5 Dude Ranches in BC for Families
I have held on to the pair of fashion cowboy boots I bought in 2002 for two reasons.
1. The off chance I might be invited to a western themed costume party, or worse, a hoedown.
2. My plan to eventually visit a more authentic cowboy environment, the dude ranch.
My longing to visit a dude ranch (or ‘guest ranch’, as they are often called) goes all the way back to 1991 after seeing the movie City Slickers. More than 25 years later, I’m no longer convinced that I could comfortably spend a day in the saddle, although I’m willing to try.
Perhaps more my style would be sitting on a fence, watching the horses gallop home at sunset, whilst sucking on a blade of grass and sipping wine out of a tin cup. Oh yes….and the kids. They would also be there, drinking juice from their own little tin cups.
My research has lead me to this list of kid-friendly dude / guest ranches in British Columbia.
1. Sundance Guest Ranch – Ashcroft, BC
Only a four hour drive from Vancouver, Sundance Guest Ranch makes for an easy weekend family getaway. It is home to a herd of over 100 horses, and has thousands of acres to explore, overlooking the Thompson River.
Children 8 years and older can join their parents on a trail ride, with younger ones joining in the fun with a ride around the ring. The ranch makes children a priority with special discounts for families and an activity program designed to keep little ones occupied while their parents are out trail rides.
Reviews: 99% rate as Very Good or Excellent on Tripadvisor
Experience Includes: Accommodation, three meals a day, two horseback rides daily, and use of all ranch facilities, including the outdoor pool.
For Rates and Availability: sundanceguestranch.com
Please also see our full post here about a visit to Sundance Guest Ranch with kids.
2. Echo Valley Guest Ranch and Spa – Jesmond, BC
This ranch has won many awards including being a 2017 Tripadvisor Traveler’s Choice Winner in both the Service and the Small Hotel categories. If you take some time to read the guest reviews, you will see why. This ranch seems to deliver a very unforgettable family vacation experience.
Echo Valley strives to keep things natural and abstain from the artificial with their organic cuisine, natural spa therapies, and nights around blazing campfires under starry skies. The ranch showcases the best of the West with hiking, fly fishing, gold panning and horseback trail riding while also giving a nod to the East with their Thai Spa and weekly Thai banquets.
Reviews: 100% rate as Very Good or Excellent on Tripadvisor
Experience Includes: Deluxe accommodation, 3 gourmet meals daily (including one glass of wine / beer), cookies and coffee service, fly fishing, Thai yoga, hiking, nightly entertainment program, use of fitness centre, indoor pool and large games room (with pool table, shuffle board, darts, card table and more) and complimentary wifi. During the summer their family package includes a gentle children’s horseback ride in a ring, scavenger hunt with prizes, arts, crafts, movie nights, 3 hours of babysitting a day for younger kids, a weekly family BBQ with campfire stories, songs, and s’mores. Additional experiences such as trail rides on horseback, spa treatments, and gold panning excursions are booked a la carte, or as part of a package.
For Rates and Availability: evranch.com
3. Three Bars Guest Ranch – Cranbrook, BC
Enjoy the Beckley family’s hospitality at their Rocky Mountain ranch, tucked between Banff and Glacier National Park. Guests can enjoy horseback riding (including lessons for newbies), hiking, river rafting, mountain biking, fly fishing, and tennis.
Kids will love catching frogs, swimming in the indoor pool, and cooking marshmallows over an open fire. Programs are designed for families to ride, hike, or river raft together, but kids 6 and up can also join the ‘kids riding and activities’ program (allowing parents some time to enjoy an adult-only ride). Younger children will love the outside play area and petting zoo as well as being lead around the arena on a horse with their parent.
Reviews: 93% rate as Very Good or Excellent on Tripadvisor
Experience Includes: Accommodation, all meals, unlimited guided horseback riding, kids programming, guided river float, hiking, swimming in indoor pool, archery, gold panning, campfires and more.
For Rates and Availability: threebarsranch.com/
4. Big Bar Guest Ranch – Clinton, BC
Enjoy old fashioned hospitality with a stay at The Big Bar Guest Ranch in B.C.’s Cariboo Country. Kids will love playing on the lawn in front of the Harrison House log cabin (the gathering point for guests).
Ranch activities include twice daily trail rides (kids under 8 years can have a guided ride around the ring), canoeing or pedal boating on the private lake (don’t miss the beaver dam), trout fishing, hiking, mountain boat riding, archery, shuffleboard, billiards and board games.
Reviews: 89% rate as Very Good or Excellent on Tripadvisor
Experience Includes: Accommodation, 3 meals a day, up to five hours of horseback riding daily, use of ranch boats on the private lake, hiking, archery lessons and games in the fireside lounge.
For Rates and Availability: bigbarranch.com
5. Siwash Lake Wilderness Resort – 70 Mile House, BC
You know you are in ‘exclusive resort‘ territory when the exact location of the ranch isn’t revealed until you’ve booked.This remote resort, owned by fourth generation ranchers, ranks among North America’s finest dude and working ranches. It is renowned for its horseback riding, authentic experiences in nature, organic pasture-to-plate cuisine, unique wilderness spa and lavish safari-inspired tents.
During July and August, Siwash hosts their Free-range Kids Club. Typical children’s activities at the ranch include horse care, animal tracking, wilderness survival training and shelter building, orienteering, arts and crafts, scavenger hunts, nature walks, fort building, and outdoor games.
For younger kids who are interested in learning about horses there are horse care lessons that include pony rides in the home meadow. Children ages 7 and up, who demonstrate an ability to safely control their own horse, can ride the trails with their parents.
Reviews: 92% rate as Very Good or Excellent on Tripadvisor
Experience Includes: Accommodation, 3 gourmet organic meals a day (including alcoholic beverages), morning coffee service delivered to you, guided horseback rides and lessons, and a picnic. Additional packages are available that include the Kids Club or other experiences such as fly fishing.
For Rates and Availability: siwashlakeranch.com