Whip Longwell, High Lonesome Ranch

What’s a Dude Ranch vacation without ice cream?

 
A lot of pressure is put on parents when it comes to planning the ultimate family vacation. I know this from first-hand experience with my own children. A dude ranch vacation appeals to all family members, especially if it involves horses, water for swimming and mom and dad don’t have to cook or plan meals.
 

cowgirl sisters

Pretty in pink cowgirls

Dude Ranches for families

What to look for in a dude ranch for kids might be different from a dude ranch for families. Kids want campfires with s’mores and the fun of watching a marshmallow burn itself beyond recognition.
 
Moms and dads want CPR certified lifeguards at the swimming pool, proper ear protection worn at the gun range and wranglers that require children to wear riding helmets out on the trail. Of course, these are all important components of a top dude ranch vacation for families and children.
 
Here are my recommendations for kid-friendly horseback riding vacations:

 

cowboy boots

Best Dude Ranches for Kids

Best Dude Ranches for kids

Alisal Guest Ranch – read my review
Solvang, California

Don’t miss the breakfast ride to the Old Adobe for pancakes and singing cowboys. Grandparents and non-riders can hop on the hay wagon.
 
Avrill’s Flathead Lake Ranch
Big Fork, Montana

This family-owned ranch, situated on Flathead Lake, has been hosting cowgirls, cowboys and city slickers since 1949. Thirty five miles from Glacier National Park, the ranch offers seven day packages from Sunday to Sunday.
 

bbq, Lone Mountain Ranch

Lone Mountain Ranch buckaroo barbecue

Lone Mountain Ranch – read my review
Big Sky, Montana

If I were a kid, I’d want to go to the children’s program at Lone Mountain Ranch. There’s a naturalist on staff to teach children about the nature surrounding the area and the wranglers love hanging out with the kids. The rodeo at the end of the session while make any parent burst with pride.
 
Rancho de los Caballeros – read my review
Wickenburg, Arizona

If either of my teenagers become parents one day, I will bring my grandchildren (and my non-riding husband) to Rancho de los Caballeros. On my visit, I was surrounded by multi-generations who had been returning to this Sonora Desert dude ranch year after year. They have a swimming pool, golf, a spa, great food and horseback riding. What more could one ask for in life?
 

whip, High Lonesome Ranch

Dude ranches for families with top kid’s programs

Red Horse Mountain Ranch – read my review
Harrison, Idaho

This all-inclusive ranch, located outside of Spokane, Washington, is geared toward families. The ranch recommends a week stay to experience all they have to offer. During my visit I got to know a family of four from Florida and a mother daughter team from Los Angeles. The Florida family was back for a second season.
 
White Stallion Ranch – read the review
Tucson, Arizona

From horseback riding to cowboy art and line dancing, White Stallion Ranch has activities for a wide range of guests. The ranch is owned by the True Family, with multiple generations taking the reins at this Arizona Ranch.
 
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Article and photos by Equine Writer Nancy D. Brown