I have longed to visit a guest ranch (dude ranch) for as long as I can remember. Actually, I think it may have started with the 90’s Billy Crystal comedy City Slickers, if any of you remember that one. Regardless, when I heard that a friend and her daughter were going to Sundance Guest Ranch in Ashcroft, British Columbia, I not so subtly suggested that my daughter and I would LOVE to tag along. Fortunately for us, they welcomed us with open arms. Making this a girls’ trip seemed logical, since we agreed that this might not be something our husbands would particularly enjoy. The last time I saw my own husband on a horse was over a decade ago in Argentina and it was not a pretty sight (something only a newlywed would agree to). Here is everything we enjoyed on our girls’ trip to Sundance Ranch in a quick youtube video, or just read on to learn more.
Sundance Guest Ranch is only a four hour drive from Vancouver, but it may as well be a world away. The scenery is desert spectacular with absolutely nothing to spoil the 360 degree panoramic views from the lodge. Our arrival coincided with the afternoon ride and we were quickly paired up with horses suitable to our riding levels. Despite our varied equestrian experience, we were able to ride together as a group. Our wrangler was used to accommodating all skill levels and offered up the opportunity to run the horses at various spots on the trail if you felt so inclined.
Upon our return to the ranch, we were able to check in to our room. As I had read many reviews about the lodge pre-trip, I already knew that the rooms would very basic (and quite retro in style) but with excellent beds. Nobody would want to spend much time in their room anyway with the gorgeous scenery outside. Scratch that – there is only one reason you would want to stay in your room for an extended period of time, but this was a girls’ trip, not a romantic getaway. After a quick clean up, we joined the famous happy hour “Jingle” where guests line the fences to watch the beautiful sight of over a hundred horses loping out to the pasture for an evening graze.
Meals at Sundance Ranch are hearty and homemade, with guests eating together at community tables and sharing their equestrian tales. This was one of the things I enjoyed most about this place since it attracts such a wide variety of guests. There was the lady from Texas who regularly vacationed at horse ranches; the fashion boutique owner from Vancouver wearing a gorgeous western shirt that I coveted; the mixed martial arts fighter who came for the sake of his girlfriend, but seemed to be thoroughly enjoying riding his feisty and fast horse; and the family from Paris who had visited a year ago and loved Sundance so much that they had dared to once again board a transatlantic flight with two children under five.
Our girls, having both recently turned eight year old, were the perfect age to enjoy everything the ranch had to offer. They could join the group rides (8 is the minimum age) and could also roam quite freely around the property. They roped cattle (not real cattle), played horseshoes, swam in the pool (the Swimming Hole) and especially enjoyed the dedicated kids’ lounge complete with pool table, air hockey and a Ms. Pac Man arcade game (no quarters required). They were so busy, in fact, that they didn’t even notice the lounge with a giant screen TV where they could watch movies.
A visit to Sundance should be timed to enjoy one of the twice weekly dances at the saloon (Wednesdays and Saturdays). Guests, wranglers and ranch hands alike don their western best for a little line dancing and two stepping (with some top 40 mixed in). The ranch allows you to bring your own alcohol to be consumed during your visit, which is a convenient way to keep costs down.
While at first glance Sundance may seem a little pricey, when you add up what you are getting (with no surprise bill at the end), I think it provides very good value. A stay includes accommodation in air-conditioned rooms with private bath, three meals a day, complimentary wifi, two horseback rides daily, (rides are 2 to 2 1/2 hours long each) and the use of all ranch facilities. During the summer months there is complimentary children’s programming for 3-7 year olds so that parents can go riding. Children and youth are offered reduced rates, and those under 5 are free.
Important things to know for Sundance:
- The recommended attire for riding is jeans, a t-shirt and a layering piece.
- A solid boot with a minimum 1 inch heel is required for riding (they have loaner boots for the reasonable rate of $2).
- Riding helmets are mandatory for children and optional for adults (available for all free of charge).
- Flip flops are nice to have for around the pool.
- Guests in the know recommend bringing your own swim towel, as the resort pool towels are quite small.
- There are no hairdryers in the rooms – but there is also no need to get dolled up at the ranch (leave the Nars mascara at home)
More about Sundance Ranch:
disclosure: Sundance generously offered to host our daughters for free at the ranch. All opinions about the resort are entirely my own. As always on my website, I encourage you to read current reviews and room tips from other travelers on Tripadvisor before booking.
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