Modern Nomad is a weekly column dedicated to mobile gear, must-see world destinations, tips for life on the road, and traveling better through technology.
Some say that men have gone soft — that we’ve strayed too far from our rugged, self-sufficient roots. Enter: the modern dude ranch. Sure, today’s ranches are often far more luxurious than anywhere our pioneering ancestors may have called home. But at least you can brag to your friends that you spent the week wrangling cattle from the back of a horse. As long as you Instagram it, that’s what actually happened, right? Here are four of the best U.S. destinations to get your cowboy on this winter.
Bar W Guest Ranch (Whitefish, Montana)
Montana is inarguably among the most rugged states in the U.S. But, even in “Big Sky Country”, it’s not all about roughing it like the pioneers. The sophisticated folks at Bar W Guest Ranch know how to cowboy like gentlemen. In winter, the nearby valley is blanketed in a crisp, picture-perfect coating of snow, providing some of the state’s best cross-country skiing opportunities. But the ranch is also home to one-of-a-kind country kitsch experiences like sleigh ride dinners, square dancing, and ice fishing.
Red Rock Ranch (Jackson Hole, Wyoming)
Amid the country’s heartland, where “cowboy” is the default occupation, the folks at Wyoming’s Red Rock Ranch have been ranching for more than 40 years. While the accommodations are as luxurious as any on this list, the available daily activities are far more John Wayne-worthy. In addition to horseback riding, trap shooting, fly-fishing, and hiking are also available. As an added bonus, the ranch abuts Yellowstone National Park providing easy day trip access.
Alisal Guest Ranch (Solvang, California)
California is the undisputed home of cowboy culture, so it makes sense that the state is home to one of the country’s classiest dude ranches. Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort offers upscale ranching in the heart of Santa Barbara Wine Country. Situated on more than 10,000 acres, this massive property blends rustic Old West charm with modern, resort-like amenities. Here, a day of horseback riding is likely capped off with a glass of cabernet in the on-site spa. Plus, the fact that more than 75 vineyards are within a short drive doesn’t hurt.
Tombstone Monument Ranch (Tombstone, Arizona)
If you don’t mind your ranching with a healthy dose of Wild West kitsch, Tombstone Monument Ranch is calling. The heart of the property is set up like a late-19th-century frontier town, and each of its 18 rooms features a unique Western theme. Its miles of rugged country trails offer horseback riding opportunities for riders of all experience levels. Sure, it’s more like ranching Disney-style, but your drinking buddies don’t need to know that.