Horseback riding in the great outdoors and exploring national parks
is an exciting way to see the diverse terrain, wildlife and nature across the USA. We've picked out five great dude ranches that are close to U.S. National Parks. At some ranches, you can actually horseback ride in the park, while others are close enough for day-trips or excursions prior to or after your ranch vacation.
A beautiful view from the saddle on a horseback ride overlooking the Tetons with Gros Ventre River Ranch.
1. Bar W Guest Ranch- Glacier National Park in Montana
The scale and diversity of Glacier National Park is spectacular in itself. This park encompasses over 1,000,000 acres of pristine waterfalls, turquoise-colored lakes, milky white streams, alpine tundra, colorful wildflowers, glacier carved peaks and more. Early explorers called it the "Crown of the Continent Ecosystem".
Drive a pretty 23 miles over about 40 minutes (if you don't stop) from Bar W Guest Ranch, located in Whitefish, and you'll find yourself at the West entrance to the park. This entrance provides access to the Park Headquarters, Lake McDonald area, the Apgar Visitor Center and the Going-to-the-Sun-Road. Many of guests add Glacier National Park to their ranch vacation itinerary, scheduling one day or more to explore. You may even decide to ride again in the park, as guided horseback tours are available inside the park.
2. Gros Ventre River Ranch- Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming
This longtime Wyoming dude ranch is well-located for national park adventures at 18 miles from Grand Teton National Park and 60 miles from the southern entrance of Yellowstone National Park. Guests may travel to either or both for world-class hiking and other outdoor adventures.
Grand Teton National Park boasts the 40-mile-long jagged peaks of the iconic Teton Range, the youngest mountain range in the Rocky Mountains. Visitors may also take in alpine lakes, whitebark pines and sub-alpine fir, rocky canyon streams, glaciers and snowfields. Take a ranger-led hike, scenic drive or go canoeing on Jenny lake, fishing and even horseback riding. The ranch will send you along with a picnic lunch and have dinner waiting for you when you return.
3. Drowsy Water Ranch- Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado
Conquer the Continental Divide and the highest national park in the United States in Rocky Mountain National Park, around 25 miles from Drowsy Water Ranch in Granby, Colorado. While some guests fly into Denver and explore Rocky Mountain National Park on the drive to or from the ranch, others take a side trip during their stay.
This national park attracts visitors with over 300 miles of hiking trails, wildlife viewing, biking, scenic drives and horseback riding. Look up to the more than sixty peaks over 12,000 feet in this varied park. Hike through subalpine spruce, ponderosa, and aspen and then head above the trees to the park's unique "land above the trees," an area too high and extreme for trees to grow. Montana may have its big skies, but you'll find that Colorado does too in Rocky Mountain National Park.
4. Elk Mountain Ranch- Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado
Scenery you wouldn't necessarily expect in Colorado! In Great Sand Dunes National Park, massive sand dunes, the tallest in North America, are juxtaposed with peaks from the rugged Sangre de Cristo Mountains. This national park, listed as the quietest national park in the 48 contiguous United States in a recent study, offers visitors extreme sport opportunities. Travelers can try sandboarding and sand sledding and then build sandcastles and splash around in Medano Creek. It's sort of like the beach made its way to this part of Colorado. Though the dunes are a big attraction, this park also draws in hikers to visit its alpine lakes, pine forests, aspen and cottonwood, grasslands, and wetlands.
It's about a 2 hour and 45 minute drive to this park from Elk Mountain Ranch, located in Buena Vista. Many guests tack this onto the beginning or end of their stay at the ranch, especially those driving up from the Southern part of Colorado.
5. Lone Mountain Ranch- Yellowstone National Park in Montana
A must-see national park, Yellowstone is famous for Old Faithful Geyser, but you may be equally impressed by the bubbling mud pots, steam vents and traffic-stopping bison. Lone Mountain Ranch, located in the heart of Yellowstone Country in Big Sky and just 18 miles from the Northwest Corner and 48 miles from the town of West Yellowstone, is a great ranch to visit for a trip to Yellowstone National Park, especially since you can horseback ride from the ranch into the park. In fact, all of your horseback riding at this historic ranch is in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.
With 2.2 million acres, Yellowstone is larger than Rhode Island and Delaware combined, so make sure you schedule a nice bit of time to explore America's first national park and snuggle down in a cozy cabin with a wood burning stove or fireplace after your adventures.
Check out more great ranches in the Equitrekking Vacation Guide and at Top20Ranches.com. For upcoming travel discounts on great ranch and horseback riding vacations check out Equitrekking Travel Deals.