Maybe the latest travel passion was born from over a year of lockdown, but spending your vacation in the great outdoors is one of the most highly-sought after summer-fall travel trends in the U.S. From fly fishing to horseback riding on the open range and a BBQ bootcamp, here are five rustic yet chic options to explore with friends and family.
Above: Fly Fishing, The Ranch at Rock Creek
The Ranch at Rock Creek Montana
Well-known as a ‘luxury dude ranch” The Ranch at Rock Creek in Montana is located on a 19-century homestead in the Western region of the state. The 6,600-acre grounds are primed for fly-fishing and horseback riding in the summer and snow- bound sports in the winter. No matter which season you choose, you won’t be roughing it as this ranch is also part of the world-renowned Relais & Châteaux property portfolio.
Due to demand, the resort has introduced new activities which also help to spread people out for social distancing. One of the most popular activities is “Respite on the Ranch” which brings guests to a remote spot by the river, with hammocks, a picnic, walkie-talkies to rest and enjoy nature. The theory behind this low-key activity is that people are always so busy running around shooting, riding and fishing that they rarely take the time just to unwind.
If saddling-up is more your speed, “Riding along with the Ranger” is also a fairly new pursuit where you will herd and feed the cattle. If you like being a fish out of water, “Frontier skills” has also proven to be a popular activity where you will learn how to start a campfire and make your own shelter.
Above: Mustang Monument View
Mustang Monument in Nevada
If you long for a more intimate group experience where horses roam free, try the Mustang Monument eco-resort in northwest Nevada. This location caters to small groups or family gatherings of up to 20 people and is spread over 900 square miles of wilderness. What is uniquely stunning at the monument is the wide-open Western plains where nearly 1,000 rescued mustangs run wild in the natural surroundings.
The accommodations span from glamping where you can have an up-close “American safari’ experience with the Mustangs to 10 private cottages cloaked in Western flair yet offering creature comforts from soaking tubs to king beds and walk-in closets. Expect 5-star service from massages to in-room dining.
Mustang Monument is the passion project of American businesswoman, animal welfare activist and philanthropist Madeleine Pickens, who made it her personal mission to protect and provide essential care to the magnificent Mustangs who call this land home. Proceeds from every stay at Mustang Monument directly benefit Saving America’s Mustangs.
The best way to arrive at the ranch is via private plane to Wells Municipal Airport/Harriet Field or a 2.5-hour car ride from Salt Lake City International Airport.
Above: Rancho Buena Vida swing, Explore Ranches
Explore Ranches in Texas
Explore Ranches is the brainchild of Co-Founder Allison Ryan, who started hosting small groups of women on her family’s land in West Texas. She shared a similar interest and passion for land preservation with now co-founder Jay Kleberg who was previously the Associate Director for Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation.
What the duo found was that for most people, some of the nation’s most iconic landscapes are either inaccessible or relatively unknown. Allison and the Explore Ranches team are conservationists, landowners, and outdoor enthusiasts, with the goal of connecting individuals with the outdoors in an exciting and new way.
To accomplish this, they have partnered with the nation’s most historic and picturesque ranches to open their gates to the public for the first time. The idea allows for landowners to bring in revenue and preserve the land, as in the next 20 years, there is going to be the biggest generational transfer of land in history. Many of the partner ranches also have a passion for conservation, working to protect the grasslands and watersheds on their land and in the area. These outdoor and remote experiences educate travelers and teach individuals about the conservation that needs to be done and how this work impacts cities and the area at large.
Above: Chandler Ranch kayak | Photo by Chris Collis
Alisal Guest Ranch in Solvang
Located just outside of downtown Solvang, Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort holds 73 private cottages and suites spanning across 10,500 acres of rolling hills in the Santa Ynez Valley. This hideaway also holds two 18-hole championship golf courses, a 6,500-square-foot spa and fitness center, six tennis courts and a 100-acre spring-fed lake with water sports, including fly fishing, canoeing, kayaking and more than 50 miles of horseback riding trails.
Opened in 1946, the wide-open spaces and outdoor activities cater to all ages and has a major emphasis on cookouts and eating around the open fire. The ranch has extended the California Ranch Cookout guest chef series with a lineup through the end of the year, featuring Food Network stars Cat Cora, Ray Garcia (Broken Spanish) and Sam Jones (N. Carolina BBQ), to name a few.
The bi-annual BBQ Bootcamp will also be returning in the fall, with its first-ever Cowgirl Edition, featuring a star-studded lineup of female guest chefs including Ellen Bennet (Hedley & Bennett), Valerie Gordon (Valerie Confections), Elizabeth Faulkner (Top Chef, Iron Chef, Chopped), Katie Flannery (Flannery Beef), Katelyn Kaney (Cattaneo Brothers.)
Lastly, the beloved Unbridled Retreat will also be returning to The Ranch, taking place October 3-6.
Above: Alisal BBQ | Photo by Sara Range
Fly-Fishing Getaway in Wyoming
OK, this is technically not a ranch but it is the perfect location for exploring the outdoor life in one of the most sought-after cities and states right now (even Kanye West has moved here from Calabasas), so we will dub this one ‘ranch adjacent’ for city slickers who want to dip their toe into the great outdoors.
Hotel Jackson is an award-winning, LEED-built, family-owned luxury boutique hotel in the heart of Jackson Hole which the perfect home-base for getting outside to explore and embrace adventure with long daylight hours and fantastic weather conditions.
For the ultimate fly-fishing experience, hop on a private jet to Jackson Hole via partner XO Jets, and head out for the day with Hotel Jackson’s fly-fishing guide, for a full or half-day boating trips to some of the best fishing spots in the area. Guests can experience the world-class fly-fishing firsthand at one of the following spots including Snake River or Salt River for Cutthroat trout and Green River for drift boat fishing. Yellowstone National Park is only an hour away where you can go wade fishing for brown and rainbow trout. The day tours also include backcountry creeks and lakes with hiking and more fishing.