dude ranch travels cowgirl magazine

Since Russian immigrant Henry Wickenburg’s founding of the Vulture Mine in 1863, Wickenburg has been a cowboy town.

In its present state, it is also arguably the center of the universe for team ropers who come from all over the U.S. to hone their skills and make the quick jaunts to Las Vegas for the many big money roping events held there.

The town keeps its history and Old West feel in tact. Vulture City Ghost Town, with over 12 faithfully restored buildings and countless artifacts, provides a glimpse of the mining culture and lifestyle in the American Southwest.

The Desert Caballeros Western Museum has a reputation as one of the best in the West. March is an exciting month with the opening of Cowgirl Up!, an annual exhibition and sale of more than 200 pieces by 60 of the best female artists in the Western genre.

To get a feel for the town, grab a brochure at the Chamber of Commerce and walk downtown. Ben’s Saddlery has been doing saddle repair in the same building for 60 years. As the sign outside says, “Tie up, come in, swap stories.” Old Livery Mercantile, housed in a former livery stable, offers turquoise jewelry and hard-to-find gifts with cowboy and Arizona themes.

CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT: Rising Sun, oil on linen, by Michelle Kondos Ann Hanson featured in 2021 at Cowgirl Up: Art From the Other Half of the West, at Desert Caballeros Western Museum. westernmuseum.org. Henry Wickenburg’s Vulture Mine remained in continuous production until the 1940s. Current mine owners have restored 12 of the historic buildings, which are open to the public for self-guided tours. vultureminetours.com. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Kay El Bar is an authentic, intimate western dude ranch where riding is done on endless trails through federal lands adjoining the ranch and guests can watch cattle work or try their hand at team penning.

Six life-sized statues stand at various downtown locations, and with the push of a button visitors can hear stories about historical figures like Elizabeth Smith. She arrived in Wickenburg in 1897 and operated the Vernetta Hotel, now on the National Register. Smith became one of the area’s first female black entrepreneurs.

Wickenburg is also home to Ranch de los Caballeros, a rustic hotel with a guest ranch feel with its own string of trail horses and miles of amazing Arizona trails for riding. The Rancho also hosts the annual Cowgirl Cadillacs Horse Sale touted as “Well-broke horses from ladies, for ladies.”

Just an hour’s drive from Phoenix, Wickenburg has its fair share of dude ranches. Fine-tuned cowgirl experiences can be had at Flying E Ranch, and at the Kay El Bar Guest Ranch, who took its first paying guest in 1918.

Arizona Cowgirl


Western trailblazer Joseph Walker’s party found gold near here in 1863, setting off a flood of settlers and the founding of Arizona’s first Territorial capital in 1864.

Prescott is a town of Western culture. Its Sharlot Hall Museum opened in 1928, boasts six historic buildings including the original Territorial Governor’s Mansion, a log cabin expertly furnished to look as it did when it was built in 1864.

Along with it’s rich history, Montezuma Street and the infamous saloons along Whiskey Row still draw in the wild side, whose history dates back to the 1860s when a local newspaper notice from 1869 once read: “Our once quiet village is getting to be a regular pandemonium. Drunken men quarrel, fight, and shoot.”

At the Palace Restaurant and Saloon, take time to gander at historic photos along the wall and take in the painting of Steve McQueen from the 1972 film “Junior Bonner” whose wild fight scene was filmed there.

The movie pays homage to Prescott Frontier Days. The town’s beloved rodeo, billed as the “World’s Oldest,” began in 1888 and is still producing one of the West’s finest events every July.

CLOCKWISE STARTING TOP LEFT: The Rough Rider monument in Prescott’s Courthouse Plaza; The bar at The Palace Saloon on Whiskey Row; The World’s Oldest Rodeo; The restored Art Deco lobby of the Hassayampa Inn.

Prescott is a great town for walking. Historical plaques along Whiskey Row are fun to read and the collection of preserved Victorian homes on nearby Mount Vernon Street are a sight to see.

In the center of town at the Courthouse Plaza, the Rough Rider monument honors Buckey O’Neill, a Prescott son killed in Teddy Roosevelt’s 1898 charge up San Juan Hill.

Art lovers should not miss the Phippen Museum with its many paintings, bronzes, artifacts, and photos depicting cowboys at work, and the Smoki Museum whose Hopi pueblo houses an impressive collection of Indian art and artifacts.

Prescott Quick Connects

Prescott Visitor’s Bureau, visit-prescott.com

Bunks for the night: Hassayampa Inn, hassayampainn.com

Two steppin’ and sippin’ on Whiskey Row: Palace Saloon, whiskeyrowpalace.com. Jersey Lilly Saloon, jerseylillysaloon.com

Rodeo – Prescott Frontier Days: The World’s Oldest Rodeo, worldsoldestrodeo.com

Oklahoma City

A Cowboy and Indian Town

As a destination, Oklahoma City is a town of many options.  Boasting several of the nation’s most important museums of the cultural West, it is a cowboy and Indian town with a rich history.

Oklahoma City and its surrounding cities are also host to several of the equine industry’s most important performance and show horse events and competitions.

So when planning a getaway to “The Big Friendly,” as it is affectionately known, add an equine event, a visit to at least two of its important museums, grab a little dinner and nightlife downtown or in Bricktown, and if you love fried chicken, take a scenic drive out to Eischen’s Bar, to see “the oldest bar” in the state, and savor some of the best fried chicken this side of the Mississippi.

Oklahoma is home to the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, a must-stop destination for folks who appreciate the Western way of life.

Founded in 1955, it is one of the preeminent museums in the United States dedicated to the cultural history and heritage of the American West. 

Through its collection of art and exhibits, the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum explains all aspects of Oklahoma City’s history and the frontier West in general. Walk through an 8,000-square-foot gallery of cowboy artifacts like saddles and bits and spurs from Spanish Colonial times to today.

Annually, more than 10 million visitors tour its Western art galleries, Old West and American Indian history galleries, and its three halls of fame: the Hall of Great Westerners, Hall of Great Western Performers, and Rodeo Hall of Fame.

A most recent addition to its impressive collections of American culture is the First Americans Museum, which opened in 2021.

In one place, visitors experience the collective histories of 39 distinctive First American Nations in Oklahoma today. This masterpiece of American museums shares the cultural diversity, history, and contributions of the First Americans.

Among the exhibits is WINIKO: Life of an Object. This impressive collection features selections on loan from the Smithsonian representing the 39 tribes to Oklahoma for the first time in 100 years. 

There’s also a restaurant that offers indigenous cuisine and a shop with one-of-a-kind works by Indian artists. 

First Americans Museum is positioned along the Oklahoma River across from downtown and serves as a starting point to explore First American attractions throughout Oklahoma.

CLOCKWISE STARTING TOP LEFT: First Americans Museum; Stockyards City; The End of the Trail by James Earle Fraser in the main lobby of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum; Herb Mignery’s dramatic bronze, Code of the West also at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum; Bricktown at night.

Food and Nightlife

Just a short walk from downtown hotels, event venues, and attractions, industrial-chic Bricktown is a lively entertainment district with repurposed warehouse spaces home to restaurants, piano lounges, and its newest honky tonk, Cowboy Ranch, where you can two-step the night away.

An eclectic mix of shops sell clothing, home decor, and specialty food items. The Bricktown Water Taxi takes riders along the Bricktown Canal for tours and dinner cruises.

Equine Everything

There are several major events held in OKC that visitors can hone in on as a base for a great getaway. OKC is host to several major equine events including NRHA Derby, NRHA Futurity, AQHA Youth World Show, AQHA World Show, and Better Barrel Races World Finals.

It’s worth noting that the Oklahoma National Stockyards is the largest stocker and feeder cattle market in the country and is worth a visit to do a little shopping along Agnew Avenue at several of its popular Western wear stores as well as a COWGIRL favorite’s Shorty’s Caboy Hattery. While you are there, grab a steak at the legendary Cattlemen’s Steakhouse or try on some boots and a cocktail at McClintock Saloon.

Visit OKC, VisitOKC.com

National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, NationalCowboyMuseum.org

First Americans Museum, famok.org

Downtown OKC, downtownokc.com

Bricktown OKC, bricktownokc.com

Cowboy Ranch (Honky Tonk), cowboyranchokc.com

Stockyards City, stockyardscity.org

Shorty’s Caboy Hattery, shortyshattery.com

Cattlemen’s Steakhouse, cattlemensrestaurant.com

McClintock Saloon, mcclintocksaloon.com

Eichen’s Bar, eischensbar.com (45-minute drive from OKC)

Dude Ranch Dream Vacations

Finding a cool place to soothe your inner cowgirl

Shoshone Lodge and Guest Ranch

Shoshone Lodge and Guest Ranch takes advantage of its breathtaking mountain setting.

Shoshone Lodge and Guest Ranch has been in the same family since the 1920s when the main lodge was built from native timbers by Cody’s first county sheriff, Henry Dahlem.  Set in the Shoshone National Forest, this rustic circa-1920s lodge is next to the Sleeping Giant Ski Resort and 3 miles from Yellowstone National Park.

With its almost century-long history, the Shoshone Lodge authentically boasts a beautiful display of craftsmanship.

Individually decorated log cabins offer wood furnishings, minifridges, microwaves, and porches. Some have kitchenettes or full kitchens, mountain views, whirlpool tubs, sofas, fireplaces, and/or TVs.

Amenities include a wood paneled restaurant and a cozy lounge, both with fireplaces. There’s also a picnic area with BBQ grills, a playground, and a courtyard with a creek. Horseback rides and hunting trips are can also part of the experience.

The lodge has been run by members of the family for the past 4 generations and is now owned and operated by Henry’s great-grandson, Mike Christiansen. When you stay at the ranch, you will be personally entertained by Mike and his family and will be able to hear firsthand about the incredible history of Shoshone Lodge.


Circle Bar Guest Ranch

Girls day out on Circle Bar Guest Ranch.

Montana is a magical place in the summer. The rivers are cool, the air is crisp, and the sun feels good on your face. At 5000’ in elevation, the 520-acre Circle Bar Ranch sits at the base of the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest, allowing guests to explore the mountains by horseback, fish for trout in cascading streams, hike to see the bountiful wildlife, or follow a mule train for overnight stays in a mountain cabin. 

The Lodge is where guests mingle over cocktails and then enjoy the evening’s dinner selection. The Lodge also features suites and well-appointed guest rooms. The Cookhouse is their Honeymoon Cabin and is designed for romance with a sunken fireplace and king bed. Then there are the cabins—no two are alike. From the Meadowlark to the Cayuse, the styles and decor vary, as do the number of bedrooms.

Horseback riding is what the ranch is known for with horses suitable to every level of experience. Riding guests traverse the wide-open prairies, ride along (and through) the Judith River and explore the mountains of the National Forest. For more experienced riders, trotting and loping can be incorporated into rides where the terrain allows. For those who would like to get more comfortable in the saddle, lessons are available for an additional charge.

There are plenty of activities from archery to swimming to shooting. For the more adventurous, take a UTV tour to the National Forest and hike to the nearby caves. Or visit nearby Sapphire Village for a taste of the local culture. The nearby mine is the only place where the precious Yogo Sapphires can be found.


Rancho de la Osa

Ride through the ocotillos at Rancho de la Osa, inviting guest room.

Rancho de la Osa is not just a guest ranch, but an historic relic preserved through centuries of continued occupation. And its history is deep. In 1916 Pancho Villa was said to have raided and attempted to take Rancho de la Osa. A cannon ball from that attack was found embedded in the adobe wall of the Hacienda and is on display today.

Arizona’s most historic guest ranch, Rancho de la Osa boasts the state’s oldest continually used building where today’s guest can enjoy a cold margarita after a day of exploration or relaxation. The structure, which is now the ranch Cantina, was built at the Tohono O’Odham village in 1722 by Jesuit missionaries who had traveled with Father Kino.

Located less than an hour-and-a-half drive from Tucson in the high desert grasslands of the Sonoran Desert on the Mexican border, Rancho de la Osa offers an unparalleled guest ranch experience with exceptional food and drink and an abundance of activities for every level of adventurer.

With its 19 luxurious and ornate Mexican influenced adobe guest rooms, each with it own fireplace, Rancho de la Osa pampers its guests in the tradition of old Mexico while offering cultural exploration and a myriad of activities from horseback riding to off-road adventure treks.

Guests can explore Native American ruins or the neighboring 120,000 acres of Buenos Aires Wildlife Refuge by off-road vehicle. 

President Lyndon B. Johnson and wife Lady Bird, as well as Hollywood movie stars Tom Mix, Joan Crawford, and John Wayne, were regulars at the ranch and their lore lives on the trails these luminaries once rode.

Ranch wranglers will match you with a horse appropriate to your experience level and lead you on scenic rides through sandy washes, over rocky terrain, and across lush desert grasslands. 

After a day spent adventuring, enjoy a cool drink in the Cantina, the oldest continually occupied building in the state of Arizona. Then retreat to the Hacienda or your historic guest room to relax in rich Southwestern color and culture.


Rancho de los Caballeros
Wickenburg, Arizona

Lush desert ride, rustic main room at Rancho de los Caballeros.

Who says a cowgirl can’t have it all? If you’re longing to experience the rugged authenticity of a working dude ranch while enjoying the beauty and wide open spaces of the Old West amidst the amenities of a luxury resort, look no further than historic Rancho de los Caballeros, a sumptuous oasis for the senses just sixty minutes north of Phoenix. 

A well-renowned guest ranch since 1948, Rancho de los Caballeros boasts 20,000 acres of rolling hills, Saguaro cactus and the breathtaking vistas of the flowering Sonoran desert extend as far as the eye can see.  This pristine hideaway and ultra–comfortable haven evokes the feeling of a welcoming hacienda, but with the multiple personalities of a country club and destination resort ready to charm and match all sensibilities. 

The variety of rooms, suites, and casitas, many with their own private patio overlooking the stunning desert or mountain views, offer something to suit everyone’s taste, and all reflect the unique southwestern style. The Great Room of the Rancho, with its rustically luxuriant furnishings and massive copper fireplace hood will make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time, to an unrushed era of unstudied elegance and ease.

The culinary team delights in preparing an impressive array of epicurean feasts designed to satisfy every palette. Part of the great charm of Rancho de los Caballeros is the diversity of experiences and activities it is able to offer its guests while retaining the untarnished authenticity and flavor of its dude ranch origins and historic standing.  What has not changed in the fifty-plus years of the Rancho’s heritage is the profound peace and quiet to be had in this desert enclave.


Three Bars Guest Ranch
British Columbia

Main lodge at Three Bars Guest Ranch.

Three Bars Guest and Cattle Ranch is located in the Canadian Rocky Mountains of British Columbia, between Banff and Glacier National Park. This special part of the world offers an abundance of nature, clean, rushing water, green fields, and breathtaking mountain views.

Three Bars Ranch prides itself with Western hospitality and offers a world class horse program with something for everyone.  From green horns to old hands, riding guests can explore the majestic vistas of the Canadian Rockies and enjoy outdoor activities such as river rafting, shooting sports, fly fishing, hiking, ATVing, mountain biking, archery, and a full evening program.

Spacious log cabins emphasize comfort and relaxation, and the newly renovated cabins feature cozy, hand-built log furniture with old Western charm and a front porch to kick back on after a long day on the trail.

The main lodge is the hub of the ranch and houses the dining room, lounge, and a full bar where happy hour is the time for guests to reflect on the day’s adventures and share stories with friends and fellow guests


Your dream dude ranch vacation beckons: Will you heed its call?

Dude Ranchers’ Association:

(307) 587-2339, duderanch.org

Dude Ranch Foundation:

(307) 587-2339