This Vacation Rental Site Has Incredible Ranch Stays All Across the U.S. — Including in Colorado's Rocky Mountains and Near Glacier National Park
Welcome to Explore Ranches, a.k.a. your one-stop shop for ranch stays in the U.S.
Explore Ranches co-founder Allison Ryan grew up in Madera Canyon, the deepest chasm in Texas. The cacti-spiked, piñon-scented, landscape of red rocks is home to veiny creeks and is dutifully patrolled by black bears, mountain lions, and non-native Barbary sheep.
"Having that kind of access to the outdoors really influences who you are as a person," Ryan says. "When you stand on the edge of a canyon, you immediately understand that you are not the center of the universe."
Her connection with the outdoors, as well as a global rise in urbanization, inspired Ryan and her co-founders Jay Kleberg (who grew up on South Texas’s 825,000-acre King Ranch) and Jesse Womack (a fifth-generation cattle rancher) to create a rental platform focused on rural stays on private ranches, amid unbridled wilderness. Of the 31 ranches currently on their roster (most are in the Western U.S., with a property in Costa Rica and one in Scotland), Ryan's 1,600-acre childhood homestead, Withers, was the first.
“It’s the kind of stuff you can’t replicate in a city or even in a national park,” Ryan says. Most Explore Ranches properties are working livestock operations, and at Southern Utah’s Ranch at Wild Rose, aspiring wranglers can don their Stetsons for an authentic multiday herd haul.
Conservation is a way of life on Explore Ranches properties. Vermejo, a Ted Turner Reserves property in northern New Mexico, once successfully restored more than 1,000 native plant species, leading to the reintroduction of native wildlife, through one of its many conservation efforts. Visitors can now set out on a safari-style patrol at dawn to get the lowdown on land stewardship while observing the prodigal species — elk, black bear, bald eagles, and more — forage for breakfast.
“No one protects things they don’t care about,” Ryan says. “If we can get people into the outdoors to have these types of experiences, we hope they’ll start caring about the land, too.”
When it comes to ringing the dinner bell or hitting the hay at these remote outposts, Ryan firmly believes that luxury trappings do not negate the rustic experience. “You don’t need to sleep in a tent and cook over a backpacking stove to make your interaction with the land more impactful,” she says.
Some Explore Ranches outposts are thoughtful and cozy, while others are more modern (like Ranch 2810 near Marfa, Texas, a low-slung compound designed by architect Carlos Jiménez to echo the topography of the site, a flat, high desert hilltop).
But if only an olden log cabin — updated for the modern traveler with heated floors, chef's kitchens, and marshmallowy beds — will do for an authentic getaway in the American West, consider Explore Ranches more storied properties. The lodge at Green Valley Ranch in Montana, for example, has been open since Glacier National Park's establishment in 1910 Meanwhile, at Middle Creek Ranch in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, the landowner regales guests with tales of the property's historic Robber's Roost cabin — legend has it that Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid's gang holed up there while on the lam.
“This is the kind of romance and adventure that seems to only happen when you're in the middle of nowhere,” Ryan says. “And the middle of nowhere is probably somewhere near a ranch.”
To learn more about Explore Ranches or to book your own stay, visit the Explore Ranches website.
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