Vacations are one thing, but a cowboy-cation is an entirely different experience. Saddle up because this post will get you excited to jump on a horse, toss some horseshoes, and eat some cold beans alongside a strong cup of bitter coffee.
Doesn’t sound exactly like a vacation to you? Don’t worry, cowboy-cations don’t treat you like seasoned ranch hands. They’ll get you to the beauty of the wide open spaces and the delectable flavors of fire-cooked foods. No cowboy skills are necessary.
What Is a “Cowboy-Cation”?
A cowboy-cation is a vacation usually spent on a ranch. However, your sleeping quarters won’t consist of a cowboy bedroll under the stars. More than likely, you’ll be nestled all snug and warm in a cozy cabin with all the amenities of home and then some.
Your days might be spent on leisurely horseback rides or playing a challenging game of horseshoes. And as the sun dips below the horizon, you may just find yourself on a wooden porch, drink in hand.
It’s a way to experience the beauty of the cowboy lifestyle without the hard work – unless you want to. There are cowboy-cations that get down and dirty, too, for those who want a bit more of an adventurous vacation.
When Did the “Cowboy-Cation” Trend Take Off?
With a scenario such as this, it’s quite easy to understand how a cowboy-cation could become quite a popular trend. It’s been popular with many vacation seekers over the years. However, there has been a rise in people seeking vacations closer to home, creating a new trend.
Looking to spend time at a real working ranch, or want to sit back and enjoy the vistas during the day and the campfires at night? This vacation trend is only getting more popular as international travel becomes more expensive and complicated, so don’t wait.
What Is a Dude Ranch?
One way to spend an authentic vacation with horses during the day and under a star-lit sky at night is at a dude ranch. It’s a rustic, western-style ranch and resort that offers guests an immersive experience of the Old West.
Typically, dude ranches offer horseback riding, hiking, fishing activities, and traditional cowboy-style meals over an open fire. A stay at a dude ranch allows visitors to live out their own Western fantasies and dreams. They’ll also learn about the lifestyle of cowboys and ranchers. From cattle drives to campfire stories – it’s an experience you won’t soon forget.
5 Destinations to Saddle Up on the “Cowboy-Cation” Trend
Whether you’re heading out for your cowboy-cation on a dude ranch or just want to experience the beauty of the West, these five states will not disappoint. You’ll find wide-open vistas, towering mountain peaks, crystal-clear rivers, and stunning scenery. Each state has its own unique beauty, and all will provide an unforgettable cowboy-cation.
Wyoming is a great place to visit for many reasons. From its spectacular natural beauty to its rich history, this iconic state has much to explore. Visit the world-famous Yellowstone National Park to take in the stunning wildlife and geysers. Explore the Grand Tetons at Grand Teton National Park, or head to Jackson Hole for incredible skiing and charming western culture. Yes, cowboys like to ski, too.
Wyoming provides endless opportunities for incredible hikes and camping trips throughout the state. Explore the Bighorn or Teton Mountains. Wander the many mountain towns complete with old barns and farmhouses while still being able to dine and shop.
The Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody is a world-famous museum full of artifacts and intriguing stories. They come from the Old West for those who really want to experience what Wyoming once was like. Cody is located mere miles from Yellowstone’s East entrance making it even more appealing.
It’s no wonder Wyoming is also called “The Cowboy State.”
Worried about accessibility while exploring Yellowstone? Head to one of these 5 Best Wheelchair Accessible Attractions in Yellowstone National Park.
Utah is great for cowboy vacations due to its natural beauty and wide open spaces. The landscape boasts a vibrant array of colors – from the red sandstone of national parks such as Zion and Bryce Canyon to the colorful alpine lakes of the Uinta Mountains.
There are plenty of opportunities for horseback riding, camping, fishing, and hunting. Many ranches in Utah offer visitors a chance to stay on their property while they trail ride or simply enjoy the great outdoors.
If you’re a cowboy who also likes to mountain bike or hike, Moab is the place to go with its many trails and red-rock desert beauty. Ponderosa Ranch is well known in Utah, too, for its resort-style amenities alongside its rustic charm. Here, amongst other places, you can horseback ride, listen to music under the stars, or simply enjoy the evening stars.
With all these incredible features, it’s no wonder why so many people consider Utah one of the best states for cowboy-cations.
Go big or go home! Texas is one of the most well-known places for cowboy-cations with its wide open spaces and the mere fact that everything is bigger in Texas – including the stockyards. When visiting Texas, a must-see for any cowboy-style getaway is Fort Worth Stockyards National Historic District.
Paying a visit here is like stepping back in time with its brick walkways and wooden corrals. Not only can you experience what the West was like, but you can live it. Experience cattle herding or bull riding first hand – from the sidelines, of course. Visit one of the many saloons in the district or simply stroll along the streets from yesteryears.
Cowboy roots run deep in Texas, so it should be no surprise that it’s home to the “Cowboy Capital,” which is the town of Bandera. The centerpiece to many ranches across Texas, missing Bandera when heading out on a cowboy-cation would be like not riding a horse.
From Amarillo and its steak eating challenge to the Alamo in San Antonio and the wide open spaces of the Texas Hill Country, a getaway to Texas is just as huge as the state is.
Cowboys didn’t just ride horses all day long. Some of them became enamored with the search for gold and where else to find gold than the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. Heading west was once a dangerous feat.
Today, it’s an exciting adventure. And visiting the many mountain towns that embrace their past and continue to offer authentic experiences is one of the best ways to enjoy a cowboy-style excursion.
In Durango, for example, you can hop on the famous train ride from Durango even further into the mountains to Silverton, tucked away in the San Juan Mountains. Cripple Creek used to be one of the gold capitals of the world, with many pioneers heading into the mountains to strike it rich. Today, you might just strike it rich at one of the many casinos now called this scenic townhome.
Dude ranches dot the entire state. From the plains to the Western Slope, you’ll find horseback riding excursions, glamping opportunities, and even working ranches to test your skills. You might just change from a city folk to a cowboy with a mere step into this western state.
Montana has been in the spotlight recently, and there’s a good reason. With nicknames such as “Big Sky Country” and “The Treasure State,” this is definitely a cowboy state. And there might just be more horses here than people.
Montana only has around 1 million people in the entire state. Combined with its impressive mountain ranges, such as the Mission, Bridger, and the Rocky Mountains, it’s no wonder people talk about Montana.
Here, you’ll also find West Yellowstone – the gateway into Yellowstone National Park – and Glacier National Park. The ghosts of days gone by can’t be forgotten either.
You can find ghost towns throughout this expansive state, one of which is the popular Nevada City. The entire town is living history. The cowboy in you will come to life when wandering this western town.
From historic mining towns such as Anaconda and Butte to the gateways of the national parks such as Columbia Falls and West Yellowstone, Montana’s blue skies will draw you in. Don those boots and cowboy hats. You’ll fit right in here.
While in Montana, find out Is the Montana Vortex House of Mystery a Hoax?
How to Get a Full Cowboy Experience?
While these states are well known for their magical beauty, there’s more to a cowboy-cation than just the scenery. To get a full cowboy experience, try out a few of these adventures. You might end up feeling like that cowboy hat actually belongs on your head.
Stay at a Dude Ranch
If you’re looking for an authentic cowboy experience, there’s no better way to get it than by staying at a dude ranch. Cowboys have been using these locations for decades as places where they can both work and rest.
At a dude ranch, you can participate in activities like horseback riding, archery, and fishing and learn about life on the range from experienced wranglers. It’s a great way to connect with the Wild West lifestyle without being overwhelmed by large cities and frenetic energy.
Plus, staying at a dude ranch can be quite enjoyable. You’ll be surrounded by breathtaking natural views and immerse yourself in true Western culture.
Go Horseback Riding
Horseback riding is an essential part of any true cowboy experience. Whether you explore trails on your own or take a guided tour, this will give you a chance to explore nature in a unique way.
In addition to discovering hidden gems, riders also get the chance to learn more about wrangling techniques and understand the cowboy culture. Horseback riding is not only fun but also challenging. Those who take up this activity will develop core strength and balance while bonding with their four-legged companion.
Practicing your roping skills is a must for anyone looking to immerse themselves in the cowboy world. Roping is an essential skill for cowboys. It takes patience and practice to really get the hang of it.
Whether you’re trying to catch a calf or tie down a steer, roping correctly will allow you to experience the lifestyle of real-life cowboys closely. Practicing your roping skills will also let you fully appreciate all that goes into herding livestock. You’ll gain a unique appreciation for this traditional way of life.
Playing horseshoes is the perfect way for anyone to feel like a cowboy, even if you’re just in your backyard. It’s an easy game to set up and play with friends or family, and it’s a great way to get everyone involved.
Whether you’re playing with real horseshoes or plastic ones, it’s still a fun game that can help you feel like you’ve stepped back in time to when cowboys were riding on the range. Plus, playing horseshoes will allow you to brush up on your aim and hand-eye coordination while having a great time. You might even want to try roping after fine-tuning your horseshoe game.
Pan for Gold
Panning for gold is the perfect activity for anyone looking to feel like a real cowboy. Not only is it an exciting way to search for treasure, but the process of panning can also make you feel like a kid again.
The thrill of searching through silt and dirt in hopes of finding something valuable is enough to get your heart pumping. Plus, once you spot that glint of gold in your pan, you’ll feel like you have become an authentic cowboy in the Wild West. It’s an exhilarating experience that will bring out the adventurer – and kid – in you.
Round Up the Kids for Your Next Cowboy-Cation Out West
Round up the family and head out west for your next cowboy-cation. Visiting the Wild West is an experience unlike any other, and it’s a great way to bring the entire family together.
Will you be panning for gold, riding horses, or just taking in some breathtaking landscapes? No matter. You can have an unforgettable time reconnecting with nature and experiencing all the Wild West has to offer – even though it’s not so wild anymore.
Which cowboy-cation spot do you want to explore first?
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