Wyoming, Western Style

Experiencing dude ranches in Wind River Country

By Flash Parker

If there are ten people in a room anywhere in North America, chances are good that six have been on an American road trip. Of those six, one or two have likely been to Wyoming—but other than rolling through Yellowstone with a camera pointed at bubbling geysers and streaking buffalo, or admiring the Grand Tetons, how many folks have really experienced Wyoming’s fabled cowboy country and gone full yeehaw at a working dude ranch? Wind River Country, tucked into the heart of Wyoming, offers myriad ranch experiences that range from the active to the historical to the family friendly. Each experience is so seminally American West, you’ll wonder why you haven’t saddled up sooner.

Get Your Boots On

Gary-Kunis,-3-cowgirlsWind River Country has an unmistakable cowboy verve that sets it apart from other western destinations—some of the dude ranches here were first built in the 1920s, and they retain an air that is both genuine and refreshing. But you don’t have to be a real cowpoke to appreciate everything Wind River Country has to offer. Some ranches offer programs that allow guests to live out their fantasies of becoming a ranch hand and rounding up the cattle, while others offer a glimpse at a Western way of life, but allow you to keep one foot firmly entrenched in modern, luxurious living. Most of the ranches in Wind River Country are family owned, and have been that way for generations—so you can expect fully personalized, customizable escapes that can be tailored to your every Western whim, whether that has you up at the crack of dawn branding cattle, sitting ringside at a rodeo or learning how to rope.

Adventure everywhere

Kristin-Foster,-fly-fishing,-Brooks-LakeA Wind River Country ranch experience is unlike any other, and the perfect family getaway for groups looking for an experience that exists just on the periphery of ordinary. Campfire singalongs, cookouts under the stars and horseback riding lessons are but a few of the activities families can expect. These ranches often serve as outdoor outfitters for adventures further afield—in the summer months, when the mountains have fed the rivers and water runs high, Wind River Country becomes one of Wyoming’s premiere fly fishing destinations, where guides can show you how to land the catch of your dreams – maybe even that elusive golden trout. Adrenaline junkies can race up and over mountain trails on ATVs, outdoor enthusiasts can hike all day in the Absaroka Mountains (where you can picnic near thundering waterfalls, spy on bighorn sheep, moose and more), and hunters can stalk game in wild backcountry that is as fierce as any predator. In the winter, visitors can snowmobile in powder at 9000’ on the Continental Divide backed by towering snow-capped peaks or snowshoe among the pines and sit around the fireplace as cowboys tell tall tales late into the night. All this while enjoying the modern amenities of guest ranches that fuse rustic charm with contemporary style.

Spectacular mountains

Absaroka Mountains, Dubois. Photo: Scott Copeland

Absaroka Mountains, Dubois. Photo: Scott Copeland

And oh, those mountains! The Absaroka and Wind River Mountains are some of the most impressive in the country and every bit as stunning as the Grand Tetons. Severe peaks cradle scoops of snow most of the year and rock spires carve up fast-flowing clouds. Wind River Country ranches can outfit overnight trips into the backcountry as many employ their own guides and naturalists, each adept at helping you get the most out of your mountain expeditions.  Drop trips for your own expedition can be arranged also.

Wind River Country has a way of sinking into your bones and staying with you—and bringing you back out for more. The ranches in this most quintessential cowboy country are among the country’s finest, and a gateway to remarkable western adventures.

Saddle up and plan your dude ranch experience in Wind River Country!

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