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Take authentic ranch living, add upscale accommodations, chef-prepared cuisine, and countless outdoor activities and adventures, and you’ve got the makings of a Western guest ranch. Escape to one of these six dreamy destinations for a taste of the Old West—and the good life.
If you’ve never wound your way through the beauty of the Rio Grande National Forest to the century-old 4UR Ranch, you’ve let one of Colorado’s last perfect places escape you. Tucked into a slender valley between palisades and the Rio Grande River, the ranch’s meadows, ponds, pastures, roving fences, and meandering creek melt into the well-manicured grounds that encircle the main lodge and surrounding guest cabins. It’s here, in the heart of the ranch, that visitors can feel the pulse of the daily routine: ranch cats meowing at dawn, children up early for the kids’ program, footsteps on the porch delivering morning coffee, voices humming with excitement about the upcoming day of fishing, the ringing of the breakfast, lunch, and dinner bells, splashing in the outdoor pool, and the hoof falls of horses in the late-afternoon sun.
The 3,000-acre ranch has been in the Leavell family for more than four decades, but Pete and Lindsey Leavell are today’s stewards. They live on the grounds during the summer, greeting guests with hugs and having a glass of wine in the lodge’s small bar in the evenings. Gregarious and lovably quirky, the husband-and-wife team—along with longtime ranch managers, a trained chef, the head wrangler, and other affable staff—has created an upscale summer camp atmosphere that caters mostly to families from early June through the end of September each year. While the kids are horseback riding, exploring nature, and playing games, the adults can enjoy their own vacation. It’s a setup that has generations of families coming back year after year.
The weeklong, all-inclusive retreat begins in earnest on a Sunday morning and spills over six full days filled with horseback riding, fly-fishing on private sections of Goose Creek and the Rio Grande, a ranch cocktail party, a chuckwagon breakfast, a steak ride dinner, a kids rodeo, and a fish fry. The fun is a bit regimented—fly-fishing with a guide usually begins on the early side and horseback rides leave at specified times—but you can choose how much or how little you want to participate. So, if a soak in the ranch’s hot spring pool sounds like your idea of heaven…er…vacation, that’s a fine option, too.
You’ll Love It If… You want to start a vacation tradition with your young family.
High Praise Executive chef Wray Warner could likely make cowboy stew into a gourmet meal, but in 4UR’s kitchen he turns out seasonal cuisine that makes chowtime a thrice-daily event to look forward to.
The Low Down Although the guest accommodations are more than adequate, the rooms are basic. Plus, the lodge-style cabins mean that you share walls and creaky front porches with other guests.
Cost June 23–August 10: single occupancy, $2,730 per person/week;
double occupancy, $2,590 per person/week; children 5–12, $2,275 per person/week; children under 5 as third party in parents’ room, free. June 9–June 22 and August 11–September 29: single, $2,450 per person/week; double, $2,275 per person/week; children 5–12, $1,960 per person/week; children under 5 as third party in parents’ room, free.