One of the questions we are used to hearing from people who are on their first Colorado ranch vacation is: “who came up with the idea for this, anyway?” After all, ranches have been around for a long time, but they were (and many times still are) businesses designed to raise cattle, along with crops and other animals. How in the heck did some of them become premium getaways, complete with fine meals and five-star accommodations?
To find the answer, we have to dig pretty far back into history and examine a couple of quirky coincidences…
Following the conclusion of the Civil War in the 1880s, a man named Howard Eaton headed west to establish the Custer Trail Ranch, which was located in the Dakotas. After establishing the ranch with his brothers, he began receiving visits from his friends on the East Coast almost immediately. Many were accustomed to urban living and felt curious about life in the wide-open West.
These guests were mostly friends and acquaintances, though, so Eaton didn’t charge them anything. In return for their stay, they would help with chores around the ranch, giving him a bit of extra help and them a break from their everyday lives. Eventually, the ranch got to be so popular that he was persuaded to start accepting payments for room and board from new guests. At one point, you could stay on his ranch for around $10 per day.
Recognizing that something special was going on, Eaton headed back east and wrote a series of letters about his ranch, talking about the restorative value of its natural beauty. These were published in a number of the newspapers, and caught the eye of one reader of one reader in particular.
One of the readers who took an interest in Eaton’s ranch was none other than Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt hadn’t run for office yet, and in fact was in the process of gearing up for his doomed campaign to be mayor of New York City. Intrigued by the idea of the ranch, he headed west, spending several months hunting, fishing, and riding across the plains.
He was so taken by the experience that he purchased a ranch of his own and started inviting friends to stay. Over the years, he continued to advocate journeys to the West as a way to improve one’s health and escape the daily city grind.
With someone as prominent as the President talking about the benefits of a ranch vacation, it didn’t take long for business to start booming. Before long, there were more guest ranches popping up across the West, and hospitality standards continued to increase. What started as a rough-and-tumble tradition, complete with guests working for their meals and lodging, evolved into something a little more relaxing.
Today, a dude ranch vacation gives you the best of both worlds. It’s the opportunity to break away from the mundane, and to escape the hustle and bustle of urban and suburban living. At the same time, you can mix in outdoor activities like horseback riding and hiking with five-star meals, spa treatments, and luxury rooms. While you might not be able to stay at a guest ranch for $10 a day, it’s still an affordable and convenient vacation option for families, groups, couples and singles.
Dude ranches have come a long way since the end of the Civil War, but still offer a fun, adventurous, inconvenient vacation option. Why not browse our ranches online now to find the perfect destination for your trip?