We stayed at the Ranch in the first week of August, with two children (8 and 5). What can we say that the other reviews have not? Our kids thought it was the best holiday ever and we are inclined to agree.
We were put in a three bedroom cottage between the Saloon and Dining Hall, which was perfect as it meant little climbing up and down the hill. The accommodations were very good - rustic and simple, but comfortable. But you don't come here for the indoors.
Outdoors, our week ran as follows. Sunday afternoon was settling in, meeting everyone, watching the locals practice roping in the arena, trying our hands at lassoing and enjoying the welcome BBQ that night. Our week had 29 guests, mainly families with kids 8-13. This was a great number and the kids got on extremely well. Our two were often off playing around the Ranch for the rest of the week with the other kids. We also visited the Trading Post and we all borrowed pairs of cowboy boots for the week (much better for riding than anything else) and rented chinks for the week.
Monday morning, after a huge buffet breakfast, saw the introductory ride. We met our wrangler for the week (each family gets their own wrangler, which gives you continuity in experience and flexibility in choice) and horses for the week. They take a lot of time to match everyone up and get you comfortable saddled. The first ride was about 2-2.5 hours and allowed everyone to get settled and the wranglers to check experience levels. A lovely lunch followed before a few of us headed down to the shooting range. Great fun, especially for the kids. In the late afternoon, we grabbed our horses and rode up the mountain to a lake for a BBQ dinner. We had a little evening thunderstorm, but slickers were provided and it only added to the atmosphere. Once again, food was great, and the kids went nuts playing around and on the lake while the adults got to know each other. When then rode back down the mountain for drinks in the saloon.
On Tuesday they split the group into two, so they could run two separate nights at the overnight camp. I think they did this very well, putting together families which seemed to be getting on well. Our group consisted of three families with kids around the same age. On this day we went white water rafting while the other "team" went to the overnight camp. Rafting was lovely - beautiful weather and relatively easy rapids so everyone could participate. The raft ride itself lasts about 2.5-3 hours, so plenty of time on the water. That night we had a full service dinner in the dining hall before retiring to the saloon.
On Wednesday, we had the morning to ourselves. Each family could do as they pleased with their horses and wranglers. Some went fly fishing, some riding, some shooting and some relaxing. We went shooting again. After another enjoyable lunch, we saddled up and rode up to the overnight camp. The camp is a permanent fixture during the season. The tends have cots with thick sleeping bags and fitted floors. We enjoyed a hilarious campfire (Zombie Hobos!) and a great mexican meal, before s'mores. The kids played in the camp and explored the forest until they were dirty and tired.
On Thursday morning, we awoke at camp and enjoyed the early morning views and breakfast before riding back down to the ranch. Each of these rides, by the way, is between 1-4 hours depending on your interest. More experienced riders could take longer and more difficult routes, while others took more direct ways home. Arriving back in camp we had the rest of the day to ourselves (while the other "team" had their day of rafting). We grabbed our wrangler and went for a terrific 2.5 hour horse ride perfectly suited to our family. By this time, our 8 year old was guiding her own horse while our 5 year old was "ponied" (led on his own horse) by our wrangler. So we were altogether for the rides. That night, after another great dinner, a local muso came to provide free entertainment in the saloon.
On Friday, I went early for fishing on the Colorado river with our wrangler. When we got back, each family went for a picnic lunch ride with their wrangler. Destinations varied depending on what you wanted to do. We did a short ride to a nearby pond, enjoyed lunch and fished for trout in the pond (caught 7 in 15 minutes). In the afternoon, everyone was bussed into Steamboat Springs for a free night (shopping and dinner) and then the weekly rodeo. We sat as a group at the rodeo and took notes on the roping skills of the cowboys.
On Saturday, the entire group went out on the cattle muster. Once again, more experienced riders could go further and into more difficult areas, while our family (with the 5 year old) went to easier areas. But we all ended up shooing the cows down the mountain and into the arena. After lunch and a bit more lassoing practice, we went into the arena to attempt to catch calfs with the lasso. This was terrific fun - a true City Slicker moment. On our day, captured calves were being branded, so we got to do the whole shebang. Eventually, those who wanted to, could help push the cattle back onto the mountain. This was my favourite ride of the week as the wranglers gave us total free rein to take our horses as we saw and there was real teamwork among the guests to deal with these stubborn cows. After a quick shower, we all visited one of the owner's chalets for cocktails before back to camp for a final big dinner and dance in the saloon.
On Sunday, all the families departed. It was a brilliant week. I loved the schedule - a good mix of fixed events, but also time for flexible choices. Lots of flexibility for different levels of horse experience too. All the staff were terrific with our kids, particularly the 5 year old who was well looked after and included in everything. Food was uniformly great and the service, from every single staff member, was excellent. Our kids had the best time playing with animals (lots of dogs, plus a small petting zoo, not to mention horses and cows), being outdoors, fishing, shooting, rafting, camping, exploring and dancing. As adults, we loved the time with the kids but also the getting back to nature ourselves. Talk has already begun of returning in a few years. A brilliant experience for the family.
TIP: The Ranch is at 8,000 feet and at times you will ride to 9,000 or even 10,000 feet. The Ranch is also on the side of a hill, so it's a lot of walking up and down. We spent four days in Denver beforehand, which incidentally also helped us get used to the altitude. I would recommend spending a day or two in Denver (or elsewhere on the Colorado plateau) for a few days before the Ranch, especially if flying from overseas. If you flew directly overseas to the Ranch, the jet lag and altitude would be a lot to deal with in the first few days.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC