Riding Tips

Adults Can Go to Horse Camp, Too! (6 Top Ranches)

western adult horse camp
Written by Aimee B.

How to Choose a Western Riding Vacation

Are you longing to escape the hustle and bustle of daily life? Maybe you fantasize about completely unplugging from it all and getting back to nature. Or perhaps you’ve always wanted to try your hand at driving cattle or riding the open range under an endless blue sky.

Regardless of your horseback riding experience, there is a perfect vacation just waiting for you to discover! Whether you’re looking for a gal pal retreat, family vacation, or a unique “glamping” experience, this post highlights the best Western riding experiences available in multiple states across the country. So sit back, relax, and imagine the stress melting away as you get a taste of life at a different pace.

Key Considerations

Keep the following in mind when planning your dream riding vacation:

  1. Are you planning a trip with other people who may have a different level of interest in riding than you? If so, you may want to consider options with a variety of other activities.
  2. Although many ranches don’t feature pictures of people riding in helmets or boots, helmets are ALWAYS advisable. Make sure to pack your own safety gear!
  3. Think about your budget. These types of trips can vary significantly in price; better to establish a budget early so you aren’t stressed on your Western-themed vacation.
  4. How involved do you want to be with the day-to-day care of the horses and other ranch animals? Several vacation options include you in the entire experience, while others offer a more hands-off approach.
  5. Are you looking for a total immersion into ranch life, i.e., zero cell service or television?
  6. Is a specific landscape more appealing? Are you fascinated by rolling hills, trees, and lakes? If so, you may not enjoy a desert-type experience.
  7. Although several ranches are pet-friendly, most do not allow you to bring your own horses along.
  8. Will you be bringing your kids? If so, consider ranches with kid-friendly options.

Top Six Western Riding Vacation Options

Vacation Type Option Location Cost*
Best Overnight Camp The Ranch at Rock Creek Philipsburg, Montana $$$$$
Best All-Inclusive Option Stagecoach Trails Guest Ranch Yucca, Arizona $$
Best for Beginners Dixie Dude Ranch Bandera, Texas $
Best Wanna-Be Wrangler Black Mountain Ranch McCoy, Colorado $$$
Best Family Option Rocking Horse Ranch Highland, New York $
Best Gal Pal Get-Away The Hideout Shell, Wyoming $$$

Costs: $ 500-1000, $$ 1000-2000, $$$ 2000-5000, $$$$ 5000 up

The Ranch at Rock Creek

Philipsburg, Montana

The Ranch at Rock Creek is where luxury meets breathtaking Rocky Mountain landscapes.

This all-inclusive experience offers gourmet ranch-to-table dining and accommodations ranging from an elegantly restored barn to canvas “glamping” tents and luxury homes.

And with activities such as fly fishing and photography classes, it’s no wonder that The Ranch at Rock Creek has been awarded the prestigious Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star designation for multiple years running.

You’ll love it if:

  • You’re looking for an all-inclusive experience
  • Your style is best described as “Western with a touch of elegance”
  • Gourmet, sustainably sourced ranch-to-table cuisine excites you

What to know before you go:

  • “All-inclusive” means most daily activities, unlimited beer, wine, spirits, and snacks
  • Reserved access to the fitness center, hot tub, and the pool is available
  • 3 to 5-day booking minimums depending on the time of year, are required
  • Bring your own boots, jeans, and helmet for horseback riding
  • You can choose short or long trail rides depending upon your previous riding experience
  • Arena lessons are also offered to improve your horsemanship skills
  • If you’re curious about authentic ranching, sign up to shadow the Ranch Manager as they go about their daily routine

Additional / Nearby Activities:

  • Visit a nearby ghost town or learn about the mining history in the region
  • Catch a live show at the oldest functioning opera house in Montana
  • The Ranch at Rock Creek offers a weekly rodeo during the summer

Avoid this option if:

  • You’re looking for a budget-friendly option
  • You’re afraid of wildlife

Learn more: https://www.theranchatrockcreek.com/

Stagecoach Trails Guest Ranch

Yucca, Arizona

Stagecoach Trails Guest Ranch is a relaxing oasis in the middle of the Arizona desert, and an hour from the nearest town.

The ranch offers all the ambiance of the old West with a slightly modern feel.

Offering an array of amenities, including a pool, hot tub, and private cabins, Stagecoach Trails is the perfect place to unplug and unwind. Although ranked the top contender for best all-inclusive option, it came in a close second as the best family option.

You’ll love it if:

  • Beautiful desert landscape is your jam
  • You want a taste of the cowboy life (without the sleeping bags and saddle sores!)
  • Your group has a variety of riding levels and abilities

What to know before you go:

  • Stagecoach Trails Guest Ranch is wheelchair and handicap accessible
  • The ranch has been awarded the Traveler’s Choice Award from Trip Advisor with an overall 5-star 5-star rating from 512 reviewers
  • Wranglers will match you to a horse that fits your riding ability, but horseback riding is optional
  • If you’re not into riding, check out other fun activities, including archery, ATV riding, fat tire mountain biking, and wagon rides
  • Rates include 3 meals a day and 2 horseback rides, as well as access to a variety of other activities on the ranch

Additional / Nearby Activities:

  • The Grand Canyon is 2.5 hours from the ranch
  • A Botanical Garden is 20 minutes from the ranch
  • Las Vegas is 2 hours from the ranch
  • See wild burros and old west shootouts in a town 45 minutes from the ranch

Avoid this option if:

  • You’re looking for non-ranch activities
  • You don’t love s’mores and campfires at the end of a long day of horseback riding

Learn more: stagecoachtrailsranch.com

Dixie Dude Ranch

Bandera, Texas

Located in the cowboy capital of the world, the Dixie Dude Ranch offers guests a historical glimpse into the past. And with its sweeping views of the Texas Hill Country, it provides a breathtaking perspective in all directions.

It has been designated a Texas Historic Ranch by the Texas Department of Agriculture.

Dixie Dude Ranch offers a no-frills, stripped-down view of Texas Hill Country by horseback. It was nominated as the best beginner experience given the relatively short trail rides.

You’ll love it if:

  • You’re longing for a completely unplugged experience
  • You’ve ever dreamed of being a cowgirl or cowboy, riding the open range
  • You’re looking for a less intense horseback riding option

What to know before you go:

  • Rates include 3 meals per day and 2 horseback rides
  • Standard rides are around 1 hour each and are typically walk/trot
  • Advanced rides and sunset rides are available upon request for adults and teenagers
  • Riding lessons and clinics are available for an extra fee
  • The Dixie Dude Ranch was featured on the Today Show with Hoda and Kathie Lee
  • Massages are available for an added fee
  • Meals are homemade with hearty portions served family-style
  • Cowboy breakfasts cooked up on the open range are served on occasion as well
  • No alcohol is served on the premises, but you can bring your own

Additional / Nearby Activities:

  • The Dixie Dude Ranch is located an hour from San Antonio, where you can see the Alamo, River Walk, Sea World, and Fiesta Texas
  • Tubing, kayaking, and canoeing are popular local pastimes
  • And don’t forget to check out the Frontier Times Museum!

Avoid this option if:

  • You’re looking for a luxury vacation
  • The thought of spotty cell phone service terrifies you

Learn more: dixieduderanch.com

Black Mountain Ranch

McCoy, Colorado

Black Mountain Ranch is a working ranch that offers its guests a glimpse into the Western way of life.

After pairing you with a horse that matches your riding abilities and preferences, you’re free to ride as much or as little as you desire throughout the week.

You’re also invited to participate in an authentic longhorn cattle drive at the end of the week, one of the main reasons this ranch was voted the best wannabe wrangler option!

You’ll love it if:

  • You’re looking for an authentic ranch experience
  • You want to completely unplug from everyday life
  • Your idea of relaxation includes horseback riding in stunning Colorado high country

What to know before you go:

  • Black Mountain Ranch is rated 5 stars by 314 reviewers on Trip Advisor and scored the Traveler’s Choice Award in 2021
  • Reservations are Sunday to Saturday from mid-May to early September
  • Black Mountain Ranch reservations include either family or adult only weeks
  • Although the emphasis is on horseback riding, there are a range of other activities offered at the ranch, including trap shooting, live music, and fly fishing
  • Relaxing and enjoying the scenery from your cabin is also encouraged!
  • Staff is invited to mingle with guests, which creates a friendly, tightly-knit group experience

Additional / Nearby Activities:

  • Try your hand at leatherworking or wine glass etching at the ranch
  • If you’re feeling especially daring, try the white water rafting and overnight pack trip offered by the ranch
  • The town of McCoy is located between Vail and Steamboat Springs and is a popular destination for hunting, fishing, camping, and hiking
  • Attending a local rodeo is also a fun option

Avoid this option if:

  • You’re looking for a get-away with a wide variety of activities
  • Getting to know fellow campers is not your idea of a good time

Learn more: blackmtnranch.com

Rocking Horse Ranch

Highland, New York

Rocking Horse Ranch is an action-packed vacation destination that will please even the pickiest of campers.

It offers year-round seasonal fun ranging from snow tubing, skiing, and sleigh rides to mini-golf, trail riding, and even a wildlife exhibit.

It’s tough to imagine an option with more activity choices than Rocking Horse Ranch, so it is nominated as the best family-friendly option!

You’ll love it if:

  • Your fellow campers don’t share your enthusiasm for horses
  • You’re looking for an all-inclusive package
  • Family-friendly activities are important
  • You want a huge variety of activities in one location

What to know before you go:

  • Packages include food that is prepared by graduates of the Culinary Institute of America
  • With so many possible activities, from an aquatic park to nightly entertainment and even laser tag, you may want to make a game plan in advance!
  • During certain months of the year, they also provide supervised childcare of up to 75 minutes per day, for an extra fee
  • Helmets are mandatory for any rider under the age of 18 and recommended for everyone else
  • Horseback riding is available for beginners, intermediate, and advanced riders
  • Pack boots and long pants if you plan to partake in horseback riding

Additional / Nearby Activities:

  • The ranch is located in the Hudson Valley with close access to golf courses, vineyards, and orchards
  • You may also enjoy checking out local historical sites, including Eleanor Roosevelt’s mansion, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s house, and the Vanderbilt mansion

Avoid this option if:

  • You’re looking for an authentic ranch experience
  • You want a horse-centric vacation

Learn more: https://www.rockinghorseranch.com/

The Hideout Lodge

Shell, Wyoming

Horsemanship is central at The Hideout, where 650,000 acres guarantees you’ll never see the same scenery twice. And between the mountains, canyons, meadows, and lakes, the beauty is never-ending.

When not in the saddle, relax in your luxurious cabin or house or enjoy a gourmet meal.

This is, hands-down, the best option if you’re planning a vacation with your fellow horse-loving gal-pals!

You’ll love it if:

  • You want to advance your riding skills and horsemanship skills while vacationing
  • You’re interested in trying nature photography
  • Horses are the front and center of your vacation

What to know before you go:

  • The staff at The Hideout take safety seriously and pair you with a horse that matches your riding skills
  • The ranch maintains 130 horses for 25 weekly guests
  • Stays are booked in either 6 or 13-day increments from late March through the end of October
  • Helmets are required for guests ages 14 years and younger, but encouraged for everyone
  • Rides can be at the beginner, intermediate, or advanced level, but are geared towards the least experienced member of the group
  • There are opportunities to trot and lope depending upon the terrain, the length of the ride, and the rider’s experience level

Additional / Nearby Activities:

  • Natural horsemanship clinics are offered, as is cattle work
  • A range of other activities, including fly fishing, hiking, and trap shooting, are offered
  • Take a dip in the lap pool with an unforgettable view

Avoid this option if:

  • You’re not looking for a completely horse-focused experience

Learn more: https://thehideout.com/

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is Western horse riding called?

Western horse riding encompasses various disciplines, including reining, Western pleasure, Western horsemanship, and multiple types of games such as barrel racing and pole bending.

Historically, Western riding styles first evolved with cowboys in the West who spent long hours in the saddle and used their horses to work cattle.

Q: What is the difference between English and Western riding?

One significant difference is the saddle. Western saddles were developed with rider comfort in mind. They also have a horn which was helpful for roping and working cattle in the days of the cowboy.

English saddles allow more contact between the horse and the rider’s seat and legs. And English riding styles typically include more contact between the rider’s hands and the horse’s mouth via the reins.

Q: Is Western riding better for beginners?

It can be a fantastic way for beginners to start riding! Western saddles can feel more secure than English saddles for beginning riders.

Q: Is Western riding good exercise?

Absolutely! Clear communication between horse and rider requires frequent signals from a rider’s trunk, seat, legs, and hands, making constant adjustment and motion part of the riding experience.

Parting Thoughts

Each of the described experiences offers the chance for you to unplug from the world and experience a completely different type of living. And seeing life through a new lens always helps to refocus and reprioritize. It helps you see what really matters and ditch what doesn’t. And hopefully, you take just a little bit of the cowboy/cowgirl spirit back with you!

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About the author


Aimee B.

Aimee grew up riding and showing in western pleasure and horsemanship through 4-H. She began riding dressage 7 years ago and is currently training her 3.5-year-old Friesian/Quarter Horse.