A ranch – not the dressing, mind you – is a quintessential North American accommodation type that is a cattle farm at heart but which has become a favorite of the adventurous vacation crowd interested in the Wild West of old and new. Ranch hotels or dude ranches have popped up in the United States and Canada, and Mexico as well. They have rooms for folks who want to sleep among rolling hills, alongside beautiful lakes, or nestled in wild mountains or the Great Plains. Ranches offer days of hiking and river walking, of horse riding, or even good old cowboy R&R.
A guest ranch is perfect if you're looking to channel your inner rambler and balance out that city life. It's also a fine choice of vacation accommodation if you simply love the great outdoors. The rancho life is lived in nature, and what to do on a ranch ranges from horse riding to hiking to fly fishing to skiing to cow herding to yoga – the list goes on.
There's no question that the USA is the home of the classic ranch house (from Gainesville to Jackson Hole). They are especially popular out where the cowboys and pioneers used to roam, amongst the rugged sierras of California or the dusty desert hoodoos of Arizona and New Mexico. It's also possible to find ski ranch stays sitting at the foot of snow-capped mountain peaks in the Rockies, for example, along with a smattering of family ranches elsewhere around the globe.
A ranch can be somewhat cheap or a ranch can be expensive – it all depends on what you want from your stay (and where you go). There's a new breed of luxury guest ranches that crank up the style and class, with wonderful Western interiors where crackling log fires share space with hot tubs and spas. These are the priciest of all. However, rustic, rugged ranches are available, with affordable suites that shouldn't break the bank.
You can search and book that outdoorsy ranch getaway in much the same way you would book a normal hotel or vacation rental. Expedia's made it easy thanks to accommodation type filters, which let you pinpoint ranches in particular destinations using a nifty map, or just list the lot. It's even possible to save some dollars by adding flight and car rental in the same package.
Many are still working farms, with acres of land that spread out to mountains or lakes. You can saddle up and hit the trails or pull on the hiking boots and explore right out the front door. Vintage timber-built or adobe architecture is another common feature, while some of the fanciest ranches also have outdoor pools, hot tubs, and spa facilities.
Some may wonder what the difference is between ranches and cabins. While both types of property provide a chance to get out and about, there's something that sets them apart. A cabin is tailored more to people who want privacy and seclusion in nature, not to mention self-catering facilities and a bolthole to call their own. A ranch is more of a farm-hotel fusion, usually offering catered options and even add-on experiences like guided horse rides and hikes.