Last updated: 11:30 AM ET, Wed May 11 2016

Opinion Home | Are We There Yet: Tips For Family Trips

  • Janeen Christoff | May 11, 2016 11:30 AM ET

    Families Find Adventure at Colorado Dude Ranches

    Families Find Adventure at Colorado Dude Ranches

    Park your family at one of Colorado’s many dude ranches and guest ranches for the summer and let the fun come to you. There’s something alluring about living the Wild West lifestyle. While filled with action and adventure, the proximity to nature and the outdoors exudes relaxation.

    Although harkening back to a time of hard work and struggle, today’s dude ranch experience is far from that. There are several options from high-end luxury to more rustic ranch-like experiences – but comfortable beds, cozy accommodations, quiet places for napping, reading or alone time and the beautiful Rocky Mountains are par for the course.

    READ MORE: A Guide to Dude Ranches for City Slickers

    Ranches also offer a host of options to entertain both kids and adults – and many times, stays at the ranches are all-inclusive of these activities. Choose from horseback riding, fishing, swimming, arts and crafts, cookouts – and even petting zoos. For added adventure, parents can book overnight journeys from the ranch and tell ghost stories, sing campfire songs and sip hot chocolate around the firepit.

    Here are some examples of what families can experience at Colorado’s dude ranches.

    Bar Lazy J

    Meet Mugs at Bar Lazy J and the ranches other “kids:” the burros, kittens, goats, sheep and baby horses that children can help care for during their visit. The ranch also offers nonstop activities such as horseback riding, hay rides, zip lining, pizza parties, treasure hunts, outdoor games, nature walks, swimming, fishing, hiking, archery and more. During the Gymkhana event at the end of the week, kids can participate in games and show off the horse skills they learned during the week.

    Cherokee Park

    A tubing creek runs through Cherokee Park and that’s a good place for the fun to start. There’s also archery, boat building, horseshoe painting, panning for gold, fort making, hiking, scavenger hunting, teepee campouts and, of course, daily horseback rides. Another fantastic family-friendly feature – for children under age 3, there’s a full-time babysitter, free of charge.

    READ MORE: Now You Can Go 'Glamping' Inside of a Luxurious Teepee

    Drowsy Water

    Even the smallest kids get the chance to ride at Drowsy Water, which makes this ranch an ideal spot for families with younger children. Activities include horseback rides, games, crafts and picnics and counselors help out with special needs such as naps and baby feeding. For older kids, they will find opportunities to do horse loping, all-day horseback rides, obstacle courses, ziplining, swimming, hiking, archery, rafting, lassoing a steer head and more.

    Elk Mountain

    Secluded in the San Isabel National Forest, Elk Mountain is designed to get families away from it all, offering a petting zoo, art and crafts, arena riding, goat walks, fat bat ball, fishing, hot springs pool and slide, bingo, beaver pond visits, rodeo practice, obstacle course relay races, puzzles, games and more. There’s a kids’ program designed for children under age 7 and kids over age 8 can participate in all of the activities suitable for grown-ups. Campfires and cookouts are frequent occurrences and you’ll come away with at least one new skill – popping popcorn Wild West style in an iron skillet.

    Tarryall Ranch

    Classic Western experiences combined with outdoor adventure mean horseback rides, fishing, swimming, rodeo games, nature walks, minor rock climbing, hiking and bouldering at Tarryall Ranch. There’s rodeo practice, arena games, a secret fort, a gold mine, a petting zoo and panning for gold that add to a robust offering of activities.

    Tumbling River

    From overnight campouts to geocaching and rodeo practice, Tumbling River has programs for every age. Younger kids can enjoy pony rides and stories in a teepee and older kids will play GaGa ball and capture the flag. Everyone can camp out under the stars and teens have special opportunities for cookouts, horseback games, whitewater rafting, rock climbing and more.

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Janeen Christoff Are We There Yet: Tips For Family Trips

Janeen Christoff Janeen Christoff caught the travel bug while living in London, England. After two years on the road, she settled in Los Angeles and focused her writing on what she loved best — exploring the world. Today, she’s a well-traveled mother of two, an adventurer and a world wanderer who writes about destinations around the world for Want to know where she is headed next? Check out her blog at
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