Imagine you’re cozied up with a nightcap after a day of exploration—snow-covered landscapes glimmer outside your window, and your dirt-covered boots are drying nearby. No, this isn’t your average weekend at the ski resort. It’s the relaxing end to a day spent exploring one of Colorado’s one-of-a-kind guest ranches.
While the slopes draw many Coloradans and visitors throughout the colder months, you’d be remiss to overlook a wintertime stay at one of the state’s many charming year-round horse ranches. A nod to Colorado’s rich history, working guest ranches have become unique, inviting travel destinations that highlight the state’s past, while promoting family-friendly activities and community among fellow visitors. So pack up the family, unplug, unwind, and revel in Colorado’s winter beauty at one of these five local guest ranches.
Nestled in the mountains of Granby near the southern entrance of Rocky Mountain National Park is the C Lazy U Ranch. The working dude ranch that has been in operation since 1919, and its rustic property boasts 8,500 acres, community meals, and 40 Western-inspired lodging accommodations with spacious rooms, solitude, stone fireplaces, and eco-friendly housekeeping. The sprawling landscape is framed by towering snowcapped peaks, and guests are encouraged to get out and explore them. The ranch’s all-inclusive “5-Spur Service” includes complimentary gear and equipment rentals for cross-country skiing, ice skating and ice hockey, and snowshoeing, as well as sleigh rides. Guests can also take advantage of a complimentary daily shuttle to the area’s two local ski mountains: Ski Granby Ranch and Winter Park Resort.
Distance from Denver: 93 miles
Rates: All-inclusive; nightly rates begin at $385
If you do one thing: Take a ride on the feed wagon. One of this ranch’s most popular activities departs from the main lodge at 8:30 a.m. and takes guests on a scenic ride on a hay-filled flat bed trailer to feed the ranch’s 200-plus horses.
Just north of Steamboat Springs is the Home Ranch, an old homestead-turned-luxury resort. Located on 580 acres in a valley that connects the Elk River and the Sawtooth Range, Home Ranch offers an elevated twist on rugged ranch life. Guests can enjoy fine dining at the hands of Chef Jonathon Gillespie, who highlights seasonal ingredients sourced from the property’s working farm and greenhouse. The Home Ranch only accommodates 45 guests at a time, making it an excellent place for travelers seeking an intimate, quiet vacation. Whether you explore the 20 miles of privately groomed cross-country ski or snowshoe trails on the grounds, take a wintery horseback ride, enjoy the thrill of dog sledding, or venture into Steamboat for a day on the slopes at the Steamboat Ski Resort, the Home Ranch offers a little something for everyone.
Distance from Denver: 176 miles
Rates: All-inclusive, two-night stay minimum; nightly rates begin $805 (winter operating rates are in effect from December 20 through March 25)
If you do one thing: Eat. You won’t find basic chuckwagon feed at this ranch. The kitchen at the Home Ranch strives to create a tasty blend of “Ranchy and Fancy” that is elegant, but delicious enough to wolf down after a day playing outside.
Venture north to Red Feather Lakes for a stay at the Sundance Trail Guest Ranch, a homey country property located roughly an hour outside of Fort Collins. This pet-friendly property is one of the smallest guest ranches in the state but is overflowing with charm and welcoming hospitality. Sundance Trail’s proximity to Roosevelt National Forest gives guests the opportunity to explore nearly 887,140 acres of public lands during their stay. Keep the entire family occupied with activities like a well-stocked game room and hiking and horseback riding, and at the end of the day, wind down with a relaxing massage or soak in the outdoor jacuzzi.
Distance from Denver: 105 miles
Rates: The Country Inn Package is $310 per night/per couple, or $240 per night for single occupancy. The Bed & Breakfast Package is $207 per night/per couple, or $92 per night for single. Both rates include lodging, meals, and daily horseback rides. Additional activities can be added to each package for a fee.
If you do one thing: Enjoy a Murder Mystery Weekend. The ranch hosts a whodunnit-style dinner once a month where guests can partake in a clue-filled evening solving a murder mystery.
One of Colorado’s most revered guest ranches, Devil’s Thumb is the perfect combination of rustic mountain ranch and luxury resort. Tucked away in Tabernash, Devil’s Thumb sits on nearly 6,000 scenic acres dotted with Western-themed modern accommodations, restaurants, and even a spa and yoga studio. This guest ranch is equipped with everything you could possibly need on a winter vacation. You won’t have to leave the property to find a coffee shop, a tavern, a wine cellar, and even a saloon. With so much room to roam, guests can have as much, or as little, interaction with other guests as they choose. Modern rooms with rustic touches offer a cozy reprieve after partaking in the numerous outdoor activities offered onsite. Guests can spend the day cross-country skiing or snowshoeing on the resort’s expansive groomed trail system, or opt to ice skate, take a sleigh ride or horseback ride, participate in an air rifle biathlon, or spend the day relaxing at the Ranch Creek Spa or yoga studio.
Distance from Denver: 77 miles
Rates: Nightly rates begin at $289. Activities and equipment rentals sold separately.
If you do one thing: Cross-country ski on Devil’s Thumb’s 70-plus miles of private, groomed trails
At the Vista Verde Ranch outside of Steamboat Springs, there’s so much to do—both inside and outside—and its all-inclusive winter vacay packages are tailored for how guests want to spend their time. There’s skiing (of course), including classic to skate to backcountry, as well as snowshoeing, sleigh rides, snow tubing, snowmobiling, fat biking, and ice fishing. But Vista Verde also offers a handful of unexpected fun, like an outdoor photography lesson, a chef-lead culinary class and wine tasting, and more. The ranch also offers kids programs for children, tweens, and teens, so mom and dad can be free to explore while the younger folk have an adventure all their own.
Distance from Denver: 181 miles
Rates: All-inclusive; three-night stay minimum. Rates begin at $1,595 per person.
If you do one thing: Leave with print-worthy pics (not to mention up your overall photography game) after taking one of Vista Verda’s photography classes. Be sure pack your camera.