Culture, Music, Sport and Festivals

Saddle up: what to expect on a ranch stay

Kirsti Kuszmider

3rd June 2024

Cowboy and horse

Ranching has been an integral part of American culture since the nation’s westward expansion at the start of the 1800s, and to this day, a number of Americans across the South and Midwest still choose to live this way of life. While most of us have never experienced it firsthand, we’ve more than likely seen it depicted on our screens in both films and television series – in fact, some of the guest ranches in the USA were also used as film sets – and here at Journeyscape, we are proud to offer multiple ranch stays across the former Wild West so you can discover this unique lifestyle in person. But before we get to all the incredible experiences we have to offer, let us first explain what ranch life actually is outside of the silver screen.

what is an american ranch?

Not dissimilar to running a farm, ranching generally revolves around raising pastured livestock, specifically cattle, horses, pigs, sheep and goats, with only a minimal focus on crops. It’s an extensive operation and a full-time job for the people who choose it to make their living. Ranching goes hand in hand with the cowboy lifestyle, from the iconic Stetson hats and cowboy boots to the rugged (and practical) denim apparel. It’s also where rodeo culture comes from – if you’ve ever wondered why people needed to learn how to lasso an animal, well, there you have it.

the history of ranches in america

Ranches first opened their homes to visitors in the late 19th century to supplement their income and survival, as with the expansion of railroads, visitors flocked from East Coast cities to partake in fresh air, hunting, fishing, riding and other activities. A number of ranches have continued this tradition to this day offering exceptional activities and hospitality to guests from all over the world, and the guest ranch, also often referred to as “dude” ranch, get its name from the word ranchers used to describe the city folk who first came to their lands.

Image credit: Todd Brenneman

things to do on an american ranch

At Journeyscape, we offer multiple opportunities to stay at ranches across the USA, and have partnered with guest ranches in the states of Arizona, California, Georgia, Idaho, Oregon, Texas and Utah – each offering their own unique experience. But for the most authentic and iconic stays, nothing can beat the former Wild West locations of Arizona and Texas. Legendary ranches like Tanque Verde, White Stallion and Wildcatter Ranch offer in-depth insight into the cowboy way of life, as well as innumerable ways to get outdoors and have a good ol’ time. From exploring the desert on horseback to hiking, mountain biking and nature programmes; some ranches even offer archery and tomahawk throwing, as well as Native American arts and crafts workshops. If you’re worried you’ll have to get down and dirty, these ranches also offer modern luxuries like pools and nature-focused spa treatments, so what you choose to do is entirely up to you.

Ready to saddle up? Check out two of our most popular ranch-focused itineraries – Relax and Ranch Southwest and Cowboys and Cajuns, Mansions and Music – and get a glimpse of life in the former Old West!

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Mallika’s love for North America first began when she attended an American boarding school as a teenager. Her mother’s side of the family lived in the USA, so she enjoyed frequent trips across many states.

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