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Dude ranches offer upscale retreatsDude ranches offer upscale retreats

Craving a dude ranch vacation? Here are some of America’s best that also offer airport access.

  • The Middle Fork Lodge is accessed via the 2,100-foot-long Thomas Creek airstrip. Photo by Crista Worthy.
  • Idaho’s Middle Fork Lodge is set deep within the largest contiguous wilderness area in the lower 48 states. Photo by Eric Slomo.
  • Classic adobe kivas and other Southwestern furnishings at Tanque Verde Ranch complement the saguaro-studded landscape outside. Photo courtesy Tanque Verde Ranch.
  • Georgia’s Southern Cross Ranch offers a lush landscape along with a large stable of quality paint and quarter horses. Photo courtesy Southern Cross Ranch.

Red Reflet Guest Ranch, Wyoming—The Red Reflet Ranch Airport is an integral part of this all-inclusive luxury resort, a working Black Angus cattle ranch and registered game bird farm that offers advanced pilot training and a vast array of outdoor activities. Earn a Citation type rating or develop new skills in mountain flying or aircraft maintenance. Refine your horseback riding technique or learn how to rope cattle; shooting instruction and fishing are also available. Hiking, mountain bikes, and ATVs (or snowmobiles in winter), rock climbing, tennis, a pool, yoga sessions, massage, and four zip lines offer something for everyone. The executive and pastry chefs transform ranch-grown ingredients into culinary magic—all, including fine wines and a well-stocked bar, at no extra charge.

The Hideout, Wyoming—Fly to South Big Horn County Airport at Greybull, a quick shuttle ride from The Hideout, an all-inclusive working cattle ranch with a focus on quality horses, riding, and horsemanship culture. Cattle herding, trap shooting, hunting, fly-fishing, and hiking are also available. Log cabins, casitas, and homes offer satellite TV, Wi-Fi, and expansive views. Cocktail hour precedes unforgettable dinners served cookhouse-style on large tables in the expansive log dining room decorated with antler chandeliers. Variety and creativity ensure no two meals will be the same during your stay.

Middle Fork Lodge, Idaho—Five-star meals and deluxe accommodations characterize this remote retreat in the heart of Idaho’s wilderness. The challenging Thomas Creek grass airstrip sits on a bench above the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. For generations, pilots from John Denver to Gen. Chuck Yeager have flown to this lodge for superb fly-fishing, trophy hunting, guided horseback rides, or short hikes to secluded natural hot springs. Complete privacy and an immersion into unspoiled nature are assured at this crown jewel of Idaho guest ranches.

An extensive wine cellar, fine cuisine, and panoramic views make for memorable meals at Red Reflet Guest Ranch. Photo courtesy Red Reflet.

C Lazy U Ranch, Colorado—Land at Granby or Mc Elroy airports for free pickup to this award-winning, all-inclusive 8,500-acre retreat with picturesque mountain views. A huge heated indoor riding arena, multi-level trail rides, full kids program, Orvis-endorsed fly-fishing lessons, yoga, full-service spa, and five-star meals ensure long, happy days for all. Help out with cattle drives or swim, play tennis, and hit the ropes course or zip lines. Sleep in elegant log cabins with large stone fireplaces.

Tanque Verde Ranch, Arizona—A great winter escape and one of America’s most venerable cattle and guest ranches, Tanque Verde is a perennial award-winner and a short free shuttle ride from Tucson International. Tanque Verde occupies Arizona’s most beautiful Sonoran Desert landscape. Adobe walls and Santa Fe architecture perfectly complement the saguaro-studded hillsides around the ranch. Guests may enjoy horseback riding, the ranch spa, and fitness and nature centers. Fishing, mountain biking, hiking, basketball, and tennis are offered on site, while golf and hot air ballooning are available nearby. Southwest Pueblo cuisine, outdoor barbecue, and the Doghouse Saloon ensure guests never go hungry or thirsty.

Cibolo Creek Ranch, Texas—Tucked beneath the Chinati Mountains in southwest Texas’ Big Bend region, the 30,000-acre Cibolo Creek Ranch, established in 1854, beckons those who desire privacy, luxury, and history along with their ranch getaway vacation. Land at Cibolo Creek Ranch Airport and be whisked the four miles to the ranch, where guests dine family style on modern yet traditional Mexican high cuisine and explore the gardens, orchards, libraries, and museum. Enjoy hiking, fishing, birding, paddle-boating, mountain biking, photography, and the evening outdoor fire. Wildlife include bison, deer, elk, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, wild turkey, quail, and exotic antelope. Other options include hunting, guided tours, horseback riding, shooting, archery, stargazing, and seminars.

Southern Cross Ranch, Georgia—Not all great dude ranches are out West! The folks at Southern Cross Ranch are happy to pick you up at Madison Municipal Airport, and in less than 15 minutes you can be nuzzling up to the 150 quality Paint and Quarter horses that call this ranch home. Best known for its outstanding hands-on horsemanship program, the ranch pours on the Southern hospitality along with fine cuisine; lush gardens; a swimming pool; and billiards, ping-pong, or darts in the game room.

The Hideout specializes in good horsemanship and works with mustangs as well as gaited and quarter horses. Photo courtesy The Hideout.
Crista Worthy

Crista Videriksen Worthy

Crista Videriksen Worthy has been flying around the United States with her pilot-husband Fred and their children since 1995, and writing about fun places to fly since 2006. She has single-engine land and sea ratings. Her favorite places to explore are the backcountry strips of Idaho and Utah's red rock country. She currently lives in Idaho and serves as editor of The Flyline, the monthly publication of the Idaho Aviation Association. To suggest future destination articles, send an email to [email protected]
Topics: US Travel, Travel

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