The Old West – in times gone by it was full of cowboys, open frontier and adventure. Today, the lure and call of the West still beckon from Colorado’s prairies and mountains to those who hunger for a taste of a simpler time.
Families can escape the bustle of today’s lifestyle at a place where the West still wins over its visitors. It’s a Colorado dude ranch called Tarryall River Ranch, northwest of Colorado Springs.
The Tesch family owns, operates and hosts guests at the Tarryall River Ranch. Originally horse people from Iowa, one visit to a Colorado dude ranch got them hooked to this way of life. So they packed up and moved west, acquiring the beautiful Tarryall property.
“Other ranch [owners] have come to visit and say it’s a really unique area. It’s just incredible.…you can’t describe it,” says Kevin Tesch, owner and main host of the Tarryall River Ranch.
Situated in the Tarryall Mountains and Pike National Forest, Tarryall River Ranch offers families a vacation of a lifetime.
The ranch is family run. Kevin Tesch’s wife Lisa is the co-owner and attends to the details of guests’ stay. Their oldest son Kelvin is the head wrangler and runs the horse program with his brother Klayton. Kelvin’s wife Bridget is the head chef of an excellent culinary team. The two younger Tesch boys, Kurtis and Kody, help the ranch run smoothly, and a staff from all over the country fills in the rest.
Kevin Tesch says it’s this family focus and the western atmosphere that draw people in and keep them coming back.
He and fellow Colorado Dude Ranch Association members compare a dude ranch vacation to other choices such as cruise lines or Disney World.
So why choose a dude ranch over Mickey Mouse?
“The ranch is a great place to get back to the way it used to be when you could go on a vacation and not worry about your kids,” Tesch says. “It’s about family time together, getting away from modern technology… and getting to know your family again.”
Families of all shapes and sizes can enjoy a piece of the West at Tarryall.
“Your family could be two people or it could be grandma, grandpa and even the grandkids,” he says.
Stays at the ranch can vary from a couple days to weeklong retreats. The main activity is horseback riding in the mornings and afternoons. Trail rides lead to beautiful mountain destinations with an aim at leisurely rides, instructional rides or challenging rides for the more adventurous.
Each rider, age 6 and up, is paired with a horse that matches the guest’s riding ability, while kids 3 to 5 get to ride ponies. For the rest of the stay, guests develop a bond with their horse, growing more confident in their riding abilities.
“The kids want to come because they get to ride horses, but when they’re standing next to the horse on Monday morning they can be a little apprehensive,” Tesch says. “But by Friday and Saturday they know the horse’s name and the horse grows familiar with the rider. By the end the smiles on the parents’ faces are actually bigger than on the kid’s face, because it was success.”
Other activities offered on and around the ranch include fishing, river rafting (for all abilities) on the Arkansas River that winds through Brown’s Canyon and the Royal Gorge, and relaxation amenities such as a heated pool, recreation hall, horseshoe pit, volleyball court, gold panning and hiking.
For the kids there’s a petting zoo and jungle gym, as well as child care for the youngsters who get to participate in arts and crafts and other ranch activities while moms, dads and older siblings get to enjoy the main activities.
Evenings bring the groups together for western fun, with hayrides, square dances and sing-alongs, as well as the opportunity to take it easy on each family’s cabin porch or by a fire.
Chef Bridget and team prepare the meals from scratch, adding to the delicious experience.
Despite the wide range of activities and staff, Tarryall is a smaller scale ranch than others in the Colorado Dude Ranch Association.
“When you go to a ranch and 150 guests are there, it feels like you are just a number,” Tesch says. “When people want to experience this, they don’t want to be just a number… [At Tarryall] you almost become part of our family – everybody knows you by your first name.”
If You Go
Tarryall River Ranch
27001.5 County Road 77
Lake George, Colorado 80827