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5 places where you can enjoy the wide open spaces


    A visitor gives roping a shot at the 320 Guest Ranch in Big Sky, Mont.

A dude or guest ranch vacation offers families old-fashioned hospitality and the opportunity to learn horsemanship in an authentic and scenic setting. Here are five places where cowboys and cowgirls can enjoy the wide open spaces:

1. Bar Lazy J Guest Ranch

Parshall, Colo.

Check into a cabin on a Gold Medal stretch of the Colorado River or spread out in the ranch house, before gearing up for a week of western fun. Days are filled with riding into the nearby hills, practicing skills in the arena, fly fishing and mountain biking. Guests 13 and older can whip across the river at speeds up to 35 miles an hour on the ranch’s new 1,500-foot long zip line. Evening entertainment includes game night, talent shows, hayrides, campfire sing-alongs and stargazing.


2. Drowsy Water Ranch

Granby, Colo.

You’ll be warmly welcomed by the Fosha Family with a “howdy” when you wind your way into their mountain valley ranch where they’ve been hosting “dudes” since 1977. The children’s program (which includes care for infants) provides age and experience appropriate horseback riding, arts and crafts and outdoor activities for young cowboys and cowgirls. The whole family can learn to trot and lope and practice their skills in the corral and on scenic high mountain trails. Come sundown, enjoy a tasty, family-style meal, then learn to square dance with assistance from ranch wranglers.


3. 320 Guest Ranch

Big Sky, Mont.

Wake to the wide Montana sky and prepare for a day of hiking, horseback riding and fly-fishing on the ranch’s private stretch of the famed Gallatin River. Don’t miss the weekly pig roast and consider a wagon or horseback ride, culminating in a riverside barbecue. Tell stories around a cozy campfire, catch a glimpse of faraway galaxies overhead, and admire the abundant wildflowers. The 320’s proximity to nearby Yellowstone National Park provides special packages, day-trip options for an ideal extension to your ranch experience.


4. Three Bars Cattle & Guest Ranch

Cranbrook, British Columbia

Located just south of Banff, Canada, on 35,000 acres in the valley of 1,000 peaks, Three Bars offers a diverse activity program for families. Expect a world-class horse program, in-house rafting trips, natural stone fly fishing, hiking, biking, skeet shooting and an entertaining evening program. When not on the trail, head for the heated pool, hot tub, tennis court, gym, indoor riding arena or petting zoo.


5. Paw’s Up

Greenough, Mont.

Fall asleep inside your luxury tent on the banks of Montana’s famed Blackfoot River. Have coffee and hot cocoa delivered to your swank canvas quarters by your camp butler or join other guests in the dining pavilion for a cooked-to-­order breakfast. As a Paws Up guest, you’ll spend your days horseback riding, fishing, biking, tackling the ropes course or participating in the many enrichment programs scheduled throughout the year. Families staying in the tent-filled River Camp have access to a recreation center where kids enjoy games with newfound friends. The Kids Corp of Discovery also provides a range of activities for youngsters. Timber and Wilderness Estate home stays, some with adjacent tent accommodations for adventuresome youngsters, are also possible.


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