Colorado Guest Ranches: In Touch With Your Inner Cowgirl

Purple lupine, pink wild roses and yellow arnica color the green hillside directly outside my cabin. Any moment, I expect to see a deer wander through the thick forest of aspen, pine and spruce trees. It’s this gentler side of my inner cowgirl I seek to cultivate on this Colorado ranch outing.

While I yearn to gallop through the woods with the wind in my hair, I also want to end the day with a dip in the pool, a glass of wine and a gourmet meal. But mostly, I’ll need a soak and a massage (and maybe a facial) after asking my body to use muscles long forgotten.

Fortunately for me and other mountain-loving hedonists, two award-winning guest ranches in Colorado offer these refined amenities: C Lazy U Guest Ranch & Resort just outside Granby and Devil’s Thumb Ranch close to Winter Park.

C Lazy U Guest Ranch.

C Lazy U Guest Ranch & Resort
Beginning with his and her showers in a bathhouse built in 1925 to the beautiful new eco-friendly spa retreat added a year ago, C Lazy U has upheld the highest standard of excellence and conservation that it calls “Five Spur Service” since 1919. Turndown ritual in the cabins not only includes chocolate on the pillow, but also stacked logs in the fireplace ready for a match.

Sunday is a busy day, with guests arriving for or leaving their week-long, all-inclusive ranch vacation designed for families, but not exclusively. Singles and couples also can enjoy an adult atmosphere, as kids and teens go off for their day’s activities after breakfast with their families, reuniting after separate dinners. This structure gives kids a camp-type experience and allows parents a chance to go trap shooting, play tennis, take yoga class or a ropes course, visit the archery range, go for a day-long fly fishing, golfing, rafting, hiking or mountain biking excursion, or just plain relax by the pool or at the spa.

Horseback riding, of course, is the primary activity. Head wrangler Bill Fisher runs an excellent program for both kids and adults, matching riders to horses and fitting abilities to a variety of daily classes and rides. By the end of the week, everyone has become pals with his or her horse and shows off new skills in the Saturday finale “Shodeo.”

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Many of the wranglers and workers at the ranch were guests as children when their families vacationed there. So, too, are the four families who currently own the ranch. All were frequent visitors in years past. Guests returning as owners and employees make a happy community, and it shows.

Guest ranch activities include fishing in Colorado’s rivers.

Devil’s Thumb Ranch
The original 1937 homestead at the base of a rocky outcropping named Devil’s Thumb has been a vacation property since 1946. Nordic skiing was added in winter of 1975, making it famous as a cross-country skiing center. It wasn’t until Bob and Suzanne Fanch bought the 5,000-acre property in 2001 that it began winning awards for sustainability and upscale amenities for year-round visits. They renovated the original homestead into the Ranch House Restaurant, the “most romantic restaurant in Grand County,” and built 16 luxury cabins furnished with elegant rustic décor, a gorgeous 52-room lodge with Heck’s, a three-meal-a-day dining room, a separate special events facility and a full-service spa. They did all this in an eco-friendly manner on 80 acres, preserving the rest as wilderness.

Devil’s Thumb is not all-inclusive. Meals and activities, such as horseback riding and spa, come a la carte, unless you book a lodging package. The package includes use of the pool, hot tub, steam and sauna, library, fitness center, game room, a small movie theater, fishing ponds and the entire wilderness area to explore. The average stay is 2 ½ half days.

Ranch Creek Spa is in a dedicated, quiet 10,000-square-foot lodge with eight treatment rooms (including a couples’ suite), locker rooms with steam, a yoga studio and a gift shop. The signature facial was all I needed to feel renewed for the next day of riding into the sunset.

If You Go

C Lazy U Guest Ranch & Resort
3640 Colorado Highway 125
Granby, Colorado 80446

Devil’s Thumb Ranch
3530 County Road 83
Tabernash, Colorado 80478
800-933-4339 or 970-726-5632

Claudia Carbone is an award-winning freelance journalist who lives in Denver.