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Historic Working Dude Ranches

If you’re a fan of preserving the old west and staying at a ranch that lives and breathes western heritage, then you found the right article. Keep reading to learn about some of the oldest working dude ranches in the country. Learn about their history and what they look like today. The start of “dude ranching” came about as a result of the west’s most valued features: true western hospitality.

Way back before there was any kind of decent transportation, most ranchers wouldn’t turn away travelers that were stranded for the night, especially in bad weather. Back before “dude ranching” was a business model, meals and lodging were provided without cost. As traffic increased along the more traveled routes, some ranches decided to start charging for the conveniences, even though they did not advertise for guests. As time went on, some ranchers expanded these services and became “dude ranches”—a ranch that took in guests.

Bar Lazy J 

Located in Parshall, Colorado is the Bar Lazy J, which is considered the oldest continuously operating Colorado guest ranch. To say they are proud of their heritage and legacy in Colorado dude ranch history, would be an understatement and you’re about to see why. The ranch was purchased in 1904 and started as a resort in 1912. A few years after opening, the ranch started to promote themselves commercially, which led to guests needing to have a letter of reference before they could even have the hope to come to Buckhorn. The rates back then were only $5.00/day for the American Plan, which included food, lodging, horseback riding, fishing, square dancing, singing, and cookouts. 100 years later and this dude ranch is celebrating their western heritage and gives their guests a one of a kind experience.

Courtesy of barlazyj.com

About Your Stay

Even though the original log cabins have been modernized, the ranch has tried to keep the look of the “Old West” alive. The majority of their cabins sit alongside the beautiful Colorado River, so you and your family can enjoy time relaxing by the riverside during the day and stargaze under the big Colorado night sky every evening. If you are worried about booking during the pandemic, don’t be! The Bar Lazy J is taking every precaution to keep you safe so you can still enjoy the ranch and everything it has to offer. Learn more here.

Activities Offered

  • Kid’s Program
  • Horseback Riding
  • “Gold Medal” Fly Fishing
  • Colorado River Zip Line
  • Off-Site Activities: Rocky Mountain National Park, attending the rodeo, white water rafting, cattle drives, hot air ballooning, guided fishing excursions, and much more!

Eaton’s Ranch

Located in Wolf, Wyoming, Eaton’s Ranch is known as the “Oldest Dude Ranch in America”. The ranch started in 1879 when three brothers, Howard, Willis, and Alden Eaton established their horse and cattle ranch near Medora, North Dakota. It wasn’t long until they started having guests that would often stay months at a time. After some time had gone by, one of the guests recognized the expense these extended visits entailed and encouraged the Eatons to charge for room and board, so they did and then the family dude ranch business was started. Eaton’s Ranch moved to its current location near Sheridan, Wyoming in 1904 and has been serving guests ever since.

About Your Stay

The ranch accommodations include 47 individual cabins and 3 suites in the main ranch house. The cabins vary in size to any type of reservation, whether it be for a solo adventurer, a family getaway or a couple looking for some peace and quiet. Cabin amenities include alarm clock, coffee maker, refrigerator, hairdryer, iron, and ironing board. Eaton’s Ranch is taking every precaution to keep you and your family safe so you can still enjoy the ranch and everything it has to offer. Learn more here.

Activities Offered

  • Horseback riding: day rides and overnight pack trips in the Bighorn National Forest
  • Children’s program
  • Swimming
  • Fishing
  • Hiking
  • Mountain biking
  • Horseshoes
  • Weekly dances
  • Softball games

Triangle X Ranch

Located in beautiful Jackson Hole, Wyoming, the Triangle X Ranch idea was formed in the early 1900s when John and Maytie Turner started taking vacations to Yellowstone National Park and found a special place they loved, a relatively unknown valley called “Jackson Hole.” These vacations made the couple grow fonder of the area with each trip they took. When finally John realized it was where he was supposed to be and he was going to build a house there. That happened in 1926 and that first fall, they had their first guests. That same land is where the Triangle X stands today and they are still serving up guests a whopping portion of everything Jackson Hole has to offer.

About Your Stay

There are 20 distinct log cabins that originated in Jackson Hole and each has a unique story of its own. Some of the cabins may have housed an early settler family in the late 1800s, later being moved to the ranch or it was built with logs, cut nearby the ranch, and hauled in with teams of horses and constructed by members of the Turner family. Whatever the story, the housing options are simple, comfortable, and appropriately rustic. Even though they have preserved their historic character and old west charm, all of the cabins have been well maintained and include

  • Full, private bathrooms
  • Comfortable log beds with linens
  • Moran and Whitehouse cabins have sitting rooms
  • Small refrigerator
  • A porch
  • Daily housekeeping

Activities Offered

  • Horseback riding
  • Wildlife viewing
  • Cookouts
  • Square dancing
  • Hiking
  • Sightseeing
  • Children’s program
  • World-class fishing
  • Scenic float trips on the Snake River

Paradise Guest Ranch

Located in the hills of Buffalo, Wyoming, Paradise Guest Ranch has stood the test of time and continues to provide a wonderful place for guests to get away and experience the west. It started in the 1890s when a Mr. Norman Meldrum was summering some of his cattle in the upper meadow range of the Big Horns, which eventually lead to becoming the current day, Paradise Ranch. Meldrum fell in love with the mountain meadow, so he proved up the land and acquired a title. It didn’t become an official dude ranch until 1907, but that meadow remained a “paradise” to those that visited, which is how it acquired its name and remains a “paradise” to those that continue to visit it today.

About Your Stay

What’s a dude ranch without log cabins? Well, Paradise Ranch has log cabins that are available with one, two, three, and four bedrooms. All of the cabins, while keeping their rustic look, have been renovated or newly built, and feature full baths, showers, kitchenettes, washers and dryers, the perfect touch of western art, and of course, a porch for soaking up the scenery. What more could you ask for?

Activities Offered

  • Horseback Riding
  • Hiking
  • Fishing
  • Kid’s Program

We hope that you truly enjoyed learning a bit more about each of these historical ranches. If you have a ranch you’d like us to us to write about, let us know in the comments!

CLN Community & Event Sponsor

Hi everyone! I'm Krysta Paffrath, I am a proud Arizona native who has a passion for everything business and rodeo. I am beyond thrilled to be the Account Manager & Editor for Cowboy Lifestyle Network. With my background in social media marketing and running my own business, this was a natural fit for me to join the team. My adventurous and entrepreneurial spirit has guided me to work in many places like the WYO Quarter Horse Ranch in Thermopolis, Wyoming, a working cattle ranch in Seligman, Arizona and many places in between. I am passionate about preserving the western way of life and working with different brands to make that happen. If you're looking for a write-up, please shoot me an email at krysta@clngo.com.

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