What’s a Dude Ranch?

TL;DR DEFINITION: A dude ranch is an outdoor-focused, all-inclusive vacation destination (often found in western USA states) that exudes the tradition of Western hospitality. 

Longer, historical definition: In the late 19th century, operating cattle ranches in the American West began accepting visitors from overcrowded cities in the Midwest & East Coast, allowing guests a chance to experience life on simpler terms from the Old West. Those simpler terms often included manual work, including cattle drives & ranch chores. The idea was immensely popular, and the idea spread from Wyoming to other western states. Today, dude ranches focus on outdoor adventure, western hospitality, and re-connecting guests with natural order of things.

In specific terms, a dude ranch vacation is similar to an ‘all-inclusive’ vacation. The “original” all-inclusive vacation, some folks would say. These 3 aspects are often included in the base rate of a dude ranch vacation package:  

  • Lodging
  • Meals (3 a day)
  • All activities


Lodging can be as rustic as you prefer; or a luxurious as you might expect from 5-star resorts. 


Meals are similar in fashion. Rustic meat & potatoes style, or alternatively, 5-star rated Relais & Chateaux rated destinations that rival most Michelin star rated establishments. 


Activities almost always include horseback riding (which isn’t required btw, for the non-riders in your party). Other activities range from hiking, cattle drives, trap & skeet, rafting, archery, eBike riding, fly fishing, (the list is extensive). There’s a reason why dude ranch vacations are referred to as “summer camp for adults.” But let’s be clear, dude ranches are a wonderland for kids to experience wide open spaces, and provides them an opportunity to leave digital devices behind & just, simply, play outside.

If you’re researching your first dude ranch vacation:

If you’re currently researching your first trip, dude & guest ranches sorta fall into three buckets:

  • Traditional Dude Ranch (the quintessential experience; great food, comfortable accommodations, unforgettable experience)
  • Luxury Dude Ranch (over the top amenities, lodging & meals)
  • Working Dude Ranch (rustic, where you help in daily chores: cattle drive, wrangling horses, barn maintenance, etc. Guests can often choose their chores.)

Note, some ranches can lean into one, two, or even three of those classifications ~ a good example is our friends at Moose Head Ranch, in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. We’ve personally visited multiple times, and MH can lean Traditional with a touch of Luxury. Excellent food, refined rustic cabins, and unimpeded views of the Grand Teton mountain range from the main Lodge (& most cabins).

If you’ve made a decision to visit a ranch, but need some recommendation from a retired dude rancher, consider our Concierge service, where a seasoned guest ranch vet will make a personal recommendation for you based on your specific needs.

Or, if you’re ready to begin searching, click the button below to start your journey! 🤠

How much does a dude ranch vacation cost?