Is riding horses in the morning, snowshoeing in the afternoon and learning to country line dance in the evening your idea of a good time? Then Colorado’s Vista Verde Guest Ranch is the place you want to be. A short drive from downtown Steamboat Springs will land you at this all-inclusive luxury dude ranch where you will be wowed by the activities, food, accommodations and service.
Vista Verde Ranch is a Luxury Dude & Guest Ranch in Steamboat Springs, Colorado
About Vista Verde Guest Ranch
Vista Verde Guest Ranch is an all-inclusive luxury dude ranch that has a dozen pretty cabins, delicious cowboy cuisine, over 100 horses, and tons of fun activities whether you’re visiting in the summer or the winter. But, what makes this ranch even more special is the staff—they are friendly, flexible, accommodating and pride themselves on going above and beyond the expected.
Outdoor Activities at Vista Verde Ranch
You can participate in two activities a day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon (there are almost a dozen to choose from!). The best part is that most are included in the all-inclusive price.
During happy hour and/or dinner the staff will come around to schedule your next day. My recommendation is to choose one active activity and one that’s a little more relaxed or you might be asleep before dinner (and you definitely don’t want to miss dinner!).
Outdoor activities vary depending on the season and can be anything from ice fishing to tubing or flyfishing to hiking. Whatever season you go, It’s going to be hard to squeeze them all in unless you’re here for.a good length of time.
Here are the ones I did (and loved!):
One of my favorite activities was the archery lesson where we shot at standard bulls-eyed targets and foam animals. We were given a lesson on how to use our bows, arrows and quivers, then tried our hand at hitting the targets.
After a little practice, it was time for some competition amongst six of the ranch guests. I came in second to last, but was able to check “get an archery bulls-eye” off my bucket list!
Snowshoeing can be done right on the property or you can be driven to a further location for a different adventure. Though there’s a choice for a guided tour, I opted to snowshoe on my own because I didn’t want to bug others with the crazy amount of photographs I take.
Each day horsemanship classes are available for every level of rider—you can learn everything from basic techniques to advanced riding skills. I took their beginning 101 lesson where we were taught how to get on and off the horse, plus simple commands.
Horseback Trail Rides
Typically, two times per day you can choose to go on a horseback trail ride around the property (and off-site in some months). My winter ride was an easy follow-the-leader type that gives you pretty views of the surrounding area and an opportunity to put some of your horsemanship lessons to use. Our group’s ride was about an hour long and the falling snow just added to the experience.
An afternoon sleigh ride is the perfect follow up to an adventurous day snowmobiling or cross-country skiing. The half hour ride is a tranquil loop that gives you mountaintop views and a great perspective of the ranch itself. There is also a Feed Sleigh Ride where you transport the hay to the stable to feed the horses.
We also happened to be there on a day where they were grooming the horses of their winter coats and after the sleigh ride we got to help!
Snowmobiling was one adventure that I was most excited about! You have the option to ride tandem or on your own snowmobile, I opted for the latter of the two—I like to be in control.
After a quick lesson we were off, following our guide through the forest. Most parts were well groomed with some bumps, but then we had the opportunity to play around with speed in the powder (my favorite part!). The entire tour was about 3 hours and by the end I was pooped.
Snowmobiling is one of the few optional activities that is not included in the all-inclusive cost of Vista Verde Ranch, but it is totally worth the extra money! Dog Sledding and downhill skiing are a couple others.
In-between the scheduled outdoor activities and in the evenings after dinner, the ranch had plenty of other fun things to do. Some evenings you could play in a friendly game of poker, while others were for whiskey tastings and trivia competitions. You could also spend your free afternoons taking a leather class or playing chess.
Two of my favorite indoor activities were the opportunity to make your own family brand and the music night.
Making our Family Brand
Using just the standard branding irons (basically, capital letters & straight lines) we got to design our family brand and then one of the wranglers burned it into a piece of wood. It was one of the most unique souvenirs I’ve ever taken home from a trip!
On the music night, a fun band setup in the great room of the lodge and played after dinner. During the set, the staff took over the floor to do some line dancing. Of course, the guests could join in to learn some of their favorites. My husband NEVER dances, but he even got out there to learn the Boot Scootin’ Boogie.
Food & Beverage at The Ranch
You will no doubt be working up an appetite with all the fun activities and one thing is for sure, you will not go hungry. And the food will be delicious because the culinary program is top-notch.
Your cabin is stocked with some of the best snacks I’ve ever seen in an all-inclusive place—Kind bars, Smartfood popcorn and Ghirardelli chocolate (just to name a few). Of course there was also local Colorado coffee, cold beverages, a nice bottle of wine and a selection of tea.
The lodge also has a different type of freshly baked cookies out every day,—all the time—my favorite was the red velvet Oreo.
I am typically not a breakfast person, but could you say no to butternut squash hash or chilaquiles that look this good:
Every night from 5:30-6:30 is happy hour in the Great Room, and I went EVERY NIGHT! There were three choices of wine that rotated each night and a selection of beer, plus a snack (like freshly made guacamole with chips or dates stuffed with whipped blue cheese).
This time is also a great opportunity to meet and socialize with the other guests.
Everyday, the dining room had a well-stocked salad bar with all the staples, plus fancier things like lentils, quinoa and sun-dried tomatoes. But, that’s not all. Taco Tuesday had options of 4 different tacos (or you can have one of each). Wednesday had a Polynesian inspired buffet that had a killer poke bowl, Hawaiian rolls and pulled pork. Thursday were choices of muffalleta sandwiches, Cajun Creole pasta or a fried catfish po boy. There is something for everyone!
Dinner changed nightly, some nights were a delicious western buffet while others were designated as “Formal Nights”. These dinners are a time when the food is fancier but your attire doesn’t really have to be. Most were wearing their finest jeans and a pretty sweater, some opted for black pants and a blouse.
On this formal night, meals are prix fixe with options like veal chops or bronzino fish, and appetizers of asparagus soup or little gems salad. For dessert a freshly baked cookie topped with vanilla ice cream might be the star.
Even the buffet dinners were stepped up a notch with offerings like broccolini, gigante beans, farro salad and prime rib.
There are a dozen private cabins on the property. We stayed in the Wapiti, and it was nothing short of amazing. The large master bedroom had a wood-burning fireplace, cozy king-sized bed (with comfy pillows—a must-have!). There were two bathrooms and an upstairs loft with three beds. Way too much room for the two of us, but I wasn’t complaining!
On the deck we had our very own hot tub that was surrounded by snow. It was perfect to pop into it in the evenings to sooth your sore muscles.
Who Should Come to the Ranch?
The simple answer is everyone who likes horses and outdoor adventures. You might think that dude ranches are made just for kids, but that’s not the case at Vista Verde. Of course there are plenty of activities for the children, but just as many for the adults.
When I was there, there was everything from families with young kids to twenty-something newlyweds on their honeymoon to midlife couples like myself to girlfriends on a birthday getaway. It didn’t matter the age, every one of us was having a GREAT time!
Best Time to Visit the Ranch
There is something for everyone at Vista Verde Guest Ranch, no matter what the season. But, you’ll need to decide which activities appeal to you most. Many of the guests who were there in the winter with me were return guests because they enjoyed all the winter adventures. Whereas, in the warmer months many guests come because they ramp up the horse program, with more trail rides and classes.
Keep in mind that the ranch closes from the end of March until Memorial Day weekend in May.
Getting to the Ranch
The easiest way to get to the ranch is to fly into the Steamboat/Hayden Airport (Yampa Valley Regional Airport. It’s one of those tiny airports where your luggage will come out quickly on one of the handful of carousels.
You can easily check for the best fare deals at Skyscanner, which also has the option to choose ‘cheapest month’ as the departure to find the lowest priced dates to fly to your destination.
Arrangements should be made beforehand for the Vista Verde Guest Ranch staff to pick you up. It’s about an hour drive from the airport.
It’s time to pack your suitcase and make a trip out to Vista Verde Guest Ranch. Trust me when I say this is a bucket list worthy experience you won’t want to miss—from its cozy cabins and delicious food, to the calming horseback rides and lessons.
Plus, if you’re looking for some good ol’ country fun, there’s plenty of activities around the ranch grounds—from archery, fly-fishing in streams and mountain biking trails to country line dancing!
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