A Dude Ranch Vacation Outdoor Adventure

Saturday Arena Games Dude Ranch Rodeo!

Saturday Arena Games Dude Ranch Rodeo!

For Seniors, Families and Kids; It’s not your typical vacation!
Parent News, 6/08
Ron Gragg

Every year a select number of Americans ignore the lure of Disneyworld, beach condos and Caribbean cruises to spend their coveted vacation time at a dude ranch. Sound extreme? Only if you have the mistaken notion that a dude ranch vacation is akin to camping, or you expect to prod cattle and eat grub from a chuck wagon. That’s not a typical dude ranch. Instead, imagine comfortable accommodations, good food, and a week of easy-going family fun amid some of the most outstanding scenery in the American West.

Return visits are not unusual for dude ranch guests. Return guests tend to have preferred cabins, favorite horses and cherish routines. That’s the tradition at Sundance Trail Guest Ranch, a small comfortably rustic guest ranch tucked in the splendid seclusion of northern Colorado’s sprawling Medicine Bow Mountains near the lakeside hamlet of Red Feather Lakes. It’s operated by Ellen and Dan Morin, a husband-wife team of professional nurses who jettisoned the hassle of a Texas medical center years ago to pursue a dude ranch dream.

At Sundance Trail, they oversee a dude ranch operation that accommodates approximately 24 guests in seven cabin suits and a main lodge. Perched in the heart of the 880,000 acre Roosevelt National Forest, the ranch offers warm summer days, pleasantly crisp nights, a relaxed, down-home atmosphere and a parade of dude ranch activities – twice-a-day horseback rides on scenic trails through the national forest, rock-climbing forays with professional supervision, mountain hikes that are as rough or easy as you wish – along with jeep jaunts through the high country, optional target shooting, occasional archery, lake trout fishing opportunities and plenty of down-time for feet-up chilling out on the cabin porch. The children of guests at Sundance can participate in a ranch children’s program that features horseback riding instruction, Western crafts, hiking and games. No swimming pool here, but an equally popular kid’s activity is an optional nighttime tipi campout enhanced by a jackalope “hunt” with marshmallow “guns”.

A dude ranch vacation has obvious appeal for adults and children, but what about senior citizens? Sundance Trail caters to the over-60 crowd as well as families and singles. Senior citizens typically find a lot to enjoy in a dude ranch vacation…some of the optional activities – mountain biking, for instance – might not be for grandparents, but most of what you find at a dude ranch is perfect for seniors – beautiful scenery, hiking, fishing, cookouts, the slower pace in a wide-open natural environment, and horseback riding is a great equalizer. Trail-riding is a safe and easy activity, something that all ages can enjoy.

A lot of seniors grew up with an emphasis on the outdoors, so they really like what they find at a dude ranch. They want their grandkids to put away the video games and experience the outdoor lifestyle – and a dude ranch does that for them. Most don’t have computers and television – the kids actually go out and play…and there’s a whole host of activities. Most ranches are family oriented and families have a pleasant, shared experience together.

Uncomfortable with animals that are larger than you? No problem. Most dude ranch guests quickly lose their intimidation of horses – mainly because of the controlled conditions and the on-site instruction they receive. The typical dude ranch requires every guest to participate in an orientation program on safety issues, including what horses like and don’t like from their riders. Individual horseback riding instruction is usually an essential part of the package at a dude ranch – horses are usually selected for their stability and cooperative nature. Trail rides are normally led and overseen by experienced wranglers, and competent staff will always try to match the rider with the horse. Corral instruction may allow some cantering, and even some easy horseback games, but most trail rides are easy-going, comfortable for even inexperienced riders and are lots of fun.

The Western scenery, the ranch lifestyle, the variety of activities and the outdoor focus make a dude ranch vacation distinctively unique. And it’s one of the few American vacation venues where the entire family may willingly put away computers, television, ipods, cell phones and video games for outdoor adventure, a genuinely family-focused vacation and a treasure-load of memories.

Rod Gragg; “Parent News, 6/08”