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Fall Travel: Weekend Getaways

Dude Ranch 101

The Wyoming-based Dude Ranchers’ Association is devoted to preserving the cowboy experience, but only resorts located west of the Mississippi River can join. (For a directory of its 105 member resorts, see duderanch.org.) Colleen Hodson, the group’s executive director, explains the vacation experience:

What does City Slickers get wrong?

The movie created huge awareness of our industry, but there are misconceptions. The food varies, but some of our ranches have Cordon Bleu chefs — it’s not beans and weenies. And you’re not sleeping outside on a bedroll. While you can arrange to do a pack trip where you camp out, the lodging is more upscale than the average person has in mind.

At a Western dude ranch, how much time do you spend riding?

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If you go to a working ranch, you’re probably in the saddle eight to 10 hours a day, if that’s what you choose. At a more traditional dude ranch, they’ll have a morning ride that can last up to three hours, then an afternoon ride.

 Why can’t East Coast resorts join your association?

We don’t consider them true Western dude ranches because they’re not in the West, but they can offer an experience for someone to get a feel for it — to get a taste to see whether they want to come out West.

 What does an authentic dude ranch cost?

One-week, all-inclusive rates range from $1,200 to $5,000 per person. That includes food, lodging, and all the activities — many of the locations include fly-fishing, white-water rafting, mountain biking.

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