Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

How Dude Ranches Work

Dude Ranch Activities

Not every dude ranch will give you the chance to lasso a calf or drive cattle, but almost any dude ranch will offer horseback riding. Dude ranches offer lessons for first-time riders and more advanced activities for intermediate and advanced riders. Safety is a priority, so experienced staffers will match you with an appropriate horse and the necessary equipment to keep you safe.

The location of your dude ranch will determine the types of activities offered. Activities include:

  • Elk, moose, bear, antelope and bear hunting trips
  • Overnight camping trips on the open range
  • All-day rides
  • Cattle drives
  • Team penning, a sport that evolved from the practice of separating cattle into pens; three riders must separate three cows from a group of 30 and herd them into pens.
  • Rodeos where cowboys and girls showcase roping and bull riding
  • Nature rides
  • Daily trail rides

If you're not the riding type but still want to visit a dude ranch, you can take advantage of many other kinds of activities, including nature walks, bird watching, petting zoos, hiking, mountain biking, swimming, rafting, massage services, hay rides, western dancing, campfires and even organized sports activities like golf or tennis.

Now that you know what kinds of activities you can participate in on a dude ranch, we'll take a look at how to decide which dude ranch is for you.