Escape ‘Old Man Winter’ This Season at a Dude Ranch in the Sunny Southwest

Monday, October 12 2009 15:46   Dude Ranches
Say winter vacations to some people and they probably think snow, but the Dude Ranchers' Association would like you to think sun, warm weather and a dude ranch adventure in the Southwest for a great getaway.

"There are predictions that this winter will be harsh, especially in the Northern regions, so we're suggesting that people needing a winter break should look to the Southwest, such as the sun-drenched deserts of Arizona, or the warm, enchanting lands of New Mexico," said Colleen Hodson, executive director for the Dude Ranchers' Association (DRA).

Hodson said there are ranches to meet just about every budget and activity, and DRA staffers work to steer vacationers to ranches best suited for them.

"Plenty of Southwest dude ranches offer the same resort-like amenities and services of other popular ‘snowbird' destinations," Hodson told "What guests won't find are added charges or daily resort fees. Instead, dude ranches operate on the American plan."

The Southwest is one of the sunniest spots in the country. It's also the locale of numerous Western dude ranches, 12 of them members of the DRA, Hodson said. The organization has kept the standards for the industry high since its inception in 1926.

A reservation at a DRA member ranch comes with the guarantee of an authentic, quality, experience, Hodson said.

As an example of what visitors can expect, she pointed to five DRA ranch members and the types of experiences visitors can expect.

At Arizona's Grapevine Canyon Ranch, lodging, activities and delicious, hearty meals are included in one no-hassle price. It's an upfront, straightforward policy, packaging accommodations, riding, all meals, even taxes and gratuities in one rate. Rates vary by season, with some of the lowest rates in January and February. The no-hassle rate starts at just $178 per person per day.

Once the land of pioneers and Apaches, there are still remnants of primitive Indian villages on ranch property and wild grapevines still flourish in the canyon. Located between Tucson and Tombstone, the working ranch provides ultimate immersion into the cowboy life of the Old West with the exception of lodging and meals. No bunkhouses and beans for Grapevine guests. Instead, guests retreat to cool, private casitas and feast on homemade meals made from "scratch."

In New Mexico's pristine Gila National Forest, guests of Geronimo Trail Guest Ranch escape the cold and the frantic pace of modern society. Just 85 miles from the nearest stoplight, solitude is the ranch mantra. The ranch accommodates only 15 guests at a time. Riding the trails, visitors may glimpse elk, wild turkey, even a mountain lion but rarely other people.

Resort-like ranches are found near Tucson. Both the White Stallion Ranch and Tanque Verde Ranch come with luxurious pools, spas, and tennis courts. The White Stallion offers a full calendar of special events - horse and riding seminars, cowgirl camps, and packages co-sponsored by Elderhostel. At the Tanque Verde there are special pack trips through December and a mountain bike adventure for serious peddlars.

Then there's the Circle Z Ranch, straddling the border, minutes from Mexico. The ranch is recognized worldwide as a prime destination for "birders." In the nearby Patagonia-Sonoita Nature Reserve, riders often glimpse vermillion fly catchers and other rare birds. First class amenities include an all-weather tennis court and heated pool. Colorful adobe cottages and meals served on the lodge patio entertain guests with panoramic views of the mountains and desert.

"There are many choices for visitors looking for a great winter getaway at dude ranches in the Southwest, and DRA staffers can assist vacationers to find the ranch that's best suited for them," Hodson said. "The DRA remains dedicated to preserving the beauty, natural resources, and authentic western ranch experience that first attracted visitors during every season of the year."

To request a free directory, call the DRA at (866) 399-2339, e-mail
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