When I first sampled a dude ranch with my kids several years ago, I quickly became enamored with how much fun a guest ranch vacation can be–and convenient, and entertaining, and active… and did I mention fun? When you’re staying at a dude ranch, not only are you enjoying the outdoors with your family, but in my experience with such vacations, the weekly itinerary allows for plenty of down time simply to hang out with one another. Plus, the wranglers and staff who work at guest ranches are some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met. And the hearty cowboy-country food that’s included with the price of your stay? Out of this world.
Also, I appreciate that dude ranches aren’t all about horseback riding–not at all! Three Bars Ranch in the Canadian Rockies between Glacier National Park and Banff is a perfect example of a guest ranch offering so much to do for all ages.
At Three Bars Ranch, voted Canada’s top guest ranch for the last five years, several complimentary activities are available in addition to daily horseback riding for all levels. For example, when the water levels are ideal in July and August, the ranch takes guests out for a river-rafting adventure on the St. Mary’s River; the put-in spot is a convenient 10-minute drive from the ranch. Rapids are Class II and Class III, for an exciting 8-mile adventure; I love that staff packs water blasters to add to the fun.
Mountain biking and hiking are also available on the network of trails near Three Bars Ranch; the guided hike to Perry Creek Falls sounds sublime (any time there’s a “reward” such as waterfalls at the end of my hike, I’m more motivated, and I know my kids are, too). A variety of sizes of mountain bikes and helmets are available for all ages for guests to explore old logging roads or steep, technical trails.
If you’ve an avid angler, Three Bars Ranch is a great spot to go fly fishing, since the guest ranch controls seven miles of the St. Mary’s River, giving their guests exclusive access to the cutthroat trout that make their home there. Still other activities include trap and skeet shooting, archery and tennis. There’s a heated indoor pool and outdoor hot tub on site, as well.
But chances are, if you’re visiting a dude ranch, you’re interested in horses! And, indeed, the horseback riding at Three Bars Ranch is top-notch. The ranch has more than 100 head of horses, so with a maximum of 40 guests in any given week, it’s certain there will be an ideal horse to suit your riding ability, whether you’re brand new to riding or an accomplished equestrian.
Morning and afternoon trail rides are varied, with more than 75,000 acres to explore at Three Bars Ranch. Once weekly there’s an early morning breakfast ride, as well as an all-day ride you can sign up for. Wranglers introduce guests to beautiful spots: wide open meadows, high-mountain lookouts, meandering trails along the river. Children as young as 6 can join “family trail rides” or their very own “kid-only” rides.
Children also join in on any and all of the activities I described above (fly fishing, rafting, etc.). But I think the best part of any dude ranch vacation is the free time kids have to explore wide open spaces–chasing frogs, making up yard games with other visiting children, going to the ranch petting zoo, exploring a fort, telling stories while swinging in a hammock, or playing a game of pick-up volleyball. Those are the precious “down time” moments that are so rare in our often overscheduled, busy lives.
Accommodations at Three Bars Ranch are great for families, as well. Family cabins are two adjoining units with a king bed and two queen beds. Teens can stay in their own two-queen cabins if they like (my teens would love this!); and if grandma and grandpa are in tow, there are king suites ideal for them.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner are included in a week’s stay at Three Bars Ranch, and menu items sound absolutely divine! I love that meals vary so much for dinner–from an authentic cowboy BBQ to gourmet Mexican menu items. Fresh-baked bread and homemade desserts round out every evening meal.
With spectacular mountain scenery, knowledgeable and friendly horse wranglers and plenty of varied outdoor activities, Three Bar Ranch in the Canadian Rockies is an ideal summer vacation spot for adventurous, outdoorsy families.
This post was sponsored by Three Bars Ranch. As always, opinions are my own.