Sure, we live in Texas, and you might own a pair of cowboy boots. But when’s the last time you went roping and riding, listened to stories around a campfire or gazed at an endless expanse of stars in the night sky? Those adventures are closer than you think—just mosey on out to one of these dude ranches for a family vacation you won’t forget.
Staying closer to Dallas-Fort Worth? Check out our roundup of 14 local places to let out your inner cowboy.
This working ranch offers an eclectic mix of modern amenities and rustic charm. Situated on 800 acres, Beaumont Ranch offers guests the chance to learn roping and riding alongside real cowboys and ranch hands.
Other activities include zip lining, archery, ATV riding and shooting sporting clays. Herds of longhorns, horses, llamas, goats and other wildlife roam the property, so you never know what you might encounter while enjoying a walk around the ranch.
All meals are served family-style in a traditional Western buffet. Lodging options include 26 unique suites, rooms, guest cabins and homes spread out across the property.
Dixie Dude Ranch
Dixie Dude Ranch, founded in 1901, is also a working ranch, with some added bells and whistles to entertain guests of all ages and interests. Get the inside scoop on real ranch living during daily horseback rides led by cowboys and cowgirls who raise livestock and compete in local rodeos. The ranch also offers hiking, swimming, basketball and ping-pong, to name a few activities. An added bonus for mom and dad—there’s an on-site licensed massage therapist.
Depending on the size of your party, accommodations include a variety of units within cabins, cottages, two-story “bunkhouses” and lodge rooms. Family-style meals are served three times a day with traditional ranch-style fare such as barbecue brisket, sausage pork ribs, fried chicken, mashed potatoes and homemade rolls. Most nights end with a good ol’ fashioned campfire accompanied by Western music.
As a testament to its authenticity, Dixie Dude Ranch was recognized by Southern Living magazine and featured on CNN as one of the “6 best places to be a cowboy (for a while).”
Established more than 100 years ago, this West Texas ranch puts the beauty of nature front and center with a picturesque views of the surrounding Davis Mountains. Take a trail ride through the mountains and streams to enjoy breathtaking vistas (no previous horse riding experience necessary), and littles under 5 can take a Buckaroo Ride with a horse led by a wrangler.
Prude Ranch also offers “Cowboyology” classes (covering what it takes to be a genuine cowboy or cowgirl) plus a hands-on learning experience about snakes and other reptiles. Want to brush up on your survival skills? Learn how to use a magnetic compass in the orienteering class, which concludes with a friendly team competition. More ranch activities include a challenge course, paintball, swimming, hiking and other outdoor sports.
Once the sun goes down, guests can enjoy an evening hayride and campfire complete with musical entertainment and first-hand stories from the cowboys and cowgirls who call Prude Ranch home.
Accommodations include campgrounds, recreational vehicle hook-ups, guest lodges, bunk houses and family cabins. The ranch doesn’t offer on-site dining, although multiple dining options to fit all budgets and culinary tastes are just minutes away. (Also minutes away—Marfa, in case you want to try to get a look at the mysterious lights.)
Rebel Hill Guest Ranch
Rebel Hill is a fourth-generation working ranch with six ponds and a 15-acre lake. Guests enjoy a laid-back experience here, with only a guided horseback ride on the schedule each day. The rest of your time can be spent hiking, fishing, swimming or visiting Rebel Hill’s on-site Wildlife Park, where you’ll encounter deer, elks, a yak, kangaroos, lemurs, longhorns and prairie dogs. There are also 100 horses roaming the ranch that might even show up for a friendly visit on your front porch.
Guest accommodations include one-, two- and three-bedroom cabins with fully functional kitchens, barbecue pits, picnic tables, and firewood and fire rings for building the perfect campfire. End the evening with a waterfront dinner outdoors on the deck or cozy up inside for dinner and a movie.
Looking for a Western experience and a little luxury? Try Wildcatter Ranch. If it seems familiar, perhaps that’s because the ranch has served as part of the setting for the renowned television miniseries Lonesome Dove.
With the guidance of genuine cowboys, guests enjoy a variety of activities—including trail rides featuring beautiful views of the North Texas Hill Country and pony rides for kiddos under 10. You can also take a class on horse care and grooming to learn more about these beautiful animals, or take your pick of roping, branding, clay shooting, archery or tomahawk throwing. For adults, there’s also a pistol and rifle range (guests are required to provide their own guns and ammunition).
After a busy day on the ranch, wind down with a sunset ride and a delicious meal at the Wildcatter Steakhouse, the on-site restaurant. Depending on the size of your group, guest homes, upscale cabin suites and charming hotel rooms are all available.
This article was originally published in April 2022.
Photo courtesy of Dixie Dude Ranch