Food might not be one of the first things that comes to mind when thinking about ranches. Yet, a stay at a dude ranch, also called a guest ranch, might actually be a great culinary experience. The Dude Ranchers' Association, which runs more than 100 dude ranches across the U.S., has come up with a list of five things to prove that besides horseback riding and experiencing living "like a cowboy," dude ranches are great places for eating, too.
A dude ranch is a working farm (often a cattle farm) that also takes visitors, who can enjoy a vacation in ranch environment. Though staying at a ranch certainly is much about experiencing the wildlife environment and horseback riding, the Dude Ranchers' Association picked out the "Top Five Culinary Facts You Wouldn’t Expect at a Dude Ranch" to bring awareness to the great foods that also are offered at many ranches.
The list of "top culinary facts" stressed that despite the stereotype of canned beans and soup over a campfire being typical ranch food, many dude ranches actually are home to award-winning and experienced chefs, such as chef Mike Rosenberg at Zapata Ranch, who has been a personal chef to the Carnegie family and even catered JFK Jr.'s wedding. Many ranches also embrace farm-to-table dining, as they grow, raise, and serve their own produce and meats, and highlight locally sourced ingredients. High Lonesome Ranch is one ranch that raises its meat — the signature Black Angus beef — right on the property, as well as uses eggs fresh from their chickens. High Lonesome Ranch also is home to big gardens and orchards, growing fruits such as apricots, apples, and plums, as well as an abundance of vegetables.
To complete the dinner experiences, dude ranches also offer a great selection of wines, and Smith Fork Ranch has won the Wine Spectator’s Award for Excellence two years in a row, with wines ranging from regions of France, Italy, and Australia to America's West Coast.
Besides dining, several ranches also host cooking classes and culinary workshops for visitors with a passion for food. At Echo Valley Ranch & Spa, the restaurant's "Master Chef" provides guests with cooking demonstrations, tips, and techniques. A special program at this ranch focuses on "eating right for your blood type," giving healthy eating tips.
If you're looking for a culinary vacation and the chance to experience life at a ranch, The Dude Ranch Association offer a list of more than 100 different dude ranches open for visitors.
An Inside Look at What It’s Like to Work as a Chef at a Dude Ranch
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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.
When visiting with my family, I’d get up when the 6 am generator kicked on and run to the kitchen to “work” with my friend Hannah, who I met at Elk Mountain (I’m still amazed that eight-year-old me was willing to wake up that early). I’d be assigned “important” tasks like dicing up tomatoes for the evening salad or carving the ranch logo onto pats of butter for the breakfast pancakes. The kitchen staff made me feel like their special helper, and that rush I got from working in a busy kitchen was something I remembered well into my time at college.
Photo courtesy of Sue Murphy
Lacking plans for the summer, I applied for the open chef position at Elk Mountain and landed the job. Little did I know how much time and energy I’d devote to my work and just how much four months crammed in a kitchen in the middle of nowhere would change me.
You’re probably reading this because you have no idea what actually happens at a dude ranch, much less what goes on in the kitchen. In truth, miracles happen.
Okay, not really. But one time I burned four slabs of brisket (AKA $200 worth of cow) and my boss managed to salvage the meat, which to this day is the most miraculous feat I’ve ever witnessed. But I digress…
What’s it like being the chef at a dude ranch? It’s hard work. My typical day started around 6 am when the generator was switched back on and I could start the morning coffee. Breakfast usually wasn’t until 8 or 8:30, which gave me enough time to start on the afternoon’s tasks before turning on the grill to make whatever was on the menu for the morning. This was when I got a lot of my prep work done I’d prep the stuffing for that night’s turkey dinner or start mixing the cake batter so it’d be ready to be popped in the oven as soon as the breakfast dishes were washed.
After inhaling my breakfast, I’d crank out as much food as possible so I could squeeze in an afternoon walk before the dinner rush started. Whether I was peeling a box of apples for some homemade applesauce or baking a month’s worth of pumpkin bread to stash in the freezer, I had plenty to keep me busy.
What people often don’t realize about running a kitchen at a dude ranch is just how much preparation and planning goes into crafting the week’s meals. To make the meals, you have to have a set meal plan. To have a set meal plan, you have to have the right ingredients. To get the ingredients, you need to give the food truck your order far enough in advance for them to pack the truck. The list goes on, but there’s a lot of thinking that has to be done to make sure the weeks flow smoothly.
I suppose now is the perfect time to mention that I am not superwoman and most definitely did not do all the prep work by myself. I had an awesome boss, Sue, who did all the logistics for the food orders and kept us all from running around like chickens with our heads cut off.
Photo courtesy of Sue Murphy
Each meal was a circus of wait staff members rushing around to do the last of the food and table prep, with me standing somewhat awkwardly in the middle tossing food onto platters and hoping it looked somewhat artsy and presentable (just because my food is delicious doesn’t mean it’s pretty, #noshame).
The kitchen was my life at Elk Mountain. I spent most of my time cooking, and when I wasn’t cooking, I was usually talking to whoever had wandered in to get a snack. I learned how to bake pies, salvage over-salted mashed potatoes, and make the world’s best homemade Oreo ice cream. I also learned how to wax the kitchen floor and properly sanitize dirty pans, but those are the skills that no one really wants to hear about, for whatever reason.
Photo courtesy of Sue Murphy
What you really have to understand about being the chef at a dude ranch is that I wasn’t just “the cook.” I was the cook, the cleaning crew, the wait staff, the spare kids counselor, and a wannabe wrangler (I still don’t know anything about horses, by the way). And it wasn’t just me who wore multiple hats, everyone did. That’s just how it works at a dude ranch: everyone does everything.
The staff at Elk Mountain was its own special family for one summer, and, yes, by the end of the summer, we squabbled like a real family too. But that’s just how it is when you work at a ranch, and I really wouldn’t have it any other way.
Photo courtesy of Sue Murphy
Here’s what I want you to take away from this article: the work I did in Elk Mountain’s kitchen wasn’t just cooking, it was creating. Every day, I had to plan meals to accommodate special diets, think of yummy new desserts, and really just figure out how I could make the guests the happiest. I gave 110% every day, and the staff and guests gave every bit of that back and more.
At the risk of sounding like an infomercial, working at Elk Mountain Ranch was the toughest, most rewarding job I’ve ever had. I’m so glad I had the guts to just get out there and pursue my dream job, if only for one summer. Those long days spent cooking my little heart out are some of my favorite memories, and I’m incredibly grateful to everyone at Elk Mountain for making 2014 a summer I’ll never forget.
Lunch in the Buckle Barn | Return to the Buckle Barn between 11:30am and 2pm to relax every day throughout the year. Refuel for a day on the range like a cowboy would with a Copper City Chop sandwich, Montana wagyu beef burger or picnic all year long with a fresh salad and sweet potato sandwich. Our chefs include choices for all tastes and dietary needs.
Served Fresh Daily Complete With the Fixin’s
Each meal is a special occasion here at the ranch. Our chef is a graduate of the Culinary School of Arts and we take great care in the preparation and serving of every dish. This is home cooking in the traditional sense.
Most everything is prepared from scratch, and baking is a specialty. In addition to the wonderful entrees such as steak, ribs, fresh trout, tenderloin and turkey, we always have an abundance of vegetables, fruits and salads. Meals are served family style with all you care to eat. Consideration is given to the requirements of children as well as those with special dietary needs.
During the week we take advantage of the wonderful weather by having frequent barbecue cookouts, which are always a highlight. Should you wish to go over the menu in depth, or if you have any questions regarding dietary requirements, please do not hesitate to call us. Great meals and food are an important part of your vacation and we want to do our best to accommodate your needs and preferences.
Family Style and Plenty of It!
Vegetarian options always available and dietary requirements always met.
Daily breakfast bar with cereal, fruits.
Assortments of fresh baked muffins or breads and eggs most every day (varied) — plus hot cereals.
Green salad bar every day except poolside cookout days.
Fresh breads and sides always.
Everyone’s favorite, RTR cowboy cookies and bars for dessert. Fresh baked breads and fresh side salads, yummy sides to accompany the main entrée and plenty of everything.
Joy Juices, John Barleycorn & Other Fine Beverages
We have a BYOB policy here at the ranch, which has been a wonderful way to accommodate all tastes over the years. You are welcome to bring your alcohol of choice with you or we are happy to pick up what you request on our town-runs. Santa Fe has some wonderful wine shops and it is always fun to stop by local wines and breweries on your way to the ranch. If you prefer, you can also ship to the ranch ahead of time. Glasses, ice machine and openers are available in the lodge and many folks like to enjoy wine with their evening meal.
We do have a large guest refrigerator easily accessible from the dining room and you are welcome to keep anything you wish to keep cold there.
And if you are not an alcohol drinker, we have the delicious RTR coffee and a selection of teas available at any time, as well as a selection of sodas and drinks in the Trading Post.
At meals we serve lemonade, refreshing juices and iced tea. And there is always the cool, pure RTR well water. You need to stay well hydrated at this altitude, so do make sure you are drinking plenty of water!
Each meal is a special occasion at Rainbow Trout Ranch. Whether in the Lodge, by the pool or near the river, you will be wonderfully satisfied.
Considering a Dude Ranch Stay? Your Questions Answered
Ever wondered what dude ranches have to offer? Staying at a dude ranch in Wyoming adds a layer of Western adventure hard to find in our modernized world. From horseback riding to fishing, each ranch has a unique experience to provide their guests. We sat down with Bryce Albright, Executive Direction of Dude Rancher’s Association, to find out more about dude ranches and the adventures they have to offer. Here’s what you can expect when planning a dude ranch vacation.
Is there a difference between dude ranches, guest ranches and working dude ranches in Wyoming?
There is not a difference between dude and guest ranches, but working dude ranches give guests the opportunity to work alongside the cowboys of the operation. This could include moving cattle, fixing fences and other involvement in day-to-day operations. The extent to which guests want to be involved is completely up to them, but working dude ranches are a great destination for people wanting to see and participate in the behind the scenes activities of a ranch.
Should travelers expect to do ranch work while staying at a dude ranch?
The beauty of dude ranches is the autonomy they possess. Guests can be as involved or uninvolved as they please. Ranches have certain schedules and activities lined up during the week and guests can choose what they want to participate in. For most ranches, these activities include things like horseback riding and fishing.
Some ranches allow guests to be involved in the ranch work while at the ranch, but it does depend on the ranch. Most of the time, working dude ranches is where you will find guests involved in the day-to-day chores and operations of the ranch.
What should a traveler expect while staying on a dude ranch that is different from a bed & breakfast, cabin rental or hotel stay?
Dude ranches are different from B&B’s, cabin rentals and hotel stays because of the fact they are all-inclusive and offer activities as well as three meals a day. They also are usually 6–7-night stays, which is the perfect length to really take advantage of these types of accommodations. Many ranches have a required 3-night stay as a minimum.
How do dude ranches differ from typical all-inclusive stays?
Most people think of a cruise line or Disney resort as an all-inclusive stay, and they are similar, but dude ranches are obviously much more Western-focused and themed and offer the experience of living the life of a cowboy.
How much privacy can a visitor expect to have on a dude ranch?
A visitor can expect to have a great amount of privacy at a dude ranch. Since most ranches do not allow off-property traffic onto the ranch, it is a very secluded experience. Individual cabins and lodge rooms offer great privacy. Many even include their own porch to sit on and relax.
What kind of activities are offered on dude ranches?
Each ranch offers different activities, but horseback riding is the main activity. Other activities can include fishing, hiking, archery, yoga, water sports and more. You can go here for an inclusive list of activities offered on most dude ranches, but the specific activities offered is dependent on which ranch you book. The Wyoming Dude Ranchers
Should a traveler have previous experience to try the activities offered at dude ranches?
Dude ranches are perfect for any and all travelers! Especially if they want to try something new. Dude ranches cater to beginners and experts and all levels in between in all activities, so prior experience is not necessary.
Do most dude ranches offer the same type of vacation experience?
Most dude ranches offer the same type of vacation experience in terms of activities. They all offer outdoor and Western-focused activities for guests to participate in. However, accommodations and meals can differ from ranch to ranch due to a ranch being either a working, traditional or luxury dude ranch.
What type of food is served at dude ranches?
Food varies between ranches, but at most ranches, you will find traditional ranch and Western-style food that is family-friendly and hearty. Some ranches do offer gourmet food options. All ranches can accommodate special diets and even the pickiest of eaters with advance notice.
Are pets allowed at dude ranches?
Very few ranches allow pets but can make recommendations for boarding facilities nearby if necessary.
When is the best time to stay at a dude ranch? How far in advance should a visitor book their stay?
Wyoming dude ranches have limited seasons due to the winter weather. The best time to stay at a Wyoming dude ranch is between May and September. There are some Wyoming ranches that are open year-round and offer different activities in the wintertime. It is recommended to book a dude ranch stay six to nine months in advance, as dude ranch vacations are becoming increasingly popular every year.
Why should someone book a stay at a dude ranch?
The experience and atmosphere are what truly make dude ranches unique. There are no other all-inclusive vacations that give guests the opportunity to participate in an array of Western-themed activities and be as involved or uninvolved as a guest would like. Ask anyone that has been to a dude ranch and they will describe this certain kind of “magic” that people feel on a ranch.
A dude ranch is where the outside world melts away and you start to reconnect with yourself, your family and nature. Someone should book a stay at a dude ranch because it is a great value, offers new experiences, allows families to reconnect and it is a vacation like no other!
To learn more about dude ranches in Wyoming, visit the Wyoming Dude Ranchers’ Association.
The Dude Ranch Vacation Hacks I Swear By
While planning my family's ranch vacation this year, I spoke to a pro who gave me her best dude ranch vacation hacks&mdashand I'm sharing them with you.
When planning our annual family vacation earlier this year, I discovered I needed some serious dude ranch vacation hacks. Googling 𠇍ude ranch” brings up about a gazillion options and I had no idea how to narrow them down. Most booking sites don’t include dude ranches in their search inventory, and there wasn’t a travel agent I could track down who seemed to be able to give me advice on this type of adventure. So how did I even begin to start planning this? I spoke with Courtney Frazier, Executive Director of theColorado Dude & Guest Ranch Association, for her best dude ranch vacation hacks𠅊nd then put them to the test.
1. Plan to book your trip directly. Large travel booking sites don&apost tend to have dude ranch vacation options, and it maybe hard to find a travel agent with dude ranch experience. Instead, look for a dude ranch association in the state where you want to visit. (The Dude Rancher’s Association, which is a national group that can help point you in the right direction.) “The national and state associations are like the AAA of the dude ranching world,” says Frazier.
2. Steer clear of any ranch that isn’t in a professional association. These groups help ensure the quality of dude ranches. “To be in the association, a ranch has to qualify to certain levels of hospitality, food, and programs," says Frazier. "Our ranches are inspected regularly before they are accepted as a member and continue to be monitored to keep the highest level of standards.”
3. Forget a star-rating system. Typical hotels are rated on the 1- to 5-star rating system. Dude ranches are rated on how dirty your family is willing to get. There are basically three types of dude ranches:
- A working or farm ranch, where you’re a rancher and you&aposll be expected to pitch hay, muck pig pens, and even remove poop from the henhouse. This is more tailored to adults, not families, and is considered a very active vacation.
- A traditional ranch is a guest house where you&aposre, well, a guest! The dirtiest you’ll likely get is riding the horses but not cleaning up after them. Perfect for most families, most accommodations are modern but rustic and include daily housekeeping. My family and I stayed at the Rainbow Trout Ranch in Antonito, Colorado, where we had cabins that were built in the 1940s with individual log burning fire places.
- A luxury dude ranch. This is basically like a ritzy hotel that might come with room service, a spa, fine dining, and other high-end amenities but still includes horseback riding, fishing and activities. Great for adults and kids alike who still want an outdoorsy vacation but are willing to pay extra for luxe accommodations. Your filth level is low to non-existent. Colorado Trails Dude Rancy in Durango, Colorado, offers brand new cabins that feel more like high-end condos—mini fridges, luxe bathrooms, and central air conditioning.
4. Determine your budget early on. Most dude ranches are all inclusive—meals, activities (we’re talking horseback riding, fishing, square dances, kids programs, hay rides, and more), and your accommodations are included. “Typically, the average is around $250 to $500 per person, per night, and most ranches require a stay of about 6 to 7 nights,” says Frazier, who points out that alcohol is often not included nor are off-site excursions, such as white water rafting. And don’t forget about gratuity. While Frazier points out that some ranches build gratuity into their bill, we ended up tipping 20 percent of our entire bill to the ranch hands after our stay.
5. Consider going during the off-peak season. “While July and August is peak season, fall and winter are both awesome times to visit a dude ranch, particularly to celebrate Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year’s𠅊nd can save you considerably,” says Frazier. Horseback riding and horse-drawn sleds work in the snow and many ranches offer tubing, cross country skiing, or are close to downhill skiing. “Most ranches offer an adult-only week at some point during the year if you’re trying to plan a kid-free vacation,” says Frazier. When I booked our family vacation for mid-June, I saved about 20 percent because it was considered “shoulder season.”
6. Choose a ranch that&aposs out west. While there are a ton of dude ranches across the country, for a truly authentic, cowboy experience complete with cattle wrangling, ho-downs, and old mining towns, head to one of the Western states, such as Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, or Colorado. “It’s easy to tack your dude ranch trip on to visiting national parks, such as Rocky Mountain National Park, the Great Sand Dunes, or Mesa Verde which are family vacation bucket-list locales to begin with,” says Frazier.
7. Leave your fancy clothes at home. Forget the heels, the dangly earrings, and the cute summer chemise. 𠇎ven the luxury ranches are very casual,” says Frazier. What to definitely bring: jeans, boots (hiking work just as well as riding or cowboy boots), lightweight, long sleeve shirt, a hat, sunscreen, sunglasses, and your swimsuit. “Most ranches have a pool and because you’re outside all the time at a higher altitude, you need to be vigilant about sun protection. And pack light—most ranches have laundry rooms or services for guests to use.
8. Stay hydrated. Ranches are often located in the mountains (i.e. higher altitudes) in order to offer gorgeous trail rides, and being dehydrated from too much alcohol or caffeine will make altitude sickness even worse. If you live on the coasts or at sea level, you should give yourself a few days to fully acclimate to the thinner mountain air.
9. Don’t just focus on horse back riding. You’ll miss out on all the other super cool stuff to do—like white water rafting, swimming, on-site mountain biking, guided hiking, and fishing. “Often if you catch a fish, the ranch will cook it up for you for dinner that night,” says Frazier who also points out that many dude ranches often grow their own vegetables, so you can also get in on some gardening. Evening entertainment can include dancing, stargazing, and hayrides. “Specialty weeks—when an expert, such a well-known photographer, painter, or astronomer teach classes𠅊re very popular,” says Frazier. Check the ranch website for pre-planned events and speakers. Or just chill out. Chances are, the ranch will have many rocking chairs, a fully stocked library, and some great vistas where you can just relax (while the kiddos are well-tended to in the junior buckaroo and teen programs).
10. Stretch before you go horseback riding. It&aposs a sport and for good reason—you work a lot of muscles to stay on the horse. And like with any sport, it’s a good idea to stretch before and after your ride. And don’t go crazy on the first day with an all day ride. “The best way to avoid saddle sores or a thrown-out back is to slowly build up your riding—maybe an hour the first day, then 2 or 3 hours in a few days until your body can handle a longer ride,” says Frazier.
11. Expect to ditch your tech. The whole point of going off the grid is to, well go off the grid. Many traditional family ranches don’t have TVs in the rooms, and the wifi service is often spotty. “Going on vacation at a dude ranch is all about unplugging and being with your family in the moment,” says Frazier. “It’s not about getting the best staged Insta pic of the moment.” Frazier says that it takes about two days for the whole family to get past their device addiction. 𠇋y the end of the week, even the most phone-addicted teen or email-gluedworkaholic is immersed in the dude ranch experience, “ she says. Which is exactly why you’re there.
Dude, saddle up! Five horse-lovin' dude ranches in the Southeast
Hankerin' for a little horseback action? Got campfires and cookouts, hay rides and lassos on your mind? Well, even if you're a city slicker dude (or dudette), playing cowpoke in the Southeast has never been easier. Dude ranches, sometimes called by the more genteel term guest ranch, are dotted hither and thither upon the Southern landscape. Peter Askew, dude ranch aficionado and founder/owner of www.duderanch.com, described the appeal of the dude ranch.
"People from all over are enamored of the idea of the West, the idea of becoming a cowboy," said Askew. "The dude ranches in the East are just as popular as those out West. And visitors are going to have food that's comparable to what you get at a resort or a bed and breakfast. Plus, they give you an opportunity to literally unplug from this digital life that we're living in."
Fast Eddie, as one 63-year-old Cowboy Action Shooting champion from the Covington, Ga., area likes to call himself, may not be associated with dude ranches but he sure understands the draw of playing cowboy.
"When I go to shoot cowboy, my world and my problems are left behind," said Fast Eddie, one of the head honchos of the South River Shootists, a club with activities that entail dressing cowboy style and adopting an appropriate gunslinger moniker. "It's an escape to my younger years, growing up with Roy Rogers and Dale Evans."
Not many Southeastern dude ranches offer black powder shooting opportunities but one or two do. Otherwise, they tend to be quite similar in their offerings – horses, trails, cabins, campfires, cookouts, fishing – and all are careful to match riders with suitable horses. There are distinctions, however. Some have truly all-inclusive pricing, others have a basic package complemented by extra-cost add-ons. The lodging at some dude ranches is authentically rustic, some downright fancy-pants upscale, and some ranches have both kinds. Some regularly offer square dancing or musical entertainment, others don't. Some allow horseback riding whether you stay overnight or not, others don't.
Here are five dude ranches in the Southeast that offer good opportunities to satisfy your cowpoke cravings.
This is a true family-owned horse farm only an hour's drive from Atlanta in a nicely secluded spot that offers a year-round guest ranch and a bed & breakfast. There are over 150 Paint and Quarter horses at Southern Cross and the owners have been raising the breeds for more than 30 years. Springtime means about two dozen foals being born on the ranch, a real treat for visitors. It's no wonder this outfit is best known for its horseback riding program and for some of the best opportunities for unguided rides. Southern Cross also has a heated pool, games and other activities.
Southern Cross Ranch, 1670 Bethany Church Road, Madison, Ga., 706-342-8027, www.southcross.com
Another top-notch dude ranch, also only about an hour away from the ATL, is Jasper, Georgia's Seventy-Four Ranch. Centered around the historic Butler-Cape House, built in the 1800s, guests have 1,200 acres to ride, cookouts, campfires, fishing and cattle encounters. For a little extra, you can get hands-on instruction in rope handling, horse tack, horse culture and more. Lodging can range from very comfortable rooms at the inn, all with restrooms, to a luxurious tent. Or, if you wanna get the real buckaroo feel, pardner, there's the Cowboy Cabin, a replica of a mid-1800s cabin made of beams from an 1832 barn. It has a stack-stone fireplace, cedar bed and there's no power or bath, though cowpokes can mosey on up to the main house to use the facilities.
Seventy-Four Ranch, 9205 Highway 53 W., Jasper, Ga., 706-692-0123, www.seventyfourranch.com
Situated in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains about 50 miles from Asheville and the same from Gatlinburg, this riverside ranch has an "old Western Town" layout, complete with a seven-room timber-frame Lone Star Hotel, lodge rooms with the appearance of "Old West" shops, and the Iron Horse Saloon, where the bluegrass band plays and square dancin' breaks out in the summer. Meals at the ranch are served family style with big ol' bowls of homemade Southern fare passed around among the visiting "ranchers" who've worked up a powerful appetite. Horseback riding, cattle drives and team penning are the mainstay activities and a kid's rodeo is popular in the summer.
French Broad Outpost Ranch, 461 Old River Road, Del Rio, Tenn., 800-995-7678 frenchbroadduderanch.com
Clear Creek sits pretty as a picture up in the Blue Ridge peaks north of Asheville at an elevation of 3,200 feet. The ranch has about 50 horses and horseback riding is its main attraction. But there's also a stocked trout pond, cookouts, bonfires with s'mores, hayrides and occasionally live music. If all the ranchin' wears you out there's a heated pool, a hot tub and some hammocks swaying in the breeze to help you relax. Or you can wet your whistle at the Cantina with beer, wine or something a bit more bracing. But Clear Creek is also very kid-friendly. There's a pony and a mule that even small children can have fun "riding," as well as a "Kid's Only Cook-Outs."
Clear Creek Dude Ranch, 100 Clear Creek Road, Burnsville, N.C., 828-675-4510, clearcreekduderanch.com
Another Blue Ridge Mountains ranch surrounded by the Pisgah National Forest, this one out by Indian Spring Mountain and closer to Asheville, is a family-owned operation that's been going since 1790 and opened to the public by the Cogburn family in 1941. The 2,000-acre ranch has a variety of more than two dozen rustic guest cottages and cabins and a swimming pool. Horseback rides, nature walks, black powder shooting, campfires, candle making, fishing and nightly entertainment are what you'll find to satisfy your heartfelt wrangler wishes, as well as an intriguing little pioneer museum. Country cooking served family style is available in the ranch's large dining room.
Dining on a Dude Ranch Vacation
You may be surprised to discover the food is exceptional at many ranches and that chefs can accommodate dietary needs. However, be sure to inquire about the cuisine and how meals are served.
McCormack advises notifying his ranch in advance if you have allergy and dietary restrictions so the chef can accommodate them. In addition to providing gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan options, the chef whips up diverse culinary delights.
So, what can you expect? Served family style, meals include whole marinated grilled beef tenderloin, BBQ chicken, grilled portobellos, grilled garlic bread, salad, grilled veggies and a baked potato bar. Daily lunch varieties include themes such as Mediterranean, burgers & dogs (plus veggie options), and a chuck wagon ride with assorted wraps.
Cookouts feature BBQ ribs and grilled salmon with mango salsa, corn on the cob, spinach salad, and cheddar biscuits. Desserts may include peach cobbler and homemade fudge pudding with vanilla ice cream.
And, although you&rsquore on a family vacation, there&rsquos time for romance too. For example, Thursdays are date night at Colorado Trails Ranch. While counselors entertain kids with games and a cookout, parents enjoy cocktails, hors d&rsquooeuvres, and a plated meal.
This special date night dinner may be roasted beets and goat cheese salad with lemon/cumin vinaigrette, grilled lamb chops with fresh mint chutney, crispy polenta and sugar snap peas, and crème brûlée.
Dude Ranch Chicken
Obviously, by the very nature of cooking beans as an actual meal for oneself, there is a lot of flexibility that can come from it. If you are not feeling very hungry or you do not have a lot of time, then you are absolutely able to eat the dude ranch beans recipe that you cook and move on with your day. However, if the beans are not enough or you would like to mix in a different sort of flavor or add in something to help satisfy your hunger more, then there is some matching of foods that you can undertake to send the meal to the next level.
Of course, the dude ranch beans taste dynamite all their own, but this exceptional flavor that they come with also helps elevate so many other foods, too. Namely, this would be chicken. One of the more versatile meats and proteins, chicken tends to go with most foods. It can be a part of Mexican food like enchiladas, Italian food like linguini, many different types of salads, and more. In this particular case, it pairs very well with the southwest flavors and stylings of the dude ranch beans.
To have a meal consisting of chicken and beans is about as consistent a delicacy as you can hope for and it will surely satisfy every member of your family. Dude ranch chicken is just as tasty as dude ranch beans. Give it a whirl! You might not ever go back to just the beans.
Come savor delicious fine dining "ranch style" prepared by 4UR Executive Chef, Blake Bond
What to Expect:
Most meals at the 4UR take place in the Lodge dining room at liberally scheduled times. While some ranch resorts serve meals family style, we prefer to reserve a table for you and your family for the entire week of your stay. Enjoy your time on the stream, or a soak in the hot springs, and your table will be waiting for you in the dining room during meal time hours.
A typical day will offer:
- 6:30am Coffee delivered to your porch
- 7:30am Continental Cold Breakfast Buffet in the Lodge
- 8:00-9:00am Hot breakfast service ordered from the menu (Breakfast ends at 9am when it’s time for kids to meet their counselors, anglers their guides, or riders to head to the barn.)
- 12:30-2pm Lunch is served and includes a generous salad bar and prepared items ordered from the menu.
- 6:00pm the bartender arrives and appetizers are served in the bar.
- 6:30-8pm dinner is served in the dining room with a core menu and two dinner specials nightly.
- All Day – Our bottomless cookie jar in the Lodge and at the Pool.
Sample Dinner Menu Our menu offers a new definition in ranch dining! For Kid’s selections, please view Kid’s Options.
- Apple and Arugula Salad with spiced walnuts, blue cheese, apple cider vinaigrette.
- Sweet Corn Soup with cilantro, feta, pickled corn.
- 4UR Salad with local greens ,candied pecans, tomatoes, cucumbers, blue cheese, honey-balsamic.
- Rare Seared Ahi Tuna with bok choy, pickled vegetables, chile, miso-ginger vinaigrette.
- Pan Seared Duck Breast with foie gras dirty rice, sautéed greens, cherry mostarda.
- Espresso Rubbed Tenderloin of Beef with buttermilk potato puree, roasted broccolini, espresso demi.
- Roasted Chicken with farro, castelvetrano olives, capers, zucchini, pan jus.
- Fettuccine Pasta with swiss chard, bacon, mushrooms.
- Chocolate with chocolate cake, chocolate ganache, chili-chocolate gelato.
- Sticky Toffee Pudding with date cake, toffee sauce, vanilla gelato.
- Cheese Plate with local cheese, baguette, cherry chutney.
- Daily Selection of House-made Sorbets and Ice Cream.
We also offer an excellent wine list to complement your meal.
Some anglers prefer to have us prepare a box lunch so they can stay out on the stream all day. And some guests who attend a play at the nationally award winning Creede Repertory Theatre will ask for a dinner picnic basket to take to town for an evening.
But, the picnic most loved by returning guests? Our century old tradition of the Friday fish-fry, with trout fillets cooked streamside in a sizzling skillet, and an oh-so-cold beer.
A Word from Our Chef:
My first true appreciation for food came from fishing with my grandfather on Lake Conroe in Texas. We would clean and fry catfish which we caught moments before and my grandmother would serve tomatoes fresh from her garden. Sitting down as a family and enjoying these meals are some of my fondest memories.
I have been extremely fortunate in my career to work for some incredible chefs who have molded my cuisine where it is today. I have worked in Vail, Houston, Las Vegas, and San Francisco. Each stop along the way has given me an appreciation for different regional cuisine. I found my home at 4UR Ranch years ago beginning as Sous Chef and now as Executive Chef. As our food at the ranch continues to evolve, I rely on the lessons my mentors have taught me to give our guests the best experience possible.
We believe that using local products and ingredients not only gives us the freshest products to create with, but is also part of our responsibility to the community. Whether it’s fresh trout from Frontier Farms in Sagauche, tomatoes from Three Guys Farm in Monte Vista, or honey from Haefeli’s Honey Farm in Del Norte, we know that we are using amazing products and creating great relationships.
Our garden here at the ranch will also continue to evolve. It helps our cooks to appreciate the time and effort it takes to put great ingredients in front of our guests. We also enjoy the challenges of growing produce at 8,500 feet.
As the Executive Chef at the 4UR, I look forward to welcoming our guests and sharing my passion for cooking, friendship, and memories created around the enjoyment of great food.
* If you or any member of your family have special dietary needs or requirements, such as gluten-free or sugar-free foods, please let us know before you arrive and we’ll do our best to have the right foods on hand.
Watch the video: Guest Ranch Dining and Activites (October 2021).