With the hope of fewer restrictions this coming season, there is more reason than ever to rise with the chickens or the cowboys. Lazy, COVID-riddled days are of yesteryear. Now, there’s much to be accomplished and enjoyed, whether on vacation, at leisure, or at work. Ranching life doesn’t vary. Outdoor activity will feel refreshing and exciting, especially in the horizon of long spring days of bird calls, aromatic blooms, and the return of normalcy. Take advantage of the earliest of morning light at these dude ranches to capture the best of sunrise activity.
Rainbow Trout Ranch, Colorado
Rise with the Rocks
Rainbow Trout Ranch is arguably one of the most iconic Western Ranches in America, as it is home to the second-largest wooden structure EVER constructed West of the Mississippi River. The stunning and impressive behemoth of a lodge is so remarkable, that any moment of the day beckons guests to fancy the hummingbirds dancing through the numerous feeders, relax in the wooden rocking chairs and take in the altitude of the ranch’s 9,200 feet.
Rising between valleys and mountains and rock outcroppings is the ranch, in Antonito, a remote town near the border of Colorado and New Mexico. Diverse in landscape to other Colorado locations, Rainbow Trout capitalizes on their unique position to view the forest. One of the more popular activities is the Sunrise Charity Hike. On the designated morning, hikers gather slightly before 6 am in the main lodge before embarking on a 50-minute climb up to the top of Charity Peak. Behind the ranch are three peaks—Faith, Hope and Charity—all superb for hiking, and Faith Peak even has a hikers logbook for signatures of completed hikers.
Wranglers bring along plenty of snacks, juice, water, and coffee for a magical sunrise atop the peak. The group has the valley view to themselves as they can watch the wranglers bringing in the morning herd arrive along with the sunrise. Hikers enjoy a nice, leisurely trek back to the lodge where family and friends join in the morning breakfast set against the roaring lodge fire.
Moose Head Ranch, Wyoming
Nestled next to Grand Teton National Park, privately owned and operated Moose Head Ranch, helps visitors escape to surreal landscapes and unplugged accommodations. Moose Head has no televisions, phones, or WiFi in the cabins. The ranch can accommodate up to 44 guests in authentic cabins scattered throughout the property’s pines and cottonwoods. For many of these cabins, you can view and easily access Moose Head’s stocked trout ponds.
Morning sunrise is absolutely an ideal time to try your hand at fly-fishing in the stocked ponds located on ranch. The summer mornings are much cooler than the midday heat and the trout aren’t as lethargic with the fresh air and non-direct sunlight. For more experienced anglers, or for any guest who can snag (pun intended) a fishing guide before the morning meal can access the ranch’s Snake River entry points to have at it with the big boys. The Snake River is legendary for native Yellowstone cutthroat trout, which are noted as very willing to take a dry fly, and also monster rainbow and brown trout. The river is also alive early in the morning when fewer anglers are pressuring the good fishing spots and the temperatures are still below 70 degrees.
K Diamond K Guest Ranch, Washington
Hunt the Morning
K Diamond K Guest Ranch is a 1,600-acre ranch situated on the eastern side of Washington, near the Canadian border. The full-service, working cattle and horse guest ranch has over 60-head of horses, and is open for four distinct seasons, making this a rarity amongst dude ranches. The ranch is ideally remote, to embrace all the wildlife and opportunity of the vastness of area. Spokane International Airport is 130 miles away and some guests will fly into the West Kootenay Regional Airport, 95 miles from ranch property.
The year-round ranch’s schedule overlaps with essential hunting species, for many mammals, big and small. While all four seasons the ranch offers sporting clays and archery, it’s the in-season, early morning hunts that are worth their weight in gold, or the best natural meat one can hunt. Seasons vary, but the ranch can offer deer, elk, bear, upland bird, wild turkey, migratory waterfowl and morning. And, all good hunters know, you’ve got be up pretty early to have the best of the hunt!
PS—For those accompanying hunters, or want to take the morning off, November 1st through March 31st the ranch allows guests to help feed their over 100 cattle and horse daily while riding on the hay wagon.
Hunewell Circle H Guest Ranch, California
Photo-worthy with Foals
Surrounded by over 26,000 acres of alpine meadows and fragrant sagebrush, bordered by timbered peaks, the scene is already set for something spectacular come sunrise. Hunewell Circle H Guest Ranch, located in Bridgeport, California, on the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, bordering Yosemite National Park, is a historic, working cattle and guest ranch. The property boasts over 100 well-trained horses. Their breeding program is certainly impressive, and something for which to yearn to watch, the gentling of young foals and yearlings.
Rise before the sun, or with it, and head towards the dining room of the founder’s Victorian ranch house for coffee or tea, if need be, and warm up the hands and heart, it’s going to be an emotional morning. Ideally, with camera in tow, follow instructions from the wranglers or manager to a landscape that focuses both on the sunrise and the surroundings of foals gently arising, nursing and smelling the morning dew. This moment is intimate, special and not a rarity.
The elevation of the ranch is 6,500 feet above sea level, meaning summer morning temperatures can be breaking freezing point before soaring to 70° or 80° F during midday. The morning dew, set against breathtaking snow-capped mountains with the lulling sound of horse and hay is certainly one of the sweetest means in which to start a true Western day.
Bar W Guest Ranch, Montana
Glacier National Park sounds chilly, but that shouldn’t prohibit a little polar plunge come summer morning! Bar W Guest Ranch, a year-round dude ranch, is situated at the base of Spencer Mountain, nestled between two pine-covered ridges. Easy reference points include proximity to the town of Whitefish and the Mountain Ski Resort. The 40-guest ranch has either three-night or six-night package stays with close to a million acres of land to ride and roam. Between skeet shooting, archery, fly fishing, roping, cattle drives, rodeo games, wagon rides, square dancing, cookouts, and campfires, there’s a lot to be accomplished.
Why not start with something so splashy, it can’t be done at most other places? Bar W Guest Ranch has abundant water options, so take your pick! Spencer Lake is accessed via a gravel path from the ranch. There is a dock that is used for swimming and to tie the rowboat and canoe to for the ranch. Make the most of the morning and take the icy plunge! Make sure to have a towel or robe, and a cozy cap to warm up, it’s well worth the waters and it’s immensely beneficial to the immune system.
After warming up, guests can paddle across the lake in the ranch’s boats, ensconced with local wildlife and waters, full of large perch and pike.
Geronimo Trail Guest Ranch
Awake with Ancestors
With all the desert, mountain, river, and rouged terrain, it’s a surprise to many, that few dude and guest ranches actually exist in New Mexico, the land of enchantment. Located in the 3.3-million-acre Gila National Forest, in the southwest part of the state, Geronimo Trail Guest Ranch is a boutique ranch with a maximum guest count of 16. There are four cabins, equipped for all seasons, as the ranch operates March through mid-November. Regardless of the season, there is something very special to discover as the sun peaks over the mountains and exposes the history of the land.
Saddle up early, or, this adventure can also be accomplished via human foot. Wranglers will lead, and ranch guests can discover the pit houses and cliff dwellings of the Mimbres people, a civilization that dates back to 200 to 1150 AD. The dude ranch is the actual homeland of Geronimo and the Chiricahua Apaches, Basque sheepherders, and tin mining. There are artifacts and impressive evidence of these amazing peoples in every nuance of the region. So few rides or adventures throughout the West can provide this type of hands-on experience just steps from the main lodge.
Do you find yourself wanting to visit all of these ranches? We cannot blame you. That’s why we’re here to help! Contact the Dude Ranchers' Association today to help you narrow down your destination options, so you can book your next sunrise adventure at a dude ranch! 307-587-2339 | firstname.lastname@example.org