This summer, we decided to try a dude ranch. There are a surprising number of dude ranches to choose from, and I used www.duderanch.org to help sort through them. To help narrow down the endless possibilities, I decided to focus on one near Yellowstone National Park. I always wanted to visit there, but I figured it wouldn’t be a place we would necessarily plan a vacation around, so it seemed like a good opportunity to work these two activities together. This made decision making much easier, as there were surprisingly few choices near Yellowstone. We settled on Rimrock Ranch in Wyoming, about 30 minutes east of Yellowstone.
The airport in Cody, Wyoming is closest and the ranch will pick you up at the airport, eliminating the need for a car, but since we wanted to use airline miles, it was easier to fly to Jackson, Wyoming. That is another place I always wanted to visit, and this would allow us to drive through Yellowstone on our way to the ranch, so it was a good alternative.
Rimrock Ranch is an all-inclusive experience, running Sunday to Sunday each week during the summer season. We flew into Jackson, arriving on Saturday, picked up our rental car, and checked in to the Ranch Inn in downtown Jackson. This place was nothing to write home about, but it was fairly inexpensive for one night and included breakfast. We headed out to explore Jackson a little bit. What a really cute little western town! I can see why this place is so popular. We had dinner, got some ice cream, and checked out some of the little shops before calling it a night.
Saturday morning we set off for the ranch. It was about a 2.5 hour drive through Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. The drive ended up taking much longer as we kept stopping along the way to check out all the great scenery. The drive was easy and pleasant, and soon we arrived at the ranch.
Wow. We were immediately impressed with the scenery. This was our first time to Wyoming and words cannot describe how beautiful it was. The ranch consisted of a lodge surrounded by a series of individual cabins, all set along a river, wedged between two mountains. Seriously postcard perfect, and very secluded.
Our cabin was beautiful. It had a living room with a stone fireplace, three bedrooms, and two bathrooms. It was rustic, but not overly so. Our cabin was right up against the river, and the sound of rushing water made for great sleeping. Since the remainder of the guests were all being picked up at the Cody airport, we were the first to arrive. We were instructed to head to the game room and each pick out some boots and a hat to borrow for the week. We had fun trying on the boots and I was pretty pleased with the green and yellow ones I ended up with! The game room also had pool tables, ping pong and shuffle board that the kids enjoyed. Since we didn’t need the car for the week, my husband was able to drive it to Cody and return it at the airport, and catch a ride back on the van bringing the rest of the guests.
Our fellow guests consisted of a father and daughter from Ohio, grandparents with their two grandkids from Texas, and one large family consisting of parents celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary who had brought along their 6 adult children with spouses and kids. We hit it off right away with the father/daughter from Ohio. The large family was nice enough, but since they were having their own little family reunion, they weren’t as interested in getting to know their fellow guests. Ideally, I would have preferred lots of individual families, but hey, it wasn’t up to us!
This was our first vacation of this sort, and it was a little awkward at first. Our kids were a little hesitant and initially kept to themselves. They checked out the pool and then hung out in the cabin until the dinner bell rang.
All meals were served in the lodge, and the bell signaled it was mealtime. You could sit wherever you wanted, and not surprisingly, the large family sat at tables together and we sat with the other two families. I hadn’t expected great food here, so I was pleasantly surprised. Every meal was really good, and varied. The wait staff consisted of a few college girls, who were all warm and friendly. Most meals were served family style, and then the girls would come around and take dessert orders. Following dinner, guests could hang out in the lodge, and most would sit on the porch in the rockers. They don’t serve alcohol at the ranch, but guests are welcome to bring their own and boy did the large family take advantage of this, having had cases of wine and beer shipped ahead!
By Monday morning, we were all feeling a little more comfortable and relaxed. Following breakfast, we headed down to the stable to meet our horses, who would be ours for the week. C ourtney, a college student from Texas, was in charge of the horses. She was assisted by a few others, most of whom we loved, one old crotchety cowboy we couldn’t stand. Once everyone was up on their horse, which took quite some time as you can imagine, we set off on a short introductory ride. This was our kids’ first experience riding and although they were hesitant at first, they absolutely loved it! These were not your typical beginning trail rides, either. The terrain was mountainous and steep at times, but the views were absolutely amazing. Anyone age 6 or older could ride, and there was a 6 year old in the group. Six seems a little young to me given the terrain, but he did fine. Our 8 year old did a great job even though his horse was one of the least cooperative.
We returned from the morning ride and headed to lunch. Following lunch, it was back to the stables for a longer ride. Overall, the horses were all very well behaved. My 8-year old’s horse was definitely slow, and mine was much more interested in eating grass than walking. We were instructed to try to keep the horses walking, rather than trotting or running, and for the most part this worked. B ut every once in a while one horse would start trotting and several behind would follow. Well, we were heading down a hill and the grandmother’s horse started to trot, she lost control, and was thrown to the ground. She got up, but you could tell she was hurting. Unfortunately, we were pretty far from the ranch and there really was no practical way for her to get back. She couldn’t get back on the horse, so one of the cowboys walked with her slowly back down while we continued on our ride. Once we returned, they had taken her to the hospital. It turned out she had broken seven ribs and had a punctured lung! She spent the next day in the hospital, but eventually returned to the ranch for some rest.
During the free time before dinner, some people headed to the pool, but our kids just hung out with the other kids. By this time, they were feeling very comfortable with their new friends. I think they loved that they could run free at the ranch. It was so secluded we didn’t worry about them, as long as they didn’t venture too far and stayed with other kids. They loved the freedom, especially our 8 year old.
Following dinner, a local cowboy with a guitar came by and entertained. You definitely needed a flashlight to get back to your cabin, as it was pretty dark once the sun went down. The sky was amazing, though, and we’ve never seen so many stars!
Tuesday morning we headed out early to the top of a mountain, where the ranch staff cooked up a cowboy breakfast. Our afternoon activity was a float trip down the Shoshonee River, about a ½ hour drive from the ranch. We were in inflatable rafts like a rafting trip, but the “rapids” are pretty tame here and it was an easy ride for everyone. Definitely a fun activity. After dinner, we headed to Cody to attend the Cody Rodeo. I thought my kids would really enjoy this, but to my surprise, they didn’t! They are definitely soft city slickers, as they were really disturbed by watching the cattle be roped and they told us we were forcing them to watch animal cruelty! They did enjoy the parts involving the horses jumping and going around barrels, but the bull riding ended with one of the bulls seriously injured and having to be removed from the ring, and the kids were very upset by it. No more rodeos for us.
Wednesday morning we had a ranch softball game. I’m not much into softball, but everyone played and it really was fun! After lunch, we set out on one of the longer rides to Lost Creek. Dinner on Wednesday night was a cookout on the lawn.
Thursday was the full-day ride. I wasn’t sure how I felt about this, but we decided we would go. Pack horses come along and bring food, and we had a cookout at the top of Table Mountain. I am really glad we went, as the scenery was amazing. The evening activity was a fishing contest for the kids at the pond on the ranch property. Another first for my kids, and they did really well. At dinner on Thursday, there was a huge cake for the 50th anniversary couple. Their anniversary had actually been the month before, but they chose this night to celebrate it. By chance, this day was actually our 20th wedding anniversary! Once the other couple found out, they were very gracious and made a big deal about it. The whole ranch shared in the cake.
Friday was the day I had been looking forward to most, a tour of Yellowstone. We headed out in the ranch vans (there are 3 of them) and we made various stops throughout Yellowstone and had many buffalo sightings. We stopped at the Old Faithful Inn for lunch, and to watch Old Faithful erupt. The lodge was absolutely beautiful, I would love to stay there sometime. I really enjoyed the day, but the kids (and husband) thought it was a little long and were definitely antsy from being in the van so long.
Saturday morning there were two ride options, one more advanced. You had to be 12 or older to go the advanced ride, so my husband and oldest son did that one while I took my younger kids on the other. This was my least favorite ride of the week, as the crotchety cowboy rode right in front of me and was not shy about telling me everything I was doing wrong. I was definitely not in the best of moods by the time it was over. My husband and son had a great time on the advanced ride, though. The afternoon consisted of a Ranch Rodeo for the kids. They had a competition involving all kinds horse riding skills, and the kids had a great time.
Following our last dinner that night, there was a talent show. Son2 made a spoof video shot at the ranch that came out really well, and he showed that for his talent. Most of the acts were kids, but a few adults got in on the action, too.
Sunday morning it was time to head to the airport. Our flight wasn’t until the evening, departing from Cody, but the ranch needs you out in the morning so they can get ready for the next week’s guests. The vans dropped us off at the airport, and rather than sit around all day, we decided to rent a car for a few hours with the father/daughter and see the Buffalo Bill Museum. It was an interesting museum and a good way to spend our last day.
We loved this vacation! The kids were a little skeptical at first, not sure if they liked the idea of a ranch, or horses, and certainly not vacationing with other people. But they all agreed it was a great time and they would love to go back.