Dude Ranch Stay and Seven Peaks Festival

July 23rd, 2019 by Elk Mountain Ranch

Love country music? So do we!

Buena Vista will be hosting the Seven Peaks Festival. A 3-day outdoor concert over Labor Day weekend. Headliners include Dierks Bentley, Luke Bryan, Maren Morris, Travis Tritt, Tracy Lawrence, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and many more.

Join us for a our regular dude ranch package Sunday to Thursday and bunk and breakfast during the 3-day concert. $1695 per adult includes meals, lodging, riding, rafting, shooting sports, fishing, mountain biking, hiking, hayride, campfires and more.

Concert tickets not included and can be purchased online.

Seven Peaks Festival

Availability for 2019

June 14th, 2019 by Elk Mountain Ranch

Hoping for a grand adventure this summer? Join us for the best week of your year. We still have a few openings for the 2019 season, and we would love to have you!

Week of August 25
Plenty of space and an amazing Country Western Concert over Labor Day Weekend in our local town of Buena Vista (Dierks Bentley, Luke Bryan, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Tracy Lawrence, Maren Morris, Travis Tritt, Diamond Rio and more! Seven Peaks Festival

Weeks of September 1 and 8
Adult-only weeks.

What to Expect From Our Children’s Program

November 9th, 2017 by Elk Mountain Ranch

Elk Mountain Ranch is the perfect vacation for families with children of all ages. There are few places you can take the entire family that provide adventure and entertainment for kids anywhere from 3 to 18 years old. Having spent 3 summers at the ranch as a kid, I can confidently say that EMR’s children’s program is one of the best around. Some of my favorite childhood memories were made on the swing set at Elk Mountain and on the trail. While I could write pages about all the things your kids will do in the children’s program, I’m going to focus instead on what you don’t see on the itinerary for the children’s program.

Here are just a few of the things you and your kids will love the most about EMR’s children’s program.

Free time for the parents

While EMR is all about families spending time together, we also understand that mom and dad need some time to unwind without the kids around. Your kids will never be far from you at the ranch, but they’ll be busy feeding the goats in the petting zoo or practicing their rodeo skills while you’re taking some much needed R and R on the porch. You’ll also be free to chat with other adults on the trail rides, as the kids in the children’s program are bussed to meet the group for activities like the hot dog lunch and fat bat ball.

Individualized attention from the kids’ counselors

With two kids’ counselors on hand at all times, your children will get plenty of one-on-one time with them. EMR’s counselors are there to make sure your kids stay safe and have an unforgettable week. They’ll take your kids to the hot springs, which parents are welcome to visit as well, and will lead them on nature hikes and other excursions.

One of my favorite memories from my time in the children’s program was when my counselor painted flowers onto my nails. There was a group of us sitting in the main lodge watching a movie and getting our nails painted, and to this day I remember how special I felt having a counselor take the time to do that for me.

One-of-a-kind day trips

The children’s program gets to go on a variety of unique trips. A crowd favorite is the trip to the local hot springs, where kids spend the afternoon splashing around in the pool. The van to the hot dog lunch is another exciting trip, because your kids will have a chance to see a real beaver pond. If you visit the ranch over the 4th of July, you will enjoy a grand carnival celebration and the kids can enjoy the 4th of July parade.

When your kids aren’t off the ranch for exciting trips, they’ll spend much of their time doing crafts, visiting the petting zoo, and learning how to ride a horse. I guarantee they’ll be absolutely exhausted at the end of each day!

Lifelong friendships

I cannot stress enough how impactful the children’s program at EMR was on my life. I met one of my very best friends my first year at the ranch, and after visiting the ranch as kids we both worked at EMR during college and had our days off together. Your kids will have the chance to meet children from all over the country (and the world!) while at EMR and I have no doubt they’ll want to keep in touch after the week is over.

Lots of tears

The Sunday you leave the ranch will be filled with tears and promises to keep in touch with one another. Your kids will be crying, the counselors will be crying, and I bet you’ll be hard pressed not to shed a tear or two yourself. Throughout the week, your kids will become close with everyone in the children’s program and it’ll be tough for them to say goodbye.

If you’re unsure whether the children’s program is the right fit for your child, send Tom and Sue an email or phone with any questions you might have. Having worked at the ranch myself, I know how much the children’s counselors enjoy their jobs and how hard they work to make sure each child in the program has an amazing week. I truly believe that any child will love EMR’s children’s program and that they’ll leave with memories they couldn’t have made anywhere else.

If you want to keep up with Claire, head over to her travel blog, Tall Girl Big World

Favorite Desserts from Elk Mountain Ranch

November 3rd, 2017 by Elk Mountain Ranch

Let us share three decadent and impressive dude ranch desserts to make at home for your own family and friends.

Strawberry Shortcake from Elk Mountain Ranch

Elk Mountain Ranch Dessert

Ingredients for shortcakes:
•2 cups butter
•2 cups sugar
•2 tsp. vanilla
•8 eggs
•4 cups flour
•2 tsp. baking powder
•1/2 tsp. nutmeg

Directions for shortcakes:
1.Gradually add sugar to butter, beating at high speed about 6 minutes or until light and fluffy.
2.Add vanilla.
3.Add eggs, one at a time, beating 1 minute after each addition.
4.Gradually add flour, baking powder, and nutmeg.
5.Pour batter into floured and greased sheet pan.
6.Bake in 325° oven for 25-45 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Should just be lightly golden.
7.Cut into hearts with cookie cutters.
8.Use for strawberry shortcake with sweetened sliced strawberries (1/4 cup sugar added to 6 cups sliced strawberries).
9.Add homemade whipped topping.

Whipped Topping:

Whip heavy whipping cream (1 qt.) with sugar (1/2 cup) and vanilla (1 tsp.) and almond extract (1 tsp). Whip to desired consistency. Whip too long and you will soon get butter!

Denver Cheesecake from Elk Mountain Ranch

Ingredients for batter:
•2 1/2 pounds cream cheese
•1 3/4 cups white sugar
•3 Tbsp. flour
•1/4 tsp. salt
•1 tsp. lemon peel-grated
•1 tsp. vanilla
•6 eggs
•3/4 cup heavy whipping cream

Ingredients for crust:
•3 cups graham cracker crumbs
•1/2 cup butter
•1/2 cup white sugar

1.Beat cream cheese.
2.Add sugar, flour, salt, lemon peel, and vanilla.
3.Then add cream and set aside.
4.Combine graham cracker crumbs, 1/2 cup white sugar, and 1/2 cup butter. Divide in 1/2 and press mixture into greased spring.form pan.
5.Bake at 325° for 10 minutes.
6.Place 1/2 cream mixture in each pan.
7.Cover pans with aluminum foil. Place pans in a water bath and bake at 500° for 10 minutes.
8.Reduce temperature to 200° and bake for 70-80 more minutes (until firm).
9.Remove foil and cover each pan with a metal bowl until cool.
10.Place in walk in and cut when chilled. (Can be baked a day ahead.)

Oreo Ice Cream from Elk Mountain Ranch

•7 cups whipping cream
•2 cups sugar
•2 Tbsp. vanilla
•2 Tbsp. lemon juice
•2 – 13 oz. cans evaporated milk

1.In a large bowl, combine all ingredients.
2.Pour into ice cream maker.
3.Surround ice cream maker with ice and rock salt.
4.Churn until thick.
5.Pour into a storage container.
6.Thoroughly add in crushed Oreo cookies.

What to pack for your Elk Mountain Ranch vacation

June 30th, 2017 by Elk Mountain Ranch

~ Written by past staff member and avid marathon runner, Kris M. ~

When packing for your vacation at Elk Mountain Ranch, you will need to keep in mind two main things – comfort and Colorado weather. As a native New Englander, I was accustomed to the mood swings of Mother Nature and the need for layers, but out West things seem to be a bit more extreme. On the plus side, there is very little humidity and most days are absolutely beautiful.


A bit about Colorado weather

Mornings start off cool and refreshing, sometimes with fog that burns off quickly once the sun comes up. The walk to breakfast may require a heavier weight jacket or sweatshirt, but by the time you have finished your coffee and are ready to hit the trail, it will have warmed up significantly. Temperatures can go from the high 30s to mid-70s and back again in a matter of hours. A quick rain storm may roll through, lasting a few minutes, before the sun is out shining again. The best advice is that layers are your friend, and try to be prepared for any conditions. For those visiting in late May/early June and during the adult-only weeks in September, pack additional layers for the colder evenings – including light gloves and a winter hat.

EMR 2009 McD 007




Out on the trail

Pants (jeans) are highly recommended for trail rides – they protect your legs while on your horse, and have an added bonus of protecting you from the sun. Colorado has very little humidity, so wearing pants in summer is actually quite doable. Depending on the length of the trail ride, you may experience a range of weather. It is easiest to have multiple layers for your upper body and switch as needed (off of your horse of course!), storing extra shirts or a light rain jacket in your saddle bag.






Cowboy boots are also great to have – not only do they get you into the Western mindset, but they are practical. Tom will go into greater detail as to why, but suffice to say, cowboy boots were designed with stirrups in mind, providing for an easier riding experience when compared to hiking boots or athletic shoes (hint: it is all about the heel). If you are purchasing new boots for your trip to Elk Mountain, it is a good idea to break them in beforehand! And don’t worry about getting them dirty – they will see plenty of dust in the arena and on the trail. Aim for comfort over fashion – I am a runner with bad feet, so a comfortable pair of cowboy boots with longer cushioned socks was essential. Personally, I have found that the Ariat brand is the New Balance of western footwear (super comfortable), however, like running shoes, each person has their brand that works best for them. Additionally, the ranch has a large selection of boots that you may borrow for the week, with various sizes and styles available for children, women and men.






Sun protection

Colorado gets an average of 300 days of sun, and, due to the high altitude, those Bluebird days result in stronger sun exposure than you may experience other parts of the country/world. Pack plenty of sunscreen, hats, sunglasses, and clothing that will help protect you from the sun. Shirts with a UPF rating (typically lightweight hiking/travel shirts) are great as they provide coverage as well as breathability on hot days. Also consider increasing the SPF you use. For example, when I lived in New England and would visit the ocean, I would use 30 SPF on my face and 15 for the rest of my body. In Colorado, my go-to sunscreens are now 50 SPF (face) and SPF 30 (body).


Activities on and off the ranch

You may also want to pack for the variety of activities that occur on and off the ranch. Bathing suits are essential for the hot tub, as well as for white water rafting and visiting the hot springs. If you do go rafting, it is recommended that you wear non-cotton clothing (athletic wear that wicks work best). The rafting company also provides additional wool layers for those brisk days.IMG_6570





EMR is surrounded by the San Isabel National Forest, and it is a great place to explore on your own two feet. Guests enjoy going for a walk, run or hike along the dirt road and on the many nearby trails, so pack appropriate clothing and footwear for these activities.







Time at the ranch allows you to disconnect, so this is the perfect opportunity to bring that book you have been meaning to read. There is also a library in the lodge where you can borrow a book for a week, take it with you if you aren’t finished, and leave behind a book for another guest to discover.






With so many scenic views near the ranch, you may consider packing your camera to capture those moments. Nothing quite beats a spectacular Colorado sunset framed by the Collegiate Peaks, especially from the top of Futurity Hill.







For the Saturday night candlelit dinner, a nice outfit is recommended, but not required. The best way I can explain it is that people dress “church nice” – women tend to wear nice country dresses, and the men tend to wear button down shirts (western or otherwise). It isn’t anything too fancy, but let’s just say that the staff certainly scrubs up nice. 😉




Afraid that you are packing too many clothes? Self-service laundry is available on-site, making it easier to do a quick load of wash during your down time.



Finally, while EMR is all-inclusive, it does not have a liquor license so you will need to BYOB if you would like an adult beverage during your stay. The van from DIA will make a stop if needed, and you can always make a request for supplies during one of our town runs.

Adult Weeks Email Template



The 10 Best Dishes at EMR According to Claire the Chef

April 26th, 2017 by Elk Mountain Ranch

Before working at EMR in 2014, I had been a guest at the ranch three times as a child. Between being a guest and working in the kitchen, I can safely say I’ve tried every delicious meal at Elk Mountain. As the cook, one of my favorite jobs each week was the day I spent waitressing. It was then that I could see firsthand the wide eyes and expressions of delight when guests ate my food.

I’m a bit biased, but I truly believe Elk Mountain serves up the best food. I know how much time and effort goes into each meal, and how much care the wait staff puts into making it as pretty as possible. Although I know cooks aren’t supposed to have favorite meals, I definitely have a few. Here are the 10 foods Elk Mountain does best, in no particular order.

  1. Turkey DinnerIMG_9716

Elk Mountain’s turkey dinner is the best way to kick off your week of fun. After a short Sunday evening hike, guests get to tuck in to a full turkey dinner. Roast turkey, buttery egg noodles, gravy, and a slice of apple pie are just what the doctor ordered after a long day of traveling.

  1. Cowboy Cookies

These bad boys are as big as your face and should definitely be shared. Loaded with chocolate chips, oats, and other secret ingredients, you’ll wish you had another stomach to fit more cowboy cookies in. Be careful though; if you don’t eat your cookie fast enough, a hungry wrangler might steal it!

  1. Campfire Potatoescookout2

The brunch ride is really something special. After riding all morning, nothing beats scrambled eggs and potato hash cooked over an open campfire. And yes, we always make a bit extra so you can have seconds.

  1. Buttery Crescent Rolls

The crescent rolls at Elk Mountain are one of the most underrated menu items, in my opinion. They’re so simple to make, but knowing that they’ve been made from scratch makes them taste even better. In fact, all of the rolls served at dinner are homemade, so make sure you grab one at every meal.

  1. Cinnamon Rollsfood

If you’ve never had homemade cinnamon rolls, you’re in luck. On the rare occasion that we had leftover rolls, I’d put them on top of the oven to keep them warm. Having eaten more than my fair share of the leftovers, I can promise you that they taste even better than they smell.

  1. Homemade Applesauce

Another underrated item at the ranch is our homemade applesauce. It complements the pork tenderloin perfectly and is the perfect side. Since leaving the ranch, I’ve made Elk Mountain’s applesauce every fall during apple season, and I make sure to have a big tub of it to snack on throughout the winter.

  1. Breakfast Burritos with Pork Green Chilidude ranch dining

Breakfast burritos loaded with eggs, cheese, and potatoes and topped with spicy homemade pork green chili is one of life’s simple pleasures. I always kept my fingers crossed that there’d be leftover chili so I could hide it in the fridge to eat for lunch later. Unfortunately, guests know how good this chili is and rarely left any leftovers.

  1. Cookies + Creme Ice Cream

I kid you not, we had to hide this ice cream in the freezer by Tom and Sue’s house to keep the staff from eating it throughout the week. It is ridiculously good, so make sure you get a scoop before square dancing!

  1. Brandied French ToastIMG_6666

This French toast is made extra special by the splash of brandy and almond extract in the batter. It tastes like it’s been candied, without it being too sweet. It’s the perfect way to start your morning, so don’t hesitate to grab a second slice!

  1. Baked Brisket

I’ll never forget Elk Mountain’s baked brisket. First, because I burned it two weeks in a row (oops!). And second, because it’s so good that I still make it for Thanksgiving every year. The brisket juices are perfect when poured over a buttered baked potato. This is yet another dish we never had leftovers of—it’s just that good.

Elk Mountain’s meals are some of the best around, and I encourage you to sample a bit of everything. Also feel free to pop your head into the kitchen throughout the week to see what the cook is up to. We’re always more than happy to share our cooking secrets!mt

If you want to keep up with Claire, head over to her travel blog, Tall Girl Big World.

10 Best Things about a Dude Ranch Vacation

March 20th, 2017 by Elk Mountain Ranch

10 Best Things about a Dude Ranch Vacation

There are many great things about a dude ranch vacation, especially one at Elk Mountain Ranch, so we have compiled a list of the top 10 best parts about our life in the West:

1. Enjoying the beauty of your surroundingsIMG_9795
At Elk Mountain, you have the opportunity to spend time outdoors, enjoying the beauty of Colorado, with breathtaking views of the Collegiate Peaks, whether on a trail ride or hiking in the San Isabel National Forest.



2. Slowing down and relaxingIMG_7515
Time moves differently here. You can take the time for some R&R, read a good book, enjoy the hot tub, play a board game or spend the day at the hot springs. There are simple pleasures in activities that we may have forgotten about in our busy day to day lives. Take a moment for yourself, breathe and take it all in.

The ranch is a little oasis in the middle of the beautiful state of Colorado. At 11 p.m. the generator turns off, and all of a sudden it is quiet and dark. Take a moment to look up at the millions of stars above you and find the Milky Way. Depending on where you live, you may never have an opportunity quite like this to view such a spectacular sky, where it is actually harder to pick out the constellations because there are so many more stars in sight. This place is a change from your everyday life, which is what makes it so special. Embrace this break from reality and enjoy all it has to offer.

3. Disconnecting and having great conversationsIMG_5289
The remote nature of Elk Mountain gives you an excuse to disconnect from the world, leaving email and the internet behind (there is connectivity but it is limited). This gives you an opportunity to focus on those around you and engage in great conversations at dinner, around the campfire, or out on the trail.


4. Creating new bondsIMG_5190
There is something special that happens over a week – many different bonds are created. You find a connection with your horse, learning their personality and how you can work together. The intimate nature of the ranch allows you to get to know your fellow guests and you learn more about the staff. The experience is similar to the intense bonds created when you were a child a summer camp. There is an EMR alumni network of sorts – friends of the ranch who have shared a special week with us and can relate to the amazing experience. It is like one big family that extends beyond Buena Vista.

5. Reconnecting with othersIMG_6025
The atmosphere at the ranch allows you to reconnect with your family members and friends. It also gives you time to have moments to yourself and take in your surroundings. Conversations can start during happy hour and continue all the way through a campfire after dessert. Seeing your family in a new setting also shakes things up a bit and gives you new ways to connect.


6. Adventures!activities21
If trail rides are not adventurous enough, you also have the opportunity to go whitewater rafting on the Arkansas River, or test your skills on an adventure course. Rafting is great fun as you make your way through Browns Canyon – be sure to keep an eye out for local wildlife as you paddle by! The adventure course allows you to challenge yourself, tackling new heights, overcoming obstacles and possibly even unleashing your competitive side.

7. Trying something newIMG_5802
Maybe you have always wanted to ride a horse, or try your hand at shooting a .22 or take aim at clay pigeons? Are you an adventurous eater and want to try some Rocky Mountain Oysters? This is your opportunity to try something new, or even check off an item on your bucket list. You are in the Wild West – challenge yourself and get out of your comfort zone.


8. Great food dude ranch dining
You will never go hungry at EMR – I promise. Between the hearty breakfasts, on the trail lunches, happy hour appetizers and filling dinners, there is something for everyone’s palate. We take food as seriously as we do our horses, and make accommodations for those with special dietary needs. We also want to help you celebrate any major occasion, whether a milestone birthday, anniversary or a big family reunion. Our surroundings may be more rustic, but the menu is nothing but top notch – and always save room for dessert!

9. Amazing horsesIMG_9628
The passion that the Murphys have for their horses and for the ranch is clear from the first moment you interact with them. Tom and Sue first met at the ranch in 1985 as wranglers, and the attention they pay to their herd is evident. Safety is always important, and even the housekeeping staff attends Horse Orientation to learn how to properly interact with the horses on and off the trail. The horses are well taken care of and are happy and eager to do their work. Each rider is matched with the right horse based on their personality, experience, comfort level and the type of riding they would like to do during the week. This process ensures that you have the best experience possible. Also, each horse has a great story, so take a moment to talk with Tom or one of the wranglers to learn more about your horse’s biography.

10. Making memories
All of these factors help make for an amazing week and give you memories that last a lifetime. It could be quiet time spent with your spouse while your kids are busy panning for gold or hunting for arrow heads. It could be the wonder of watching a herd of antelope go by while you are on horseback. Maybe you have a laugh while square dancing, or are touched by the music by Carin Mari. Or it could be toasting champagne at the top of a plateau while eating brunch and looking out at Mt. Princeton and the surrounding 14ers. By the end of the week, you will have new memories that will last long after the dirt is off of your cowboy boots.

Top50ranches.com announces Elk Mountain Ranch as esteemed Award Winner in their Inaugural Ranch Vacation Awards of Excellence, 2015!

March 13th, 2016 by Elk Mountain Ranch

2015AwardofExcellenceTop50Family Reunion Email Template

The Top50ranches.com Ranch Vacation Awards of Excellence ~ 2015 were chosen from hundreds of online reviews written for the traveller, by the traveller and feature 10 categories; each category has been divided into a number of awards to celebrate everything the discerning guest, family or traveller requires for their perfect ranch vacation.

As winner of the ‘Best All-Round Activities For The Entire Family Award’ in the ‘Family Friendly’ category, Elk Mountain Ranch has left guests feeling that there was the most exciting and widest range of activities available on a dude ranch.

Guests to the ranch have commented:

“There are many activities to choose from: horseback riding, shooting, whitewater rafting, hiking, massage, kids program, etc.”

“The activities are diverse and interesting – our daughter enjoyed every single thing.”

“I really liked all the activities that were planned. You could pick out exactly what you wanted to do.”

Designed to celebrate all aspects of a dude, guest or working ranch vacation, the Top50ranches.com Ranch Vacation Awards of Excellence recognize ranches’ ability to deliver to their guests’ exceptional service, stunning locations and accommodations, outstanding food and wine, and life-changing experiences amongst other attributes.

Top 50 Ranches – Elk Mountain

An Inside Look at What It’s Like to Work as a Chef at a Dude Ranch

February 20th, 2016 by Elk Mountain Ranch

Claire Waggoner
Claire Waggoner at Indiana University
February 16, 2016

It’s not all ponies and cute cowboys, y’all.

After my freshman year of college, I decided to take the plunge and follow my dreams, so to speak. As odd as it may sound, I’ve always wanted to work at a dude ranch. In elementary school, my mom took my brother and I to Elk Mountain Ranch, a family ranch nestled in the mountains of Buena Vista, Colorado.IMG_5842

An Inside Look at What It’s Like to Work as a Chef at a Dude Ranch

Guest testimonial

January 24th, 2016 by Elk Mountain Ranch

Greg Seiter is a freelance writer from Indiana whose work has been published in a variety of print publications and travel blogs. He also serves on the University of Indianapolis Alumni Board of Directors. We loved having he and his family!


Aspen and evergreen-covered mountainous terrain dominated a western-flavored landscape as we turned off Highway 285 near Buena Vista, Colorado in favor of a mostly dirt and gravel road. For our first dude ranch experience, we had selected Elk Mountain Ranch because of its elevation, small-group allowance, varying amenities and well-noted family-friendly atmosphere.

As Colorado’s highest guest ranch at 9,600 feet above sea level, Elk Mountain, which is surrounded by the San Isabel National Forest, overlooks the Arkansas Valley and is teeming with wildflowers, deer, antelope and, you guessed it, elk. Additionally, the family-owned facility allows no more than 30 guests at a time from late May through mid-September each year, a feature that provides more one-on-one guest to staff interaction and additional chances for ranchers to become acquainted with other vacationers beyond what would probably be available to them at larger dude ranches.

Upon arrival, we parked near the ranch’s dining hall and primary social gathering spot, a building simply referred to as the Main Lodge, in order to unload our own bags. However, it quickly became apparent that our good intentions were in vain as staff members warmly greeted us, introduced themselves and took charge of our luggage. Meanwhile, my eight-year-old daughter, Alaina, and her 11-year-old brother, Preston, took an immediate interest in a pair of overly friendly dogs who were also eager to meet them. As avid animal lovers, the Seiter children had formed a positive opinion of Elk Mountain Ranch from the start.

Shortly after unpacking, we gathered in the ranch’s intimate western-themed dining room, where circular and rectangular tables positioned close to one another allowed for introductory conversations prior to what would prove to be a spectacular family-style meal. While getting to know other guests, we enjoyed salad, dinner rolls and a pair of main course entrees including fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans and pumpkin pie for desert. Our kids, a couple of widely-recognized picky eaters, appreciated the fact that they were able to choose ice cream rather than pie.

Throughout the week, dining in The Main Lodge was fabulous with varying menus that always provided numerous options aimed at pleasing flexible and selective eaters alike. The accommodating kitchen staff was even prepared to swap peanut butter or grilled cheese sandwiches for steak, casserole or lasagna, if necessary.

My family and I stayed in the spacious Pioneer Lodge throughout the week—a simple but inviting one-story structure that consists of three separate lodge rooms, each equipped with its own bathroom, shower and exterior entrance. With nothing but the tranquil sounds of nature beckoning outside our door, that first night’s sleep, in particular, was the most peaceful one I’d experienced in a long time. Our children, on the other hand, were more enthused about having their own room than the prospect of enjoying a good night’s sleep. In fact, we quickly realized their bedtime excitement partially evolved around the challenge of trying to secretly smuggle a persistent tomcat into their room for an overnight stay.

After a hearty breakfast the morning after our arrival, I slipped on a pair of borrowed boots that the ranch provided, adjusted my recently purchased cowboy hat and moseyed over to the facility’s arena for a safety-themed “intro to horses” orientation by Elk Mountain Ranch owner, Tom Murphy. Later, we were introduced to our assigned horses, which had been handpicked by staff members based on each respective guest’s body type and riding experience.

My dark tawny-colored steed was named Tuffy, a muscular animal that boasted a calm and pleasant demeanor. However, as we ventured out for a morning trail ride on our first full day in camp, I quickly learned that Tuffy had a peculiar interest in the back side of Dumplin, the horse assigned to Alaina. In fact, as the week progressed, I often found myself having to work hard at keeping a safe distance between Tuffy and Dumplin. On the flip side, it was comforting to know that our children were able to enjoy the outdoor experiences alongside my wife Denise and me. It’s important to note that some of the offered riding excursions at Elk Mountain can last several hours and may not be appropriate for young, inexperienced riders but I can honestly say that our guide-accompanied mountain-ride outings throughout the week provided memorable bonding experiences for all four of us.

As rookie riders, we were sore in the saddle after that first day’s trip so it was refreshing to learn that Elk Mountain Ranch guests can ride as much or as little as they chose while visiting. In lieu of taking their horses out for a spin, some guests may prefer a peaceful afternoon nap or a trail hike while others may opt to go fishing, play horseshoes or battle a staff member in one of many on-site board games. While some workers specialize in horse care and serve as trail guides, others are assigned to tasks that include kitchen duty, cabin clean-up, ranch maintenance and recreational activities. No matter the need or the time of day, we found staff members readily available to assist with even the simplest of requests. Quite frequently, my kids opted for relaxation time in the facility’s hot tub during lazy afternoons but also enjoyed feeding and caring for ducklings near the ranch’s pond.

Additionally, we were pleased to learn that a dedicated children’s program counselor is always available to provide kids with opportunities to do things such as pan for gold in a nearby shallow creek bed, visit a hillside teepee (pre-supplied with plenty of easy-to-find arrowheads) and work on handmade crafts.

One day, our early-morning trail ride ended at a prairie-like clearing where we enjoyed brunch followed by a friendly game of “fat bat” softball. Alaina had fun displaying her speed on the base path during that contest but Preston was more focused on hitting the plastic wiffle ball as far as he possibly could. Later that evening, we all kicked our collective boot heels high while enjoying a ranch-wide square dance. Even the kids had fun learning how to do-si-do, promenade, chasse and swing on the deck of the Main Lodge.

The next day, many of us elected to ride the waves rather than our horses so we were transported to nearby Buena Vista for a full-day whitewater rafting experience on the Arkansas River. This proved to be another first-time, full-family experience for the Seiter party and even though we didn’t see any bighorn sheep or mountain lions while navigating rapids of various sizes that afternoon, I often felt like I was being watched from the breathtaking tree-laden rocky terrain that surrounded us.

Adult-only options at the ranch involved archery and skeet-shooting tournaments. Our children were eventually given a chance to experience archery themselves but only while under the careful supervision of a staff member. Additional family-friendly experiences that week included an evening musical concert provided by a well-known local artist and a day-long visit to the nearby city of Aspen.

Saturday highlights included a children’s rodeo, where the kids were able to show off some of the riding skills they had attained throughout our stay, along with a country-themed candlelight dinner. During the rodeo, Preston and Alaina carefully raced their respective steeds around barrels, displayed their roping skills while capturing a “willing” target and tried to navigate their horses while balancing an egg on a spoon. Throughout the exhibition, we were comforted in knowing that ranch employees were always nearby to ensure complete safety.

Admittedly, our Sunday morning departure from Elk Mountain Ranch was a difficult one, not only because of the enjoyable experiences we had shared in the midst of what was truly the most breathtaking scenery I had ever encountered, but also because of the meaningful relationships that had been developed in just one week’s time.

Rodeo Week in Buena Vista – June 5, 2016

October 4th, 2015 by Elk Mountain Ranch

The Annual Collegiate Peaks Rodeo will take place in Buena Vista. Saddle bronc, bareback and bull riding. Team roping. Barrel racing. Bull-dogging. Enjoy the week at the ranch and let us treat you to this special event on Saturday evening.



Carin Mari releases her new CD

August 18th, 2015 by Elk Mountain Ranch

Carin Mari’s new CD, “Miles Per Hour,” is finally here! Get your copy today, CarinMariMusic.com

It will also be available to download on iTunes and CD Baby, soon!

Elk Mountain entertainment

Cool Colorado Places to Stay

May 4th, 2015 by Elk Mountain Ranch

Elk Mountain Ranch is No 2! Thank you Colorado Vacation Guide.

There are plenty of options for every type of getaway.  Colorado is truly an amazing place for a vacation of a lifetime.  Join us for week-long package full of adventure.

A 10-mile dirt road leads to the ranch – get away from the crowds.

Capacity of 35 guests – intimate atmosphere.

Best activities that Colorado has to offer –  horseback riding, white water rafting, trapshooting, marksmanship, hayride & campfire, evening entertainment, fishing, hiking, mountain biking, children’s program and much more.



Partial Week Stays

April 29th, 2015 by Elk Mountain Ranch

Join us for a three-night stay.  $845 per person includes meals, lodging and activities.

August 26/27/28

August 30/31/September 1

September 6/7/8



5 Places I Can’t Wait to Visit with My Kids

March 17th, 2015 by Elk Mountain Ranch

Topping the list is Elk Mountain Ranch!  Bring your family for a vacation of a lifetime.  Horseback riding, whitewater rafting, shooting sports, fishing, hiking, mountain biking, petting zoo, children’s program for the Little Buckaroos.  A week of adventure.

Kid friendly ranch

Enjoy our ranch video slide show

November 20th, 2014 by Elk Mountain Ranch

ranch videoCapturing a week at Elk Mountain Ranch with lovely photos by Beverly VanDell.  Enjoy the ranch video slide show.

Grandchildren – Cherish the Moments at a Dude Ranch

November 6th, 2014 by Elk Mountain Ranch

A week at Elk Mountain Dude Ranch with your grandchildren will not be forgotten.  Create memories to last a lifetime.  They will cherish this time.  View this special video created by one very special and creative grandchild.  The highlight of the triplet’s year is spending this week with “Bobo”.   Vacation with your grandchildren; you will have no regrets.Grandchildren at ranch

4th of July Celebration

November 3rd, 2014 by Elk Mountain Ranch

Week of June 28, 2015. Join us for a down-home, western celebration – carnival, fireworks, parade1157565_10204827335787661_8804280181402724728_n255317_490933737586801_134819131_n.

Mt Princeton

February 25th, 2014 by Elk Mountain Ranch

January 2014 108Mt. Princeton in all it’s Glory!

Happy Herd

February 22nd, 2014 by Elk Mountain Ranch

Tom is keeping your horses fat and sassy. Testing your memory – can you name that horse?

Horses Winter 012 Horses Winter 013 Horses Winter 017 Horses Winter 020 Horses Winter 024 Horses Winter 031 Horses Winter 034 Horses Winter 037

Horses Winter 011


Adult Only Ranch Weeks in September

November 25th, 2013 by Elk Mountain Ranch

Singles, couples, and parents who “need a break” – this is your time!

Adults Only – Weeks of August 31 and September 7, 2014 (Week of September 7 is booked, but please join us the prior week.)

Single occupancy fee of 10% is waived for our adult-only ranch weeksriding37. Enjoy the mountains as we near the peak of the fall colors in the Colorado Rockies. The already spectacular scenery at the Ranch unveils more glory in the Autumn. Aspens crown the mountainside in golden grandeur.

We offer many of the same activities as summer, but take a maximum 20 guests. With a focus on riding and relaxation…the adult-only weeks have proven to be quite popular.


Family Reunion Ranch Special – Build memories to last a lifetime

November 7th, 2013 by Elk Mountain Ranch








Ride, raft, fish & hike together. Sequester yourselves from the distractions of the outside world. Build memories to last a lifetime.

Offering a 10% discount to family reunion groups of 10 or more.

Weeks of June 1 and August 24 – 15% discount to groups of 15 or more.

Never a better time; or value.

An All-Inclusive Colorado Vacation!

May 1st, 2013 by Elk Mountain Ranch

DSC_0200When you come to Elk Mountain, you aren’t just getting a standard vacation.  Our all-inclusive week-long packages include three hearty meals a day, horseback riding (we match you with your perfect horse!), pack trips, camping, river rafting, lodging in our private cabins, “me time”, and so much more than we can put into words. We welcome families with children of all ages, and even have an adults-only week. Just check out some of our great reviews from TripAdvisor:

“Trip of a lifetime – Tom, Sue and all their staff were amazing, food was superb and horses were simply the best, felt so safe and cared for. The scenery was spectacular and to top off great days out cosy and comfortable accommodation. A truly magical place to stay.”

“What a welcome! Tom and Sue and their wonderful staff could not do enough to make our stay perfect. Next to the last week of the season and we were treated as though it was the first week. Nothing was too much trouble. We had a ball – adults only and we all got on so well. So many laughs, so many new friends and so many fabulous memories. Loved the horse orientation with Tom on Monday morning – so informative and certainly made us all think! Great riding, and just couldn’t get enough of those magnificent Colorado views! Sue’s meals were out of this world and the only down side are the extra pounds around the waistline!”

“We just returned from our vacation at Elk Mountain Ranch. It was an amazing family vacation. The hospitality provided by the owners and the staff are second to none. Everyone has a smile and always eager to please and accommodate. There are so many things to do… horseback riding, white water rafting, fishing, hot springs.”

So what are you waiting for? Come to Elk Mountain Ranch and experience the dude ranch vacation of a lifetime!