from their side. Personally I always felt save, even when we were riding down some steep grades.  



To write something about accommodation is very dangerous. My expectations of a friendly and clean cabin might not be congruent with others. Here you really have to check out the Ranch of your linking. I personally do not need luxury accommodation when playing cowboy and only spend a few minutes in my cabin during the day. Most of the time I'm on the back of some horse, or at the main cabin talking to other guests or reading a book or playing a game. So from that point of view the cabin is less important. What really counts is the staff, the horses and the scenery.

Elk Mountain Ranch

Simply the best place for a dude ranch vacation. Visit their website at www.elkmtn.com to see for yourself.