According to Ann Flower, a Los Angeles-based travel publicist who represents the Los Angeles Times Travel and Adventure Show, “Dude ranches have been operating since the 1920s, when Depression-squeezed cattle ranchers and railroad passenger managers realized the mutually beneficial tourism and economic potentials of steering passengers towards dude ranch vacations.” Flower, who has represented ranches in Arizona and Montana, adds, “Because dude ranches are family-oriented yet also cater to individuals who are learning or perfecting their riding skills, they are ideal places to commune with family, friends and the wilderness.”
Historically, Montana is a dude ranch paradise: The 63 Ranch in Livingston is the first dude ranch in Montana to be declared a National Historic Site. Founded in 1863, the ranch boasts more than 100 miles of trails within minutes of its corral and has been owned by the same family since 1929. Horses outnumber guests here two to one. Guests as young as four learn to ride around the corral, while experienced riders can join cowboys in moving or gathering cattle and throwing lassos and ropes. Depending on ability, children as young as six can go trail riding. Located 50 miles north of Yellowstone National Park and adjoining the two million-acre Gallatin National Forest, the 63 sits at an altitude of 5,600 feet. With comfortable log cabins and varied menus that accommodate low cholesterol, high fiber, vegetarian and other diets, the 63 serves grass-fed beef from its own herd, homemade baked goods and other artisanal fare. The dining room never serves alcohol but allows guests to bring their own libations onto the property.