Colorado Dude Ranch Vacation Planning

We’ll help you prepare the perfect Colorado dude ranch vacation.

Area Weather | Airport Hotels | Sights to See | Associations | Favorites

Area Weather 

Buena Vista Weather Preparing for your Colorado dude ranch vacation at Elk Mountain? Keep in mind
that weather in Colorado changes quickly. It is best to dress in layers as there is a 30-40 degree temperature swing between night and day. Day time temperatures range in the mid 70s to mid 80s. Nights cool to the 40s.

Denver Airport and Airport Hotels

Denver International Airport

The ranch is a pleasurable 2 ½ hour drive from the Denver Airport. Most major rental car companies are located at the airport. You may also use our airport transfer service. The cost for our service is $495 (no extra fees, taxes or gratuities) round-trip for a family group up to 5 persons. We pick up at 12:30 p.m. on the Sunday of arrival and will have you back to the airport by 11:30 a.m. the following Sunday. Some guests fly in on Saturday and stay at an airport hotel that offers a complimentary airport shuttle and breakfast. We can then pick you up at your hotel on Sunday. This is ideal for our guests from the United Kingdom as it gives them an opportunity to recover from the international flight.

The Jeppesen Terminal has three airside concourses. Concourses A, B and C have a total of 89 gates. Concourse A is accessible by train from Jeppesen Terminal or by the unique walkway which spans the airplane taxiway and gives travelers a closeup view of the airplanes as they move to their gates. Concourse B & C are accessible only by train from Jeppesen Terminal. This airport serves most airlines.

Embassy Suites (Yampa Street) 
Embassy Suites (Havana Street)

Embassy Suites Airport hotels are located on both Yampa Street and Havana Street. If you fly into Denver on a Saturday, this is by far the best way to spend the night. They offer complimentary airport shuttle (24/7), a complimentary manager’s reception from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., and a complimentary cooked-to-order breakfast (much more than muffins and cereal). Every room is a 2-room suite. They are spacious, clean and quiet. All guest rooms have complimentary high-speed internet access. Enjoy steaks, pasta, and local favorites at their on-site restaurant.

Other Airport Hotels

There are a number of fine hotels in the Tower Road area. Most offer complimentary airport shuttle. Also, our airport transfer service offers pick up or drop off at any of the airport hotels.

Colorado Springs Airport and Airport Hotels

Colorado Springs Municipal Airport

The ranch is conveniently located just 90 miles due west of Colorado Springs. The airport is much smaller than Denver and quite easy to find your way around. It is served by Allegiant Air, American, Continental, Delta, Frontier and United.

Colorado Springs Hotels

There are a number of nice hotels near the Colorado Springs Airport. This website will lead to you the hotels near the airport that offer a shuttle service to and from the airport.

Travel Insurance

Travel Guard

Travel Insurance is recommended for your Colorado dude ranch vacation. For groups of 10 or more this is especially important as we do request a non-refundable prepayment by March 15th. There are many companies that offer travel insurance. This particular company is an associate member of the Colorado Dude & Guest Ranch Association.

Sights to See if arriving in Denver

Colorado Rockies game at Coors Field

We love going to a Rockies game. Coors Field is a great place to see a ball game with the Rocky Mountains as a backdrop. We are so very proud of our Colorado Rockies. Find the home schedule and purchase tickets at this site.

Denver Museum of Nature and Science

This museum is top notch. There is also an adjoining IMAX theatre.

Denver Zoo

Denver Zoo, open every day of the year, is home to nearly 4,000 animals representing 750 species including the incredibly rare okapi, red-bellied lemur, Amur leopard, black rhino and Siberian tiger.

Elitch Gardens Amusement Park

This is a great way to spend the day in Denver if you have children. The amusement park has many roller coasters and also a kiddie area. Included in your admission is a visit to the on-site water park. This amusement park lies in the heart of downtown Denver.

Water World

One of America’s largest family waterparks. This huge water park is just north of Denver. Our kids love it!

Rocky Mountain National Park

Great place to see plenty of elk herds. This is the highest road in Colorado and will take you through snow capped peaks. You would need an extra day or two to take this trip, spending the night in Estes Park on the east end or in Granby/Grand Lake on the west end. There is a $35/vehicle fee good for 7 days.

Established on January 26, 1915, Rocky Mountain National Park is a living showcase of the grandeur of the Rocky Mountains. With elevations ranging from 8,000 feet in the wet, grassy valleys to 14,259 feet at the weather-ravaged top of Longs Peak, a visitor to the park has opportunities for countless breathtaking experiences and adventures. Elk, mule deer, moose, bighorn sheep, black bears, coyotes, cougars, eagles, hawks and scores of smaller animals delight wildlife-watchers of all ages. Wildflower-lovers are never disappointed in June and July when the meadows and hillsides are splashed with botanical color. Autumn visitors can relax among the golden aspens or enjoy the rowdier antics of the elk rut (mating season). 359 miles of trail offer endless opportunities to hikers, backpackers and horseback riders. Fly fishers, bird-watchers and photographers discover the splendor that they traveled so far to find. 60 peaks rising above 12,000 feet challenge intrepid hikers and climbers. Anyone visiting between Memorial Day and late autumn can see many of these peaks eye-to-eye by driving over Trail Ridge Road. Topping out at 12,183 feet, this is the highest, continuous, paved road in the United States. Ranger-led activities are an entertaining way to learn more about your surroundings.


This ski town is a nice venture as you head to or from the ranch. The trip may add an hour to your driving time to or from Denver, but if you have the extra time it is well worth it. The drive over Hoosier Pass is spectacular. Breckenridge is a quaint town with neat little shops. There is also an area near Peak 9 where you can bungee jump, putt putt golf, walk through a human maze or ride the chairlift up for a wild ride on the alpine slide.

Sites to See if arriving in Colorado Springs

Various Colorado Springs Activities

There are plenty of touristy things to see and do in Colorado Springs. Some of the most popular are the Cog Railway to the top of Pikes Peak (reservations highly recommended), Colorado Springs Zoo, Airforce Academy Visitors Center, Garden of the Gods, Manitou Cliff Dwellings, Cave of the Winds, Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame and an entertaining western dinner at Flying W Ranch.

Cripple Creek

This historic mining town now allows limited stakes gambling. If you are not a gambler, it is still worth the trip. We highly recommend the Mollie Kathleen Mine tour. It is quite reasonable and very interesting. This tour will take you 1000 feet under ground where you will be educated by a real hard-rock miner. There is also a train tour that does a 6-mile loop of the surrounding area.

Sites to See if arriving from the South

Sand Dune National Park

The Sand Dunes have recently been named a National Park. Nestled in southern Colorado, North America’s tallest dunes rise over 750 feet high against the rugged Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The wind-shaped dunes glow beneath the rugged backdrop of the mountains. This geologic wonderland, containing over 30 square miles of massive dunes, became a national monument in 1932. With the passage of the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve Act, resources now also include alpine lakes and tundra, six peaks over 13,000′ in elevation, ancient spruce and pine forests, large stands of aspen and cottonwood, grasslands, and wetlands–all habitat for diverse wildlife and plant species. In the spring the water is flowing over the sand dunes. Be sure to take plenty of sunscreen.

Sites to See if arriving from the West

Glenwood Hot Springs

This would be a convenient overnight stay if coming in on I-70 from the west. There are plenty of reasonably priced hotels in the area. The hot springs pool is the largest in the state. The hot water soaking pool is especially relaxing. In the summer, they even have a water slide. We are about a 3 ½ hour drive from Glenwood, which makes for a pleasurable drive over Tennessee Pass or Independence Pass.

Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park

The caverns have recently been opened to the public and the owners have put a great deal financially into their passion. A gondola ride takes you to the top of the mountain where you are then led by a tour guide through numerous caverns. There is also a restaurant up top for a unique dining experience and an amusement park.

Wild Horses in the BLM Little Bookcliffs

We spent one spring break hiking in the Little Book Cliffs just east of Grand Junction. This is home to one of the largest wild horse herds in the state. If you hope to see any horses, contact the BLM first to see where they may be located during a particular time of year. Also wear comfortable hiking shoes as you may put in some miles before catching site of them. We spent two days and came across 7 herds and few loners and even a few foals.

Proud Members of these fine Associations

Colorado Dude & Guest Ranch Association

As members of the Colorado Dude & Guest Ranch Association we join 25 other wonderful ranchers that love to share their home and passion with their guests. Ranches must meet strict standards regarding meals, lodging, horse program and other activities. We are quite certain that you would not be disappointed when taking a Colorado Dude Ranch vacation.

Dude Rancher’s Association

There are now over 120 members in The Dude Ranchers’ Association, which was formed in 1926 to preserve this special way of life and the wonderful environment in which it takes place. Membership in the Association is not automatic. Dude ranches applying for membership and go through a rigorous two-year inspection and approval process. When you vacation at a Dude Ranchers’ Association Dude Ranch, you can be sure of a quality vacation. When you book at a Dude Ranchers’ Association member ranch you can be assured that it’s actually a ranch and not just a hotel with horses out back.

Buena Vista Chamber of Commerce

Buena Vista, Colorado, nestled at the foot of the Rocky Mountain’s Collegiate Peaks, is the sort of community most people only dream of. Buena Vista is considered by many the capital of whitewater rafting for the United States. The area is also popular for snowmobiling, cross country skiing, mountain biking, backpacking, animal watching, and just about any other outdoor activity that comes to mind. The beautiful scenery, tree-lined streets, year-round mild climate, clean air, and clear sparkling water are just some of the things that make Buena Vista a truly great place.

Certified Horsemanship Association

The mission of CHA is to promote excellence in safety and education internationally, for the benefit of individuals and group riding programs. CHA serves leaders, instructors and riding program directors for youth associations, clubs, riding stables, camps, colleges and recreational programs with instructor and trail guide certification. CHA also publishes industry standards for group riding programs, accredits riding program facilities and provides the most comprehensive variety of program resources for instructional and recreational riding programs. Tom is certified in western horsemanship, trail and outfitting.

America Outdoors

America Outdoors is an international association representing the world’s finest active travel outfitters, tour companies and outdoor educators. The member companies provide a wide range of experiences to the general public. Services include whitewater rafting, canoeing, kayak touring, guest ranch vacations, bicycle touring, fishing trips, teambuilding, climbing, jeep tours, winter sports, hunting and many more activities. Member companies operate in 43 states and 50 foreign countries. Outfitters provide all the equipment, instruction and in most cases guides to make your trip fun.


Make A Wish Foundation of America

Make A Wish is one of our favorite charities. Over the years we have been proud to sponsor seven children’s wishes. It has been rewarding and humbling to have these fine young folks and their families. The foundation grants the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength, and joy. If you know of a child with a life-threatening medical condition and wishing for a horse, Colorado vacation or dude ranch experience, please contact us.

Boy Scouts of America

The National Council of the Boy Scouts of America supports more than 300 local councils that provide quality youth programs, including Cub Scouting, Boy Scouting, and Venturing. As a Boy Scout, one must complete a number of merit badges to receive the Eagle Scout Award. At Elk Mountain Ranch, Tom is a registered Merit Badge Counselor for horsemanship and archery. Our family loves scouting as Tyler spent his elementary school years as a dedicated cub scout, Sue was their Den Leader, and Tom remains a Merit Badge Counselor.

Wilderness Aware Rafting

Rafting is a fantastic family adventure that is fun and exciting for people of all ages. Wilderness Aware is dedicated to providing our guests with quality trips.