How to Choose the Right Dude Ranch?

Planning your perfect summer vacation is tough, so we applaud you for getting this far in the process - and choosing to take the path less traveled by visiting a Dude Ranch this summer.  Of course, with so many types of Dude Ranches, your vacation planning isn't quite done yet.  It's now time to pick the guest ranch experience that best matches what you'll find enjoyable.  Below are some questions to ask, to be sure the ranch you're considering also matches your expectations for a fun vacation.  Once you've asked these questions, you'll find it helps narrow down to find the perfect guest ranch for your next vacation!

This quick list of questions are for ANY Guest Ranch.  Of course, we thought it sure would be helpful if we also included our own answers to these questions, so you'll know if Paradise Guest Ranch is the right Dude Ranch for you.  We hope you find this guide helpful in booking the right dude ranch.

Q: Is the ranch a "Working Dude Ranch?"

Dude ranches range from true "working dude ranches" to "luxury dude ranches".  Believe it or not, but some experienced riders enjoy trips where they stay at an actual working ranch and well, work on their trip.  On the other hand, some dude ranches have shifted to the point where the experience seems more like a luxury resort and you can wonder if you are actually on a ranch?  Everyone has different desires for their trip, so just be sure you ask and choose a guest ranch that meets your balance between rugged to plush.

A: Paradise Guest Ranch is not a true working ranch. While we have horses and cattle, our primary goal is to have FUN with activities like team penning, barrels and poles, extensive trail riding, and our very own kids’ rodeo during our family weeks.

View the reviews our guests have given us on Facebook

Q: What about References and Reviews?

There are many places to find references for Dude Ranches: Dude Ranches Association, Trip Advisor, Google, Facebook, etc. The best way to review a dude ranch is to hear it from the guests themselves!

A: Paradise Guest Ranch has been highlighted by many trustworthy sources such as ABC newsUSA TodayTop 50 Ranches, and Debbe Dunnings Dude Ranch Round up. Do you prefer to hear reviews from previous guests? So do we. Check out the reviews on Facebook and TripAdvisor!


Q: Terrain, Temperature and Time of Year?

From the red sand stone desert of the Southwest to the high altitude of the northern Rocky Mountains, Dude Ranches are all over U.S! What sort of terrain or temperature are you looking for? The heat of a cacti-covered desert? The cooler temperatures of the aspen-filled mountains? With these terrain/temperature differences, some Dude Ranches are opened year-around while others are only seasonal. Keep these three factors in mind while doing research; it’ll help a lot!

A: Paradise Guest Ranch is a seasonal ranch located in the middle of the Bighorn Mountains! Our season runs from June to September, and contrary to most of the surrounding country, the mountain temperature is certainly cooler, but it varies: June and July tend to have more moisture thus cooler, green and filled with wildflowers. August tends to be dry, hot during the day, but still cool in the evenings. The fall brings cooler temperatures but typically stays dry just in time for the booming colors of the changing aspen. (See our FAQ on When is the best time to visit Paradise Ranch for more.)

A group coming in from a Trail Ride

Q: What about Horseback Riding?

This is a big one! Ok, so let’s assume that all Dude Ranches you’re considering have horses as well as riding activities. When there’s so much to consider, how does one go about evaluating them? Will the horses be a good match for me or my family’s riding style? What if I’m an inexperienced rider, or am I too advanced? What sort of rides are offered: half-day, all-day, trail rides, arena activities? Oh goodness, so many details and all worth considering before the big decision of what Dude Ranch’s riding program is right for you?

A: At Paradise Guest Ranch, you can ride as much or as little as you’d like. We offer half-day rides, full-day rides, and arena activities. Our experienced foreman and team of wranglers handpick each horse depending on each rider’s level of experience, comfort, and personality. We LOVE our horses at Paradise, so we maintain a large herd of about 180 horses. At the beginning of the week, guests are paired with one horse that becomes their favorite trail buddy, providing the opportunity to bond and build a relationship. AND since we have such a large herd, at the end of each week, the horses are rotated. This gives each horse time to rest up for a week and take a break.

Q: Do I have to be an Experienced Rider?

With the exception of the working dude ranch, most dude ranches welcome inexperienced AND advanced riders. However, if you’re bringing the family, be sure to ask about riding requirements and restrictions: age, weight, and level of experience.

A: Yes – inexperienced and advanced guests are welcome at Paradise Guest Ranch! We have a team of wranglers and guides that love to introduce and teach people how to ride horses, fly fish, and much more!

Pony Rides!

Q: Are Dude Ranches Child Friendly?

Are you looking for a Dude Ranch vacation without kids? Or has it been challenging to find one for the whole family? Many Dude Ranches don’t cater to families with young children and focus on adults only, while other ranches are all about young families with children.

A: Paradise Guest Ranch offers both! Children go back to school in the fall, and that’s when we offer our Adult Only Weeks. However, our ranch LOVES young families with children and for most of the season, we offer many programs and activities specifically for the whole family: adults and children of all ages! To ride the big horses, kids must be 6 years old and up – but not to worry, our kids’ program offers pony rides for younger children. (See our FAQs for more about our Kid's Program.)

Q: Luxury or Traditional?

Have you noticed the wide variety of Dude Ranch vacations? It’s quite the spectrum. There’s the old-timey tradition: basic accommodations, sleeping beneath the stars in a canvased tent, suppers of meat and potatoes from the cast iron skillet, etc. Then there’s the complete opposite end of the spectrum: fully stocked luxurious cabins, massage therapists on call, spa treatments, pools, hot air balloon rides, and more . . . the options are endless.

A: Where do we fall in the spectrum? Paradise Guest Ranch is a mix, but we like to think we are more on the traditional side. Our cabins are comfortable (modern, yet cozy) with a relaxing front porch (not to mention pool and hot tub) after a full day of activity. Side note: You can finally disconnect! Cell phone service does not reach Paradise Valley, and with limited Wi-Fi, you can finally and truly escape the noise.

Fly Fishing at Paradise Guest Ranch

Q: Is there an Assortment of Activities for the Whole Family?

Dude Ranches are known for their variety of activities! Horseback riding tends to be the main attraction, but many ranches also have mountain biking, fly-fishing, hiking, archery, trap shooting, river rafting, etc.

A: Paradise Guest Ranch is not at a loss for activities. We have an extensive riding program, fly-fishing, hiking, archery, spa with a pool and hot tub, and of course our award-winning kids’/teens program!

Q: What does the Dining Scene look like at Dude Ranches?

Going hungry at a Dude Ranch is definitely not a concern! The meals are varied from cookouts out on the trail to an elegant dining room. In many places families eat together for most meals but often have special kids’ dinners so adults can enjoy a longer and more gourmet dinner. It varies from ranch to ranch so be sure to ask about dining styles and whether ranches cater to food allergies (if applicable), etc.

A: At Paradise Guest Ranch, we have our meals family-style in the dining room, up on the hill overlooking the valley and mountains, a cookout by the pool, and even an old fashion chuck wagon dinner! We even have kids’ dinners on Tuesday and Wednesday nights with games outside afterward! Not only do our chefs prepare gourmet meals but we also accommodate food allergies and dietary needs.