Guest ranches of yesteryear focused on the family experience. And while many still do, the new reality is that more and more women—often single or empty nesters—want to share their vacations communing with other women. That’s why ranches and outfitters have created “women’s weeks” and “cowgirl getaways” that cater just to the gals.
We’ve rounded up some women-centered programs that have lots to offer.Each is quite unique and offers a different take on the guest ranch vacation experience.If you want to ride from sunup to sundown, there’s a trip for that.Prefer adventurous undertakings, like rock climbing and river rafting?We’ve got that too. Or, do you want to relax and luxuriate in a spa, or work at fulfilling your potential through concentrated life training?Read on.
Regardless of your vacation plans, one thing is certain. If you choose to go on a cowgirl getaway like these featured, you’re sure to come home with memories of the friendships made and the bonds formed, not just with the girls, but with the horses that carry you through your days away!
White Stallion Ranch | Tucson, Arizona
Women-only programs throughout the year. Cactus Cowgirls, 7-nights, 8-days, $2,200. whitestallion.com
Established in 1965, White Stallion Ranch in Tucson is a grand-old dame in the guest ranch world that’s managed to keep up with the times. Take part in special women’s groups dedicated to riding and pampering, with services such as hot-stone message therapy, activities like wine-and-cheese trail rides, and amenities such as an outdoor pool, hot tub, sauna, fitness center and racquet sport courts.
Tasteful adobe-style architecture and rooms, suites, and “casas,” with Southwestern bedcovers, marble sinks and handmade furnishings make this an elegant stay. And the desert landscape with its stately saguaro cactuses is magnificent.
“We develop our women-only events around different themes. Our upcoming Cactus Cowgirls, for instance, includes massage, yoga, and a shopping trip, along with trail rides,” says owner and general manager Russell True.
“And you don’t have to be intrigued with horses! We will make that happen with a program that will make you feel safe and happy on horseback.”
Rancho de los Caballeros | Wickenburg, Arizona
Rates start at $299/night for 3-days, 2-nights. ranchodeloscaballeros.com. 800-684-5030
On the northern fringes of the Sonoran desert, Rancho De Los Caballeros offer a classic southwestern guest ranch experience. Historic casitas—boasting luxurious Spanish Colonial furnishings and modern amenities—look out onto saguaro-studded pathways that lead to a handsome ranch-style lodge and fine dining room. The stables offer trail rides and team penning, and lucky guests may see the large remuda stampeded through the property by the ranch’s cowboys, a sight right out of the Old West! But this is the new west as well, and the 20,000 acre Rancho also offers an on-site destination spa (complete with meditation labyrinth), a golf course, swimming pool, nature hikes, and desert-cookouts under the stars.
The ranch’s Giddy-Up Gals Package includes casita accommodations, all meals, unlimited scheduled trail rides, team penning and nightly entertainment. Pack your favorite jeans and boots for this sun-drenched, spectacular, girls-only escape.
Blue Sky Sage Horseback Adventures | Big Piney, Wyoming
Girls Ride Out! 7-days, $2,500 all-inclusive. blueskysage.com
If camping off-the-grid with other gals is your desire, Blue Sky Sage Horse Adventures offers “Girls Ride Out” vacations. Here, the emphasis is on bonding with other women and horses—you’ll spend most of your recreational time in the saddle exploring Wyoming’s spectacular Wind River Range and the Great Divide Basin, viewing wildlife and perhaps even seeing wild Mustangs. Downtime mainly entails chatting over morning meals and evening campfires, sing alongs, and storytelling. Campers sleep in individual Cowboy Range tee-pees in comfy cots and dine on meals like organic buffalo prepared by a camp chef.
Bobbi Wade and her husband, Mike, are both third-generation Wyoming horsemen who love sharing their passion for horses and the outdoors.
“We have women every year who tell me they have never camped in their lives. But they roll right into it and find out it is a wonderful way of being,” says Bobbi. “Women often find the peace they’d lost or never discovered and go home having changed.”
The Hideout Lodge & Guest Ranch | Shell, Wyoming
Cowgirl Getaways, custom-tailored women’s trips. Summer stay, 6-nights, $2,885; lower cost in spring and fall. thehideout.com
Wyoming has more guest ranches than any other state, and each property has a unique personality. The Hideout Lodge & Guest Ranch is no exception, though it is exceptional. Its managers, former corporate exec Peter De Cabooter and his wife, Marjin Werquin, moved here from Belgium, bringing European style to the western experience. You may hear a half-dozen or more languages among guests, who hail from Western Europe, South America, North America and the South Pacific. Staff here mirrors this multi-lingual, multi-cultural reality.
Given its discerning clientele, ranch life here is sumptuous – guest rooms include espresso makers and complimentary bottles of wine. Landscaping is meticulous and the gentle valley location gives way to spectacular rock cliffs in the near distance. And while the cuisine is western, the chef can accommodate a variety of dietary requests, within reason (though a paleo diet might best suit the Certified Angus Beef).
Though the ranch doesn’t offer women-specific trips, its “Girls Getaways” can be tailored to the specific needs of all-women groups. According to Peter, it’s the kind of ranch where women feel safe, well-attended and deliciously cared for.
“We try to create a perfect world…clean, polite and open to all cultures,” he said. “We are also a very female-oriented organization…we’re not the hardcore John Wayne type ranch.”
Bonanza Creek Country Ranch | Martinsdale, Montana
Cowgirl Retreat. Rates vary by retreat, but expect about $300 per day, 3-4 day stay. bonanzacreekcountry.com
Judith Voldseth of Bonanza Creek Country Ranch attended a life coaching course called “Touched by A Horse,” that led to the creation of the women’s-only Cowgirl Retreat. It’s a guest ranch vacation meant to profoundly impact women’s lives. Imagine having both a life coach and an equine coach, then add to that a group of strong, supportive women to ride with each day. The trip is designed for experienced riders.
“This retreat is for anyone who loves horses, nature, and is interested in getting more from life,” said Judith, whose family has been involved in the guest ranch for five generations, going back to 1877.
There’s only four cabins at Bonanza, so the groups are small and intimate. The ranch is situated in south central Montana, where the mountains meet the plains, so there is plenty of both flatland riding (great for cantering) and scenic trails with views of the Castle and Crazy Mountain Ranges. Legitimately earn the title “cowgirl” by working cattle on this genuine working ranch, and enjoy a hot tub or massage when you’re through.
“Sometimes you find yourself in the middle of nowhere, and sometimes in the middle of nowhere, you find yourself,” is an apt phrase that captures the essence of these trips.
North Fork Ranch | Shawnee, Colorado
Expect to pay about $300 per night. northforkranch.com
Of the destinations here, North Fork Ranch offers the most traditional dude ranch vacation. Situated in the Colorado Rockies, it’s owned and operated by Dean and Karen May, who met as young people while working at another guest ranch. Though North Fork features such things as zip lining and river rafting, the focus is on time-honored ranch activities like hay rides, camp fires, barn dances and trail rides in the mountain valleys. (For those who’d like to learn fly fishing, this Orvis endorsed destination can’t be topped).
Beginning and experienced riders alike will enjoy the horse program, as there are horses for all abilities. Guided rides of two to four hours take place on thousands of acres of the Pike National Forest, which surround the ranch on three sides.
There are no women-specific rides or packages (past ones simply didn’t draw enough participants), but with a capacity of just 35 guests, the Mays can custom-tailor activities to a groups’ needs, whether it be a riding club, a ladies’ social group, or a mother and daughter getaway.
“We don’t have department heads here,” says Karen. “You’re not spending vacation at the Marriott, you’re joining us in our home. We raised our family here and we treat our guests like family.”
C Lazy U Ranch | Granby, Colo.
Women in the Rockies, 4 nights, $2,152. Julie Goodnight Horsemanship, 3 or 4 nights, $381 per night. clazyu.com
Anyone looking for a resort-style wellness retreat with an adventure twist should check out C Lazy U Ranch’s “Women in the Rockies” events. Women spend time with Duke University health coaches Janet Solie and Trudy Kissiah in a program focused on diet, exercise, overall health and stress relief, plus what the women call “mindful living strategies.”
In the off-time, participants can go horseback riding, fly fishing, or mountain biking, take a class from a tennis pro or yoga instructor, or swim in the indoor/outdoor pool. And the spa services rival those of the finest resorts and hotels. There’s no end of possibilities!
Besides the highly popular event (you’ll likely need to book a year in advance), C Lazy U offers horseback seminars by famed clinician Julie Goodnight. These women’s events feature extensive arena work and rider training integrated with yoga instruction, which Julie believes complements horsemanship.
“C Lazy U has always been a premier luxury property for those that want an authentic western experience but also the comforts people come to expect when traveling in major cities,” said marketing director Brady Johnson. You’ll be well cared for!
Red Horse Mountain Ranch | Harrison, Idaho
Fall Ladies’ Week $3,291. redhorsemountain.com
When tourist season winds down at Red Horse Mountain Ranch in northern Idaho, women take control.
“Ladies’ week is always the final week of September, the end of our season,” says wrangler turned office manager Andi Bordelon. “It’s one of the most popular activities of the season.”
So popular, in fact, that the ranch expanded the offering to two back-to-back weeks for 2016. About 40 women take part in this all-inclusive adventure, which is especially popular among mother/daughter pairs as well as solo travelers. While the package is little different than the regular season visits to Red Horse Mountain, they add special touches like a champagne dinner and massage therapy.
Guests can ride, hike or bike in 300,000 acres of the Bitterroot Wilderness. According to Bordelon, you can ride everyday and never see the same trail twice. There are also a rock climbing wall, archery range, shooting range, kayaking trips and fly fishing. With a nearly one-to-one staff to guest ratio, you can count on personalized, attentive service.
“Ladies week is a breath of fresh air for everyone, including the staff. It marks the end of the season. It’s high energy, and everything caters to them,” says Bordelon. “Everyone comes away having made new friends.”
How’d you like to get together with like-minded women, ride horses, take trips, and throw parties all year around? Those are just a few of the benefits of being part of 40-Something Cowgirls, a club for horsewomen with chapters throughout the U.S.
Kristi Williams got the idea for the group while living in Oregon. In 2010, the avid horse woman invited 13 friends over and proposed they start a club for women with an interest in riding. The ladies opened up their checkbooks to fund the original chapter. In just two months, it had grown to 70 members.
Since then, 40-Something Cowgirls has expanded to more than 40 chapters (with dozens more pending) ranging in size from 10 to 70 members. Each chapter pursues its own interests—some are hardcore horse riders with competitive goals, others are more into recreational pursuits. Activities have included rodeos, trail rides, cowgirl polo matches, camping trips, charity fund raisers and parades. Come spring, you may find the gals taking part in Easter egg hunts and in the fall, Halloween costume contests.
Riders and non-riders take part, with and without horses in their barns or stables. In fact, some chapters encourage “never evers” or women who rode as kids and want to make a comeback. Experienced riders often serve as mentors to the newbies. And you don’t have to be in your 40s to join. As Kristi says, “Some of us say we’re 40-something—and holding. A few of us haven’t seen 40 in a long time!”
Once you join, you can take part in the activities of all the chapters. Events take place every month of the year and there are hundreds from which to choose. And if there isn’t a chapter near where you live, you can create your own. It just takes five women with a shared interest.
“It’s sort of like a sorority,” says Kristi, who now lives in Breckenridge, Texas. “It’s all about sharing experiences. Life experiences, too.”
For info on chapters, events, and how to form your own group, contact 40somethingcowgirls.com.
Tough-1 multi-pocket insulated saddle bag will easily hold a 12-pack on each side and include a removable ice liner. tough1.com