For as long as I can remember, my husband has wanted to take our boys on a dude ranch vacation. You see, one of his all time favorite family vacations as a child was a dude ranch in Colorado. He thought a dude ranch was the perfect getaway for three boys (and I was inclined to agree), so with the help of the Dude Ranchers’ Association, I began a search to find the best dude ranch for our family. We settled on Tumbling River Ranch, a family owned dude ranch about an hour west of Denver, Colorado. The place looked like it had plenty of activities to keep my kids busy and the on-line reviews made it seem like the right fit for us. We were excited to head out west and see what Tumbling River Ranch was all about.
Why Families Will Love a Dude Ranch Vacation at Tumbling River Ranch
*We were guests of Tumbling River Ranch for the purposes of this review. As always opinions are 100% our own.
Where is Tumbling River Ranch
Tumbling River Ranch is located near Grant, Colorado, about an hour and a half from the Denver airport. It’s located just off Highway 285 and Geneva Road (which becomes Guanella Pass Road). The property is nestled in the pines and aspens of the Pike National Forest, and beautiful clear streams of fresh mountain water run through the property.
Accommodations at Tumbling River Ranch
There are multiple accommodation options for families at Tumbling River Ranch. Individual cabins are anywhere from 2 beds/1 bathroom to 3 beds/2 bathrooms. We stayed at The Ranch House, which was perfect for our family of five. On the lower floor are three bedrooms, each with their own full bath and fireplace. The boys each had their own room, and they shared a hallway. Our room was on the floor above and it was very spacious with a king size bed, full bath, kitchenette, and living room. The space was very tastefully furnished and had spectacular views of the property and nearby mountains. It was lovely to wake up to this view every morning and have privacy from the kids when we needed it.
If you’re looking for a large group accommodation, consider the Pueblo House. This beautiful property was built in the late 1920s by the daughter of Adolph Coors. She hired Native Americans from Taos to build and design the home while living on the property and it is indeed marvelous. The house has seven guest bedrooms, and each one has a fireplace and beautiful view. Pueblo House has its own dining room, stocked trout pond for fishing, a game room and a sunny sitting room. This property fills up quickly as it is perfect for family gatherings and many families return year after year to enjoy its charms.
Tumbling River Ranch Amenities
One of the best things about a family dude ranch vacation, is that everyone can find something they want to do on property. Tumbling River Ranch had a wonderful swimming pool and spa, game room with ping pong and foosball, basketball, bocce, and fishing ponds (they even have a free fly fishing lesson one day). Several days during the week, Michelle the masseuse came to the ranch (don’t miss this), and yoga was offered a couple of days as well. On any given day, the kids would be off playing games somewhere, while I relaxed and read a book or swam in the pool.
Riding horses at the ranch
Before we even thought about riding, we made our way to the Boot Barn, where they have hundreds of pairs of cowboy boots to choose from. It was nice not to have to buy your own boots for the dude ranch or pack them. The first day of riding, we were matched up with our horses for the week and fitted to our saddles. My boys had little to no riding experience, so they were given horses that matched their abilities.
Prior to any trail rides, everyone met for a riding lesson in the arena. For about a half hour, the wranglers went over the basics of horseback riding which I thought was very helpful. Our first trail ride was the “most difficult” so everything after that would seem comparatively easier. We rode to the top of a nearby mountain and I’m not going to lie, it was one of those don’t look down kind of rides. Every day there was a different trail ride option, so guests can ride as much or as little as they want. At the end of the week is the rodeo, where guests and wranglers show off their riding skills. It’s a fun way to wrap up the week.
Hiking in Pike National Forest and the surrounding area
This area of Colorado is perfect for hiking, and there are daily hikes to showcase the local beauty. There are two nearby peaks that are over 14,000 feet and just across the road is Tumbling River’s Flag Mountain that many guests like to climb. I’m not big on climbing at high altitude, but I did take a hike along the Colorado Trail with my middle son and the scenery was spectacular. We also saw moose and deer along the way, so I call that a win!
Kids activities at Tumbling River Ranch
If you’re looking for a dude ranch kids will love, this is the place. Tumbling River has programs for all ages, starting at age 3. They offer babysitting for younger children. The different kid programs are broken down into ages 3-5, 6-8, 9-11, and teens. The week we were there, it was all teens, with a couple of 6 year old twins who joined at the end of the week, so our kids had counselors devoted just to them.
The teens had one day where they went rock climbing, horse back riding, and had their own dinner away from the parents with a game of capture the flag. Another night they had a pasta dinner and games with the counselors while some of the older teens chose to go on the overnight campout (more on that later). There was also a teen hike and several days of horseback rides that were for their group only. They enjoyed every minute.
Evening activities at Tumbling River Ranch
Every evening after dinner there was a different activity for guest to enjoy. The first night was a hayride, s’mores, and a local musician. Another night was story time with a mountain man (which my kids LOVED). There was also an evening of square dancing and a hootenanny to close out the week. Most evenings ended at the pool or spa so we could just relax after a long day in the saddle.
Extra activities at the dude ranch
All of the activities are included at the ranch with the exception of fly fishing and white water rafting. Guests pay an extra supplement to participate. My husband did the day of fly fishing with 5280 Angler and loved it! The next day we all went white water rafting on the Arkansas River through Browns Canyon. Water levels were low which made for some difficult maneuvering, but our guide Tony at Wilderness Aware Rafting, made sure we had the time of our lives!
Mid-week, guests have an opportunity to go on an overnight trail ride and campout. This is only for adults and teens, and since our youngest couldn’t go, my husband went with our oldest. They were on horses for about 11 hours total, but they saw an abandoned mining town, Geneva City, and slept under the stars. Both my husband and son said it was an experience they’ll never forget.
Fabulous food at Tumbling River Ranch
I had to save the best for last, and that’s the food. We were EXTREMELY well fed at Tumbling River. Every breakfast had a spread of yogurt, fruit, juices, and cereal, then the “real meal”. This was anything from French toast, to pancakes, to eggs, bacon, and sausage. There were cookouts of all shapes and sizes with burgers, BBQ, baked beans, and all the fixings. Our family favorite was the formal adult dinner, the fajita cookout, and the pancake breakfast. The good news is the ranch sells their Tumbling River cookbook in their store, the Trading Post, so you can pick up the recipes to take home.
A few extra special touches
- I hate doing laundry on vacation, but it’s a necessary evil with a family of five. Thankfully, Tumbling River has a laundry room for guests to use free of charge. They even provide detergent and dryer sheets. Hallelujah!
- There’s a small corral with farm animals kids can pet. My kids loved chasing the chickens and letting the calf lick their hand. There’s also donkeys who aimlessly roam the property, so don’t be surprised if you meet them on the road at night. And guests will love Winnie the ranch dog who roams the ranch and often goes along on trail rides.
- Each house has cabin attendants who clean up each day. Ours would leave us very nice notes and make sure everything was spic and span. This mom of three boys really appreciates the hard work they put in cleaning up after my kiddos.
- The staff at Tumbling River Ranch is second to none. Scott, the owner, explained how they bring in college students each summer to “work on the ranch”. Some are returning and know the expectations, but others have to be “trained”. Scott and his wife Meagan must be great teachers, because every single staff member was polite, friendly, and charming. We loved Will the head wrangler, Megan with the teen program, the other Meg who drove and entertained my child for two hours while we drove to white water rafting, and the fabulous food/beverage staff who always made sure you had enough to eat and drink.
Tumbling River Ranch is a family owned Colorado dude ranch that goes above and beyond when it comes to hospitality. If you’re looking for the perfect dude ranch for families, this one should definitely be at the top of the list.
If you want to know how to find a dude ranch for your family, head to the Dude Ranchers’ Association website. And if you’re looking for other places to enjoy summer in Colorado, don’t miss our posts on Vail and Keystone!